Why Can’t Brazil Stand Up to Bush?

     Why Can't Brazil Stand 
Up to Bush?

    Brazil’s so-called
    Shoot Down Law was approved seven years ago
    by the Brazilian Congress, but it was never enforced because the
    US would not permit. By way of an imperial gesture, US president,
    George Bush, is now allowing Brazil to shoot drug-carrying
    planes as if he were dishing out a handout to a hobo.
    By Carlos
    Chagas

    More than shocking, it was humiliating the information disclosed last week
    by Defense Minister, José Viegas, that the President of the United
    States, George W. Bush, decided to grant Brazil’s Air Force jets special permission
    to shoot down clandestine narcotrafficking and smuggling planes, within our
    territory.

    Well gee, the so-called
    Shoot Down Law (Lei do Abate) was approved seven years ago by Congress; only
    not to have been enforced because the United States would not permit. They
    threatened economic and commercial sanctions in case Brazil, sovereignly,
    applied a decision from the Legislative.

    We quietly bowed to one
    more American intervention over our sovereignty. Worse yet: we now celebrate
    the authorization, kind of like a first grade student rejoicing after being
    released from the teacher’s punishment.

    The Shoot Down Law is
    cruel, but necessary. Most of the drugs smuggled into the country are flown
    in. Troubling situations take place almost on a daily basis. Small planes
    loaded with cocaine invade Brazil’s air space.

    They are detected, and
    Air Force jets scramble to their pursuit. Our officers issue orders for them
    to land, but the orders are ignored. Often, clandestine pilots make obscene
    gestures and move on, and no action can be taken. Why? Because the Americans
    don’t want…

    They don’t want because
    years ago, in Peru, the local Air Force shot down, mistakenly, an unidentified
    plane that—instead of carrying drugs—was transporting evangelic
    pastors born in the United States. The blackmail is conducted in the usual
    fashion: economic and commercial threats of retaliations, even cutting back
    on social aid programs.

    Submissive, our technocrats
    shudder in fear and impose obedience to Washington’s ukases [authoritative
    decrees from the imperial Russian times]. The adoption of independent postures,
    telling the Americans to take care of their own affairs, didn’t cross the
    mind of the sociologist [former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso]_ as well
    as President Lula’s considerations _ once the Shoot Down Law was passed; much
    less to engender reactions on our side. Because, despite more fragile, we
    too possess mechanisms capable of hurting them. Besides, to let drugs into
    the country is inadmissible.

    Not to mention that the
    destruction of clandestine airplanes is viewed as a last resort in a series
    of cautious procedures, set off by radio contact, then visual, as well as
    all customary signaling used in aviation, including mere warning shots. Also,
    the order to shoot down can only be given by the Air Force commander-in-chief,
    no matter where he is.

    Obviously, things aren’t
    all that simple, because human lives are on the line. Smugglers and narcotraffickers,
    without any scruples, often take on board women and children, putting them
    on display through the small windows.

    Each case is unique, but—at
    the end—rests the question of national sovereignty. In fact, sovereignty
    that has once again been stepped over and besmirched, now by way of an imperial
    gesture from George Bush, making an exception for Brazil, as if he were dishing
    out a handout to a hobo. All on account of the elections up there…

    Elitist

    Certain distortions are
    better dealt with before swelling, even with the risk of the collapse of its
    effects on our shoulders. Some electoral judges are threatening to deny registration
    to illiterate candidates for city council and mayor. The concern demonstrated
    by the Judiciary in regards to the necessity for improvement in our system
    of representation is touching.

    The Constitution is clear.
    All men are equal before the law. The illiterate gained the right to vote.
    They can express themselves politically. And if they vote, to be voted is
    also their prerogative.

    They didn’t learn to read
    because of pitiful social conditions in which they were brought up, never
    for their own fault. How can a second punishment be justified, barring them
    from exercising their rights as citizens?

    The requirement is elitist,
    which makes treating it carefully crucial. When Brazil was under the imperial
    system, only citizens who earned a certain amount of money or whose rural
    properties yielded a set amount of manioc were allowed to vote or be voted.
    The problem is that we have been in a Republic since 1889.


    Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio’s daily Tribuna da Imprensa and
    is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília.
    He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com.

    Translated
    from the Portuguese by Eduardo Assumpção de Queiroz. He is
    a freelance translator, with a degree in Business and almost 20 years of
    experience working in the fields of economics, communications, social and
    political sciences, and sports. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida. His email:
    eaqus@adelphia.net.

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