RIO DE JANEIRO – POLICE are stepping up security in Rio de Janeiro after armed men hit two hotels, robbing 47 tourists in the Brazilian city for its famed Carnival festivities.

Visitors from the United States, Britain, Argentina, and other countries were forced to hand over money, passports, and cameras to a gang that took over their small hotel in the city center before dawn yesterday.

The robbers, brandishing handguns, grenades, and knives, had gained entry after one of them asked to use the toilet and overpowered the receptionist, officers said.

Less than 24 hours earlier, another hotel was hit in similar circumstances in the popular Copacabana beach neighborhood. Thirteen tourists staying in the budget establishment were robbed by four armed men.

Officials said a Carnival security plan drawn by hoteliers and police would be brought forward a day to Thursday because of the attacks.

Rio each year acts as a magnet for tourists from around the world drawn to Carnival celebrations that are billed as “the biggest party on Earth.”

Extra police are deployed to bolster security in the city, where violent slums lie alongside upscale beach districts favored by visitors.