Brazil’s Carnival parades end on controversial note

2010-02-17 11:37

Brazil wrapped up its spectacular Carnival parades early yesterday,

winding down colourful festivities that this year were tarnished by controversy

over a child samba queen and crime.

Rio de Janeiro, the focus of the partying with 730 000 Brazilian

and foreign visitors, saw off the last of the processions in its purpose-built

Sambodromo stadium throughout the night.

The three days of parades in the city attracted Madonna and a

clutch of other international celebrities, including Paris Hilton and actors

Hugh Jackman and Gerard Butler.

For most of Brazil, it was another superlative Carnival season with

imaginative floats featuring everything from Moses atop a Bible to Batman skiing

and a Michael Jackson impersonator accompanied by extraterrestrials.

Today, organizers are to announce which samba school put on the

best parade, an honour in Brazil akin to a football team winning a national


One of the most talked-about aspects of the Rio shows was the

inclusion of the youngest samba queen ever: a seven-year-old girl who

controversially filled the sexually charged role despite protests from child

welfare groups.

The girl, Julia Lima, broke down in tears and had to be comforted

by her father, who headed the Viradouro school she danced for, as her parade

started amid a glare of cameras.

Wearing a modest outfit unlike the scant bikinis of her adult

rivals, she made it to the end, but was mostly hidden from view by a scrum of

photographers and cameraman.

“She was a bit surprised” by all the attention, her mother, Monica

Lara, explained to reporters.

Viradouro was generally seen lagging behind other schools that put

on a better overall show in terms of floats and execution.

Many Brazilians said they were impressed in particular with the

Unidos de Tijuca school, which Sunday overnight deployed the Batman on skis,

Spider-Man and other superheroes as well as the surprisingly convincing Michael

Jackson lookalike.

The final night saw parades that included sci-fi robots and – in a

nod to Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup –a football-themed number with a

dancing player and a samba queen wearing a soccer bra.

Officials hoping to show Rio was a safe city for the World Cup, and

for the 2016 Olympic Games, were disappointed by a surge in crime during


The body of a young Brazilian girl aged between eight and 10 was

found Sunday, apparently the victim of a rape-murder. The Carnival disguise she

had been wearing was half torn off.

In a separate incident, an off-duty Brazilian policeman was

arrested the same day for shooting dead a fellow off-duty officer in a Carnival

club party.

The two killings followed the shooting last Thursday of a Dutch

tourist by a mugger. The 37-year-old Dutchman, who had just arrived in Rio with

his wife to attend Carnival, survived the attack but was in a serious condition

in hospital.

The head of the tourist police unit handling the Dutchman’s

mugging, Gilbert Stivanello, said it was “the worst crime we have had against a

foreign tourist this year and we are worried about it.”

He said Carnival crime statistics would be available at the end of

the week, when celebrations fade and people gradually resume to work.

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