Rio 2016: 'Welcome to Hell' warn police

Sign in airport Image copyright IMGUR

There was a nasty surprise awaiting passengers in the arrivals hall at Rio de Janeiro's Galeao International Airport on Monday.

Along with the relatives carrying flowers and taxi drivers waiting with name boards there were lines of off-duty police with banners that had a far more ominous message: "Welcome to Hell".

"Police and firefighters don't get paid," the banners, in English and Portuguese, went on. "Whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe". Photos of the protest have been widely shared on social media and in the Brazilian press. The image above was posted on the photo sharing site Imgur, where it was viewed more than three million times in less than a day.

Elsewhere in the city police staged other demonstrations against the late payment of salaries and a lack of basic necessities like car fuel and toilet paper. Around 300 police officers dressed in black stood on the steps of the Rio de Janeiro state assembly. One banner read "The police's priority is the people, the government's priority is the Olympics". A spokesman for the Rio police force said the situation was dire. "We are in a meltdown," he said.

Image copyright VANDERLEI ALMEIDA
Image caption Police protest outside the Rio de Janeiro state assembly

The message was echoed by Francisco Dornelles, the acting governor of Rio de Janeiro, who told the Brazilian newspaper O Globo that the state was still waiting on the promised $860 million payout from the federal government ahead of the start of the games. He added that without the cash injection, police patrols may be have to be halted due to the lack of funds for basics like car fuel.

The police protests are one more symptom of the political and economic woes which have engulfed Brazil and which threaten to overshadow the Olympic Games which Rio is preparing to host in August.

Brazil's Senate suspended the country's President Dilma Rousseff, and then began impeachment proceedings against her over accusations that she manipulated the government budget ahead of her 2014 re-election campaign.

On the economic front the picture isn't much prettier. By the first quarter of 2016, government figures showed that Brazil was experiencing its worst recession in 25 years. The Gross Domestic Product of the country shrank 5.4% in comparison with the same period last year. Meanwhile unemployment between February and April of this year grew to 11.2% from 9.5%. Average monthly wages also fell to just 1,962 Brazilian reais ($552).

If that wasn't enough the Olympic organising committee is dealing with the news that two more famous sportsmen - including golf world number one Jason Day - have withdrawn from the games because of fears about the Zika virus. However, the CEO of the games has said that concerns about the virus affecting the Olympics have been "blown out of the proportion."

Blog by Megha Mohan

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