By Sofia Ferreira Santos
Brazil’s president found himself ridiculed for his Covid policies as the world-famous Carnival took place for the first time since the pandemic.
During the São Paulo parade, a performer wearing a presidential sash transformed into a crocodile after “receiving a vaccine” on stage.
President Jair Bolsonaro once suggested that a Covid vaccine side effect could turn people into crocodiles.
The team behind the show said the jab at the president was a “little joke”.
Brazil’s top samba schools took part in Carnival celebrations across Sambadromes in São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro on Saturday night, with thousands of performers and fans dancing into the early hours of Sunday.
The Rosas de Ouro school, behind the crocodile joke, performed during the second day of São Paulo’s section made up of the top samba schools in the state.
Paulo Menezes, the Rosas de Ouro team member responsible for ideas for the giant floats, told Globo that “crocodile Bolsonaro” was a joke and a way of representing the difficulties faced by Brazilians during the pandemic.
‘Carnival this year was a battle cry’
Mr Menezes said that this year’s carnival was a “battle cry”, and that the school’s parade aimed to “get rid of all of the bad things we’ve experienced these last few years and pay homage to those who are no longer with us”.
Brazil has been hit hard by the Covid pandemic, with over 660,000 deaths and 30,000,000 cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
President Bolsonaro, who chose not to be vaccinated against the virus, has been widely criticised for his Covid policies and the slow roll-out of the vaccine in Brazil.
He repeatedly downplayed the severity of the virus, which he referred to as a “little flu”, and was criticised for removing his face mask in public after testing positive for Covid-19.
The Brazilian president also attended anti-lockdown protests after regional governors imposed restrictions, denouncing the measures as “dictatorial”.
The idea for the float initially scared the school’s leadership, Mr Menezes claimed, because it had refrained from political commentary in recent years.
“If you watch carnival in the 1980s and 1990s, there was always political satire in performances,” he said. But with Brazil’s presidential election less than six months away, many samba schools chose to include political themes such as racism and inequality in their performances.
Mr Bolsonaro made light of the performance on Twitter, describing it as “bad”.
He said that all Covid vaccines administered in Brazil were purchased by the federal government and that the decision to receive the vaccine had always been up to the public.
Following the conclusion of the main parades on Sunday morning, judges will decide on the top schools in São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro on Tuesday and the celebrations will conclude with a final presentation by the chosen schools on Friday.