Disaster Fact Checks

FACT CHECK: Brazil floods not due to mockery of Christ at 2023 carnival skit


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FACT CHECK: Brazil floods not due to mockery of Christ at 2023 carnival skit
The skit by Gaviões da Fiel Samba school with performers playing Jesus Christ and the devil occurred last March 2019, four years before torrential rain hit Brazil’s coastal regions

Claim: A skit depicting the devil’s triumph and a mockery of Jesus Christ supposedly during the 2023 Carnival festivities caused torrential rain to hit the state of São Paulo in Brazil a day after the performance, resulting in multiple deaths and widespread damage to property.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: Photos and videos presenting various angles of the claim have been rapidly circulating on social media. While the Facebook post had only garnered 217 reactions, 102 comments, and 154 shares, a Facebook video bearing a similar claim already had more than 623,000 views, 7,800 reactions, and 1,600 comments.

Videos bearing identical claims have also spread on TikTok. One TikTok clip of the claim already had more than 359,000 views, 13,000 reactions, and 414 comments.

The skit was performed last March 2019: Gaviões da Fiel, a Samba school, performed the skit in the 2019 Carnival festivities – the last Carnival held before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Carnival in Brazil is no stranger to evocative imagery in the participants’ costumes, floats, and other props. In the 2019 edition, demon-like designs, serpents, pirates, and pterodactyls among others, were featured in the festivities.

Record-breaking rains only hit Brazil in February 2023: Torrential rains hammered Brazil’s coastal region (including the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) last February 19, 2023. The rains prompted a massive evacuation of residents and the cancellation of Carnival activities in the affected areas. 

Festivities for the 2023 Carnival kicked off last February 17 and continued until February 22, overlapping with the onslaught of storms in Brazil’s southern states. São Paulo’s Governor Tarcísio de Freitas characterized the event as “one of the worst incidents of flooding and landslides in the state.”

The Facebook video also featured clips that were from the 2021 floods that struck Belgium, Germany, and other countries in Western Europe.

The skit was also the subject of a lawsuit: In 2022, Gaviões da Fiel won a Public Civil Action filed by the World Christian League (LCM) which accused its Carnival skit of being “blasphemous.” While Brazil’s Court of Justice acknowledged that people of certain faiths may have found the skit offensive, it “did not intend to “downgrade” and “make the image of Jesus unworthy.”

The 2023 edition of Brazil’s Carnival marks the much-awaited return of the event after it was canceled in 2020 and 2021 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and the staging of a watered down version in 2022. – Enzo De Borja/Rappler.com

Enzo De Borja is a 4th-year Political Science Major at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, volunteering under Rappler’s Research unit.

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