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
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
They don't want because
years ago, in Peru, the local Air Force shot down, mistakenly, an unidentified
plane thatinstead of carrying drugswas 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, butat
the endrests 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: