Carnival revelers in Germany's Rhineland have turned their wit on Russia's President Vladimir Putin, the US spy agency NSA and even football's Uli Hoeness. The festival's highpoint is also being celebrated in Brazil.
Germany's Rhineland brought its light-hearted "fifth season" of Carnival to a peak on Monday, with decorated vehicles portraying scandals and misadventures. Brazil's Rio de Janeiro warmed up with samba glamour for soccer's World Cup in June.
Along the Rhine, millions of costumed revelers cheered motorized wagons built by carnival enthusiasts in recent months, including one in Düsseldorf showing a muscular caricature of Putin. His biceps bore the label "Crimea" with a bomb fuse attached.
Another Düsseldorf float highlighted anti-gay sentiment in Russia.
Yet another vehicle - in Cologne's procession - showed a diminutive Putin sparring against the Ukrainian boxer-turned politician Vitali Klitschko (pictured).
NSA surveillance theme
One Düsseldorf float depicted the mass surveillance of the US National Security Agency (NSA) that was disclosed last year by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
On the float Snowden sat on an electric stool while a fictional US President Barack Obama utters nearby "Welcome home, Mr. Snowden."
Snowden currently has temporary asylum in Moscow and faces charges in the US, including the unauthorized communication of secret information.
Merkel not spared
Upriver in Mainz, satirical artisans had crafted an effigy of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her mobile phone from which Uncle Sam emerged like a genie out of the bottle. A Cologne float depicted Merkel as an "intergalactic chancellor."
Another float highlighting alleged tax evasion showed Bayern Munich's president Uli Hoeness, one of several prominent Germans who reported themselves to tax authorities last year over undisclosed bank deposits, notably in Switzerland.
Serious and sublime
A Cologne wagon highlighted the long judicial wrangle to find those responsible for construction collapse of Cologne's city archive 5 years ago in which two local residents died.
Mainz designers took on lavish church renovations initiated in Limburg, near Frankfurt, by controversial Catholic bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst.
They depicted the ecclesiastical dignitary rolling among golden coins in an elaborate bath tub like the cartoon figure Dagobert.
Towns such as Rottweil in southwestern Germany celebrated their version of carnival on Monday, Shrovetide. Masked revelers performed their traditional Fool's Jump.
Cup spending highlighted in Rio
Brazil's Rio de Janeiro began its exuberant Carnival festival on Sunday night, local time, with one float shaped like a mammoth wedding cake being presided over by a larger-than-life Pope Francis.
Another decorated vehicle resembled a dancing teepee surrounded by native Brazilians in green feather headdresses.
Rio's elaborate samba contest was opened by the dance school Imperio da Tijuca. Its muse, Cinti Barbosa, dressed as an African warrior queen, led 3,500 performers. Six other schools also compete in Rio's "Sambadrome" until late Monday.
One float resembled a giant "Train Called Progress" – an allusion to recent protests against expenditures for soccer's World Cup, which kicks off June 12.
Cup preparations have prompted thousands of Brazilians in recent months to march in protest at corruption and shoddy public services.
During Sao Paulo's parade, former Brazilian star and Cup organizing committee member Ronaldo wore a golden suit and tie while celebrating with the city's Gavioes de Fiel samba group.
"I was hoarse by the end from singing so much," he said. "Seeing the reaction of supporters was very emotional."
ipj/kms (AFP, dpa, epd)
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