By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After weeks of uncertainty and the possibility of the cancellation of the 2018 Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, the city’s samba schools received good news on Tuesday, after Brazil’s President Michel Temer signaled that the federal government would be willing to fund part of the four-day festivities next year.
“The President said that if there is no private funding, he will finance it with money from the Union’s budget,” Congressional representative Pedro Paulo was quoted as saying by a government news agency.
President Temer met with samba school presidents and newly appointed Culture Minister, Sergio Sa Leitão, before the minister’s swearing in ceremony. During the meeting President Temer is said to have promised federal aid in obtaining the additional R$13 million needed to hold the event.
In June, Rio’s mayor, Marcelo Crivella proposed that fifty percent of 2018 subsidies to be given to the samba schools to prepare for the parade, or approximately R$12 million, be reverted to improve food quality and school material of children going to city-run day-care centers.
The announcement was heavily criticized by samba schools representatives, who threaten to cancel the festivities if funds were reduced. Mangueira samba school president, Francisco Carvalho left the meeting optimistic.
“We came to ask the President to ask [for financial help] and he guaranteed that the federal government will help through the Ministries of Culture and Tourism,” said Carvalho at the end of the meeting.
“Imagine Rio de Janeiro without a Carnival. The city loses its spirit,” concluded commentator and long-time Carnival organizer, Milton Cunha.
Lauren Quinn, an American expatriate living in Rio and owner of Casa Bromelia – Rio Travel Concierge shares her thoughts. “From a tourism perspective, funding of Carnaval is essential, because it brings in tourist money, excellent media attention and spreads the general positive word of mouth about Brazil travel.”
Yet Quinn adds, “Economically speaking, Brazil is going through a very difficult financial time that is causing a strain on local people’s lives. The ideal situation for the government would be to balance its resources to meet immediate local needs while maintaining a long-term financial strategy.”
Swedish expatriate and operator of destination management service Rio Love Story, Tavi Norén, shares, “I do not like that the tax payers should fund Carnival, instead it should be done by the private sector. The government should mainly fund Carnival by guaranteeing security only.”
For the 2017 Carnival each samba school received R$2 million from the city, and officials say that in addition to the funding of the samba schools, the city also spent over R$19 million in improving the Sambodromo (parade venue), public transportation to and from the event and security for both participants and viewers.
This year the city announced that it would give each samba school R$1 million and help organizers obtain private funding.