RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Thousands of passengers across Rio de Janeiro endured long lines and tense commutes on Thursday as a bus strike and related vandalism disrupted the workday in Brazil’s second-biggest city.
The strike renewed concerns about services and public order one month before Rio and 11 other Brazilian cities play host to the upcoming World Cup soccer tournament. It came two weeks after the death of a dancer in a police shootout prompted riots in a slum near the city’s most popular tourist district.
By early afternoon, the consortium of private companies that operates Rio’s municipal bus network said that more than 300 of its vehicles had been vandalized, many of them in Rio’s sprawling western suburbs. Only 30 percent of the city’s bus fleet was still in service.
One bus service employee was injured when a protester threw a rock, while many would-be passengers waited hours to get to work. Some schools asked students to stay home.
Problems with municipal transport are common in Brazil and a regular source of public frustration. Last year, a fare hike in several cities helped prompt mass protests throughout Latin America’s biggest country over the poor state of public services and the lack investment in them.
Protesters compared the billions of dollars being spent by Brazil to host the World Cup, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio, with the shoddy state of the country’s infrastructure and its health and educational services.
Buses are often the target of vandals and irate passengers who are disgusted by daily gridlock, cramped vehicles and a perceived lack of transparency and accountability in the contracts for bus routes. Dozens of buses have been burned this year in São Paulo, the country’s biggest city.
Rio’s bus operators said they weren’t immediately able to determine who was behind the attacks on their vehicles Thursday, but suspect dissident members of a labor union who are dissatisfied with recent salary negotiations.
The month-long World Cup tournament kicks off in São Paulo on June 12.
Reporting by Paulo Prada; editing by Peter Galloway