SAO PAULO – Militarized police in the southeastern Brazilian state of Espirito Santo on Saturday started patrolling the streets once again after a week-long strike that sparked a deadly crime wave.
The state’s Public Safety Secretariat said several officers had heeded the call of Defense Minister Raul Jungmann to resume their duties, although it did not provide details on the precise number of police now back at work in the state capital of Vitoria and other affected cities.
Jungmann issued the call Saturday during a visit to the state, where a violent crime wave triggered by the strike left 137 people dead.
He said those militarized police officers who returned to the streets immediately would not face reprisals from the Defense Ministry, although he also noted that lawsuits brought by citizens over the strike would follow their normal course.
Jungmann also said the deployment of more than 3,000 army soldiers and members of an elite police force in Espirito Santo would be prolonged until law and order is restored.
The police protest turned Vitoria – a typically tranquil city with a relatively low crime rate – into a virtual ghost town with commercial establishments and government offices shuttered.
Bus service had been suspended on several occasions in recent days due to fears of robberies but was gradually resumed on Saturday morning in Vitoria.
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.
Members of the militarized police have the legal status of soldiers and, as such, are banned from taking part in strikes or protests.
The strike in Espirito Santo took the form of the officers’ allowing their family members to surround the barracks and prevent them from reporting for duty.
The police protest also spread Friday to other cash-strapped states in recession-hit Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro, where the demonstrations had no effect on the police presence in the streets.
Some officers, however, had to be flown in air force helicopters out of their barracks after their relatives had blocked the exits.
Similar protests by the kin of militarized police also occurred in Belem, capital of the northern Amazon state of Para, although like in Rio officers were also carrying out their normal law-enforcement duties.