Little Boy’s Death Mars Brazil’s Carnaval

A Pierrot in Rio mourning for little boy killed by robbers This year, the happiest party on earth, Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, isn't as happy as in years past. While Cariocas (Rio's residents) take to the streets in colorful costumes or little clothing they can't let go of the images of the six-year-old, who was dragged through its streets just a few days ago in one of the most barbaric crimes in recent memory.

The images of little João Hélio Fernandes Vieites being decapitated and having his blood spread on the asphalt by robbers who stole his mother's car and rushed while the little boy tried unsuccessfully to get out of his car seat are still so fresh that many people simply refused to celebrate Carnaval this year.

The city may be celebrating, but it's also still in mourning. Some have suggested that the Escolas de Samba (Samba Clubs) use all their international exposure starting this Sunday night to protest against violence.

Actress Vera Holtz, who had several commitments for Carnaval cancelled all of them. And explained: "I don't feel at ease to celebrate Carnaval amidst all this sadness. I enjoy happiness, I enjoy life. My drums turned mute."

Neguinho from Escola de Samba Beija Flor, one of Rio Carnaval's icons is still participating in the celebrations, but he has a message to authorities and other Brazilians:  "Our rulers need to give value to children's and teenagers' life so that they also learn to value life. We need to take advantage of our prettiest party to pay homage to little João Hélio. That's the minimum we can do."

Messages against violence were also heard across the nation during the Carnaval celebrations. In Rio, 300,000 revellers took to the streets with the traditional Carnaval group known as Cordão do Bola Preta. Participants were asked to observe a minute of silence in memory of João Hélio. Pedro Ernesto Marinho, the vice-president of the Bola Preta read, the following message:

"The Cordão do Bola Preta, being Carnaval's headquarter and the oldest and most traditional of all the Carnaval groups, could not keep silent in this occasion. We ask for peace from the Carioca people. I would like that all those who are here follow our group's motto, which is peace and love. May people love each other more."

Despite ongoing violence that has shaken Rio de Janeiro for months, the Brazilian city said it is expecting 700,000 tourists for its world-famous Carnaval celebrations this year.

The city's Tourism Secretary Rubem Medina estimated that Rio will earn about US$ 500 million from tourist activities, compared to about US$ 15 million that city authorities have invested in the celebrations.

The high point of Rio's celebrations is the samba parade on Sunday and Monday nights when 13 of the city's top-tier Carnaval groups will parade through the especially designed Sambódromo stadium, which holds 60,000.

"I believe there is nothing like it anywhere in the world," Medina said.

Publicity campaigns abroad to advertise the most famous Carnaval in Brazil has succeeded in countering the negative effect of news reports on ongoing violence in Rio de Janeiro, Medina said.

"We have the greatest New Year's celebrations in the world and the greatest Carnaval. Rio de Janeiro remains an icon of Brazil," he said.

Carnaval celebrations also were taking place in other cities across Brazil, such as Salvador and Olinda on the country's northeastern coast where festivities got under way Thursday.


  • Show Comments (14)

  • Marco

    New Orleans Vs. Rio
    “Rio de Janeiro is, in fact, LESS violent than New Orleans.”

    Er, no. Nice cherry picking by using New Orleans city proper and excluding the whole MSA. I also like the way you didn’t compare individual suburban cities in Rio such as duque de Caxias or Nova Iguacu with the city of New orleans.

    Does this guy always manipulate shit? I’ve noticed it a few times.

    METROPOLITAN New Orleans = 25.5 per 100,000

    Metropolitan Rio de Janeiro = 56.4 per 100,000

    No comparison. From 2004 which are the latest figure I have.

  • hfx

    black humor
    Dont get me wrong Joao. The pity for the boy is not because he is a white middle class kid, but simply because he is a little kid. A innocent kid that is not to blame for the flaws of brazilian society. And the ones who killed him have not been the gang of Robin Hood., Coming down from the falvelas to rob the rich because they where hungry, but a few thugs needing money for drugs or a night on the town.
    Maybe I lack your special kind black humor, but to make jokes on death of a little kid is for me simply disgusting, be it a middle-, upper class of poor kid, be it carneval or not. Only a scumbag can be amused by this.
    For what you are right is, that the misery in which at least 45 mio. Brazilians are living is not noticed enough. But that is not the fault of the people abroad. It is YOUR country and YOUR society. To often your compatriotes on this site, the brazilians proud of their country, are praising the beauty and advantages of Brazil. In my point of view, if in a naturally rich country like Brazil 45 mio live in misery, there is not much to be proud about. Everybody who has the slightest knowledge of Brazil knows that your society is unjust to the roots. That your slavery is abolished formally but not in practice.
    But ….., again, a little kid of 6 years, who this time had the bad luck to be born in the middle class has nothing to do with this. If you want to put some attention on the misery in the favelas do it, just dont do it on the expense of this little boy.

