A crew of Brazilian TV Globo were booed off and forced to stop their coverage of Rio de Janeiro's police and fire brigade strike demonstration, last Sunday, in Copacabana. The protests in Rio follow recent strikes in Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia, where the lack of police and firemen attending work has contributed to more than 100 homicides being committed in the space of two weeks. After exhaustive negotiations with the local government and the arrest of many strike leaders, Bahia's state governor Jaques Wagner has announced that the strike is now over and normality has been reestablished, as the police forces of Bahia are back in the streets.
Going in the opposite direction - and just one week away from the cities' carnival - factions of Rio de Janeiro's police and fire brigade have decided to go on strike. Although they haven't been backed up by the vast majority of police and firemen, who are still attending work, around 400 unsatisfied strikers protested against the low wages and work conditions.
The monthly minimum wage for both policemen and firemen in Rio is, in average, £443 (R$ 1.200). Last week, threatened by the imminent strike, Rio's state deputies approved a pay rise of 39% to be applied until 2013, which will bring the wages to £615 (R$ 1,662). Although the pay rise was approved by the state government, some groups of policemen and firemen are still unsatisfied, as they were claiming for a wage of £1,294 (R$3,500).
During the protest in Coapacabana, on Sunday, as soon as the strikers spotted a TV Globo crew it instantly sparked a movement against the journalists, as the protesters started marching toward Globo's journalists chanting "Get out Globo, get out Globo" (Fora Globo, fora Globo, in Portuguese). Accused of being bias in their coverage of the strikes in Bahia and Rio, TV Globo, represented by their reporters and cameramen, wasn't welcome at the strike and the You Tube video shows the staff running to get into the TV crew's car to avoid the crowd and leave the place. Policemen not on strike helped Globo's journalists, avoid any further problems with the strikers.
World's sixth largest economy, host of the next FIFA World Cup Finals and the 2016 Olympics, the fast-growing Brazil still has to solve some serious internal problems in order to be "taken seriously" by the international community. Words that could be easily associated with Brazil, such as security, violence and corruption - as well as football, samba and carnival - have become Brazil's stigmas. And there are many social and political reasons - apart from cliches and stereotypes - which perpetuate such pre conceptions about the country. The police strikes in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro almost prevented Brazil's carnival from happening, but the biggest threat offered by the strikes was against the government and the local authorities, who control but also depend on the work of under-paid police and firemen.
The episode brings out some important details about contemporary Brazil: first, it shows that the South American giant still seems to be immature when it comes to dealing with internal security issues, which are vital for hosting events such as carnival, the World Cup and the Olympics; second, Brazil needs to resolve the (eternal?) dilemma of having to guarantee the country's security by convincing under-paid and often corrupt policemen to keep risking their lives; third, TV Globo's power, political influence, and "monopoly of information" are no longer passively accepted and the corporation is starting to be increasingly challenged and questioned; fourth, on the way to become a developed country, Brazil urgently needs to perform a national "spring clean" and renovate their police forces and civil servant institutions.