Military police in Brazil’s southeastern state of Espirito Santo on Saturday rejected a return-to-work agreement aimed at ending a strike that has paralyzed several cities and led to an outburst of violence in which more than 130 people have reportedly died. Still, the defense minister, who visited Espirito Santo on Saturday, said that life was beginning to return to normal now that more than 3,000 federal troops are patrolling the streets.
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The state government announced Friday that the police officers’ union had agreed to end a weeklong strike for higher pay and said it would drop charges against officers indicted for allegedly participating in an illegal walkout.
But Gustavo Tenorio, a spokesman for the Espirito Santo Public Safety Department, said by telephone Saturday that the agreement was rejected by those manning the barricades and that the military police officers have refused to go back to work.
That left the state reliant on federal troops, including both members of the military and the national guard, who have been patrolling the streets of several cities since early this week. Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said 3,130 troops were in the state.
Jungmann told reporters that, since the troops arrived, looting and break-ins have stopped. He also said there had been a reduction in homicides.
The state has seen an extraordinary wave of violence in the last week, and the union representing civil police officers says 137 people have been killed since military police stopped patrolling. The state government has not released a death toll.
Amid the insecurity, most state services ground to a halt over the past week.
Bus service partially resumed in the state capital of Vitoria on Saturday, and hospitals were open, according to Tenorio. But smaller health centers remained closed.
“On Monday, this was a ghost town,” Jungmann told reporters. “Today, we see a city that is getting back to normal: People are on the beach, people are in the streets, people are moving about.”
Because the military police, who patrol Brazilian cities, are forbidden to strike, relatives of the officers took the lead and blocked access to their barracks to demand higher pay. The government, which is experiencing an economic and fiscal crisis like many Brazilian states, has continued to reject that demand, though it said Friday it would analyze the system of promotions.
The strike in Espirito Santo inspired a handful of much smaller family protests in neighboring Rio de Janeiro state on Friday and Saturday. However, in Rio, family members did not block barracks, instead demonstrating peacefully outside them. The military police there took to Twitter to repeatedly reassure the population that they were on patrol.