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With no Carnival party in Brazil, vendors lose year’s biggest payday

carnival celebrations cancelled due the coronavirus disease (covid 19) pandemic in rio de janeiro
The Rei Momo, or Carnival King is pictured in Rio de Janeiro's sambadrome

Beyond disappointing revelers, the cancellation of Brazil’s annual Carnival celebrations amid a resurgence of COVID-19 also means that street vendors living on the margins will miss out on what for many is the biggest payday of the year.

Claudia Máximo Torres and her wife Daylane normally sell some 10,000 cans of beer to partygoers at Carnival time in São Paulo, where parties can stretch over several weeks, earning them a profit of more than 7,000 reais ($1,300).

“For Carnival, the numbers are extravagant,” said 38-year-old Torres. “Literally, we now have to throw all that out the window.”

The couple are among tens of thousands who work as street vendors, known as “ambulantes” in Portuguese for their wheeled coolers that allow them to circulate in the crowds, who will miss out on the annual boon.

“The ambulantes work with us every year and they are suffering a lot,” said Jean Jereissati, chief executive of Brazilian beverage maker Ambev SA.

Ambev, which normally rolls out massive promotional campaigns at Carnival in cooperation with the vendors, is instead launching an aid program to help the sellers.

The company estimates some 20,000 people will use the program that will give out 255 reais worth of assistance to individual vendors in the form of food baskets and coupons.

While that aid of less than $50 may seem small, Torres compared it to the emergency payments from the government last year which at their peak came to just over $100 a month.

Torres said that while she had long ago ruled out a normal Carnival this year, she is pinning her hopes on one thing: “The vaccine.”

“Next year I hope to God that Carnival can happen again,” she said.

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