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Brazil's Carnival opens but without Rio's evangelical mayor

Associated Press logo Associated Press 2/25/2017 By PETER PRENGAMAN and MAURICIO SAVARESE, Associated Press
Carnival King Momo, Fabio Damiao dos Santos Antunes, holds up the key to the city at a ceremony marking the official start of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Marcelo Crivella, mayor of Rio de Janeiro, opted not to attend the ceremony, and in his place Secretary of Culture Nilceia Nogueira, left, handed over the key. (AP Photo/Mauro Pimentel) © The Associated Press Carnival King Momo, Fabio Damiao dos Santos Antunes, holds up the key to the city at a ceremony marking the official start of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Marcelo Crivella, mayor of Rio de Janeiro, opted not to attend the ceremony, and in his place Secretary of Culture Nilceia Nogueira, left, handed over the key. (AP Photo/Mauro Pimentel)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Revelers across Brazil began Carnival celebrations on Friday, taking to the streets to dance, drink beer and spirits, and blow off steam at a time of economic angst and fury with politicians over a sprawling corruption scandal.

Maria Cristina de Jesus, the guardian of Rio's city key, places the oversized key in a bag during a delay for the ceremony officially kicking off Carnival at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. De Jesus' late father, Jose Geraldo de Jesus, also known as Candonga, kept the key safe at his home after it kept getting lost year after year since the 1970's. After his death in 1997, his family kept up the tradition of keeping the key safe at their home. (AP Photo/Mauro Pimentel) © The Associated Press Maria Cristina de Jesus, the guardian of Rio's city key, places the oversized key in a bag during a delay for the ceremony officially kicking off Carnival at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. De Jesus' late father, Jose Geraldo de Jesus, also known as Candonga, kept the key safe at his home after it kept getting lost year after year since the 1970's. After his death in 1997, his family kept up the tradition of keeping the key safe at their home. (AP Photo/Mauro Pimentel)

The world's most famous Carnival bash in Rio opened in a strange way. After a day in silence, the city's evangelical Mayor Marcelo Crivella delayed the traditionally opulent starting ceremony until 8:30 p.m. only to skip it with the excuse that his wife was sick. Eventually, Rio city hall put out an email saying that Carnival was "officially open."

A dancer performs during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa) © The Associated Press A dancer performs during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

But several so-called block parties in Rio were underway by the afternoon. Thousands of revelers danced amid 90-degree (32 Celsius) heat with high humidity, standard during the Southern Hemisphere summer.

A youth sells foam cans to revelers during the "Get out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) © The Associated Press A youth sells foam cans to revelers during the "Get out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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At the "Carmelitas" block party in Rio's bohemian Santa Teresa neighborhood, revelers dressed up as nuns, with many carrying signs insulting politicians who oppose marijuana legalization.

A reveler with his body covered by the Portuguese message: "get out Temer" dances during the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) © The Associated Press A reveler with his body covered by the Portuguese message: "get out Temer" dances during the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

"The lord says: you will try all the herbs that came from the seeds," read one banner.

A reveler holds a sign that reads in Portuguese: "Indians want demarcation" during the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) © The Associated Press A reveler holds a sign that reads in Portuguese: "Indians want demarcation" during the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

"Carnival is a very nice and democratic party," said partygoer Nilse Azevedo. "Whoever wants to pray, prays. Whoever wants to have fun in the street has fun."

A reveler wears a crown that reads in Portuguese: "Out Temer" during a carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) © The Associated Press A reveler wears a crown that reads in Portuguese: "Out Temer" during a carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

But it was the odd opening to the iconic festival, which brings in more than $ 1 billion to Rio each year, that was the talk of the day.

A reveler pretends to hit a man representing the United States who holds a sign that reads in Portuguese: "Brazilian is fooling, selling everything cheap. Oil" during the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) © The Associated Press A reveler pretends to hit a man representing the United States who holds a sign that reads in Portuguese: "Brazilian is fooling, selling everything cheap. Oil" during the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

At the sambadrome, where top league samba schools begin competing on Sunday, revelers waited Friday for the traditional handing over of the city's key to "Rei Momo," or the king of carnal delights. This was always done with great fanfare by former Mayor Eduardo Paes.

