Rio seeks relief from revelers' relieving themselves

Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:10pm EST
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By Jeb Blount

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - An oil-led economic boom, hosting of the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, and a plunge in violent crime are making Rio de Janeiro, called Cidade Maravilhosa, feel like the "Marvellous City" for the first time in decades.

With a growing record of solving or easing Rio's urban problems, authorities want to fix something else once considered unfixable - the chaotic, and increasingly popular, Carnival street parades, known as blocos, attended by millions.

Singing, drinking, dancing and revelry are all fine, says Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. Urinating in the streets is not.

Since the pre-Lenten samba festival season officially began on January 20, more than 800 men and women have been arrested for public urination, an offense that has been rarely enforced before. For many Cariocas, as the residents of Rio are known, the crackdown seems unrealistic.

"Nobody likes the mess, but I don't know how you can punish someone for doing something they must do," said Joao Pimentel, author of the 2002 book "Blocos," about Rio's street Carnival.

In 2011, a judge threw out a public urination charge saying a person's biological needs trumped Rio's public-order campaign.

For Pimentel, it's not just about manners, it's impractical.

The Bola Preta (Blackball Parade), on Saturday attracted 2.2 million people. Many were packed shoulder-to-shoulder in 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) heat 80 across on narrow, downtown streets.   Continued...

A reveller from the Grande Rio samba school takes part in the second night of the annual Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome February 21, 2012. REUTERS/Nacho Doce