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Violence mars end of Rio de Janeiro Carnival

Police raided Rio de Janeiro’s City of God slum looking for attackers who wounded two officers early Wednesday, just hours before the winner of Rio’s otherwise peaceful Carnival was to be announced.
/ Source: Reuters

Police raided Rio de Janeiro’s City of God slum looking for attackers who wounded two officers early Wednesday, just hours before the winner of Rio’s otherwise peaceful Carnival was to be announced.

One officer was wounded in the head during the raid, police said. In another slum before dawn, a police patrol came under attack and two suspects were shot in a standoff. The incidents marked a return to a routine of violence in the beautiful but crime-ridden city.

Strong policing during the festival and a general spirit of joy had provided for a calm Carnival in Rio. Preparations last week for the world-famous Carnival jamborees had been marred by frequent gunfights between drug traffickers, vigilantes and police.

The city is still teeming with hundreds of thousands of tourists who came to watch two nights of dazzling parades by top samba troupes and take part in raucous street processions.

Wednesday is a partial holiday in Brazil, and most Rio residents stayed away from work completely to watch the televised awards ceremony for the best samba school of the year.

Celebrations everywhere
Many celebrated at home and in bars as judges named Beija-Flor (Humming Bird) the winner for its extravaganza about Brazil’s African roots and African influences in other countries.

Beija-Flor and 12 other top samba clubs competed in the 70,000-seat Sambadrome on Sunday and Monday nights in a globally televised pageant with lavish floats, bright costumes and near-naked beauty queens in feathered headdresses.

The schools were judged by their floats, costumes, dancing, overall enthusiasm, song lyrics and other criteria.

In Brazil’s biggest city of Sao Paulo, which also holds lavish Carnival parades, celebrations at the training grounds of the winning samba school ended in an ugly brawl on Tuesday and police had to cut the party short.

Although Carnival officially ends on Ash Wednesday and is followed by a period of Lent and penitence in the world’s biggest Roman Catholic country, some street processions of irreverent merry-makers will continue blasting out their samba tunes, dancing and drinking for a few days.

On Saturday night, six top-rated samba schools will hit the Sambadrome venue again for the all-night Champions’ Parade.