How much does it cost to Brazil to cancel Carnival for the first time in history

How much does it cost to Brazil to cancel Carnival for the first time in history

The celebrations have been suspended due to the pandemic, which generate a turnover of 1.2 billion euros. A hole that weighs on an economy already in trouble for the coronavirus

Carnival in Brazil, in Olinda. Photo: Arquimedes Santos / PMO For the first time in history, Brazil is canceling Carnival. From Rio to Sao Paulo via Salvador and Olinda, the lights in the country's main cities are turned off due to the coronavirus for the celebrations that should have started on February 13 and lasted for five days. No floats on the streets, no carousels to the rhythm of samba.

Not even the Spagnola, the infamous flu that lashed the globe between 1918 and 1920, had managed to stop the appointment. The only comparable events date back to 1892, when the party was held in June, and to 1912, when it was postponed to April due to the death of the then Foreign Minister Barão do Rio Branco. Also this year it was thought of moving in July (mid-winter, in the southern hemisphere), but the idea has long been shelved. The coronavirus is rampant in the country and hazarding predictions for an event capable of mobilizing a large part of the 210 million inhabitants is an exercise that borders on madness. Even for a people that assigns a notable meaning to collective rituals.

The question is economic as well as social. The imposing machine of the Brazilian Carnival moves a turnover which, during the five days of the celebrations, is estimated at 8 billion reais (about 1.2 billion euros) with reference only to the tourism component. It is estimated that 10 million people took to the streets twelve months ago (only 2 million tourists). In Sao Paulo there is even talk of 15 million. To date, however, the occupancy of hotels in Rio is still at 41% of capacity, half of the 78% recorded in the same period last year.

"In fact, we have been talking about it for some time" Andrea Torrente, an Italian freelance journalist, in Brazil since 2009, explains to Wired. He continues: "It was the local administrations that decided, not the federal government, and in the past weeks, one after the other, all the main cities in the north of the country have forfeited, from São Paulo to Rio to Salvador de Bahia. In practice, those where tradition is most felt ".

The consequences of the stop

To understand the economic impact of the renunciation, it is necessary to consider that the pharaonic organizational machine warms up the engines well in advance . “In Rio, where the famous parade of samba schools is held, the preparations take about ten months - continues Torrente -. As soon as the shows are over, work begins on the next edition. There are costumes to manufacture, allegorical floats to set up, songs to write ”. An anthology of artists and artisans for whom the work related to the party is an important entry in the annual budget. “Every week the samba schools host those who want to lend a hand in their premises. And many offer the opportunity to consume food and drinks, as well as buy costumes, thus increasing income compared to just dancing lessons ", says the journalist.

In 2020, the Carnival generated 65 thousand jobs temporary only in Rio de Janeiro (source: Getulio Vargas Foundation, an economic research institute), not counting the alcohol and food bought by street vendors during the parades, souvenirs sold to tourists, restaurants, transport and all sectors connected to the event. The carioca mayor Eduardo Paes has promised refreshments to compensate for the lost revenues.

The Covid situation in Brazil

But the stop at Carnival is a blow to the heart of an already tried economy, in a country characterized by profound inequalities. The unemployed at the end of December were 14.1 million (14.3% of the workforce). With the new year the emergency contribution has expired, 600 reais (about 100 euros) distributed every 30 days for six months, reduced by half for the next three. The subsidy was paid to 64 million Brazilians; now the government is thinking of an extension that would involve an audience of 32 million people. To manage is the problem of public debt, which jumped from 74% to 89% in one year. Meanwhile, the death toll since the beginning of the pandemic marks 233 thousand official victims, as of Tuesday, February 9.

Among the most affected areas, Manaus, the capital of the Amazon, where in recent weeks the virus has returned to running, despite the fact that, after the first wave, there was talk of herd immunity achieved. “The governors - says the Italian reporter - have reopened the field hospitals. But, in addition to beds, there is a lack of doctors and health personnel ”. And oxygen. To cope with the gas shortage, which is asphyxiating dozens of sick people, Nicolàs Maduro's Venezuela (a country with triple-digit inflation, and which for years has been in a deep economic crisis) has shipped five trucks full of cylinders.

Bolsonaro's change of attitude

President Jair Bolsonaro, an early denier, has partially revised his positions. Although still convinced that "the best vaccination is to catch the disease" (23 December 2020), he has stopped opposing vaccination campaigns pressured by the pressure of the media and public opinion.

At the basis of the rethinking there could be a calculation politic. Tired of waiting for a decision that did not come from the federal government, São Paulo governor João Doria, a right-wing man, leapt forward and started to go it alone by buying 40 million doses of Coronavac, the Chinese vaccine. Doria could run for the country's leadership in 2022, and is seen as a potential opponent in Bolsonaro's race, whose popularity is waning. The partial reverse would reflect the desire to curb the slow and constant erosion of consensus in view of consultation. According to a recent survey, the government is rated as bad by 42% of respondents, down two points from January. However, 30% still consider it good, if not excellent. It is worse on the management of the pandemic: 53% think it negative. In October it was 47%. Despite everything, Brazil remains a divided country.

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