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In Brazil’s Air Space Obscene Are the Airlines and the Government

Families of dead passengers protest at TAM's ticket counter

There is not a more childish argument than the one just repeated by the
almost former Infraero’s president, brigadier José Carlos Pereira. Trying to
justify why the Brazilian government is doing everything to avoid closing the
Congonhas Airport, in São Paulo, the military man asked where would the 20
million passengers/year who use those facilities board a plane?

The option is clear: the government would rather see them boarding flying coffins because it will be only a matter of time before we get a rerun of the TAM Airbus disaster, in case Congonhas is not immediately closed. All we need is to look at the images transmitted by the media. Congonhas’s two short runways end up in avenues filled with traffic and blocks clogged with buildings and houses.

As it has already occurred in the past, other aircraft filled to capacity with passengers will endure the same technical or human failures, the tarmacs’ precariousness, rain, fog and other causes that exist to guarantee the unexpected.

The government remains intent on caving into the demands of air companies which are only interested in profit and, because of this, air operations will be kept in one of the most absurd locations to build an airport. This will guarantee new batches of people condemned to the most horrible of deaths, worse than the Inquisition fires, because they are now multiplied by 200 or more victims, at a time.

Where to hold 20 million air customers? First of all, hold them in a safe place, be it either in other airports, buses, cars or the rare train or still in the tranquillity of each one’s home.


Obviously the Brazilian public authority comes through as one of the main culprits of  the air transportation chaos for not showing any interest in investing in the sector. In this case of the Airbus, however, most of the blame goes to TAM and the other air transportation companies.

Or weren’t they the ones that coerced Infraero, Brazil’s National Agency of Civil Aviation, into authorizing the use of a runway which is still unfinished and under repair? Weren’t they the same companies that pressured so that Congonhas were reopened less than 12 hours after the recent tragedy?

Aren’t these the companies who are always selling more tickets than the number of available seats,  who refuse to give information on normal flights and schedules and who treat customers as cattle? Finally,  aren’t they the companies responsible for using an admittedly defective Airbus, with a broken reverse thruster?

And the worst of all in this story is that there is no news that any inquiry will be started, or a lawsuit will be filed to investigate and punish the directors of these companies, some of whom have not spared efforts to grant interviews in which they present themselves as archangels, at a time when their aircraft wings keep on breaking apart over the São Paulo skies.

And what does the public authority have to say to all of this? It only celebrates the fact that the most recent disaster was caused more due to equipment failure than unfinished tarmacs…


In all of Brazilian history, this will be the first time in which public opinion and published opinion condemn the public authority with such vehemence. Newspapers have been publishing pages with readers protests and there have been plenty of editorials and columnists’ diatribes. TV stations have been showing the most horrific images of this more than announced new tragedy, at the same time that radio stations open their microphones to thousands of indignant citizens.

This chain reaction occurs while polling institutes, as long as possible, keep on boasting the government’s popularity and that of the president. Something here doesn’t add up.  The country has been split into two sides.  On one side, the masses who never entered an airport, show their satisfaction with the Family Grant (Bolsa Família) alms.

On the other site, there is a middle class eager to see the government exercising an authority that it doesn’t have. Or are all those polls on the public authority’s performance just a big deception? It doesn’t matter. The truth of the matter is that we’ve never seen a show like this.

Message to Garcia

It was a big blow for the government the broadcasting of the images showing the president’s special adviser, Marco Aurélio Garcia, in an obscene gesture that means “screw you,” in the false demonstration that the Lula administration was spared national condemnation due to the admitted mechanical failure in the TAM’s Airbus. 

The lack of respect is only smaller than the foolishness to think that Lula’s popularity keeps going up while airplanes keep falling. In a serious country, this character would have already been defenestrated, if he wouldn’t submit his resignation.

To whom was the obscene gesture addressed?

To the media, which doesn’t spare the government for its responsibility in the disaster? To the airlines, equally guilty, now running the risk of being abandoned. To the passengers sacrificed in the Congonhas Airport extremity? Or it might be to the airplane commander who tried, till the end, to prevent the worst from happening.

That’s the way the PT (Workers Party) works. Tourism Minister, Marta Suplicy, recommends to the passengers that they “relax and come” (in the sexual sense of it).

To Finance Minister, Guido Mantega, the air transportation chaos is a good sign: it shows Brazil’s economic prosperity.

Nobody is sacked. Neither former chief of staff José Dirceu or Delúbio Soares or José Genoíno and others were fired by president Lula.

All of them left on their own accord believing that it was impossible to keep their post after the public furor. Something that might happen to Marco Aurélio Garcia…

Carlos Chagas is a veteran Brazilian journalist who writes for the Rio’s daily Tribuna da Imprensa. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com.

Translated from the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.


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