Thursday, February 9, 2012

Strike Breaking

The news I got this morning, before I'd had my first cup of coffee, was that the strike was over. Turns out it's not, but I think it's a matter of hours at this point.

I'd like to do a little disclaimer at this point, that whenever I write a post like this that could possibly be construed as news it makes me a little nervous. I'm not a reporter, and don't aspire to be. I like telling stories, I don't like checking facts and I hope I'm never quoted as an official source. I've tried to emphasize the stupendous volume of rumors that are flying, and some of what I write is based on rumors. The real, professional press is guilty of the same at times, but more on them in the next paragraph.

The real press, the guys who get paid to write news, have come in for some knocks during this whole thing. They've been accused of making the whole thing look worse than it is, of helping to spread the fear. Not just our local press but the international players as well. I got in a brief argument with a woman at the video store when I compared the families to human shields: she said that they were striking 'as families' and that this business of human shields was an invention of the press. Well, I'll be the first to admit that the press likes sensational stories: it helps garner viewers and hence advertising dollars and hence they keep their jobs, but come on. I'm not gonna Gingrich the press. I think what it must have been like here thirty years ago, during the dictatorship, and I'm glad the press has as much free reign as they do.

So getting on with my not-news post, here's the situation. The armed standoff, the occupation of the building, the human shields - that's all over with now. The leader of the strike has been arrested, they let him slink out the back of the building and into custody. The rest of the occupiers left this morning. Apparently they are negotiating again, not a half mile from where I sit. I expect that this will be resolved quickly, as one of the stickiest demands of the strikers, that all of them be let off without criminal penalties, has been rendered moot. Eleven arrest warrants had been issued, and at least one has been carried out, for the ring-leader Marcos Prisko.

This guy Prisko really screwed up. I think the strikers started out with a lot of public support, I certainly think there are lots of good reasons to pay police officers well: it is dangerous work, you want to attract good people to the profession, and try to keep corruption down as much as possible. However, turns out a lot of these rumors (if you can believe the press) were true: they put a wiretap on Prisko's phone and recorded him planning vandalism and other assorted mayhem during the strike to make the situation worse. In other words, what I was wondering about in my previous post was actually happening: the cops were acting like a protection racket. If you don't pay, things are gonna get bad without our protection. Maybe we'll cause some of that badness, but if you don't pay... you get the picture.

So Prisko's done. What I don't get is that he apparently was done before, he was already an ex-cop, and someone told me that he'd been kicked off the force, which makes him a dubious leader of a police union to begin with. There are more recorded conversations still waiting to come to light. Another recording was of an unnamed woman coordinating with some other dude to not end the strike in Salvador until they could get a strike going in Rio, and other states were to follow.

Getting back to the public support, the other thing these guys really screwed up was with their intention to shut down Carnaval. I had thought they wanted to resolve the whole thing before Carnaval, but apparently they started announcing their intention to take Carnaval down both here and in Rio. That's really dumb. Not only does (practically) everyone love Carnaval, but lots of people depend on it to make money. Everyone from the fancy hotels to the people who collect recyclables. Commerce was already hit bad by the strike, my own included, and I read on the CBS News website yesterday that 10% of international tourists had already cancelled their trips. But these guys were out there with a banner reading 'End Carnaval' or something like that... not smart.

So we'll see how this winds up. A sizable raise was approved some time ago. The governor of Bahia has stated that no non-violent strikers (the majority) will be punished. Our do-nothing mayor apparently came back, finally, from his vacation, but he's been MIA during this whole thing. He was already pretty well hated by the people of Salvador so I guess he doesn't have much to lose.

More non-news as it develops...


Brasilicana said...

I always thought the Carnaval shutdown threat was more to pressure the powers that be rather than an attempt to gain public support - because you're right, "acabando com o Carnaval" wouldn't win many friends among, well, practically anybody.

Regarding the corruption... man, sometimes the system is so #*$^ed up it's hard to know where to even start to solve the problem!

Would you believe I didn't even know the name of the mayor here until reading that he's been on vacation during the police strike?? That either shows my ignorance of local politics or the mayor's non-presence and lack of involvement.

markuza said...

I'm sorry, didn't mean to give that impression: the shutdown threat was never intended to garner public support. I just didn't think they'd threaten Carnaval at all and was surprised when they did.

João Henrique is a shameless moron and I've come to despise him more each day as I've watched the center of the city fall into greater and greater disrepair. It's embarrassing. He just got back from a trip to Spain where he toured the Metro system, and I hope *he* was embarrassed at his inability to get 7 kilometers of public transport up and running. I don't know what it is that he does, but it doesn't seem to involve the people of Salvador very much- or at least not the vast majority of them.