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Brazil to probe FIFA over 'crime of racism'

Updated: 2013-12-04 07:23
By Reuters in Sao Paulo ( China Daily)

Just four days before the draw for the 2014 World Cup, FIFA faced yet another embarrassment when a Sao Paulo prosecutor opened an investigation into possible racism by soccer's world governing body.

A Sao Paulo state prosecutor has asked FIFA and the company it hired to organize Friday's draw to explain why it chose two white-skinned actors to present the televised show instead of two black-skinned actors.

Two Afro-Brazilians had been suggested as possible hosts but were overlooked in favor of light-skinned model Fernanda Lima and her white husband, Rodrigo Hilbert, a TV presenter, news magazine Veja reported without saying how it obtained the information.

"I opened the investigation due to the suspicion of a crime of racism on the part of FIFA, or by the company they selected to organize the show, GEO Eventos," prosecutor Christiano Jorge Santos said, adding, if the report is true, he will seek to open criminal proceedings.

Lima and Hilbert do not represent the racial make-up in Brazil - a country where half the people declare themselves either black or dark-skinned - "and so the change was not justified," Santos said.

Santos asked FIFA, GEO Eventos, Veja and TV Globo, the broadcaster reported to have suggested the black couple, well-known soap opera actors Lazaro Ramos and Camila Pitanga, for more information about the choice.

The GEO Eventos website was under maintenance and further efforts to reach spokespeople at the company were unsuccessful.

In a statement sent to Reuters late on Monday, FIFA said it "never vetoed anyone" and pointed out Pitanga herself denied she was invited to host the event.

"The selection of Fernanda Lima and Rodrigo Hilbert was mainly based on the positive experience made during the launch of the Official Emblem and the Preliminary Draw," the statement said.

(China Daily 12/04/2013 page24)