Brazil sends 3,500 troops into Salvador amid police strike

Brazilian soldiers patrol the streets of Salvador on February 5, 2012, following a strike by military police

Story highlights

  • Police went on strike last week
  • Since then 93 people have been killed
  • Police are demanding higher wages
  • Neither side is talking about a negotiated end

Some 3,500 troops are being deployed in the northern Brazilian city of Salvador to rein in a wave of looting and killings set off by a police strike that started last week.

Soldiers surrounded the state legislature on Monday where striking police were holed up in a tense standoff just two weeks before the start of Carnival, which attracts thousand of tourists to Salvador.

Brazilian television showed images of troops firing rubber bullets in an attempt to gain access to the legislature, which had been taken over by some 4,000 striking police and their families.

Police in the state of Bahia declared a strike last Tuesday to demand higher wages. They set up roadblocks and residents denounced a wave of crime.

Police patrols largely disappeared from the streets, and since then 93 people have been killed according to the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper -- double the number in the same period the year before.

On Sunday, the presence of troops -- some patrolling streets in armored personnel carriers -- calmed nerves and reined in looting.

"The Army's actions have gone well, they've been very positive with the presence of troops patrolling the city," the interim Defense Minister Gen. Enzo Martins Peri told state-run Agencia Brasil.

"More and more troops are arriving and we're approaching 3,500," the defense minister said. "This shows the determination of the federal government to support the government of Bahia."

People returned to the beach and tourists strolled down the cobbled streets, which would normally fill with revelers and bands during the city's Carnival festivities which begin in two weeks.

But the standoff on Monday raised tensions yet again with both sides refusing to negotiate.

Salvador is one of Brazil's most violent cities. It will host some of the matches in the 2014 World Cup.

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