- Did you know that Brazil is the world's largest beef exporter? So it was quite a slap in the face when the EU decided to ban all Brazilian beef imports, claiming that farms have been too lenient with dealing with foot and mouth disease. Brazil argues this is not true (a Globo news report showed that many farmers track each cow individually and its health) and says that Europe is just trying to protect its own struggling beef industry. Read more on BBC.
- Perfect timing, guys. Forty-three head officers of the Rio police have resigned, after the police commander of the city was fired for allowing a mass police protest about crappy wages. Officials say Carnaval will go fine and that the police coverage will be sufficient, but needless to say it couldn't come at a worse time, when Rio has the greatest amount of tourists and city-wide activity. Read more here.
- And in the main story of the day. The samba school Unidos do Viradouto has been forced to dismantle one of the floats they were going to use for this week's Carnaval parade in the Sambodrome after a Rio judge banned the float. Each samba school has a theme, and this group's theme is "Things that give you goosebumps." So the brilliant minds at Unidos do Viradouto put together a float depicting...the Holocaust. Complete with a mound of dead bodies, and a plan to have someone dressed as Hitler march with the float. The Jewish Federation of Rio issued a lawsuit against the samba school when they found out about the float, and the judge agreed, stating that Carnaval is not a time to spread hatred and to trivialize "barbaric acts." On Globo, they showed the man in charge of the samba school, sobbing openly on camera. But not with tears of regret. "This is totally ridiculous," he said. "We didn't intend to trivialize or make fun of the Holocaust in any way. We have freedom of speech, and we plan to try to overturn the ban."
So here is the problem: ignorance. Carnaval is a time when Brazil turns everything on its head: the rich and the poor are equalized, what is normal becomes not, and the insane and the unallowed and the sensual and the uninhibited become the centerpieces of the festival. But since the guys over at Viradouto have no concept of the gravity of the Holocaust, to them it just seemed like another thing to "turn on its head" during Carnaval. Carnaval is not a time to take things seriously, but rather to overturn what is normal to enjoy a time of absolute ridiculousness that only happens once a year.
However, there is already a precedent about censorship during Carnaval. One year, the Beija-Flor samba school was censored for using a depiction of a bloody Christ; the authorities covered it with a black bag and the samba school used the image as such, to show what the censors had done (photo here).
I doubt a samba school would make a float depicting the "disappeared" and tortured Brazilians during the dictatorship, or of slaves getting beaten by a master. The Holocaust is simply out of these guys' frame of reference. Most of them are from favelas and live in a world completely different from the one most of us know. So when I saw this report, I was less offended than I was sad, to see just how ignorant people are.
Below is CNN's photo of the float. It is disturbing, so be warned.