Brazil President Celebrates Carnaval Tossing Condoms to Crowd

Lula at Rio's Carnaval distributing condoms Minimum clothing plus bubbles, feathers and glitter exposing spectacular bodies blended to offer the first night of parades in Rio do Janeiro's Carnaval, as the city's samba schools battled for top honors in what Brazilians proudly consider the world's largest party.

The first night of parades lasted from Sunday into early Monday morning with Brazilian celebrities and slum dwellers dancing side by side and with the presence of President Lula da Silva the first president in some fifteen years to attend the Rio parades.

Taking place over two nights, the parades feature the top 12 samba schools competing in front of 80,000 spectators at the Sambadrome stadium. The winning school, which is announced on Wednesday, receives no prize but earns bragging rights and massive attention from the local news media.

The reigning champion, Beija-Flor, paraded early Monday with an elaborate presentation on the history of mankind's relationship with water and bathing. The school used 7,000 liters of water on its floats, in the form of waterfalls, fountains and a pyramid that mid-parade was transformed into a beach. Beija-Flor has won five of the last six titles.

Brazilian President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, dressed in a white shirt and Panama hat, stayed until early dawn, five in the morning and was accompanied by his wife Marisa, the governor of the state of Rio do Janeiro, the mayor of the city and other ministers and authorities.

"Marvelous," said Lula when asked about the parade. However he also had messages: "No excess drinking; drink responsibly, drink socially and don't drive; please enjoy yourselves but with no violence or knocked-out for driving."

Later the Brazilian president also took the anti-AIDS campaign into his own hands when he began tossing out condoms to Carnaval revelers early Monday.

A presidential spokesman says Lula wanted to show the importance of Brazil's campaign to prevent the spread of AIDS. Brazil is handing out 65 million free condoms this month; that's up from the usual 45 million.

Brazil is buying 1.2 billion condoms this year for its program, making it the world's biggest government buyer of prophylactics. The spokesman talked on condition of anonymity.

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