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Brazilian athletes protest against new minister

December 29, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) — A group of Brazilian athletes is condemning the appointment of a new sports minister who has virtually no background in sports, saying the ministry is being used merely for “political bargaining.”

The non-governmental organization Athletes For Brazil said Monday it was “disappointed” with last week’s decision by President Dilma Rousseff to replace Aldo Rebelo with George Hilton, who describes himself as a radio and television presenter, as well as a theologian. He is also an evangelical pastor.

The 43-year-old Hilton, who will be the government official in charge of helping organize the 2016 Rio Olympics, had very few projects related to sports issues throughout his political career.

Rebelo, who was in charge of Brazil’s World Cup preparations, is leaving to lead the Science, Technology and Innovation ministry.

Athletes For Brazil said Dunga, Kaka, Dani Alves, Rogerio Ceni, Cafu, Leonardo, Jorginho and Rubens Barrichello are among its members.

“We demand a lot more respect and attention to everything related to sports in Brazil, something that is far from happening considering the criteria, or the lack of, used to choose the new minister,” the organization said in a statement. “Unfortunately, for years the sports ministry has been used for political bargaining. It’s not about who’s the best person for the job, it’s about which party has the right alliances.”

The organization said ministers have been chosen despite not having any “familiarity” with sports, which “creates great damage to sports and to the country in a sector which is responsible for significant investments in mega events.”

“On the eve of the Olympics, President Dilma relinquished an opportunity to improve sports, thus disappointing athletes, journalists, entrepreneurs, organizations, workers and sports lovers in general,” Athletes For Brazil said.

The Brazilian football confederation expressed its support for the new minister.

“Contrary to the opinion of some athletes, we have full trust in the appointment of Mr. George Hilton as the future sports minister,” confederation president Marco Polo del Nero said. “We should wait for his actions before we criticize him or not.”

Hilton is a member of the Brazilian Republican Party, which said the invitation to lead the sports ministry came as “recognition” for the party’s good work heading the fishing ministry the last two years.

Rebelo, a member of the Communist Party of Brazil, also had very few connections to sports when he took over the post. His administration was marked by a difficult relationship with FIFA before the World Cup, although in the end both sides worked well together and the tournament was considered a success despite minor setbacks.

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Follow Tales Azzoni on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/tazzoni

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