Pubdate: Wed, 23 Jun 2004
Source: Financial Times (UK)
Copyright: The Financial Times Limited 2004
Author: Raymond Colitt, in Sao Paulo


Brazil will start shooting down aircraft used by drug traffickers
under a government policy to be implemented by the end of the month.

Peru and Colombia abandoned the controversial practice after the
Peruvian air force, with the help of US intelligence in 2001,
accidentally shot down an aircraft carrying American

Experts say that partly as a result of that suspension, traffickers
have been able to increase their flights and drug supplies from
Colombia, heightening pressure on regional governments to take tougher

In recent years several cities in Brazil have been flooded with
cocaine and its cheaper derivatives, triggering bloody gang wars.

"It is a necessary measure," said Jose Viegas, Brazil's defence
minister, referring to the shoot-down policy.

For years drug traffickers have been mocking the Brazilian armed
forces and police. Last year the Brazilian air force videotaped the
pilot of a suspected drugs aircraft in mid-air making obscene
gestures, fully aware it was illegal for for its pilots to shoot at

Unlike neighbouring countries, Brazil has its own technology that
permits "real-time" tracking of aircraft in its airspace. Peru and
Colombia have expressed interest in participating in Brazil's Sivam,
the recently inaugurated satellite-based surveillance system.

"We have found a great ally in the fight against drugs in the
[President Luiz Inacio] Lula [da Silva] government," Alvaro Uribe, the
Colombian president, said yesterday in Sao Paulo. Colombia reactivated
its shoot-down policy last year.

With many of the drug routes running through the heart of the Amazon
forest and across international borders, the region's countries have
been trying to co-ordinate their anti-drugs policy.

Brazil, Peru and Colombia in February signed the first agreement for
their military and police to co-operate in the war on drug

The US, which distanced itself from the policy after the 2001 Peru
incident, is now giving its tacit support after the region's countries
adopted tougher security measures to avoid accidental

In March, General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of
Staff, said Brazil and the US "had a good dialogue" on the issue.

As part of Brazil's proposed security measures, Mr Viegas said, only
suspect aircraft lacking proper registration and an official flight
path would be fired at, and only if they failed to respond to radio
and visual contact.
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MAP posted-by: Derek