Rio de Janeiro mayor halts all payments amid budget crunch

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella has suspended municipal treasury payments in the midst of a year-end budget crunch caused by debts for salaries of medical professionals. The measure halts all payments, including for suppliers and year-end salaries for municipal civil servants. City Hall issued the resolution after labor court decisions froze municipal accounts and obliged payment of doctors, nurses and other health professionals contracted by social organizations who run health clinics, and went months without salary.

“It’s a prudent measure that aims to organize municipal accounts until those stoppages determined by the justice system are finalized,” the press office of Rio’s City Hall said.

Crivella, an evangelical bishop, has increasingly fallen out of favor amid accusations he is more interested in cultural battles than running Brazil’s second-largest city. He has worked to wean Carnival’s samba schools off the public purse, ordered a comic book depicting a gay kiss pulled from a book fair, and recently began blocking journalists from the Globo network from attending his events.

Crivella is eligible to run for re-election in 2020. A poll this week showed he has a 72% rejectionrate, up from 40% in October. Only 8% of those surveyed approve of Crivella, according to the pollster, Datafolha. About two-thirds of respondents said the health sector is the city’s biggest problem, followed by 12% citing violence.

Last week, Rio struck a deal with the federal government for transfer of 152 million reais ($37 million) to help pay its debt to health workers, who went on strike after two months without salary, according to the health ministry. It said Crivella requested the funds be made available.

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