RIO DE JANEIRO – The deployment of the Brazilian army has had no impact on the crime surge in the southeastern state of Espirito Santo, scene of 75 homicides amid a police strike that is entering its fourth day, union officials said Tuesday.
An additional 13 killings have taken place since the troops arrived late Monday in Vitoria, the state capital, according to the union representing the state investigative police, who are not on strike.
Brazil, like many Latin American countries, divides the tasks of law enforcement among multiple agencies. Each of the country’s 27 states has both a militarized police force – responsible for law and order – and a civilian agency that investigates crimes.
Espirito Santo’s government has released no crime statistics since the militarized police launched their job action last Saturday, but television stations are airing images of widespread looting and deserted streets in Vitoria.
The army troops sent to Espirito Santo will be joined later Tuesday by 1,200 members of the National Security Force.
The civilian police union, which does not back the strike by the militarized cops, said the Vitoria morgue has run out of space and is sending bodies to area hospitals as an emergency measure.
The 75 homicides reported over the last four days represents an increase of more than 1,500 percent compared with all of January.
Stores, schools and even clinics have closed their doors for fear of looters.
The Espirito Santo Merchants Association estimates the cost to members from looting and lost business at 4.5 million reais ($1.5 million).
Buses, which stopped running during the weekend, started rolling again on Tuesday, but transit company owners say they will operate exclusively during daylight hours and only as long as no vehicles are attacked.
Members of the militarized police have the legal status of soldiers and, as such, are banned from taking part in strikes or protests. In Espirito Santo, the strikers’ families are surrounding their barracks to stop them from reporting for duty.
The disgruntled militarized police say they want to see more money devoted to crime-fighting as well as pay increases for themselves.