RIO DE JANEIRO — There are some Brazilians who aren’t likely finding much to enjoy in Rio de Janeiro’s colorful Carnival parades. They are the mayor, the governor and the president.

An anti-establishment tone is echoing through this year’s celebrations in Brazil. And Sunday night’s parade at Rio’s Sambadrome featured entries that blast the country’s political leadership at a moment of economic slump and political scandal.

President Michel Temer, Rio de Janeiro state Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao and Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella were expected to skip the two-day bash at the Sambadrome. The samba parades used to be a magnet for politicians before a sprawling corruption investigation around state-run oil giant Petrobras began in 2014. Now officeholders fear being booed and even attacked by critics during the party.

Temer, whose popularity is in single digits, spent his last Carnival as president with a group of 40 people on a military-guarded beach south of Rio. Earlier a few hundred revelers in the capital of Brasilia organized a street party to make fun of his recent poor health and his unpopular pension overhaul.

In the Sambadrome or at street parties, Carnival revelers usually take the five-day extravaganza to forget everyday problems, and most of them will do just that. But the political message is clearly more present this time than in recent years.

“This has been the most political bash since the middle of the ’80s when Brazil’s military dictatorship was about to end,” Carnival historian Luiz Antonio Simas said. “Brazil has been mired in political chaos and corruption scandals and people want to vent their frustrations at the same time they want to be in the party. That is a great mix for Carnival.”


Brazil is holding a presidential election in October and the results are hard to predict in a polarized society. The front-runner in opinion polls is former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, but he faces a growing risk of being arrested within weeks following a corruption conviction.

Da Silva has also been a polarizing figure at Carnival, with supporters using costumes and banners criticizing Brazil’s judiciary in his defense and adversaries bringing dolls that feature the former president in prison clothing.

In Rio, though, the most criticized politician by far is the mayor.

Mangueira, one of Rio’s most popular samba schools, prepared a float that features a plastic butt with Crivella’s name on it. Since taking office last year, the evangelical bishop-turned-politician has cut city funding for samba schools and avoided the bash.

A shirt popular among revelers says “Carnival will kick the Crivella out of you.” Earrings, tiaras and banners have also been used against the mayor, who has said he has nothing against Carnival but considers it to be “only a party.”

“The mayor has no idea what Carnival is and doesn’t separate his religion from our city’s most important party,” said Lucia Araujo, who was wearing a “Fora Crivella” (Crivella out) tiara at a street party. “This tiara doesn’t mean I don’t want all the others out, too. These politicians are destroying our hope for a better Brazil, they all need to go.”

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