Brazil to probe FIFA in racism case ahead of World Cup draw

Mon Dec 2, 2013 6:07pm EST
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By Andrew Downie

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - 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 told Reuters, adding that, 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 added.

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 additional efforts to reach spokespeople at the company were unsuccessful.

NO VETO   Continued...

A man is silhouetted as he makes his way past the main entrance of FIFA headquarters, the Home of FIFA, in Zurich October 20, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann