Brazilians demand answers for Marielle Franco's murder at Rio carnival

Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent

Nearly a year after the still-unsolved murder of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman and LGBT activist Marielle Franco, Brazilian revellers have used their country’s annual carnival to demand answers.

Related: Lights, sequins, samba: Rio carnival at the Sambadrome – in pictures

On Monday night, Rio’s most famous samba school, Mangueira, used its parade to pay tribute to the murdered politician with a sequin-smothered show of song, dance and dissent.

Partygoers streamed down Rio’s Sambadrome waving green and pink flags emblazoned with Franco’s image and placards reading: “Justice for Marielle.”

The politician’s widow, Mônica Benício, joined the procession sporting a T-shirt that said: “‘Fight like Marielle.”

“I’ve come to protest, not to parade,” Benício told the Rio newspaper Extra.

Mônica Benício, widow of Marielle Franco, raises her fist during carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 5 March.

Mônica Benício, widow of Marielle Franco, raises her fist during carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 5 March. Photograph: Léo Corrêa/AP

Franco, a gay councillor who was born and raised in one of Rio’s largest favelas, was gunned down on 14 March last year as she returned home from a debate with her driver, Anderson Gomes, who was also killed. She was 38.

Brazilian newspapers have reported that investigators suspect the crime was committed by a death squad called the Escritório do Crime (The Crime Bureau) – a paramilitary group recently linked to one of the sons of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.

But while Rio’s governor – a Bolsonaro ally – recently claimed police were closing in on those responsible, no arrests have been made.

David Miranda, a lawmaker from Franco’s Socialism and Liberty party who took part in Monday’s pageant, said it was intended as both a tribute to his friend and an attempt to highlight the fact that her killers were still at large.

Related: 'I'm waiting for her to come back': Marielle Franco's fiancee on life a month after Rio councillor's murder

“We want to remind the world that a political crime was committed in Brazil and this crime has still not been solved. We need the world to keep paying attention to the situation to help us solve it,” he said.

Miranda said he believed some progress had been made in the investigation since the country’s federal police became involved late last year. “I think that we will manage to find out who pulled the trigger soon. But we also need to know who ordered her murder and why.”

Mangueira is one of Rio’s most traditional samba schools and is based in one of its oldest favelas, not far from the Sambadrome. The school’s 2019 procession paid tribute to the black and indigenous heroes and heroines airbrushed out of Brazilian history, among them Franco.

Several of Mangueira’s floats appeared to take aim at Brazil’s current president, including one stamped with the words “murderous dictatorship” – a reference to Brazil’s 1964-85 military regime, which Bolsonaro has celebrated.

On Tuesday morning, Bolsonaro took a swipe at the Brazilian artists who oppose his administration.

“Just as important as the economy is rescuing our culture, which has been destroyed by decades of governments with a socialist slant,” he tweeted.