- Title: BRAZIL: INCREASED SECURITY FOR THE RIO LENT CARNIVAL
- Date: 2nd March 2003
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PARADE WITH DANCERS IN ELABORATE COSTUMES (6 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 17th March 2003 12:00
- Location: RIO DE JANEIRO AND SALVADOR DA BAHIA, BRAZIL
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: Crime,Entertainment,General
- Reuters ID: LVAED8KIN1P84LYAVCAIQPXRRFLC
- Story Text: A heavy police presence on the streets of Rio de Janeiro has not dampened the spirits of the thousands of people pouring exuberantly into the city for the world's most famous pre-Lenten carnival.
Rio de Janeiro's annual Carnival parade opened to the explosion of fireworks and thunderous drums on Sunday (March 02) as the city's elite samba schools took centre stage amid the tightest security ever following threats of violence from drug gangs.
Some 70,000 people cheered from the grandstands, with VIPs paying as much as much as 700 U.S. dollars (USD) to watch the spectacle from plush, air-conditioned skyboxes and mingle with the stars.
An estimated 3,000 machine gun-toting army troops have been deployed through Rio to help 30,000 police safeguard the city after drug gangs threatened to ruin the annual, pre-Lenten bash.
"It's a good idea in my opinion because it gives more security to the people - however, this tank does seem a bit much - it's like we're waiting for a world war," said Brazilian participant Jorge, referring to a tank behind him.
Last week, the gangs burned buses, exploded home-made bombs and shot at police, threatening to cast a shadow over a festival expected to bring 136 million USD into Brazil's top tourist city.
Eleven people were killed in the mayhem, which authorities blamed on Luiz Fernando da Costa (loo-EEZ fer-NAHN-doh dah COHS-tah), a jailed drug baron better known as Fernandinho Beira-Mar (fair-nahn-DEEN-yoh bae-EER-ah mar), or "Freddy Seashore." He was transferred from Rio to an isolation cell in a maximum security prison in Sao Paulo (sow POW-loh) state on Thursday (February 27).
But despite worries the violence would rain on Rio's parade, tourism authorities say nearly 400,000 visitors, including 40,000 foreigners, are expected to descend on Rio.
Although carnival is celebrated throughout all of Brazil, it is in Rio -- with its itsy-bitsy bikinis, elaborate floats and groundshaking drum corps -- that has become the flagship event in a country known internationally for its music and dance.
"Carnival means everything - peace, love, happiness, harmony. Carnival means everything you can imagine,"
explained Fernando, a participant in the samba school Salgueiro (sahl-goo-ae-EER-oh).
The festivities continued in Salvador da Bahia (SAHL-vah-dor dah bah-EE-ah) where bands paraded down the streets on floats to throbbing music, and thousands of people danced to the different rhythms.
The 14 samba schools that will parade in Rio on Monday (March 03) night have been rehearsing for months, and even on the runway all the joyous singing and dancing is strictly controlled by frantic choreographers who make sure each section stays on beat.
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