RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Rio de Janeiro State Assembly voted on Monday to privatize the state's water distribution and sanitation company, Cedae.
Despite protests from several sectors, the privatization was authorized in the Assembly by 41 votes against 28. It was a comfortable victory as 36 votes were necessary to approve the measure.
Outside the assembly, protests and scuffles broke out with the police, with 17 students being arrested.
Cedae workers have also begun a strike, which risks posing major problems for the state if water distribution is not functional as the Carnival holiday is drawing near.
The state declared a state of financial emergency last year due to amounts of debts, and the authorization for Cedae's privatization was used in exchange for a 3.5 billion reals federal loan to the state, according to Brazilian economic newspaper, Valor.
The state government, which is aligned with the federal administration, defended the privatization of Cedae, saying that as the only profitable public company in Rio, Cedae was the state's only ticket to salvation.
The president of the state assembly, Jorge Picciani, said after the vote that "there is no other solution for Rio de Janeiro except for a federal intervention," adding that the state did not have the resources to pay its staff.
However, the money to be raised from privatizing Cedae is not nearly enough to solve the state's problems, the opposition said.