South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
“Police will give priority to cases requiring imprisonment and violence and grave threats to public order, otherwise in cases of theft, losses of documents and objects, the public will be directed to return the next day,” the civil police in Rio de Janeiro said.
Workers are attempting to use the looming football tournament to put pressure on employers and the government, with groups ranging from teachers to court workers marching in São Paulo this week for better salaries and conditions.
The increased industrial action comes as the government of President Dilma Rousseff prepares to face elections in October, straight after the World Cup.
“Companies and the government could have avoided this situation with better planning, better preparation,” said Maurício Tanabe, a partner with Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a specialist on industrial relations. “This is a situation that was completely predictable.”
Most concerning for the government are strikes by the police, particularly the so-called military police, who are in charge of maintaining order on Brazil’s streets.
A military police strike last month in the northeastern World Cup host city of Salvador led to a wave of violence, which saw 44 murders in just three days, while similar action in Recife last week led to looting, forcing the government to call in the army.
The Federal Police, which controls Brazil’s borders including immigration and passport control, has also threatened protests, with officers set to march on Wednesday in Brasília.
A decade of economic expansion has created a new middle class. But tough choices lie ahead if momentum is to continue
The government has obtained an injunction from the Supreme Court preventing the Federal Police from striking during the World Cup.
“There are a few sectors that are extremely important, the police, public transport and others, for which the government will have to do everything possible to attend to the demands of these groups,” said Ricardo Mendes, political analyst with consultancy Prospectiva.
The industrial action has spread throughout the public sector.
Rail commuters in São Paulo this week were greeted by employees of the city’s efficient but small subway network wearing blue bibs emblazoned with slogans complaining about their employer.
“Let’s have Fifa-standard transport,” read the front. It was a reference to a common complaint among Brazilians that while the government was providing world-class stadiums for Fifa, the World Cup’s organising body, public services were lacking.
“We can’t talk to you,” said one of the workers, the back of her bib carrying complaints about alleged government corruption. Their website revealed they are seeking a 35.5 per cent increase, including a 26 percentage point rise above inflation.
Above ground, on Avenida Paulista, the city’s main thoroughfare, a march by school teachers was creating gridlock in the afternoon rush hour.
“We’re protesting for quality education and a just salary increase every year in keeping with inflation,” said Stefany Torres, a teacher from the city’s Butantan neighbourhood.
She said the standard of schools was falling and a school building had been invaded at night by youths and drug addicts who smashed windows, defecated in the classrooms and left behind used syringes.
President Rousseff hit back at critics last week, saying the World Cup would leave a lasting legacy of better infrastructure.
“No one who comes here to watch the World Cup will take back with them in their suitcases airports, ports, urban transport projects or stadiums,” she said. She followed up this week with an elaborate ceremony to inaugurate a new third terminal at São Paulo’s airport.
Analysts also predicted the strikes would be easier to handle than mass protests last June when Brazil staged the Confederations Cup, the dress rehearsal for the World Cup.
Unlike last year, these labour protest movements have leaders and clear objectives, which allows for negotation.
“The government has a sense of being more in control of what is happening now than in June last year,” said Mr Mendes of Prospectiva.
Some union leaders, however, are determined to continue their protests right up until the World Cup.
“Our intention is exactly that, to coincide with the World Cup and the election,” said Erlon Sampaio, an organiser of a strike at the federal judiciary.
“They [the government] are prioritising the projects of the World Cup to the detriment of the fundamental and basic rights of citizens,” he said.
Additional reporting by Thalita Carrico in São Paulo