Rio celebrated its first night of Carnival last Friday, and revelers woke up the next morning to the same garbage they'd created the night before. It hasn't gotten much better since.
The workers of the city's Municipal Urban Cleaning Company went on strike at the beginning of the week-long, annual celebration. According to the Rio Times, the sanitation workers were demanding salary increases and overtime pay for weekends and holidays.
The local Labor Court declared the strike illegal. But though unions complied, officially, many workers refused to return to work. More than one thousand sanitation workers marched down city streets Saturday before clashing with police. On Sunday, hundreds showed up in front of City Hall to criticize Comlurb and Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes.
Comlurb announced Monday that they'd agreed to a nine percent salary increase and that they'd fire 300 employees for not coming to work that day, according to the Rio Times.
Despite the court order and Carnival's Wednesday end, Rio's streets haven't gotten much cleaner. Mayor Paes says sanitation workers who have returned to the job have been facing threats from those remaining on strike. On Thursday, Bloomberg reports, workers were escorted by military police during their shifts for safety. And they're still playing catch-up from a week where an estimated five million people gathered around the city to party.
Comlurb officials tell Reuters that they aren't sure when Rio's streets will be completely clean again, adding that once they've settled with the remaining strikers, it should take a full three days to get everything back to normal.
For a country that has seen its share of civil unrest in the last year as its government pours money into the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, a highly visible disruption like this week's garbage strike could easily happen again. For now, Brazil's second largest city is more worried about getting rid of the smell along its streets and beaches today:
Top image: Residents walk near a dustbin filled with garbage on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)