Pubdate:  Thur, 21 Sep 1999
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1999 Reuters Limited.
Author: Axel Bugge


BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Brazilian congressional commission Tuesday
approved a damning report on drug trafficking and the activity of
death squads in the jungle state of Acre, linking them to lawmaker
Hildebrando Pascoal.

The report, by a special commission, accused  28 people, including
Pascoal, his brother and two of his cousins, of being members of an
international crime ring, a spokeswoman for the head of the
congressional panel said.

Pascoal has been under investigation for months by another
congressional committee for allegedly running a notorious death squad
in the Amazonian border state. At the beginning of August, the
committee unanimously decided to begin proceedings to strip Pascoal of
his congressional immunity.

The lower chamber of Congress will vote Wednesday on the

"If Pascoal's immunity is lifted, the public prosecutor can ask the
courts in Acre to start a case against him, and he will be arrested by
the federal police," said Cristina Bravo, speaking for Laura Carneiro,
who heads the drug commission.

The case has highlighted the lawlessness of Brazil's remote areas,
especially in the massive Amazon basin, where policing and border
controls are virtually impossible to carry out.

A member of the drug commission, who asked not to be named, told
Reuters that Pascoal had asked eight embassies in Brasilia for asylum.

The deputy said the public prosecutor had guaranteed him that an
arrest order for Pascoal would be issued as soon as the lower chamber
voted to lift Pascoal's immunity.

Pascoal was expelled from the Liberal Front Party, a member of
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's four-party coalition government,
when the investigation began.

Local media reports say Pascoal's death squads killed at least 30
people, some by beheading. Pascoal was in charge of Acre's military
police before becoming a deputy.

He has denied accusations of murder and torture but has admitted he
handed out passes allowing people to go through police checkpoints
without being searched.

Brazil has become increasingly popular as a transit route for drug
traffickers from neighboring countries, including Colombia. They take
advantage of poor policing along its long borders to smuggle cocaine
and other drugs through the country.

- ---
MAP posted-by: manemez j lovitto