Vandals cover Rio's Christ statue with graffiti

RIO DE JANEIRO Fri Apr 16, 2010 12:31pm EDT

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Vandals covered Rio de Janeiro's towering Christ the Redeemer statue with spray-painted graffiti, marring the world-famous monument in an act Rio's mayor called a "crime against the nation."

The vandals covered the head, arms and chest of the 130-foot (40-meter) statue, which looks out over Rio's dramatic vista of beaches and mountains, using scaffolding that had been erected to carry out maintenance work.

"Those criminals will pay for what they've done. They will go to jail," Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes was quoted as saying in Friday's O Globo newspaper. "Rio de Janeiro and Brazil do not deserve this."

Access to the statue had been closed after recent rains that caused mudslides around the city.

Phrases scrawled onto the statue included "When the cat's away, the rats will play," as well as apparent references to Rio residents who were killed or who disappeared in recent crimes, O Globo reported.

The soapstone statue, completed in 1931, sits atop the 2,300-foot (700-meter) Corcovado mountain and is visible from much of the city.

Rio extensively used the image, along with bucolic beaches and the popular Sugar Loaf mountain, in its successful bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

(Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Doina Chiacu)

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