FIFA says not seeking demolition of former Rio museum
FIFA on Wednesday denied reports that it was seeking the demolition of Rio's former Indian Museum located next to the iconic Maracana stadium, the venue for the final of the 2014 World Cup final.
The demolition is at the center of a months-long legal tussle, with authorities saying they will raze the abandoned colonial-style building within 30 days at the request of football's world governing body as part of an urban renewal program.
But the agency in charge of protecting the city's cultural heritage and the Rio's prosecutor's office are opposed.
"FIFA has always supported efforts by the Brazilian government to facilitate access to the 2014 World Cup matches for the indigenous people and in this context we want to make it clear that FIFA has never called for the demolition of Rio's Indian Museum," its press office said.
"Neither FIFA nor the (World Cup's) Local Organizing Committee own or build the stadiums. The owners decide what is best for the region, the teams, the communities," the body said in a written statement.
A spokeswoman for the state of Rio queried by AFP said FIFA was insisting on "the public and cars being able to quickly vacate the (Maracana) stadium and its surrounding area" and noted that "the demolition (of the museum building) would be the solution".
"It is part of all the urban renewal works needed to meet FIFA demands. But FIFA is not demanding that the museum (building) itself be razed," she added.
The Maracana sport complex is getting a thorough facelift for the World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympics.
The building slated for demolition housed the first Indian Museum from 1953 until 1977 when it was transferred to the Botafogo district.
The empty edifice is now owned by the agriculture ministry.
Tuesday, a delegation of Rio state human rights officials met with 23 indigenous families squatting around the rundown museum building.
The indigenous community wants to turn it into Rio's first native academic institution where ancestral skills would be taught.
But Rio state governor Sergio Cabral on Tuesday dismissed suggestions that the squatter settlement amounted to "an Indian village" and vowed that the demolition would go ahead.
"It is a political act to try to stop something which will benefit millions of Brazilians, which is to have a new Maracana," he added.
Over the weekend, the squatters backed by hundreds of activists held a protest against their planned eviction and some 40 police officers surrounded the building.
But Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes, against the advice of the agency tasked with protecting the city's cultural heritage, endorsed the demolition.
The indigenous community represents less than one percent of Brazil's 194-million-strong population and occupies 12 percent of the national territory, mostly in the Amazon.
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