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Brazil police return to work after strike triggered violent chaos

Brazil police return to work after strike triggered violent chaos

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Several hundred police returned to their patrols on Sunday after eight days of strikes in a southeastern Brazilian state that was plunged into violence during the work stoppage.

Relatives of officers had blocked access to all military police stations since February 4 to demand raises and better working conditions for police, who are barred by the constitution from going on strike or protesting.

Although relatives continue to block some stations, "military policemen have been seen in several cities in Espirito Santo," the local government said Saturday night on social media.

"They have responded to the call of command and are back in the streets," it said.

A government spokesman told AFP that 875 officers were in uniform and working Sunday in the state of Espirito Santo, including 275 in the capital city Vitoria. Normally, 2,000 of the state's 10,400 policemen are on patrol each day.

At least 137 people were reported killed amid looting and robbery in Espirito Santo since police went on strike more than a week ago.

Some officers were taken by helicopter to city streets because of the blockades.

With police gone from the streets, assaults, vandalism and killings rose sharply in Espirito Santo, which is 500 kilometers (300 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro.

More than 3,000 soldiers were deployed to maintain order, and will remain on the streets until the situation returns to normal, Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said Saturday. He traveled to Vitoria, the state capital, that day with other members of the government.

The state government warned Friday that 703 officers would be charged with rebellion, an offense that could see them sentenced to between eight and 20 years in prison.

On Friday, similar strikes erupted at some of Rio de Janeiro's police stations over unpaid wages, and relatives of officers also blockaded police stations. But police were on duty Sunday morning.