Rio Police Strike Over Budget Cuts Weeks Ahead Of Rio Olympics 2016

Tens of thousands of people will visit Rio de Janeiro in a few weeks to enjoy the 2016 Olympic Games. However, just weeks prior to the event, Rio police have gone out on strike over budget cuts and salaries.

Reportedly patrol cars are parked and police helicopters are grounded, while the police march in the streets, carrying banners reading: “Olympics with unpaid police.”

According to a report by the Boston Globe, security forces in Brazil’s capital are so short of money they have to go begging for cleaning supplies, pens. and other necessary items up to and including toilet paper.

Rio’s civil police acknowledged in a statement that some of their stations are receiving donated office supplies.

The Globe quotes Maria Thereza Sombra, a 81-year-old former teacher, who heads up a neighborhood association in Rio as saying, ”In March, the head of the police station here came to me and said she didn’t even have paper to print out the incident reports,”

”That’s how far we’ve fallen. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

Naturally, the fact that the Rio police have hit the streets in protest doesn’t offer up much confidence as to security for the upcoming world sporting event.

Reportedly the acting governor of Rio de Janeiro has declared a state of financial disaster this month, while Brazil continues to suffer the worst recession in decades. However, the “financial disaster” is said to have been declared largely to allow more spending on security during the Rio Olympics 2016.

However, AP (Spanish language) quotes Governor Francisco Dornelles as speaking to the local O Globo newspaper and asking the reporter, ”How are people going to feel protected in a city without security,” before hinting at a possible failure in the world sporting event.

”We can have a great Olympics, but if some steps aren’t taken, it can be a big failure.”

The main problem is that the city has slashed budgets right across the board, including that of the Rio police. This has caused helicopters to be grounded and more than fifty percent of the police car fleet to be left in the garage in an aim to save money on gas. On top of this, police officers are finding their pay checks are being delayed.

As part of Monday’s strike and protest, one group of strikers greeted visitors at Rio’s International Airport with a banner reading, in English: ”Welcome to Hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid; Whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.”

According to Ilona Szabo, executive director of the Instituto Igarape, the cuts have led to a big crisis in the “self-esteem” of the Rio police, but she did say the sheer number of officers out on the streets should be sufficient for security.

Olympic officials have also insisted that Rio’s financial problems won’t have any negative effect on security for the Games. Around 85,000 police and soldiers will be deployed during the August 5-21 Games, which is reportedly twice as many as were deployed for the London Olympics.

The Rio Olympics are expected to bring an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 people to the Games, in a city of 12 million where crime, armed muggings, and turf wars between drug gangs are a routine thing.

According to the Boston Globe, Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso was quoted by O Globo as saying, ”We’re at the limit of our operational capacity, and I can’t discard the possibility of a collapse.”

”There’s no way to avoid thinking about more cuts, and these cuts will impact our final product, which is serving the population,” he said, adding, ”We’ve had to revise everything, even our operations during the Olympic Games.”

[Photo by AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo]