Rio officers on ‘pee’ patrol

RIO DE JANEIRO – Rio de Janeiro has in recent years evicted drug dealers from hillside slums, carved fast-moving bus lanes into sclerotic streets, and cracked down on unauthorised food vendors along the city’s 58 miles of beaches.

Now, as they gear up for the 2013 Carnival, officials are taking aim at another old Rio scourge: public urinating.

Urine flows as freely during Rio’s famous annual festivities as beer and the cane liquor known as cacha?a.

For as long as locals remember, the sight of people relieving themselves – and the stench of their steamy puddles – has been as much a part of Carnival as half-naked women, samba schools, drag queens, body paint, and drunk and sun-burned foreigners.

But Rio, Brazil’s second-largest city and its most popular tourist destination, now wants to stop the peeing.

To sanitise some of the revelry, officially starting on Friday, city hall has deployed thousands of agents to spot and detain offenders. It’s a dry run, if you will, before Rio hosts World Cup soccer matches next year and the 2016 Olympics – events that are also expected to inspire celebration.

“It’s the biggest complaint we get,” says Alex Costa, Rio’s secretary for public order, echoing angry residents whose doors, curbs and car tires get anointed by bursting bladders.

In recent weeks, the city has touted the number of “mij?es”, or “pee-ers”, that agents have detained during pre-Carnival rehearsals and block parties: 321 since January 20, including 16 women and three foreigners.

Particularly lewd offenders are fined, but most detainees merely get shuttled to police stations where they miss the rest of the party.

“We just want to educate,” Costa says, “give people pause.” (Reuters)

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