Saturday, February 17, 2007


Duty bids me be fair to Brazil, though Brazil has certainly not been fair to me or the rest of the Amazon 7 -- the Americans on the private jet that the Brazilian air-traffic-control system nearly killed, along with the 154 poor souls on the commercial 737 that it DID kill, on Sept. 29 -- and then continued to lie about the cause.

And so, a report on Carnaval. So far, major disaster has not occurred, in that there are no current reports of tourists being robbed or shot in their buses, and air traffic is only in moderate crisis. Defense Minister Wonderful Waldir Pires says everything's going just swell, though they have sacked the Air Force commander Luiz Carlos Bueno, and paid the air traffic controllers bonuses to behave for the duration of tourist-rich Carnaval.

[Not that the spiraling crime spree is not in the news in Brazil. Please see the tragic street-crime story involving a six year-old child in Rio at the end of this post.]

Anyway, as regards Carvaval, trom today's

"... Carnaval, which is being celebrated for 5 days starting Friday night, marked also the return of the dreaded airport blues and delays in all main air corridors in Brazil.

This Friday, February 16, 37.7% of all flights were delayed for at least 45 minutes. That meant that from 1662 flights scheduled for yesterday 622 had considerable delays throughout the whole day and until late at night.

Brasília's International Airport, in the Brazilian capital, had it worst with more than half of all flights postponed for a long period. In Congonhas, São Paulo, the country's busiest airport, at 9 pm, 55 of arrivals and departures were late.

In contrast with the chaos registered in the past, passengers seemed to take it all in stride. It helped that this time there were no huge check-in lines and flights weren't delayed up to 24 hours as it happened in past holidays.

Anticipating the worst, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had an emergency meeting Friday morning with Defense Minister, Waldir Pires, and Milton Zuanazzi, the National Agency of Civil Aviation's director, to ensure that all measures were taken to avoid a repetition of the Christmas season bedlam.

Pires told the President there was no reason for worry. "I hope everything works fine and that the Brazilian people have the right to come and go peacefully during this Carnaval," wished the minister.

Brazilian flight controllers, who in recent months organized work-to-rule campaigns, released an official note denying that they were planning on disrupting flights during Carnaval. Said they, "There isn't and never was any kind of movement, action or organization with the intention of creating havoc to the National Air Traffic during the Carnaval holidays or during any other occasion." ...


Anyway, back to and Carvaval:

"There were reports that the flight controllers were planning a work-to-rule campaign to coincide with the Carnaval season. An action by president Lula may have prevented it. Just yesterday, Lula announced that he was dismissing the Air Force commander brigadier Luiz Carlos Bueno and placing brigadier Juniti Saito in his place.

Bueno had been a source of considerable friction with the controllers while Saito is seen as a more conciliatory figure. Saito, the second in command until now, was, for example, against the decision of keeping the controllers locked for days in the Brasília's control center during the days of crisis."

--end of article

And a new report from the scene by the redoubtable Richard Pedicini, the chief (and, um, only) foreign correspondent for Joe Sharkey at Large.

"A bit of speculation earlier this week on new Air Force commander was that Lula would pick Saito because next year is 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Brazil, and the Emperor of Japan will be coming to visit. He came about thirty years ago as Crown Prince and appeared at the Pacambu soccer stadium; a friend of mine who lived nearby said he'd never before seen an all-Japanese traffic jam. The Boy Scouts, I'm told, are about evenly split between Japanese and non-Japanese troops; my neighborhood has only the Japanese variety. They had a rally in the park here a couple of years ago, with a bonfire, about 200 of them, both boys and girls, and maybe two who were only half Japanese. I avoided asking the reason for the celebration as it was December 7th. ...

"Today's news is delays at airports, a bit more on controllers' protest failing to take place, and something interesting on the new Air Force commander, Juniti Saito. ...

