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Brazilian government sends troops to World Cup city after police strike

May 15, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT

The Arena Pernambuco has already hosted Confederations Cup games and is ready to go. AP

A police strike in World Cup host city Recife has compelled the Brazilian government to send in army troops to the Pernambuco state capital to restore order amid a series of protests that have engulfed the city and country. After overnight reports of looting of shops and supermarkets and theft of cargo trucks, federal troops were sent to the northeast city as a the labor dispute reaches its third day.

Schools and universities have been closed amid the disturbance and civil servants have been given the day off off work while protests continue to criticize government spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The demonstrations have also hit the nation’s largest city, Sao Paulo, where protestors cut off access to the venue that will host the World Cup’s opening match.

From the Wall Street Journal:

State police walked off the job on Tuesday, demanding higher salaries. Schools and universities were closed because of concerns for student safety, local media said.

Recife will host five matches during the World Cup, starting with a match between Ivory Coats (sic) and Japan on June 14.

Pernambuco state has 18,800 police offers, according to spokeswoman Marcela Pimenta. Citing security concerns, she declined to say how many have walked off the job or how many federal troops are now in the city.

Given we saw similar incidents grab headlines before last year’s Confederations Cup, there’s no reason to think such protests are going away anytime soon. Perhaps there will be a break after this summer’s tournament, but demonstrations against the governments’ spending are likely to be prevalent through the 2016 Olympics.

For those protesting, the issue continues to be one of priorities. Whereas Brazil’s federal government is spending huge amounts on new facilities for its upcoming events, many would prefer those resources not go to isolated sporting events. That some infrastructure improvements around the events have been abandoned as the country struggles to meet deadlines has only heightened protestors’ concerns.

The World Cup begins on June 12 when Brazil hosts Croatia in Sao Paulo.

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