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Can Carnival cool tensions in Brazil and beyond?

Feb 28 (Reuters) - Carnival got under way across Brazil on Friday interspersed with simmering antigovernment protests and alongside preparations in 12 cities for the upcoming soccer World Cup.

The festivities, which each year rouse millions to revel in nearly a week of parades and block parties, are the first since a series of mass demonstrations last June, when Brazilians took to the streets to decry rising prices, a sluggish economy, poor public services and corruption.

Although those protests have ebbed, smaller antigovernment groups have continued to agitate in major cities, sometimes clashing with police.

In Rio de Janeiro, home to Brazil's best-known Carnival festivities, activists in recent days have been rallying members on social media to remind revelers of the issues that riled so many during the earlier demonstrations.

While they are unlikely to spoil the occasion for the nearly 5 million partiers expected, protests would provide a novel counterpoint to the gaiety, more traditionally marked by mass debauchery, litter-strewn streets and occasional vandalism.

Last year's demonstrators successfully used a widely watched warmup tournament for the World Cup as a stage to contrast the billions spent on the soccer event and the 2016 Rio Olympics with Brazil's feeble investment in public services.

With the World Cup itself starting June 12, activists are eager to rekindle the anger and angst. "Revelers unite!" wrote one in an online manifesto for a group dubbed "Occupy Carnival," whose aim is to "contaminate Carnival with the spirit of popular protest."

Rio and other major cities are well accustomed to activities of any stripe during the festival - from good-humored parades by transvestites to swarms of beachcombing bandits.

The Rio state government said it would deploy nearly 17,000 police officers, 16 percent more than it did last year. Earlier this week, the government showed off new riot gear and body armor that officers will be donning for any unrest.

Friday morning, shopkeepers in Ipanema, a beachside Rio district popular with tourists, had already boarded up windows to protect their inventory. In Salvador, the northeastern city where throngs follow massive mobile stages along 25 kilometers of closed avenues, local media broadcast a smartphone video of a group of revelers beating a suspected thief.

Meanwhile, authorities in the dozen host cities for the upcoming soccer games are scrambling to finish stadiums, public works and other preparations. In Rio, where officials recently demolished an elevated highway and rerouted much of the traffic across the city center to make way for new infrastructure, locals were anticipating worse-than-usual gridlock.

Still, the overall atmosphere is expected to remain festive throughout Carnival, a tradition whose history lies in a final binge of sin before the austere Catholic season of Lent. Beer and liquor advertisements began blanketing the city in recent days, while government workers staffed stands to hand out free condoms.

Friday morning, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes relinquished the key of the city to Rei Momo, the figurehead king of a celebration taken so seriously in Brazil that many businesses close. The stock exchange in São Paulo, the country's biggest city and financial capital, halts trading during the event from Monday through mid-day Wednesday, Carnival's traditional end. (Additional reporting by Felipe Pontes; Editing by Todd Benson and Prudence Crowther)

Join the discussion

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jurmik March 01 2014 at 7:24 AM

Obricada Brasil. I will watch Orfeu Negro again and again and again...un film mas fabulosa.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
jijjhnsn March 01 2014 at 7:59 AM

The (half) naked show must go on.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Margo and Thomas March 01 2014 at 8:00 AM

Looks like a fun time to Me ! Viva Brazil !

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Samella March 01 2014 at 8:09 AM

It is the most colorful and so much fun!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
dan Samella March 01 2014 at 8:17 AM

Are you there

Flag Reply +1 rate up
muscle465 February 28 2014 at 10:57 PM

**** carnival and **** inbev

Flag Reply +1 rate up
dan March 01 2014 at 8:16 AM

Great pictures, I wish I was their.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
jr3261 dan March 01 2014 at 8:24 AM

there, not their. unless you mean their fancy boy?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
ironwrkrb jr3261 March 01 2014 at 8:33 AM

good grammer nail, dolt!

Flag +1 rate up
matnewkirk March 01 2014 at 10:53 AM

All Of Those Woman Are Smoking Hot...LIKE ALL OF THEM!!

What Happens In Rio, Stays In Rio??


Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
no1gum matnewkirk March 01 2014 at 11:44 AM

I guess you like your women oily.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
hpycmpr155 matnewkirk March 01 2014 at 11:53 AM

I must agree and that woman in green is AMAZING!!!!!!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Hank's Mom February 28 2014 at 10:40 PM

Debauchery at its finest!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
quintinomano March 01 2014 at 12:06 PM


Flag Reply +1 rate up
tymetrvl99 February 28 2014 at 10:59 PM

hey FU2, I was there too 45 years ago. Fun time.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
ebneila tymetrvl99 March 01 2014 at 12:13 AM

When you go back make sure to stock up on Viagra and/or Stendra

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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