by Jennifer Garcia
Demanding pay and better working conditions, civil and military police began to strike on December 19 in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte. On their third week of striking, the rapid increase of violent crimes has led to a state of emergency in January.
Lacking full pay since November, officers have been facing the push back of their salaries for months. The state government requested an extra $185.8 million from the federal government to pay the salaries owed to public servants but were denied but the Ministry of Finance. In an attempt to continue their work and stall however, the state government declared striking illegal and threatened to arrest those who participated. Since then, only a handful have returned to work and civil police has operated with a reduced number of officers and even with a full military force patrolling the streets they face a shortage of 5,000 officers.
Since the strike, more than 100 people have been killed due to the lack of police patrol in the northeastern state, which was already one of the deadliest places in the world. The rise of homicides in Rio Grande do Norte can be traced back to the longstanding turf war between the local gang: Familia do Norte and São Paulo. The gang is responsible for the major drug trafficking problem of the state and its rise in deaths. taking advantage of the vulnerable state, they continue to rise and spread their violence.