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  • Uniforms placed by family of police officers in protest for better salaries hang by the entrance of the military police battalion in Rio de Janeiro, Feb. 10, 2017.

    Uniforms placed by family of police officers in protest for better salaries hang by the entrance of the military police battalion in Rio de Janeiro, Feb. 10, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 February 2017

The death toll has now topped 120, more than six times the homicide rate in the state last year.

Authorities in the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo threatened striking police officers with criminal charges on Friday as the federal government sent in more troops in a bid to end a week of violent anarchy that has left more than 120 people dead.

Espirito Santo is one of several Brazilian states grappling with a budget crisis that is crippling essential public services for millions of citizens. The police strike over the past week, over pay, has left a security vacuum and led to rampant assaults, heists and looting, often in broad daylight.

Limited protests by police in nearby Rio de Janeiro alarmed many residents of the teeming city of 12 million people, many of whom live in fear of violence between rival drug gangs spilling out of hillside slums.

A spokesman for the local police union in Espirito Santo said the death toll from a week of unrest had risen to 122. Many of the dead are believed to come from rival criminal gangs, according to police.

State officials have not officially confirmed the number of dead.

If accurate, the toll would be more than six times the homicide rate in the state last year.

President Michel Temer's government said late on Thursday that hundreds more soldiers and federal police would be sent in to help stem the chaos, focused mostly in the metropolitan region of Vitoria, the state capital.

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