10. Newsbrief: Brazil to Cooperate in Andean Drug Plane Shoot-Down Strategy
While the election of Brazilian President Inacio "Lula" Da Silva may, as DRCNet has reported (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/281/reformrumblings.shtml), augur progressive change in that country's domestic drug policies, all signs are that Brazil under Lula will continue to cooperate in the US-dominated hemispheric war on drugs. The Brazilian and US militaries continue to cooperate in the construction of an Amazon basin radar array, and while Lula has publicly stated his opposition to Plan Colombia, his ministers are working to coordinate the reinstatement of one of that policy's most drastic aspects: the shooting down of suspected drug-smuggling planes.
That policy came to a screeching halt in April 2001, when Peruvian pilots directed by CIA contract employees blew a plane carrying US missionaries out of the sky over the Amazon, killing US citizen Veronica Bowers and her infant child. US, Colombian and Peruvian officials have been working ever since to get past the embarrassing killings and back to the business of only murdering suspected drug pilots. Last week, according to Reuters, Brazilian Defense Minister Jose Viergas said Brazil was working with Peru and Colombia to devise a set of common rules to govern the shoot-downs. While Viergas said the three countries were seeking a legal way to shoot down suspected drug planes, international civil aviation law makes no provision for shooting down planes of suspected criminals.
The three countries needed "coordinated legislation" to track planes as moved from country to country, Viergas said, adding that they may form a joint air traffic control system. "Our legislation must be compatible. I've been to Peru, and I've been to Colombia, and I've talked to my colleagues, I'm familiar with their legislation," Viegas said in Washington on July 10. Viergas added that he had briefed US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the process of coordinating the shoot-down policy, as well as meeting with other senior US defense officials and members of Congress.
Meanwhile, Brazilian politicians are considering a bill that US drug warriors will find pleasing. Washington has long urged Latin American governments to expand the role of the military in the war on drugs. The bill would give the Brazilian armed forces a permanent role in fighting the drug war, something Latin American governments have been chary of for fear of easing the return of the military dictatorships that plagued the region as recently as 20 years ago.
Viegas isn't so enthusiastic about that. "What we need to do is strengthen the police and develop the necessary and pertinent ways the armed forces can provide them with logistical support, not substitute them," he told Reuters.