Thursday, February 15, 2007


Brazil's air-traffic system is facing chaos again as tourists pour in for the annual Carnaval holiday.

You'll recall that Brazil's military-controlled air-traffic controllers virtually shut down Brazilian air traffic for long periods in October through December -- partly to protest bad pay and having to work with obsolete technology and too few employees, and more pointedly, to send a warning to Brazilian authorities not to blame controllers for Brazil's notoriously unstable air-traffic control system, which was responsible for the Sept. 29 mid-air disaster that killed 154 people on a Brazilian commercial 737 that collided with an American business jet.

From today's Folha, the big Sao Paulo newspaper: (Please to excuse the shaky of translation)

"Controllers threaten to stop during Carnaval ... [Controllers] will decide today if they will engage in a sit-down strike during the prolonged Carnaval holiday weekend. Despite the suspicion that it is a bluff to pressure the government, spokesmen for the category affirmed that "patience has run out".

Controllers met yesterday to evaluate their capacity to mobilize at least 70% of the workers at Cindacta-1 [the major air-traffic control center in Brasilia, the capital], according to what the Folha learned. The idea is to provoke defections from the teams. Thus, for safety, it would be necessary to restrict takeoffs and landings.

Cindacta 1 (Integrated Center for Air Defense and Air Traffic Control), in Brasilia, controls the traffic to the states of São Paulo, Rio, Minas Gerais, Federal District, Goiás, part of Mato Grosso and part of Mato Grosso do Sul. It manages about 70% of the country's flights. ...

According to the president of the civilian controllers' union, Jorge Botelho, the government knows that "there is a real risk of the category stopping work". He represent the minority civilian portion of the controllers but has been conducting negotiations, because military personnel cannot engage in union activity. [My note: Most Brazilian air traffic controllers are in the military].

"The Presidential Palace is informed of the real risk that the controllers will cross their arms over Carnaval, despite any threat of punishment. The response so far has been silence", Botelho said. ...

Yesterday, minister Dilma Roussef met for nearly four hours with authorities in the sector to evaluate the precautions and contingency plans to avoid a new aerial chaos during Carnaval. ..."

MY NOTE: Ever-faithful Folha then assures readers that the doddering Defense Minister, Wonderful Waldir Pires, who has stood by his delusional fantasy that the Sept. 29 collision was caused by the American pilots doing trick maneuvers in the brand-new Legacy 600 over the Amazon, "affirmed that the government has taken all possible precautions to avoid a new chaos at Carnaval and said that the largest worry is rain."

Thus Wonderful Waldir has established an alibi in advance, if protesting controllers take the system down. It's raining in Rio! Folha quotes him: "Our expectation is that we will have the whole population coming and going in peace at Carnaval. We're worried about the rainy season, which, because of the network itself, can cause delays."

You can't, as they say, make this stuff up.

TAKE 2, from the Rio police blotter as noted today by

"One day after a clash between the Rio de Janeiro police and drug gangs, which left six dead in a city's shantytown and on the eve of Carnaval, which starts this Friday night, February 16, the vice president of one of Rio's most famous Escolas de Samba (Samba Clubs) was executed.

Guaracy Paes Falcão, 42, vice president of Acadêmicos do Salgueiro and his wife, Simone Moujarkian, 35, one of the stars of samba school, were shot 20 times in front of the Guanabara supermarket, in the north side neighborhood of Andaraí, just half a mile from the Salgueiro club, soon after leaving an event there, today before dawn.

A rehearsal for the Carnaval parade scheduled for tomorrow night at Salgueiro has been cancelled. ...

Police say they still have no idea who committed the crime. But they suspect that the death may have been caused by a dispute over slot machine locations.

Falcão is sometimes called the card game king in Rio. He used to live in São Paulo and only moved to Rio de Janeiro about two years ago, after his cousin, Waldemir Paes Garcia, was also executed."