"What gives cause for optimism on Saito's nomination is that, first, he's someone new. Not responsible for past errors. Can change course. Second, he's a fighter pilot. Not someone who flies airports or radar dishes. That may give him a bias towards pilots; it has seemed to me that the voices of men who actually fly planes have been unnaturally silent during this whole persecution of Jan and Joe. This may mark a change."

[MY NOTE: Jan Paladino and Joe Lepore are the two courageous American pilots from Long Island who fought the damaged Legacy 600 business jet down into an emergency junglemlanding after the Sept. 29 collission with the Brazilian commercial 737].

More from Richard, summarizing the news:

Lula defines new names for the command of Forces
Seniority was criteria to choose chiefs of Navy, Army, and Air Force
Tenetente-Brigadeiro Juniti Saito will assume Air Force; Almirante-de-esquadra Júlio de Moura Neto, the Navy, and General Enzo Peri, the Army
by Eduardo Scolese and Pedro Dias Leite
Brasilia Bureau

In a meeting yesterday with the the Minister of Defense, Waldir Pires, and the commanders of the Armed Forces, President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva defined the names of the new commanders of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. ...


In the Air Force, in the midst of the crisis with the air traffic controllers, Tenente-Brigadeiro [NT: four-star general] Juniti Saito will take over the position of Luiz Carlos da Silva Bueno. A fighter pilot, Saito is the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Bueno, who is leaving the position, faced one of the hardest times of the history of the Brazilian Air Force, with the explosion of the VLS (Satellite Launch Vehicle) in 2003; the Gol Boeing accident [on Sept. 29], the worst in Brazilian aviation history; and a work-to-rule protest by air traffic controllers which left the airports head over heels and with consequences that are still being felt.

Among the controllers, according to what the Folha learned, it is unknown what Saito's position will be on the problem of flight delays and the shortage of controllers in the country. ...

Agência Estado

Bueno proposes bonus of R$2,000 for controllers

To attempt to stem the climate of revolt among flight controllers, who threatened a work-to-rule protest during Carnaval, the commander of the Air Force, brigadier Luiz Carlos Bueno, on Wednesday waved a gratification for the military of from R$1,500 to R$2,000."

[MY COMMENT: Money and then Bueno's head on a plate. That might buy calm for the duration of Carnaval.]


---And now latest horrific street crime story from Rio, via the Bloomberg News Service:

"Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- The killing of 6-year-old Joao Helio Fernandes, dragged to his death last week in a Rio de Janeiro carjacking, is casting a pall over Brazil's Carnaval holiday ...

Gunmen forced Rosa Cristina Fernandes from her Chevrolet Corsa on Feb. 7, said Hercules Nascimento, the police chief handling the case. Her son, Joao, got tangled in the seat belt when he tried to escape. He was dragged 4 miles through Rio's streets on a busy summer evening, while motorcyclists and passers-by tried in vain to stop the car.

``We've reached our limit -- the limit of the senseless and daily tragedies that affect a large part of the Brazilian population,'' said Cezar Britto, 45, president of the Organization of Brazilian Lawyers.

The child's death is galvanizing politicians and citizens nationwide in a way that Rio de Janeiro state's 6,000 murders a year had not. A family photo of Joao was published on the front pages of most of Brazil's newspapers and magazines, including Veja, which put it against a black background with the headline ``Aren't we going to do anything about it?''

... The child's death and the protests it sparked created a somber mood ahead of Brazil's four-day Carnival holiday, which culminates with thousands of Samba groups dancing through the city's streets.

... Four days before New Year's Eve celebrations in December, when thousands of people flocked to Copacabana beach to watch fireworks, drug gangs retaliated against efforts to oust them from several of Rio de Janeiro's slums by shooting at police stations and burning buses. Eighteen people died.

Crime even reached to the nation's chief justice, Ellen Gracie, who was robbed the night of Dec. 7 on one of the roads leading to the international airport.

Academicos da Rocinha, a samba school in one of Rio's biggest slums, will end its parade this year with a group of members dressed in black, walking in silence."


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