Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil police reach accord to end strike in Vitoria

Police officers carry a body during a military police strike in Vitoria, Espirito Santo, Brazil February 10, 2017. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police unions say more than 120 people died this week during the violence after the police went on strike.

Police in the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo reached an accord to return to work after they were threatened with criminal charges of rebellion over a week-long strike.

The strike had caused a security vacuum which ignited a wave of violence in which more than 120 people died.

The protest was led by police families who blocked barracks demanding higher pay.

The police will return to work on Saturday.

Brazil's military police, who carry out street patrols, are barred by law from going on strike.

On Friday, the state government had said it was charging over 700 police officers with rebellion over their protest.

The state government signed a decree earlier in the week handing over state security to the military who drafted 3,000 troops in.

Similar protests were staged in Rio de Janeiro but most police personnel there didn't stop patrols.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Police family members were demanding better salaries and labour conditions during their blockage of police stations
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Most of the military police remained inside their barracks during the strike

State officials said they believed many of those killed in Espirito Santo belonged to rival gangs.

Brazil's President Michel Temer addressed the crisis for the first time on Friday calling the strike "illegal" and saying: "The right to protest cannot take the Brazilian people hostage."

Officials said the wives and family members who blockaded police stations could also face fines and other penalties.

The defence ministry mobilized hundreds of soldiers mostly to the metropolitan area of the state capital, Vitoria.

Initially they sent 1,200 soldiers but later in the week said 3,000 would be in place by the weekend.

The strike paralysed many parts of Espirito Santo with local officials closing schools, clinics and public transport, while shops and businesses remained shuttered.

In Rio de Janeiro, which has been struggling to pay public sector salaries, family members of police officers organised similar strikes at several police stations but the protest didn't stop police patrols in most areas.

Espirito Santo is one of several Brazilian states struggling with a budget crisis that is crippling public services.

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