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BRAZIL TO SHOOT DOWN DRUGS PLANES

By Alfa, Jul 5, 2004 | |
  1. Alfa
    BRAZIL TO SHOOT DOWN DRUGS PLANES

    Brazil is close to adopting a plan to shoot down aircraft suspected of
    carrying narcotics over the Amazon jungle, the government has said.

    Colombia and Peru called a halt to the controversial practice in 2001
    after the Peruvian air force mistakenly shot down a plane carrying
    missionaries.

    But experts say cocaine smugglers are violating Brazilian airspace to
    reach regional cities and markets abroad.

    Brasilia and Washington may share information to combat drug
    trafficking.

    Series of safeguards

    "It is the kind of measure one hopes never to have to enforce," said
    Defence Minister Jose Viegas, according to the O Globo news website.

    He said Brazil was in the "final phase" of enacting the law, which
    includes a series of measures that hostile planes would have to ignore
    before authorities could open fire.

    They include failure to respond to communications, commands to land,
    or warning shots.

    "In the event of a systematic and successive refusal to comply with
    these eight or nine procedures, while flying outside standard
    commercial routes and far from populated areas, the aircraft would be
    considered hostile and it will be shot down," said Mr Viegas.

    He said he hoped the decree enacting the law - approved in outline by
    Congress in 1998 - would be signed by the president by the end of the
    month.

    Mid-air provocation

    Officials have complained that traffickers constantly fly drugs into
    Brazilian airspace from Peru and Colombia.

    Last year, the Brazilian air force videotaped the pilot of a suspected
    drug plane in mid-air making obscene and provocative gestures,
    complacent in the knowledge he could not be shot down, reported the
    Financial Times newspaper.

    Brazil's cities are plagued by violence, fuelled by a booming trade in
    cheap smuggled cocaine. Brazil, though not a large drug producer
    itself, is also a major transhipment point for cocaine headed mostly
    to Europe.

    Brazilian officials have been negotiating the terms of the law with
    Washington with an eye to agreeing an information-sharing deal to
    track suspected planes.

    Washington is cautious of endorsing such laws without stringent
    safeguards, after it received a share of the blame for the 2001
    accident in Peru, in which a missionary and her infant child were killed.

    Colombia resumed shooting down suspected drug trafficking planes in
    2003 and has shot down almost a dozen planes this year alone with
    intelligence assistance from Washington, AP news agency reported.

    Peru is seeking to restart the policy.

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