In the last three days following the military police strike in Espírito Santo, 52 homicides have occurred. The hike in murders represents a 650 percent increase in the homicide rate. Videos have gone viral of corpses lining the hallways of the morgues in open bags. The public morgue in the capital of Vitória lacks sufficient refrigerated storage for all of the murdered corpses. Sources have confirmed to the Brazilian media the existence of at least 16 bodies strewn across the ground in the capital morgue.
Although Vitória is the leader of violence in Brazil’s southeast, homicide rates went down in 2016. In fact, last year the state registered its lowest homicide rate in 28 years, down by 15 percent. In 2015, the Espírito Santo finally lost its ranking of 2nd most violent state and went down to 11th position. The state was on the track to improving its crime record – that is, until now.
Residents of Espírito Santo are posting photos and videos of the violence to social media with the hashtag #PrayForEspíritoSanto. Federal armed forces have occupied the streets in an attempt to restore order. The general state of criminal anarchy resembles scenes from the 2013 American thriller, The Purge.
The military police are striking against salary adjustments which the state made in order to balance out its budget. The police association is asking for a salary increase of up to 65 percent over the next annual period. Espírito Santo remains one of the many Brazilian states facing massive debt. Salary cuts to public servants put the state’s budget in surplus for the first time in several years.
The Military Penal Code prohibits police officers from striking or paralyzing police services. Rather than striking themselves, police officers had their family members protest outside of the police stations, blocking police cars from exiting to patrol the streets. However, the ES State Court still pronounced the strike illegal for putting public order and safety at risk. The judge also determined a fine of over $32,000 if the military police associations do not comply.