Brazilian courts censor protest against anti-Semitism —at Jewish behest

A Brazilian judge banned Rio de Janeiro’s Unidos do Viradouro samba school from parading in the upcoming carnival with a float depicting victims of the Holocaust and a Hitler figure. “Carnival should not be used as an instrument of hatred, any kind of racism and clear trivialization of barbaric and unjustified acts against minorities,” Judge Juliana Kalichszteim said as she issued her injunction. The injunction came after a lawsuit by the Jewish Federation of Rio de Janeiro (FIERJ).

“The monstrosity that is the Holocaust just cannot be combined with the excessively festive nature of the carnival, a festival recognized worldwide for its joy, humor, entertainment and eroticism,” said FIERJ attorney Ricardo Brajterman.

The float is one of several that Viradouro was planning to use in a parades under the theme “It gives you goose bumps.” It was to display a Hitler-clad figure on a pile of mannequins, and would have no people dancing or singing alongside it.

Viradouro’s creative director, Paulo Barros, said the float was a “very respectful” reminder of the Holocaust, and a warning against the resurgence of neo-fascism in Europe. “This an extremely serious work, and people think we’re mocking,” Barros told BBC, saying he was in tears as his team dismantled the float. He said the float would be replaced with one on the theme of free speech.

At the 1989 carnival, another samba school was barred from marching with a float that portrayed Rio’s statue of Christ the Redeemer as a homeless person. (BBC, Jan. 31; BBC World Service, Feb. 1)

Favela wars escalate
The controversy comes as 47 senior Military Police officers in Rio resigned to protest the dismissal of their commander Col. Ubiratan Angelo. The colonel was dismissed for allowing a protest by officers over pay to go ahead last weekend. The Military Police have been engaged in drug enforcement in Rio’s favelas.

The Carnival has already been marred by deadly violence. The celebrations officially opened Jan. 29, when Rei Momo, the Lord of Misrule, was handed the keys to the city. As street parties began, police backed by helicopters and armored cars raided Jacarezinho and Mangueira favelas in anti-drug operations in which six were killed and five wounded. The action will reach a frenzy this weekend. More than 4,400 police will be on duty but security measures were thrown into confusion by the resignations. (BBC, Jan. 31; Reuters, Jan. 30)

See our last posts on Brazil, the favela wars, and the politics of anti-Semitism in South America and elsewhere.