The police force in Brazil's southeastern state of Espirito Santo has rejected a return-to-work agreement aimed at ending a strike that has paralysed several cities and led to an outburst of crime and violence in which more than 130 people have reportedly died over the last week.
The state government announced on Friday that the police officers' union had agreed to end the walkout, which is over wages and work conditions, and said it would drop charges against officers indicted for allegedly participating in the strike, which is illegal for Brazil's so-called Military Police to carry out.
But Gustavo Tenorio, a spokesman for the Espirito Santo Public Safety Department, told the Associated Press news agency on Saturday that the agreement was rejected by those manning the barricades and that the military police officers have refused to go back to work.
That left the state reliant on federal troops, including both members of the military and the national guard, who have been patrolling the streets of several cities since early this week.
Drop in homicides
Raul Jungmann, Brazil's defence minister, who visited Espirito Santo on Saturday said that life was beginning to return to normal now that more than 3,000 federal troops are patrolling the streets.
Jungmann said that, since the troops arrived, looting and break-ins have stopped. He also said there had been a reduction in homicides.
The state has seen an extraordinary wave of violence in the last week, and the union representing civil police officers says 137 people have been killed since military police stopped patrolling.
The state government has not released a death toll.
|Military vehicles were deployed to the state to help the troops put an end to the violence [Reuters]
Helen Diass, a local, told Al Jazeera she was attempting to leave Espirito Santo because it has become much too dangerous.
"For sure, if you run away, you will be assaulted. If you walk or run, you will be assaulted, I have no doubt. My father is coming for me. I'm leaving. I will not stay here."
Amid the insecurity, most state services ground to a halt over the past week.
Bruno Farias, a local retailer, told Al Jazeera on Friday: "There has been a significant reduction in customers and we have also seen difficulties with leaving areas, there is a lack of buses, a lack of security in leaving and getting home. Business is complicated."
Bus service partially resumed in the state capital of Vitoria on Saturday, and hospitals were open, according to Tenorio. But smaller health centres remained closed.
"On Monday, this was a ghost town," Jungmann said.
"Today, we see a city that is getting back to normal: People are on the beach, people are in the streets, people are moving about."
|A police union says 137 people have been killed since military police stopped patrolling [Reuters]
Because the military police, who patrol Brazilian cities, are forbidden to strike, relatives of the officers took the lead and blocked access to their barracks to demand higher pay.
The government, which is experiencing an economic and fiscal crisis like many Brazilian states, has continued to reject that demand, though it said on Friday it would analyse the system of promotions.
The strike in Espirito Santo inspired a handful of much smaller family protests in neighbouring Rio de Janeiro state on Friday and Saturday.
However, in Rio, family members did not block barracks, instead, demonstrating peacefully outside them.
The military police there took to Twitter to repeatedly reassure the population that they were on patrol.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies