Police in Brazil Threaten to Strike During World Cup

Federal police wearing T-shirts that read in Portuguese "SOS Federal Police" cover their mouths with bandanas as a way to protest their leaders' recommendation to not protest, as they demand better labor conditions outside the venue where Brazil's coach announced his squad for the upcoming World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

In an ongoing struggle for higher wages, Brazil's federal police say they are prepared to go on strike during the World Cup, hitting the country's government where it would hurt most.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists will begin pouring into the country for Earth's biggest soccer event, which is slated to begin June 12. The hypothetical scenario of those crowds, set against the backdrop of Brazil's crime problems, without police, could prove disastrous. The U.S. State Department has rated crime and safety threats in Rio de Janeiro, for example, as "critical" for more than 25 years.

Federal police staged a 24-hour walkout on Wednesday in several Brazilian cities, including some that will host World Cup matches in June and July, according to multiple reports. Those cities included Fortaleza, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, where the World Cup Final takes place on July 13.
Renato Deslandes, identified by the BBC as a spokesman for the striking officers, told the news service that police would "continue striking in the coming weeks and during the World Cup if the government doesn't raise pay in line with inflation."
Police say that their wages — which range from $3,200 to $5,800 per month before taxes and social security — have stagnated in the face of rising inflation. (Those wages translate to between about $38,000 and $70,000 annually.)
Striking during the World Cup is certainly a powerful bargaining chip for the officers
Striking during the World Cup is certainly a powerful bargaining chip for the officers, whose presence will be critical to maintaining order and quelling fears about crime and violence in the World Cup's host country.

Last month, police in the northern Brazilian state of Bahia went on strike in hopes of achieving higher wages. During the two-day strike, 39 people were killed in and around the state capital of Salvador — another World Cup host city — and a rash of robberies was reported, according to the BBC.
Troops were deployed to Salvador to maintain order before the strike ended and police in Bahia accepted a deal that raised their salaries — some by as much as 60%, according to Brazilians news reports at the time. The police who went on strike Wednesday and are threatening to do so again during the World Cup belong to a different, nationwide federal force.
Based on the grounds of soccer alone, most agree that Brazil is the ultimate home for the World Cup. But police aren't the only ones staging protests related to the event. Large-scale demonstrations erupted last summer during the Confederations Cup, a World Cup tune-up of sorts, over the cost of staging the World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the face of widespread poverty among many Brazilians and shaky social services.
Yet another source of controversy has been police raids on slums — attempts to drive out crime before this summer's influx of tourists. On Wednesday, protesters in Rio de Janeiro painted red crosses on soccer balls, then laid them on the city's famous Copacabana beach in memory of children they say were killed our injured by stray bullets from raids.
That led to powerful images like this:
Brazil WCup Protest

A protester places official 2014 World Cup soccer balls, called Brazuca, painted with red crosses next to the names and ages of children who have died from stray bullets during police operations, on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.
Suffice to say, the 2014 World Cup will be an interesting one — both on and off the pitch.

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