Finally, this, from the U.S. State Department report today on crime in general in Brazil:

CRIME: Crime throughout Brazil has reached very high levels. The Brazilian police and the Brazilian press report that the rate of crime continues to rise, especially in the major urban centers – though it is also spreading in rural areas. Brazil’s murder rate is several times higher than that of the U.S. Rates for other crimes are similarly high. The majority of crimes are not solved. There were several reported rapes against American citizens in 2006.

Street crime remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike, especially in the evenings and late at night. Foreign tourists are often targets of crime and Americans are not exempt. This targeting occurs in all tourist areas but is especially problematic in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador.

Caution is advised with regard to nighttime travel through more rural areas and satellite cities due to reported incidents of roadside robberies that randomly target passing vehicles. Robbery and “quicknapping” outside of banks and ATM machines are common. In a “quicknapping,” criminals abduct victims for a short time in order to receive a quick payoff from the family, business or the victim’s ATM card. Some victims have been beaten and/or raped.

The incidence of crime against tourists is greater in areas surrounding beaches, hotels, discotheques, bars, nightclubs, and other similar establishments that cater to visitors. This type of crime is especially prevalent during Carnaval (Brazilian Mardi Gras) ...

At airports, hotel lobbies, bus stations and other public places, incidents of pick pocketing, theft of hand carried luggage, and laptop computers are common. Travelers should "dress down" when outside and avoid carrying valuables or wearing jewelry or expensive watches. "Good Samaritan" scams are common. If a tourist looks lost or seems to be having trouble communicating, a seemingly innocent bystander offering help may victimize them. Care should be taken at and around banks and internationally connected automatic teller machines that take U.S. credit or debit cards. ... Carjacking is on the increase in Sao Paulo, Recife and other cities.

Travelers using personal ATMs or credit cards sometimes receive billing statements with non-authorized charges after returning from a visit to Brazil. The Embassy and Consulates have received numerous reports from both official Americans and tourists who have had their cards cloned or duplicated without their knowledge. Those using such payment methods should carefully monitor their banking online for the duration of their visit. ...

RIO DE JANEIRO: The city continues to experience a high incidence of crime. Tourists are particularly vulnerable to street thefts and robberies on and in areas adjacent to major tourist attractions and the main beaches in the city. Walking on the beaches is very dangerous at night. During the day, travelers are advised not to take possessions of value to the beach. Incidents affecting tourists in 2006 included the robbery of cars and a tourist bus going into the city from the airport and the murder of a Portuguese tourist at 8:30 a.m. on Copacabana beach. Drug gangs are often responsible for destruction of property and other violence, such as the burning of public buses at the end of 2005 caused the deaths of some passengers . ... While most police officials are honest, in 2006, there were several cases of corrupt police officials extorting money from American tourists. ...

SAO PAULO: While similar incidents may occur elsewhere, all areas of Sao Paulo have a high rate of armed robbery of pedestrians at stoplights. There is a particularly high incidence of robberies and pick pocketing in the Praca da Se section of Sao Paulo and in the eastern part of the city. As is true of "red light districts" in other cities, the areas of Sao Paulo on Rua Augusta north of Avenida Paulista and the Estacao de Luz metro area are especially dangerous. There are regular reports of young women slipping knockout drops in men's drinks and robbing them of all their belongings while they are unconscious. Armed holdups of pedestrians and motorists by young men on motorcycles (“motoboys”) are an increasingly common occurrence in some parts of Sao Paulo. Victims who resist risk being shot. The number one item of choice by robbers in Sao Paulo, especially with regards to business travelers, is laptop computers. Recent efforts of incarcerated drug lords to exert their power outside of their jail cells have resulted in sporadic disruptions in the city, violence directed at the authorities, bus burnings and vandalism at ATM machines. These occurrences have not resulted in any injuries to U.S. citizens. Visitors and residents should respect police roadblocks and be aware that some municipal services may be disrupted.


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