Revelers take part in the "Out Temer" carnival street party, carrying an effigy of Brazil's impeached President Dilma Rousseff, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) © The Associated Press Revelers take part in the "Out Temer" carnival street party, carrying an effigy of Brazil's impeached President Dilma Rousseff, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

But the current mayor, Crivella, decided to send the head of Rio's tourism agency to represent him at the opening ceremony. Even stranger was the quick removal of Rei Momo, who did not give interviews as usual and was escorted out of the sambadrome by security guards.

A mask in the likeness of Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands before the start of the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) © The Associated Press A mask in the likeness of Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands before the start of the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

It isn't clear whether Crivella, a retired Pentecostal bishop who took office on Jan. 1, will attend any of the five days of parades at the sambadrome. Rio's city council has already authorized him to travel abroad on the next few days.

Revelers pretend to beat a sign that reads "Temer, coup leader" during the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) © The Associated Press Revelers pretend to beat a sign that reads "Temer, coup leader" during the "Out Temer" carnival street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers took to the streets to protest Brazil's President Michel Temer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Earlier Friday, when it was still unclear whether the mayor would come for the opening ceremony, Maria Cristina held the symbolic key to the city, appearing like somebody who had been stood up.

Revelers react to the camera during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa) © The Associated Press Revelers react to the camera during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

"I would also like to know what is going on," she said when asked by an Associated Press reporter about what she would do with the key.

Revelers dance during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa) © The Associated Press Revelers dance during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Cristina said the mayor's office had told her and the symbolic key-holding group to come, but hadn't said more about the plans.

Revelers wearing bride costumes attend the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa) © The Associated Press Revelers wearing bride costumes attend the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The mayor "should separate religion from politics at our Carnival," said Marisol Portela, a homemaker who had come to the sambadrome. "He will not be missed. We will throw our party anyway."

A reveler in costume poses for the photo during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa) © The Associated Press A reveler in costume poses for the photo during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The annual Carnival celebrations come at a difficult time for many Brazilians. The economy is mired in recession, leading to daily announcements of job cuts and much angst about the future. Many states, including Rio de Janeiro, are so broke that thousands of public workers are being paid months late, if at all.

Revelers take part in the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa) © The Associated Press Revelers take part in the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Latin America's largest nation is also recovering from a brutal impeachment fight last year that led to the removal of President Dilma Rousseff for illegal mismanagement of the budget. The man who replaced her, Michel Temer, is deeply unpopular.

A man dressed as a nun cracks a whip during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa) © The Associated Press A man dressed as a nun cracks a whip during the Carmelitas street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Merrymakers take to the streets in hundreds of open-air "bloco" parties during Rio's over-the-top Carnival, the highlight of the year for many. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Temer and several others in both chambers of Congress have been caught up, either through formal charges or in plea bargains, in a massive corruption probe that has jailed dozens of politicians and businessmen in the last few years. Temer denies wrongdoing.

People wait for the start of the official ceremony that kicks off Carnival at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. The world's most famous Carnival bash began in a strange way: after a day in silence, evangelical Mayor Marcelo Crivella delayed the traditionally opulent starting ceremony until 8:30 p.m. only to skip it with the excuse that his wife was sick. (AP Photo/Mauro Pimentel) © The Associated Press People wait for the start of the official ceremony that kicks off Carnival at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. The world's most famous Carnival bash began in a strange way: after a day in silence, evangelical Mayor Marcelo Crivella delayed the traditionally opulent starting ceremony until 8:30 p.m. only to skip it with the excuse that his wife was sick. (AP Photo/Mauro Pimentel)

One of Rio's big block parties is dedicated to the president. It's theme: "Out with Temer!"

In Sao Paulo, where samba school competitions get started Friday night, there was heavy rain and thunder. Some streets in the eastern part of the megacity were flooding. Images on Globo Television show cars fully submerged and floating.

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Associated Press video journalist Mario Lobao in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

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