RIO DE JANEIRO -- Violent crime has been rising in Brazil's northeastern state of Ceara amid a police strike in its seventh day, federal Justice Minister Sergio Moro said Monday.
Security officials said the state had recorded 147 homicides in the past five days, a fivefold increase from the same five-day period last year.
"There are signs that some violent crimes have been increasing, but it's not a situation of total disorder in the streets," Moro said, though he conceded the situation was "relatively difficult" given the partial paralysis of policing in Ceara because of the walkout.
The strike by military police officers comes during Brazil's annual Carnival and led to nine cities in Ceara canceling celebrations, citing security concerns. The military police are responsible for patrolling the streets.
Moro, along with two other federal Cabinet ministers, met with Ceara's governor Monday to oversee security operations. The federal government has deployed 2,500 soldiers to the state to maintain order.
Military police officers in Ceara began the strike Feb. 18, demanding a pay increase. Masked protesters slashed police vehicle tires and forced stores to close, while Sen. Cid Gomes was shot while trying to drive a backhoe through a police-run protest. He was hospitalized for five days.
Brazilian law prohibits strikes by police officers and other civic workers who “provide essential services to society.” President Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected on a law-and-order campaign and has long supported police and military forces, has remained silent about the police strike.
Many local governments are worried that police strikes could spread to other states, many of which are struggling financially and paying civil servants late or incomplete salaries.