By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With a little more than a month left before the annual Carnival parade competition in Rio de Janeiro, samba schools in the the Grupo Especial (Special Group) have yet to receive the entire sum of financial aid the municipal government promised them, according to local news reports.
According to the O Globo newspaper, approximately thirty percent of the R$600,000 for each of the twelve samba schools in the group has yet to be paid. The local government promised R$2 million in financial aid this year to the top-tier samba schools.
The city’s official tourism agency, Riotur, says that the payment will be made despite the financial difficulties faced by the municipal government . “The checks are ready, waiting only for bureaucratic issues [to be resolved],” said Riotur’s new president, Marcelo Alves during a press conference last week.
Alves said that the final installment to samba schools will be made before the big two-day parade competition, scheduled for February 26th and 27th. According to the agency, more than 1.1 million tourists are expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro for this year’s Carnival, and the city forecasts that R$3 billion will be injected into the economy.
“We will only get out of the [economic] crisis if we expand our natural vocation, which is tourism. Carnival is our main product to leverage tourism in the city. And that is our goal. United we will host a great Carnival and promote great business for the city,” Alves said.
In 2016, with Brazil hurting from the worst economic recession in its history and Rio’s samba schools struggling to obtain private financial sponsors, the city government doubled its usual R$1 million aid for the samba schools to R$2 million.