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Crime wave rocks World Cup host city

A woman carries bags of goods out of a supermarket that was looted during a police strike in Salvador.

A woman carries bags of goods out of a supermarket that was looted during a police strike in Salvador. Photo: Reuters

Troops patrolled the World Cup host city of Salvador on Thursday after a deadly orgy of violence triggered by a police strike less than two months before thousands of fans descend on the coastal Brazilian metropolis for the football extravaganza.

Thirty-nine deaths and widespread looting of supermarkets, pharmacies and electronics stores were reported in a 48-hour crime wave, adding to concerns about Brazil's ability to deliver a safe World Cup.

State officials said Thursday police were back on duty after ending their industrial dispute, which got under way on Tuesday.

"The strike is now over," state government spokesman Isaac Jorge said, describing the death toll in the city as "well above normal, though not absurdly so."

Two years ago, 157 people died in a wave of violence after Bahia police went on strike for 12 days.

Large-scale looting and dozens of murders were reported in the city, which has a reputation as one of Brazil's most dangerous and will host six matches during the World Cup.

Hundreds of elite police units and soldiers armed with assault rifles guarded the streets Thursday afternoon after President Dilma Rousseff ordered their deployment.

"I authorised the deployment of federal troops to support public security and guarantee the peace in Bahia," Rousseff wrote on Twitter.

"It is unacceptable that the security of Bahia's population be at risk."

The defence ministry said 2,500 soldiers had been mobilised while Rousseff also authorised the deployment of 250 national elite police officers, a figure that could be boosted to 5,000 men "until normal conditions are re-established," the ministry said prior to news the strike had ended.

Following a police meeting agreeing the end of the walkout residents greeted the news with shouts of "the police are back," Globo news portal G1 reported.

Local authorities indicated at least 50 arrests had been made and Globo television showed images of looted stores and arrests being made following a stealing frenzy that lasted from Tuesday to early Thursday.

A Bahia state court declared the strike illegal and imposed a daily $22,000 fine against the union until the officers, who are demanding a pay increase and career plan improvements, returned to work.

Salvador, Brazil's third-largest city and renowned for its colonial era architecture and carnival celebrations, hopes to gain a tourist boost as a World Cup host city during the June 12-July 13 event.

But its violent reputation is based on a murder rate for Bahia state which soared by 400 per cent between 2000 and 2010 to 41.1 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, according to Brazil's Applied Economics Research Institute.

Jorge indicated that authorities would meet some strikers' demands, including for better pay, although such measures are subject to approval by the state legislature.

Salvador is scheduled to host six World Cup matches.

World champions Spain play the Netherlands, whom they defeated in the 2010 final, on June 13 in the city's Fonte Nova Arena, while Germany take on Portugal three days later, France meet Switzerland on June 20 and Bosnia face Iran on June 25. The stadium will also host one second phase match and one quarter-final.


4 comments so far

  • Perhaps they should sack the police and replace them all?

    Mt Eliza
    Date and time
    April 18, 2014, 12:25PM
    • What on Earth were FIFA thinking?

      Date and time
      April 18, 2014, 12:35PM
      • Why is this not surprising. This is a true reflection on life in South America. Crime and corruption is a way of life. This then flows on into the game where they cheat.

        Date and time
        April 18, 2014, 4:47PM
        • Yes Chris, if only the world played the holy, no one cheats game of Aussie Rules - hello drugs, tanking, draw rigging - we would have world peace. Just like the Middle East "peace team", since they found Aussie Rules, the Jews & Palestinians cant stop hugging & loving each other. Who would have thought the whole problem there was football, not religion or land disputes?

          Date and time
          April 19, 2014, 9:47AM

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