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Rio Carnival 2015: Beija-Flor samba school wins Rio de Janeiro contest despite controversy

Brazilian samba school Beija-Flor, which is alleged to have received funding from Equatorial Guinea, has been crowned champion of Rio de Janeiro’s carnival.

Beija-Flor, one of Rio’s top samba-schools, told the story of Equatorial Guinea in its carnival parade.

The group said it had received support from the oil-rich African nation, but denied reports that it had been paid more than $3 million for its choice of theme.

Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang is believed to be one of Africa’s richest men.

Many Equatorial Guineans live in poverty despite 20 years of oil production.

Teodoro Obiang seized power in a coup in 1979 and is the longest-serving leader in Africa.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Amnesty International has called for transparency and said Rio’s world famous carnival should not be sponsored by a man it accuses of serious human rights violations and corruption.

Controversy apart, Beija-Flor (Portuguese for hummingbird) was always among the favorites to win the Rio carnival parade.

A panel of judges gave Beija-Flor a near perfect mark in nine categories, ranging from costumes to the quality of the samba song composed specially for this year’s event.

Beija-Flor has now won the fiercely contested Rio carnival parade 13 times.

Only older groups Portela and Mangueira have more titles.

The top six samba schools in this year’s event return to the Sambadrome on February 21 for a celebratory parade, marking the end of the carnival.

In 2006, samba school Vila Isabel was criticized for allegedly accepting funding to praise the government of then Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

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