  • Ric

    ThereÀ‚´s No Such Thing As Bad Publicity
    Thanks for reading my post. In the story alluded to, instead of talking about the story itself, which was in Brazil, the kneejerkers immediately changed the story to the USA.

    This is like little kids, “Yeah, but he hit me too!. My point was, stick to the story in context. Why is it that people who are proudly anti-American just canÀ‚´t keep themselves from talking about the USA even when the story is in Brazil?

    Beat me, bore me, but never ignore me. As a former columnist I know that negative reactions are better than no reaction.

    So, Thank Yew.

  • João Grilo

    For example…
    …Interestingly enough, hfx had no comment to make about a recent posting which related the death and dismemberment of 7 young men in a favela.

    And caring, kind Ric made this highly cogent comment regarding that story…

    “HereÀ‚´s an article about Brazil, and you Americans just canÀ‚´t stay on subject, can you? Gotta change the subject and talk about the states. Jay, where did the article mention the states? And stop listening to Rush, who popularized the term “assumed room temperature”. Try listening to Michael Savage instead. And tell us what you think about MocotÀƒ³, SassÀƒ¡, and Cheiroso. WeÀ‚´re not afraid of your bunker busters. We donÀ‚´t use bunkers. Except for that detail, your post has the ring of truth. IÀ‚´ve heard some Brazilians echo your feelings. So you are not alone.”

    As I said before, it only hits these people in the gut when it’s a middle-class white kid getting killed. Otherwise, it’s business as usual.

    So HFX and Ric, kindly piss off with your false pity and tears.

  • João Grilo

    Fine hfx…
    Hey, hfx, since you are such a big weeper for the children of Rio de Janeiro, why don’t you write an article about our infant mortality rates?

    Or are those sort of deaths too mundane, not dramatic enough to attract the sympathy of your bleeding heart?

    Who’s more of a scumbag, hfx: me who can see the black humor in the middle classes’ sudden discovery of infant mortality? Or you who has to have blood and shit rubbed up in your face by the media before you even deign to acknowledge that this sort of thing happens?

  • hfx

    nice guy
    written by JoÀƒ£o Grilo, 2007-02-19 15:51:58

    This year for Carnival, I’m going as little Joelzinho, complete with tire marks and a t-shirt reading “Rio de Janeiro is a drag”.

    I suggest you Pollyanas stay up in Europe and the U.S. and rent Bambi for your carnvaval entertainment.

    fine Joao. Would be nice if somebody ripps of your fingers, skin, knees and finally your stupid head. So your fantasia would be evern more real if you want to go as ‘Joelzinho’.

    Is a pitty that so many people in Rio are killed and such scum like you is alive.

  • João Grilo

    Hey, I don’t see a single one of you people crying bitter tears over the dozens of kids killed by police bullets every year in this city. It’s only when the tragedy comes down to the asphalt that you even notice it happening.

    So please, Ric, take your convenient sympathy over to, perhaps to find someone who’ll actually buy your hypocritical bullshit and make you feel like you’re an aware and concerned individual.

  • Ric

    How nice, JoÀƒ£o. You sound like such a nice, caring person. Hope you are having a wonderful Carnaval.

  • João Grilo

    This year for Carnival, I’m going as little Joelzinho, complete with tire marks and a t-shirt reading “Rio de Janeiro is a drag”.

    I suggest you Pollyanas stay up in Europe and the U.S. and rent Bambi for your carnvaval entertainment.

  • Thaddeus Blanchette

    I’ll post this here, as well…
    Nice one, Stew. How about that blood that’s on YOUR hands?
    written by Thaddeus Blanchette, 2007-02-19 12:07:57

    It’s amazing how badly misinformed the original article is. I have been following this case quite closely and there is no proof that I’ve seen that these kids were members of any one of the criminal gangs which control drug trafficking in the favelas. In fact, Amigos dos Amigos, o Comando Vermelho and o Terceiro Comando have put a huge price on their heads and the only question now, for anyone who understands how crime and policing really work in this city, is who is going to kill them first, the cops or the bandits?

    So all this happy crappy about this murder being connected to Rio’s drug gangs is demagogery, as are the yelps about the need for a death penalty. I’ll lay 50 dollars down, right now, in a bet against anyone who’se willing to take it, that at least 2 out of 3 of the people involved in this murder will be dead by Xmas.

    Death penalty? As if we didn’t arleady have that here in Brazil…

    You’d think people would wait to learn a bit more about a case like this before frothing at the mouth. What happened was indeed barbaric and the peretrators will certainly get no tears from me when they die, but it has nothing to do with drug gangs or anything else.

    What happened is that some lower middle class and working class kids from a normal working class neighborhood decided to boost a car. When Joel’s mom tried to get here kid out of the backseat, they took off, dragging him along. This was probably unintentional, not that that’s an excuse. By the time they figured out what the hell had happened, the thieves certainly knew they were dead meat. At that point, as we say in Portuguese, “O que Àƒ© um peido pÀ‚´ra quem jÀƒ¡ Àƒ© cagado?” Thus the “humor” regarding the “Judas”.

    It’s also worth noting that one of the kid’s FATHERS turned him into to the cops as soon as he heard what happened.

    So what do we have? A bunch of stupid juvies who f**ked up big time and who are now under the death sentance from every authority in the city, not the least the “unofficial” authorities running the drug gangs that the original author nanners on about. Their families have forsaken them and they are almost certainly dead meat.

    This isn’t an example of “the breakdown in morals in Rio”, folks: it’s the EPITOMY of morals in Rio. We are an “eye-for-an-eye” kind of society and that problem lies at the root of most of our difficulties with violence.

    Joel’s murders are already deadmen walking and they certainly understand that. What’s less understandable, to me, is how anyone, even a gringo, could be so naive as to what this crime is and represents. Stuart Morton is the kind of man who’ll shed copious tears for little Joel, but I wonder if he’ll have any left to spare for the victims of the s**train that’s about to fall upon all of Rio’s favela and poor working class communities because of the calls for blood that articles like his are sure to inspire?

    Or perhaps Stew thinks that the bullets that CORE, BOPE and all our other bands of happy headsmen routinely spray into our picturesque shantytowns are specially trained to only hit adults and criminals?

    Bagdad? Get real… What the hell do you MEAN Rio isn’t comparable to New Orleans?
    written by Thaddeus Blanchette, 2007-02-19 12:27:15

    I don’t know what’s sadder: the fact that certain gringos are writing about a country (Brazil) which they don’t seem to know anything about, or the fact that these same people don’t seem to have the slightest clue about what’s going on in their own country. Only a completely uninformed fool or a political demagogue would claim that the murder rates for Rio and Bagdhad are even slightly comparable.

    The State of Rio de Janeiro averages 18 murders a day with a population of some 14 million people.

    Bagdad has over 50 murders a day with a (current) population of less than 4 million.

    Do the math.

    Rio (STATE) averages 45 deaths per 100,000 people, per year.

    Bagdad average 456 deaths per 100,000 ppy.

    Chicago = 21 murders per 100,000 ppy
    Philadelphia = 23 murders per 100,000 ppy
    Detroit = 40 murders per 100,000 ppy
    Baltimore = 41 murders per 100,000 ppy
    Washington D.C. = 44 murders per 100,000 ppy
    New Orleans = 57 murders per 100,000 ppy

    Rio de Janeiro is, in fact, LESS violent than New Orleans.

    (These stats come from and are direct from the FBI and Census Bureau. And before anyone whines about Katrina, these numbers are from 2003. The stat re: Rio’s murders comes from the Secretario de SeguranÀƒ§a Publica do Estado do Rio de Janeiro and is widely confirmed by NGOs like ISER, Viva Rio and the University of Sao Paulo’s Nucleus for Violence Studies. Bagdad’s stats come from Patrick Cockburn’s new book “Occupation” – he got them from the occupation authroities and the Bagdad police, such as it is).

  • RIB

    Rio is lost and sad
    Rio is a naturaly beautiful city and man made hell.
    In all areas and all levels of society there is a tolerance of currupt opportunist officials, violence and lack of respect for fellow human beings. There are genuine hard working decent people in Rio, the silent majority failed by the government at state and nantional level.
    Ruled by a mob and corrupt overbearing offiicals. Rio and Brazil deserve better.
    If the world could forget Rio for a few years the state and people of Rio would quickly sort out the problems it will take a while for them to overcome there egos but in Rio money speaks louder than any poor child needlessly murdered by thugs.

  • aesaac

    The Business Of Government Is Business
    When the government wises to the fact that the violence and and its consequence, is costing millions of dollars in lost revenues from the thousands of tourists and businessmen that choose out of fear not to come to Brazil, they will invest in Police. Violence is costing Brazil billions of dollars in lost revenues. Let the government ‘make war on violence’. . .Law and order NOW.

  • original_lion

    Para os ingleses ver…
    All this ruckus around carnival in Rio is, simply and purely, “para os ingleses ver…”. Shortly, it’s a lie, a lie intented to be consumated by stressed-out middle-age working westerners hoping to find that ilusive “tropical paradise” here.

    But whoever lived in Rio for at least one year, knows that this is a city of fear. A hopeless, dirty and decadent city…

  • bo

    [quote]Publicity campaigns abroad to advertise the most famous Carnaval in Brazil has succeeded in countering the negative effect of news reports on ongoing violence in Rio de Janeiro, Medina said.[/quote]

    LOL…they make it sound like the problem is the news reports. Maybe we should all just keep quiet. 😥

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