Latin American nations react to FIFA corruption scandal

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Mexico City, May 30 (IANS) The corruption in FIFA being probed by the United States Department of Justice is “terrible and extremely embarrassing”, Ecuador President Rafael Correa has said.

Considering 10 out of the 14 defendants are from Latin America, “it is an embarrassment to the region,” said Correa to local media in Ecuador, reports Xinhua.

On Wednesday, Swiss police in Zurich arrested seven high-level FIFA officials, following a request by the United States Department of Justice on charges of bribes of millions of dollars for the past 25 years.

Among the South American detainees are Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo, Brazilian Jose Maria Marin and Venezuelan Rafael Esquivel as well as Costa Rican Eduardo Li.

The U.S. Attorney General Office revealed that the company Datisa, owner of the Copa America commercial rights, paid a total of $100 million in bribes for the next four tournaments.

“I support the U.S. Department of Justice’ investigations and my government will back any inquiry to be made in Ecuador,” said Correa, who identified himself as a football fan.

On Thursday, the Ecuador Football Federation (FEF) dismissed being involved in the FIFA corruption scandal by saying it never received the alleged “bribes” nor is it involved in illegal dealings with the South American football governing body, CONMEBOL, as stated in a report by U.S. Justice Department.

The Ecuadorian body is cited as part of the alleged bribe scheme to be paid for broadcasting rights in the next four editions of Copa America.

Meanwhile, both the Bolivian and Brazilian governments are opening investigations to clarify the football institutions dealings in each country.

The Federal Police in Rio de Janeiro confirmed they will open an investigation to determine indications of corruption in tournaments organised by the Brazilian Football Confederation and by FIFA, local newspaper EBC reported on Thursday.

In La Paz, the Bolivian government started investigations against the Bolivian Football Federation (FBF), accused of similar charges as its Ecuador counterpart.

Financial statements from FBF have been requested, said Bolivian Sports Minister Tito Montano. The minister aims to determine the financial transactions of the football body.

Carlos Chavez, the president of FBF is charged with receiving bribes of $3 million in exchange for broadcasting and marketing rights for the next four editions of Copa America (Chile 2015, United States 2016, Brazil 2019 and Ecuador 2023).

Montano said that in the case of confirming that Bolivian officials are involved in the case, these have to assume their responsibility with national law.

Meanwhile, Ramiro Guerrero, Attorney General of Bolivia, will meet with his team to determine legal actions to be taken. “This is a corruption scandal that affects our country,” he said.

The scandals have caused reactions in Central America, as well.

Costa Rican president Guillermo Solis said to local daily La Nacion, “I hope Costa Rica’s prestige and its national teams are not affected by the arrest of the president of the Costa Rican Football Federation (Eduardo Li).”

“This case does not involve a public official, but he is still the head of an important Costa Rican institution and the context in which they are set could affect the image of the country,” said the head of state.

In Uruguay, Organised Crime Prosecutor, Juan Gomez told local news agency El Observador that “Uruguay cooperated extensively with the U.S. Department of State with regard on the investigation of the football body”.

Even though Gomez gave no further details, he did specify the cooperation was “recent”. Gomez and judge Adriana de los Santos are investigating Eugenio Figueredo, one of the defendants arrested in Zurich, for a series of transactions denounced by the Uruguayan Association of Professional Football in December of 2013.

The Association claimed that Figueredo, as well as Argentinian Julio Gronoda, who passed away last year, formed a “criminal organisation that had been profiting and harming CONMEBOL, football federations, clubs and players” through shady dealings of Copa Libertadores broadcasting rights, advertisement and sponsors.

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