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African Dictator's Son's Sponsorship Becomes Biggest Controversy at Rio's Carnival

02/17/2015 - 09h14

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PEDRO SOARES
FROM RIO

BRUNA FANTTI
SPECIAL FOR FOLHA, FROM RIO

Equatorial Guinea's government sponsorship of Nilópolis's Beija-Flor samba school turned into the biggest controvery at this year's Carnival in Rio.

The country is a dictatorship led for 35 years by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has a fortune estimated at US$ 600 million, according to "Forbes" magazine.

According to "O Globo newspaper", the sponsorship was worth US$ 3.5 million. Beija-Flor has neither confirmed nor denied the amount.

The relationship between the samba school and the members of the African dictatorship began in 2013 at the Marquês de Sapucaí, where Rio's Carnival parades take place.

Son of the dictator and one of the country's vice presidents, Teodoro Obiang Mangue, also known as Teodorín, hired a private show from the samba school in his private box.

In 2013, the samba school was invited to perform at the celebration of Equitorial Guinea's 45 years of independence.

In 2014, Beija-Flor decided to take a delegation to the country to ask for sponsorship.

Leading the delegation was Raíssa Oliveira, the school's drum queen. Teodorín was captivated by her and convinced his father to sponsor their parade.

Beija-Flor said the theme of its parade, entitled "A griô tells the story: a look at Africa and the emergence of Equatorial Guinea," "does not talk about politics, but highlights the natural beauty of the country." Griô, in African mythology, is a storyteller.

In an open letter, the ambassador of Equatorial Guinea in Brazil, Benigno Pedro Matute Tang, said the homage to the country has "purely cultural character."

Oblivious to the criticism, Teodorín stayed in the presidential suite at Copacabana Palace hotel and booked another six suites for his entourage of about 30 people.

The daily rate for each suite during Carnival ranges from US$ 1,972 to US$ 2,535.

Translated by JILL LANGLOIS

Read the article in the original language

Daniel Marenco/Folhapress
Teodorín Obiang (center), son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator Teodoro Obiang, sponsored samba school Beija Flor
Teodorín Obiang (center), son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator Teodoro Obiang, sponsored samba school Beija Flor

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