Anger as Vázquez Raña uses re-election to settle old scores
Wednesday, 07 March 2012
March 7 - Mexico's Mario Vázquez Raña was re-elected as President of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) in Mexico City today but his election was, inevitably, shrouded in controversy and bad-feeling, only heighthened after he removed the group's popular treasurer Richard Peterkin in what appeared to be an act of revenge.
Vázquez Raña refused to hold a secret ballot despite Luis Mejia, the President of the Dominican Republic Olympic Committee, openly demanding that one be held, even though the Mexican was the only candidate.
He insistead insisted that the process be carried out by acclamation or raising hands, which, even though the Dominican Republic were supported by Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Bolivia, Bermuda, Chile and Bolivia.
Applause finally broke after Michael Chambers, the former President of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), paid tribute to Vázquez Raña and started clapping him.
But one delegate inside the hall in the Mexican capital estimated that only 25 per cent of the audience joined in the applause with the rest refusing to join in.
Vázquez Raña nevertheless claimed that he did not want "not run over the desire of the majority" and declared himself re-elected.
"I was applauded with love and respect, with the same enthusiasm as I did in 1975 and I am willing to meet my commitments.
"I appreciate and I take this [title] of all, even of those who did not applaud."
It extended Vázquez Raña's 37-year reign and he is now set to continue in the role until 2016, even though he will be forced to step down as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the end of this year when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 80.
One of his first acts was to sack Peterkin as treasurer of PASO, a role he had held since 2000, and replace him with Ecuador's Danilo Carrera.
The decision to get rid of Peterkin, the President of the St Lucia Olympic Committee, appeared to be retribution for him last year failing to support Vázquez Raña in his row with the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), where the West Indian is also treasurer.
The current row has only strengthened the determination of the four other continents to force Vázquez Raña out as President of ANOC at its assembly in Moscow next month.
A meeting is due to be held in Bangkok on March 17 and 18 where a strategy is to be developed to ensure that a motion of "no confidence" is passed against Vázquez Raña.
At the heart of the strategy will be Vázquez Raña's recent controversial decision to remove Australia's Kevan Gosper as vice-chair of Olympic Solidarity, the IOC programme that distributes nearly $400 million (£230 million/€310 million) to National Olympic Committees (NOCs) around the world and which Vázquez Raña has headed since 2002.
Gosper was replaced by Sweden's Sweden's Gunilla Lindberg, the secretary general of the ANOC, with Raña claiming that he had taken the decision at the behest of IOC President Jacques Rogge.
But senior ANOC officials have now allegedly uncovered a letter which they claim shows that it was clearly the decision of Vázquez Raña and nothing to do with Rogge, who has since abolished the position of vice-chair at Olympic Solidarity.
Vázquez Raña is now set to be accused of misleading the ANOC Executive Board, a charge he seems certain to be unable to refute.
His reputation is already badly damaged and, following the events in Mexico City, few expect him to survive as head of ANOC.
"Historically, no one had dared to face Mario and I did," said Mejia after the PASO election.
"This is the beginning of the end for him."
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