SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian congressman Romario is calling for the resignation of the national football federation president for his alleged links to the country's military dictatorship.
Romario, a former Brazil striker, handed over a petition featuring nearly 55,000 signatures to the federation and other entities Monday demanding that Jose Maria Marin quits to avoid an "embarrassing" situation during the Confederations Cup later this year and the 2014 World Cup.
Romario delivered the signatures alongside Ivo Herzog, the son of a local journalist who died during the dictatorship era in 1975. They have called for an investigation into Marin's possible connection to the death.
"We made a comparison in our petition saying that to think about having Marin as head of the World Cup is likewise imagining Germany selecting someone that belonged to the Nazi party," Herzog said. "Can you imagine that? I cannot imagine that. But it happened here in Brazil. That's the reality."
Marin, who is also the president of the local World Cup organizing committee, has denied any wrongdoing and accused Brazil's media of trying to create chaos as the country prepares for football's showpiece event.
"Anyone with good faith will easily conclude that the accusations by these pseudo-journalists are absolutely false," the statement on the site said. "It's a campaign based on lies."
The delivery of the public petition, called "Out Marin," came on the date commemorating the 49th anniversary of the military coup in 1964. The petition will also be sent to state football federations and to the presidents of top Brazilian clubs. The signatures were gathered online.
"As the federation president, Marin will be side-by-side with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff welcoming heads of states for the Confederations Cup in June and for the World Cup next year," Romario recently told congress. "They will likely share the same VIP tribune, and I think this proximity will be a bit embarrassing for our president."
Last month, Romario called for congress' truth commission to hand over any information it has on Marin after the publication of a controversial speech he gave as a state congressman just before journalist Vladimir Herzog died. Marin allegedly called for an investigation into the participation of leftists in the television channel headed by Herzog, who was later interrogated by police and eventually found dead in his cell.
The military said Herzog committed suicide, but activists argue that Marin's speech in part led to authorities torturing and killing the journalist, whose case became widely known as a symbol of the abuses against those opposing the dictatorship rule in Brazil from 1964-85.
The 80-year-old Marin, whose party supported the military regime, recently used the website of the Brazilian federation to dismiss the accusations, saying he merely agreed with another congressman who was calling for the investigation into the television channel. He said there is no proof he had anything to do with Herzog's death.
Romario, known for being outspoken as a congressman, has been calling for a congressional investigation into the Brazilian federation (CBF) ever since Marin took over from Ricardo Teixeira, who quit last year citing medical reasons amid widespread allegations of corruption and irregularities in his administration.
"I believe it is of vital importance that there is the opening of an investigative hearing so Brazil can really know what is CBF, what CBF does, and what these people who have been working at CBF do," Romario said.
Marin was a governor of Sao Paulo in the 1980s and also made headlines recently after allegedly being caught on tape threatening local businessmen, as well as for criticizing current Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo. Marin said it's not his voice on the tapes, which were widely published on social medias.
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