SALVADOR DE BAHIA (AFP) - (AFP) - Talks to end a strike by police who have occupied the legislature in Brazil's Bahia state for a week ended without agreement here Tuesday, with each side blaming the other for the impasse.
The week-long strike in Brazil's third largest city by 200 armed police has touched off a crime wave, including 100 murders in the metropolitan area, forcing the federal government to send troops to back state security forces.
It came just two weeks before Salvador, the capital of the northeastern state, was to welcome hundreds of thousands of tourists for its famed Carnival celebrations. It is also one of 12 cities to host the 2014 World Cup.
Bahia Governor Jaques Wagner said the talks broke up without a deal because of division among the strikers, who are demanding a pay hike and an amnesty for strike leaders facing arrest under a court order.
"Whatever offer you make is not enough because what they want is to justify this movement," Wagner said, as the striking police remained holed up in the legislative assembly building, ringed by more than 1,000 troops since Sunday.
The governor stressed that he was willing to meet the strikers' demand for a 17 percent pay hike but ruled out any amnesty for those strikers who engaged in "criminal acts."
"Those who violated the law, destroy public property, take up arms and threaten people .... surely will have to be prosecuted," Wagner said.
He also explained that he did not have the financial means to readjust police salaries immediately but pledged that the increase would "be granted gradually over the next three years."
"There was no agreement. The strike continues," police officer Alexandre Leite told supporters of the strikers massed outside the compound.
From inside the building, Armando de Quirino told AFP by telephone that the strikers were prepared to resist a possible military assault after the talks collapsed.
"The governor asked elite units to take positions to invade. He wants a bloodbath. If that is what he wants, here we are ready," he added.
Earlier in the day, Wagner, a member of Brazil's ruling Workers' Party (PT), said that with Carnival approaching, he was convinced that an agreement would be reached.
The strikers occupied the legislature in the city of 2.5 million a week ago, many joined by their spouses and children.
Overnight, the children left the besieged building but their earlier presence touched off a controversy.
"We condemn the use of children as human shields," Human Rights Minister Maria do Rosario told the state-run Agencia Brasil Tuesday.
Authorities on Tuesday detained a second person suspected of leading the strike, a police source said, following Sunday's arrest of a suspect.
Wagner said that over the past five years, salaries of military police, who in Brazil are responsible for maintaining law and order, rose 30 percent.
More than 9,000 new police personnel, with modernized equipment, were recruited across Bahia, Brazil's fourth most populous state with a population of 13.6 million, he added.
On Tuesday, tourists returned to the streets of Salvador's historic center, where shopkeepers said they were reassured by the presence of security forces during the day.
Students were supposed to go back to school Tuesday at the end of the Brazilian summer, but authorities decided that the start of the school year should be postponed.
Authorities, meanwhile, said preparations for Carnival, expected to draw up to three million people to a city that is the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture, would go ahead as planned.