The Miami Herald
Sun, Feb. 22, 2004

Carnival not fun for all Brazilians

  Associated Press

  RIO DE JANEIRO - It's an invitation to hell, warns a minister. Too violent and chaotic, complains a scientist. For others, it's only good as an excuse to get out of town.

  Carnival: So many Brazilians seem to hate it, despite the stereotype of an entire nation putting everything on hold to dance and drink the night away.

  Known as the world's biggest party, the five-day-long pre-Lenten bash started Friday with the ceremonial handing of the key to the city of Rio to the symbolic ``Fat King.''

  Tourists may love it, but a recent survey conducted by the Sensus polling group found that 57.4 percent of Brazilians dislike Carnival and want nothing to do with it.


  ''It's the devil's party. It's a pagan festival. It encourages prostitution,'' explains the Rev. Flavio Luis Silva Araujo, a pastor for the Universal Kingdom of God Church. "The word of the Lord is very clear: The spirit should not satisfy the lewdness of the flesh.''

  A growing number of Brazilians share this view, thanks to the increasing popularity of evangelical Protestant churches in this predominantly Roman Catholic country. Currently, about 15 percent of Brazil's 175 million people belong to evangelical Protestant denominations like Kingdom of God, Assembly of God and the God is Love Church -- all of which regularly scorn Carnival.

  Other Brazilians have more earthly problems with the celebration. ''I used to like Carnival quite a lot when I was young,'' explains Fernando Pacheco, a 41-year-old
  ornithologist. ``But I stopped liking it when it stopped being an innocent street party and became a mega-spectacle full of violence and confusion.''


  Over the past two decades, drug violence spilling into the streets from the city's slums has spoiled much of the fun. The Sensus polls found that among those who like
  Carnival, 19.4 percent would be watching it on TV.

  During last year's celebrations, 70 people were killed around the city. Drug gangs burned dozens of city buses before the start of the festivities, prompting the government to put army tanks in the streets. (No tanks were expected this year.)

  The highlight of Rio's festival -- the biggest of all the Carnival festivities in cities across Brazil -- is the samba parade that has taken place in the specially designed
  Sambadrome stadium since 1984.

  Many say even that is a letdown: Revelers are confined to the stands, and tickets are too pricey for many residents.

  Carnival kicks off the start of Lent, the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter observed by Christians as a season of fasting and penitence. Excess and revelry are the point of Carnival, represented by the figure of the "fat king.''

  About 2,000 people in 195 cities were interviewed between Feb. 4-6 for the Sensus survey.