Protests by military police relatives leave Espírito Santo, Brazil in chaos.

For more than a week the state has been without military police (MP) presence on the streets. Already more than 120 people have been murdered.

The protests are led by women, the spouses of military police in Espírito Santo, who have blocked the exits of the police headquarters. Their demands include: better working conditions, replacement of wages and amnesty of the MP accused of rioting by the governor, Paulo Hartung.

Protestors are encamped in front of the police headquarters in Maruipe, Vitória. One protester told us that her husband has to take turns using a bullet proof vest because there is insufficient equipment.

Another protestor said that if officers damage anything with their patrol car during an operation, they are forced to pay for repairs personally.

The governor, Paulo Hartung (PMDB) dismisses the precarious situation reported by protestors, saying that he has already invested all that he can. “I can’t invest any more, it would be against the law of fiscal responsibility,” said Hartung.

The governor’s austerity measures with public accounts have been severe. Spending cuts and freezing of investment yielded a positive financial scenario for the governor and his party (PMDB). At the end of last year the governor was frequently quoted in government ads saying how state accounts are in the black.

With prison crises in many states of Brazil, Espírito Santo gained attention as a model for correctional facility management. The capital, Vitoria, became one of the safest cities in the nation after being evaluated as Brazil’s third most dangerous city in 2010.

The apparent security success and balanced budget, could have prompted the police revolt, who claim to receive the lowest base salary in their category in the whole country.

Facing chaos on streets without military police the population found themselves prisoners in their own homes. Many were prevented from leaving for their normal daily activities, like work, school or church. The people of Espírito Santo didn’t receive a federal response until the third day of the strike. By that time the civil police counted more than 60 murders–overwhelming their operacional capacity.

Army troops and National Guard now secure the streets, giving the government some time to negotiate with the protestors. There were many meetings, some longer that 10 hours, without any success. The governor and secretaries defended their decisions and refused the demands and agenda of the protesting women.

“We won’t negotiate anything until the military police is back on the streets” affirmed André Garcia, secretary of state security.

On Sunday the 11th, eight days after the start of the standstill, only a few military police were seen on the streets. Some were without patrol cars.

The women’s protests continue to today, the 12th, at the entrance of the police headquarters. They have been unsuccessful in securing any of their demands. The protest have resulted in the review of more than 700 officers disconnected from the body and with enquiries investigating the direct involvement of military police in acts that could lead to more indictments.

The people of Espírito Santo are trying to return to their normal activities. But there is still a sense of uncertainty and lack of security. Monday the public transportation should resume with time restrictions. Public schools that delayed classes for a week, should also resume on Monday.