Brazil’s federal police have begun an indefinite strike, which could weaken the country’s border security and counternarcotics efforts.
The majority of Brazil’s 15,000 federal police went on strike on August 7 to demand higher wages. Thirty percent of the force are still working to deal with emergencies, but border control and federal investigations have all been affected, reported Veja.
No time limit has been set for the strike, though talks with the government are expected to take place next week.
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The federal force is charged with investigating transnational crime, maintaining border control — something the military helps with — and combating international drug trafficking. The strike is likely to hinder these efforts, a worrying sign for the government in light of Brazil’s growing importance as a market for cocaine, and the increasingly transnational nature of Brazilian gangs such as the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) and the First Capital Command (PCC). These gangs have set up operations in neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay to traffic narcotics back to their home market.
This latest round of strikes comes six months after police in Bahia went on strike to demand higher salaries, which caused a spike in violence the northern state, as criminal took advantage of the lack of policing. There were even claims that police-run militia groups used the time to carry out extrajudicial executions.
The series of strikes, including one by police in Rio de Janeiro, points to the government’s failure to invest sufficiently in police salaries, something it will need to address as it attempts to increase security ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.