President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, dressed in white and wearing a Panama hat, became on Sunday the country's first president in the last 15 years to attend one of the samba-school parades at the Carnaval of Rio de Janeiro, the main event of the festival.
The head of state who attended the parades that began Sunday night at the Sambadrome was supposed to return to Brazilian capital Brasilia before dawn this Monday.
No Brazilian president has attended this event since 1994, when Itamar Franco watched the parades in the Sambadrome on a night that provoked a certain amount of criticism.
The reason was that he was photographed in the box for distinguished visitors accompanied by model Lilian Ramos, who wore no underwear at the time being dressed only in a scanty T-shirt and won notoriety for baring her all beside the head of state.
The parade of the samba schools of the Special Group of Rio de Janeiro is considered the main event of the Rio Carnaval and one of the greatest outdoor displays of artistry in the world.
The 12 participating groups vying to be crowned champion this year will be on parade Sunday and Monday nights.
The schools, each with an average of 5,000 people, interpret their various themes with breathtaking displays of music, dance, lights and color that continue until dawn on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
Each school presents a freely chosen theme that it then stages in the Sambadrome with music, floats, costumes and dancers.