Violence during Rio Carnival spotlights security woes

Members from the Beija Flor samba school gather outside the Sambadrome after parading in the Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. The world-famous two-day parade finished earlier on Tuesday with samba-schools also criticizing the country’s politicians amid a series of corruption scandals. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Merrymakers tale part in the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Much of the appeal of Rio street parties is the variety of themes and that people can dress up in costumes or not. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
People take part in the Terreirada Cearense street carnival party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. Much of the appeal of Rio street parties is the variety of themes and that people can dress up in costumes or not. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

RIO DE JANEIRO — A series of muggings, armed robberies and confrontations during Rio de Janeiro's Carnival celebrations are underscoring the deteriorating security situation in the city.

TV Globo on Wednesday showed videos of gunfire between rival drug gangs, teenagers punching tourists in areas usually considered relatively safe and a policeman narrowly escaping after several people attacked him in front of his home.

Rio state Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao acknowledged there weren't enough police on hand during the first couple days of Carnival, though more than 17,000 policemen worked in Rio state each day during the festivities.

"We were not prepared. There was a failure on the first two days, and then we brought backup for police. I think there has been a mistake in our part," Pezao said.

Statistics from the Friday to Tuesday bash have not yet been released. However, Pezao said the number of firearms confiscated by authorities was "incredible."

A year after hosting the 2016 Olympics, Rio is experiencing a spike in violence. Days before Carnival, rival drug gangs closed key arteries of the city.

Last year Rio used almost 12,000 policemen during Carnival, but it also counted on the help of 9,000 members of the country's armed forces. This time there was no federal aid during the bash.

Politicians avoided Rio during one of the most political Carnivals in Brazil's history, with revelers targeting Pezao, President Michel Temer and especially Mayor Marcelo Crivella, an evangelical bishop who is no fan of the party and left the city for Europe.

Beija-Flor de Nilopolis won the samba-school parade title on Wednesday in Rio's Sambadrome using corruption as a theme. One of its floats portrayed a rat below the building of state-oil Petrobras, which is at the center of a corruption scandal that has engulfed politicians across Latin America.

Crowd favorite Paraiso do Tuiuti finished in a surprising second place, likely because of its political tone. The samba-school's anti-slavery theme attacked Temer's labor reform and the president himself. One of Tuiuti's floats featured a vampire wearing a presidential sash.

Next week Temer, whose popularity is at single-digits, wants to push through a reform of Brazil's pension system. Analysts have said bill is unlikely to pass with October's presidential election approaching. The Carnival atmosphere did not help the president make his case for austerity.

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