Philip Reeves

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When Ariles López takes a break from her fruit stall and begins to describe her life in Venezuela, there is a moment when she chokes up and begins to cry.

That will not come as a surprise, when you hear her story.

López, who's 47, is among those Venezuelans who say they will vote in Sunday's election, despite a widely held view that it's a fraudulent exercise calculated to keep President Nicolás Maduro in power.

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Three days of mourning have begun in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after the murder of a black human rights campaigner who spoke out against the lethal methods routinely used by security forces within the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Many residents of Rio are hardened to daily incidents of deadly violence yet the killing of Marielle Franco, a city council member and civil society activist, is being met by a huge wave of anger and indignation on social media, and protests on the streets.

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You can buy a remarkable number of items on Copacabana Beach just by sitting on the sand a few yards from the Atlantic waves, and waiting.

Without leaving your beach chair, you can purchase a piece of cheese, a kiddie pool, a blanket, a skewer of shrimp, a string bikini, a selfie-stick, a tropical shirt, a pineapple or a coconut.

Be under no illusions: Copacabana is not merely a beach. It's a giant, restless market, staffed by vendors who drift around in steaming heat, flourishing their wares at the multitude of near-naked basking bodies.

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It's Carnival time in Brazil, and NPR's Philip Reeves says there's more to it than the annual parades and costumes. Phil says if you want to really understand what it's about, you have to hit the streets.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SAMBA PARADES)

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Members of the small but growing shoal of mermaids and mermen in Brazil are getting a little worried and irate.

Until now, they've been able to slip happily into their brightly colored tails and glide away through the water without much attention from the outside world, beyond the odd chuckle or ripple of applause.

When the city of Brasilia was inaugurated nearly six decades ago, it was celebrated as a dazzling example of modernist architecture and as evidence of a young South American nation on the rise.

But Brazil's utopian capital has since acquired another feature on its landscape that's come to be viewed as a national disgrace and an embarrassing eyesore.

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