World Cup official claims rain-banishing shaman was ‘essential’

News of apparent corruption at last year’s U20 Soccer World Cup took a turn for the absurd Tuesday, as a top official claimed $12,000 spent hiring a shaman “to keep rain away from the event” was “essential.”

“The reality is that it did not rain during the show,” organizer Martha Ana Pizarro told Caracol Radio, perhaps unaware that August when the event took place is the driest month of the year in Colombia. “Had it rained, the event would not have taken place. It didn’t rain on the ceremony, it was successful and I would use him again if I needed to,” she reasoned.

“Although it may seem a little exotic, it was part of a massive public production, and the usual manner in which we do things.”

Originally thought to have been paid $2,000 for services rendered, the full extent of the contract with shaman Jorge Elias Gonzalez Vasquez came to light as Colombian media delved in to the facts.

As well as the initial payment “for advice,” Colombian daily El Tiempo today revealed that Gonzalez received $500 per day for 20 days, an equivalent of 40 times minimum wage and almost double the wage of a Colombian senator.

But while the hiring of a shaman did not raise eyebrows among organizers, it certainly ruffled feathers at the Prosecutor General’s Office, where Deputy Prosecutor General Juan Carlos Ferrero announced Gonzalez would be summoned to “explain the time, manner and circumstances in which the phenomenon of rain can be prevented.”

This all comes on the back of an official investigation, announced yesterday by the Bogota financial watchdog, which will pick through $1million worth of suspicious contracts.

How World Cup officials plan to defend the massive overcharging of recruitment fees and travel expenses and the likes of $55,000 paid to a non-specified foreign organization “to highlight the rich ethnic and cultural history of the Colombian people,” remains to be seen.

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