In Rio, the Carnival battle for far-right leadership

Preparation for the Rio Carnival, February 20, 2020.
Preparation for the Rio Carnival, February 20, 2020. Silvia Izquierdo / AP

In Rio, the marriage between politics and Carnival is as old as samba (a century and dust), and defying power on the avenue du Sambodrome is the norm. The 2020 edition, which opens this Friday, February 21, will be no exception, as Brazil lives in the era of the extreme right, and that Rio survives between bankruptcy, health and water crisis , lint infrastructure, corruption, violence…

The usual mockery during the parades was compounded this year by a conflict between the two heads of the Carioca executive over the future of the world's biggest celebration. Against the backdrop of the battle for hegemony within the local far right.

On one side of the stands, Wilson Witzel, governor of the state, elected in 2018. On the other, Marcelo Crivella, current mayor of the city, candidate for his re-election in October. The two men have diametrically opposed styles: the first, 52 years old, is a colossal boor, assumed "big mouth", former marine, native of Juandiai (State of Sao Paulo), newcomer to politics. Quite the opposite of the second, 62 years old, evangelical pastor madre and moralizer with a contained smile, always pulled to the nines, ex-minister and senator of Rio during thirteen years.

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" But in reality, they are very similarinsists Paulo Baia, a political scientist at the Federal University of Rio. Crivella and Witzel, who both supported Jair Bolsonaro's far-right candidacy in 2018, "Are both conservatives, with the same electoral base, surrounding each other with devout Christians", continues the researcher.

And yet: for the past year, from the management of hospitals to security via roads, the two heads of the local far right have not ceased to flush out in public. Mr. Witzel has previously advised the mayor to put a "Filter between (his) brain and (her) mouth ". "I'll get my filter at Harvard"replied Mr. Crivella: an allusion to the words of the governor, who for a long time maintained – it was wrong – having studied at the prestigious American university.

"But what really separates them is Jair Bolsonaro", decides Mr. Baia. The mayor of Rio is getting closer day by day to the head of state, whose support he wishes to obtain for his re-election. Conversely, Governor Witzel has become one of the most visible opponents of the president over the months, and has already announced his desire to run in the 2022 presidential election.


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