An estimated 300+ police and firefighters serving in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, many of which have not been paid in months, have organized protests throughout the city this week. They are demanding the government step up and pay them.
Signs at the airport this week read “Welcome To Hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.” Another sign on the main public highway into the city reads “Welcome, we don’t have hospitals!”
Other officers took to the streets, holding demonstrations outside police headquarters stating that “the police’s priority is the people. The government’s priority is the Olympics.” Police are upset that they do not have the basic resources to perform their jobs and many have not received money to feed their families. As some reports have indicated the Rio police can not even afford ink for printers or gas for vehicles. Other offices note how no one has been hired to clean police facilities in months, many of the facilities do not have running water or functioning toilets and some stations have even relied on toilet paper donations from the public just to get by.
It is no secret, hosting the Olympic games and attempting build world class facilities has bankrupted the city. Just the other week, Rio’s Governor declared a state of calamity after coming to the realization that the city could not meet the financial commitment ahead of the games. For example, the World Anti-Doping Agency just had to close the Rio lab for testing Olympic athletes after the facility failed to meet international standards – just 7 weeks ahead of competition.
Other projects fundamental to the success of the Olympic games such as the underground subway lines connecting hotels to major tourists attractions and the Olympic village to different sporting venues has yet to be completed. As a result, Rio’s government has directed money away from other sources, such as police funding, in a desperate attempt to finish these projects on time.
Rio’s government has declared a state of fiscal emergency and has requested the immediate release of $900 million dollars in emergency funding to pay construction workers and public workers -such as police and firefighters. Without this funding, Rio de Janeiro Governor Francisco Dornelles has stated that “Rio will be facing a total breakdown in public security.”
Governor Dornelles later went on to add “We can make a great Olympics, but if some steps are not taken, it can be a big failure. How will people get to places without underground transportation? How will people feel protected in the city without security? We have to give proof that we are equipping security and the ready mobility for people to come to the country.”
Meanwhile, the Zika outbreak continues to rage. Several prominent athletes around the world are protesting the Olympics and refuse to attend due to poor sanitation conditions and the dangers surrounding the Zika virus. Rio is quickly setting itself up to host perhaps the most embarrassing Olympics in history. Not a good look for a country trying to climb its way into the ranks of world leaders.
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