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Carnaval | Public Morality and the Apotheosis of the Sky Boxes

The leftmost two: bicho banker and former torturer Captain Guimarães, and Rio mayor César Maia, in 2007

Source:  ÉPOCA | Brasil
Excerpt & Translation: C. Brayton

We soldiers patrolled the streets while all the cops were at the Sambadrome, moonlighting as body guards to bicho bankers — Brazilian soldier’s gripe, 199-

Like Shakespeare’s  Globe theater, the passarela of Brazilian samba societies is a — Bakhtinian carnival — mirror held up to society at large. Consider the court case dissected by Globo’s weekly newsmagazine in recent days.

The Rio de Janeiro city administration and the League of Independent Carnaval Societies — LIESA — signed an agreement last December 12 according to which four sky boxes would be set aside at the Marquês de Sapucaí sambadrome for members of the city audit tribunal (TCM).

Earlier in the year, the courts had already issued a provisional measure forbidding a display of privilege that might reflect poorly on the objectivity of the agency, which is, after all, responsible for reviewing the city’s expenditures on the annual celebration. .

Early last week, Judge Maria Paula Gouvea Galhardo rendered a ruling that makes the prohibition permanent.

Questioned by ÉPOCA over this new legal framework, Rio tourist agency Riotur said it would respect the ban and rescind the invitation to the justicesof the TCM. Sky boxes will still be made available to the state government (five boxes), the state legislature (5 boxes) and the city administration (25 boxes)

TCM judges had been enjoying the hospitality of LIESA for years when a state prosecutor filed suit, arguing that a conflict of interests existed.

Rio’s Carnaval is organized by Liesa, a private-sector OSCIP with close, traditional ties to the bicho numbers rackets —

— and to Organizações Globo, as most reports on this situation manage to forget.

Época is a publication of the Editora Globo, for example.

I remember a public quarrel from 2006 or 2007 in which Rio city and state lawmakers tried their damnedest to close the loophole that gave Globo a virtual, illegal monopoly over TV rights to the folia. As Audiência da TV comments:

The Globo network, in defense of its “Globo Standard of Excellence,” uses its market power and political influence to destabilize competing broadcasters such as SBT, Band, Rede TV, CNT and Record. It prevents these media groups from gaining access to major national and international sporting events and monopolizes the principal news and political debates — there are those who say that Globo has privileged access to high-ranking authorities in Brasilia.

What are the financial arrangements in effect?

In all, the samba schools receive R$ 12 million or more from the city administration.

According to the state prosecutor, the TCM judges surrender their objectivity when they attend a celebration whose use of public funds is regulated the self-same TCM  Sky boxes at the Sambódromo cost between R$ 25,000 and R$ 114,000. The TCM denies claims that it receives preferential treatment, and promises to provide rigorous oversight. ÉPOCA revealed in December that the TCM opposed the 2012 ruling that prohibited their attendance, and hired lawyers to appeal the decision.

On January 14, the courts put a permanent end to this judicial gratuity.  In her decision, Maria Paula cited “significant errors” by the TCM in its analysis of a R$ 10 million grant by the city government to Carnaval 2010.  In November, ÉPOCA also revealed a scheme to skim public funds and launder them through the samba societies, using fraudulent receipts totaling R$ 1.25 million.

The judge said that such failures to provide oversight and detect irregularities “reinforces my doubts as to the impartiality” of the TCM,” she wrote.

.Actually, the contract  distributing free sky box access includes a substantial set-aside for Riotur as well.


  1. State government — 5 sky boxes in Sector 9B
  2. City government — 5 sky boxes in Sector 9A and 8 in Sector 11
  3. Riotur — 12 sky boxes in Sector 11
  4. City Council — 8 skyboxes in Sector 6, Level 1

I wish I knew the seating capacity of each section.



Ah, here are the capacities of the various seating options:

  1. Luxury suites — 7,056 seats
  2. Special grandstands  — 25,984
  3. Standing room — 11,498

A quick visit to the calculator suggests that special seating arrangements occupy all but 33,040 of the available seats.

Judging from this LIESA map of the Rio Sambódromo, these set-asides occupy prime viewing real estate, starting with the commissão de frente and proceeding to the judging area, where the the drum corps beat a retreat — march into a side alley — as the different components of the parade are judged.