'Welcome to Hell,' protesting Rio police tell tourists

2016-07-04 17:40
A police officer shouts slogans during a protest demanding pay and better working conditions, at the airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Silvia Izquierdo, AP)

A police officer shouts slogans during a protest demanding pay and better working conditions, at the airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Silvia Izquierdo, AP)

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Rio de Janeiro - Brazilian police protesting unpaid salaries with just one month to go before the Olympics surprised arriving travellers at Rio de Janeiro's main airport on Monday with banners reading "Welcome to Hell."

The protest by more than 100 emergency services workers, including firefighters, took place in the arrival hall at Galeao International Airport, which will be a key entry point for the expected half million tourists to the Games starting August 5.

Officers held up a banner reading: "Welcome to hell. Police and firefighters don't get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe."

Mannequins dressed in uniform were laid out on the floor to represent the more than 50 officers killed in Rio de Janeiro so far this year. A female officer with fake blood smeared on her face and hands clutched a mannequin dressed in a T-shirt reading "SOS policia."

Rio police began staging street protests, including another at the airport, last week, saying that they have not been fully paid for months as Rio state hovers on the edge of bankruptcy.

An emergency federal bailout received last week means late salary payments are expected to be made this week, according to Brazilian news reports.

Rio is the first South American city in history to host the Olympics. However, there are growing fears about the ability of police to control crime during the event.

Murders in the first quarter of 2016 are up 15% on the same period last year.

Non-lethal crimes like street robberies are also on the rise, highlighted by the hijacking on Friday of a truck carrying about $445 000 worth of television equipment to be used for Olympic news coverage.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes told CNN that the blame for security problems lies with the state government.

"This is the most serious issue in Rio and the state is doing a terrible, horrible job," he said.

Read more on:    olympics 2016  |  brazil
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