Crying, killings sour Carnival
Rio de Janeiro - A child samba queen who broke down in tears as she fitfully paraded in the harsh glare of the media, and two killings during festivities, marred the climax of Rio's famed Carnival on Monday.
Julia Lira, a seven-year-old girl chosen to represent one of the 12 top samba schools competing in this year's parades, found being the centre of attention too much as she danced in front of one procession.
Child welfare groups had protested that the role was too sexy for a child, but a court last week found in favour of her father, the head of the Viradouro school she represented.
Wearing a more modest outfit than her scantily clad adult rivals, Lira was seen shuffling along unhappily in a crowd of Brazilian photographers and cameramen, all but obscured to the 90 000 spectators in the purpose-built Sambodrome stadium.
Her mother told reporters the girl had cried and had to be picked up at the start of the show, but bravely carried on to finish.
Lira reportedly said dancing with all the attention "was hard" before she was whisked away from the lenses.
The incident deepened a sour note over the Carnival partying, which was already suffering one of its worst crime surges in years.
The bloody body of a Brazilian girl, aged around 10 years, was found late on Sunday in bushes near her home in central Rio, the victim of an apparent rape-murder.
According to police, the girl's Carnival disguise had been half ripped off.
Also on Sunday, an off-duty Brazilian policeman was arrested for shooting dead a fellow off-duty officer in a Carnival party, sparking panic among revellers in the club.
The G1 news website quoted investigators saying the two had a dispute and the officer who shot his colleague four times claimed he had acted in self-defence.
With the parades continuing on until early Tuesday, and street parties going on for days after that, authorities are hoping the rest of Carnival will go on without other incidents.
The parade consisted of a flow of imaginative and colourful floats and an army of costumed dancers that each samba school deployed at a cost of up to $4m.
Most were historical or religious allegories, but a couple went overboard in embracing Hollywood imagery.
Thus there were also superhero riffs featuring Batmen on skis and Spider-men climbing under the lights. The undead buccaneers from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies also proved popular.
But the most surprising appearance - warmly welcomed by the crowd - was that of a Michael Jackson impersonator.
The actor had some of the late entertainer's moves down, and - it appeared - similar plastic surgery. Eyebrows were raised, though, by the fact that he shared the float with extraterrestrials.
A billboard on the back of the vehicle, next to an elongated ET, showed a photo of the real singer, who died in June last year, with the words: "Michael lives in all the stars - God bless him".