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Carnaval | Changings of the Guard


Between Fat Tuesday and Good Friday, Rede Brasil Atual reports on the internal politics of two of Rio de Janeiro’s most traditional samba societies.

Lacking systematic, sustained coverage of underworld ties in the culture of samba, you find yourself having to set news alerts, clip, and then manually cross-reference news items from regional and alternative news sources — which often prove their worth in such cases.

In this case, a glimpse of how the nepotism, the numbers rackets and the militia dovetail with Carnaval and state and local politics. 

Portela — founded 1923 — and Estação Primeira de Mangueira — founded 1928 —  both face difficult political crossroads in the coming months, when they elect new leadership.

At Portela, ranked seventh in this year’s Carnaval parade with a commemoration of its 90th anniversary, internal elections have gone smoothly in recent years since the escola freed itself from the influence of jogo de bicho numbers racketeer Carlinhos Maracanã.

This year, however, there is a political crisis underway at Portela.

After heading the escola since 2005, president Nilo Figueiredo faces substantial opposition from community leaders, despite the financial support received from state-run businesses and government agencies received in recent years.

The Rio city government — occupied by Portela aficionado Eduardo Paes – has supported the renovation and modernization of the escola‘s compound, which attracts a large audience to its rehearsal festivities.

Portela has not publically released its financial data for this year, but the books from 2008, 2009 and 2010 are the subject of a lawsuit by partners of the escola.

Nilo Figueiredo is not a candidate in the elections scheduled for May, but has nominated his son, Little Nilo, to take his place.

The principal adversary of the Figueiredo clan is military police sergeant Marcos «Falcon» Vieira Souza, accused of membership in a militia operating in the Madureira neighborhood, but cleared of these charges in 2011.


The charges resulted from 2011’s anti-militia Operation Blackout — above, a summary of the case from April 2011 by Extra.

The alleged ringleader of the group was — is? The case apparently remains open — a Rio city councilmember known as «Deco» (PR-RJ), a former airborne infantryman.

Rio Radar — a fellow bilingual news clipper! — summarizes coverage of the case at the time.

Rede Brasil Atual continues:

Falcon is supported by members of the Old Guard and is said to be negotiating a renewed relationship with the escola‘s legendary patron, Natal, who left Portela in 1984 to found Tradição, currently a second-tier Rio escola de samba. Curiously, Portela never won another championship after Natal’s departure.

Wikipedia on Natal da Portela — he died in 1975. Who is this Natal referred to here?

Rede Brasil Atual:

Unlike governor Sérgio Cabral and his active role in the politics of  Mangueira, mayor Eduardo Paes has not shown favoritism to any candidate or involved his party, the PMDB, in any internal political disputes.

Behind the scenes, however, it is said that the mayor favors the replacement of current leadership.

To give the process a modest push, Paes is supporting Nilo Figueiredo in his bid to assume the leadership of LIESA, the league of independent escolas de samba, in a bid to unseat the current leadership, with its ties to the jogo do bicho numbers racket.

Heading the anti-Nilo brigade is Portela honorary president and éminence gris Monarco.

If this changing of the guard comes to pass, it will be one for the history books.

Rio’s mayor might also be hoping to kill two birds with one stone. With one of its own leading LIESA, Portela might have much better chances of returning to its winning ways.


Above: Latuff on the «militias» of Rio