The state of Rio's military police went on strike last night at 11:30 or so. Promising to put just 30% of their troops on the streets, this is guaranteed to cause chaos in the city and severely hurt the economic boom that is Carnaval. While foreign news outlets are reporting that Carnaval is 2 weeks away, don't be misled by their literal interpretation of "Carnaval." The parade is 2 weeks away. The official blocos and street parties started LAST weekend. This weekend was set up to be even more intense...and I've heard that a major street party (Bola Preta) has already been cancelled.
Read a news article in Portuguese here.
The police have legitimate complaints: their salary IS abysmally low for the dangers they face. However, the poor public image and general lack of respect for the force is directly tied, I'm sure, to the rampant corruption in their ranks. My taxi driver vehemently asserted last night: "This is blackmail!"
These are Brazilians. It's Brazil! This is pre-Carnaval...there's a saying in Rio, at least, that nothing happens until after Carnaval.
"Want to go out for a girl's night?"
"Sure...but after Carnaval."
"I need to make a doctor's appointment."
"Ah...only after Carnaval."
"My favorite restaurant is closed...and they're not going to open until after Carnaval!"
Demanding a raise and expecting an answer during the Carnaval season is ludicrous. Just absurd. And so the only logical explanation is that the police never intended to negotiate. They intended to blackmail. "Give us what we want or you'll be royally screwed..."
I'm guessing that this may be the death blow for the World Cup. Let's hope Dilma and the other leaders manage this tumultuous situation in a wise way, because if this strike spreads to all the states, I can only see one outcome, and it ain't pretty.
Oh, Brazil. I love you...but why do you frustrate your own progress?