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Small troupes slam efforts to `privatize' Rio carnival

Rio de Janeiro, Feb 8 : A group of Rio de Janeiro street troupes are crying foul over the numerous multi-million-dollar contracts with carnival sponsors and authorities' growing control over the festivities.

This movement wants the "blocos", as the street samba parades are known locally, to have total freedom to enjoy carnival without submitting to scheduling, route and sponsor restrictions that the Rio government imposed in 2009.

"They want to privatize and sell the right to enjoy ourselves to third parties," Thay Chavez, a member of the Cordao do Boi Tolo, one of the 16 blocos that have joined the movement, told EFE.

Rio Deputy Tourism Secretary Pedro Guimaraes, however, said the city government's goal is to turn the street carnival into "a tourist product" that does not disrupt traffic and is equipped with adequate public health and safety infrastructure.

In tandem with the effort to regulate the troupes, a deal was reached under which only the "official" beer of Carnival can be sold by street vendors.

The movement, meanwhile, contends that the Rio government, as part of its bid to defend sponsors' interests, is promoting the biggest street parades to the detriment of the smaller blocos.

"In deciding who can participate and who can't, the municipal government is ... giving priority to 'megablocos' and prohibiting the small ones. It's much more lucrative to have 20,000 people consuming than 100," Raquel Freire, who is also a member of Cordao do Boi Tolo, said.

The vast majority of the 492 officially recognized blocos defend their reliance on sponsorships and other sources of financing, such as T-shirt sales, saying the parades would be cost-prohibitive without them.(IANS)