One of the first words I learned in my Portuguese class for Spanish-speakers at UCLA was greve. “Strike” is huelga in Spanish. Like earthquakes, your first police strike is the hardest. The shock of seeing troops and military tanks in the streets before realising that, no, it isn’t another coup. But this one – the third in my experience – is the worst in terms of violence and fear. A siege mentality has set in, and it’s only day two. Salvador’s unarmed municipal guard is refusing to police the streets because it isn’t safe for them, so imagine how ordinary civilians feel. Some buses run, others don’t. All of them stop much earlier than the 6-pm “curfew.” Most shops are shut, including grocery stores. Opportunistic individuals and gangs are robbing business establishments and sweeping down streets and beaches snatching wallets, mobile phones, handbags, necklaces, whatever dangles. Some of the “hooligans” are probably striking police officers, making sure we miss them – they’re never around when they aren’t on strike.
Another day in Paradise.
Quick update on April 18, 2014
OK…so the military police strike ended last night, and today one of the leaders (now a city councilman) was arrested for his role in the 2012 strike – just a coincidence, I’m sure. And now the strike seems to be back on, in reprisal for the arrest of the city councilman who, by rights, shouldn’t be out there leading strikes in the first place… And the beat(down) goes on.