Cablegate: Brazil: Consultation On Air Bridge Denial Program,
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 002683
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/05/2015
TAGS: SNAR MOPS MASS MARR KTIA BR POL MIL
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: CONSULTATION ON AIR BRIDGE DENIAL PROGRAM,
5 OCTOBER 2005
Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR DENNIS HEARNE. REASONS: 1.4
1. (C) Introduction. On 10 October Embassy PolCouns, Air
Attache and DEA Attache met with senior Ministry of Defense
(MOD), Federal Police (DPF) and Foreign Ministry (MRE)
representatives to review Brazil's Air Bridge Denial
("shootdown") program. The purpose of the consultation was
to gather information to inform a Washington assessment of a
renewal of the 2004 U.S. Presidential Determination regarding
Brazil's implementation of its law permitting lethal force
interdiction of aircraft involved in narcotrafficking. The
Brazilian side was headed by Fernando Abreu, chief of staff
to Brazil's Minister of Defense, and a key participant in the
2003-2004 bilateral negotiations that resulted in the USG
recommendation of the Presidential Determination for Brazil.
Also present were Major Brigadier General Cleonilson Nicacio
Silva, chief of the MOD's International Affairs Division, who
also was representing the Brazilian Air Force's Air Defense
Command; Dr. Renaldo Urbano, Director of Counternarcotics
Operation for Brazil's Federal Police; Dr. Wilson DeMazzio,
internal security coordinator for the DPF. Working level MOD
and MRE officials also attended the meeting. After welcoming
remarks by Abreu, who highlighted the importance the GOB
attaches to the successful negotiation of an understanding
with the USG in 2004 on the sensitive shootdown issue,
PolCouns suggested that the meeting focus on four areas:
review of the 2004 exchange of notes with annexes that
comprise the agreed understanding between the USG and GOB on
the scope and operation of Brazil's program; GOB updates on
data regarding interdiction incidents; GOB responses to
questions regarding an incident earlier in 2005 in which
Brazilian police fired on an aircraft during a
counternarcotics operation, and ramifications of the incident
for possible future bilateral consultations; and the possible
necessity of asking Brazil to institute an operational pause
in use of lethal force interdiction measures in the event
there is delay in recertifying the Presidential
Determination. The Brazilian side agreed to the format and
the following report of the meeting is organized by those
themes. Mission recommendation and action request are in
paragraph eight. End introduction.
REVIEW OF 2004 AGREEMENT
2. (C) PolCouns noted that the negotiated agreement between
Brazil and the U.S. on the governments' shared understanding
of the scope and operation of Brazil's program is
memorialized in a September 2004 exchange of diplomatic notes
which includes three annexes: a GOB paper (prepared in
response to a USG nonpaper) on the scope, operation, specific
safety measures and consultation aspects of Brazil's ABD
program; a GOB response to a USG questionnaire on safety and
operation procedures; and a GOB response to a complementary
USG questionnaire on safety and operation issues. PolCouns
asked if the GOB representatives had reviewed the annexes and
whether there were any changes in the information provided by
the GOB to the USG in those annexes in 2004.
3. (C) Abreu indicated that the Brazilian officials present
had consulted earlier in the day with the national commander
of Brazil's air defense system and reviewed the annexes in
their entirety. Indicating that he was speaking
authoritatively for the Brazilian air force, Brig. Nicasio
affirmed formally to PolCouns that there have been no/no
changes in the procedures outlined by Brazil in the three
annexes to the diplomatic notes, and that the procedures
described in 2004 remain in effect. When queried by
PolCouns, Brig. Nicacio and Abreu confirmed that the GOB had
published Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) announcing
implementation of the shootdown program, had conducted an
extensive press campaign, and had placed pamphlets on the ABD
program in numerous airports across the country.
AIR FORCE DATA ON PROGRAM
4. (C) The GOB side also provided Brazil Air Force written
data on interdiction incidents from 1 January- 31 August
2005, which complemented data provided to the Embassy in a
consultation earlier in the year for the period from 17
October 2004 through 31 December 2004. Taken together, the
data indicates the following activity in Brazil's program in
the first year:
I. Unknown Air Tracks: 4,794
II. Suspect Air Tracks (suspect because of routes, though
not necessarily illegal, and included in I above): 165
III. Interceptions realized: 254
a. Change of route: 3
b. Forced landing: 3 (a and b refer to the same incidents)
c. Warning shots: 0
d. Shootdowns: 0
IV. Quantity of drugs ceased: 0
INCIDENTS INVOLVING POLICE
5. (C) Dr. Renaldo Urbano of the Federal Police provided the
following key facts on an incident earlier in the year in the
state of Rio Grande do Sul in which Federal Police agents had
fired on a Piper Aztec airplane suspected of narcotrafficking:
--The incident occurred during a Federal Police
counternarcotics operation in Rio Grande do Sul in which
police teams deployed to several air strips known to be used
by narcotraffickers in anticipation of a landing by the
suspect aircraft. The plane had been identified by police
informants and had not/not been tracked by the Brazilian air
force, which had no/no involvement in the action. (Brig.
Nicacio confirmed these points, noting the suspect plane had
flown below radar coverage.)
--The suspect aircraft was tracked by a state police
ultra-light observation plane, which followed the suspect
plane to the landing strip. Police had no radio contact at
any time with the suspect plane.
--As the suspect plane landed on the air strip, its pilot
apparently saw the Federal Police team setting up at the end
of the runway to block any attempt at take off for escape.
The pilot gunned his engine and headed directly toward the
agents, posing a lethal threat to them, as well as to the
police ultra-light plane closing in on the strip. In their
self-defense, the agents fired small arms at the suspect
plane, mortally wounding the pilot. The plane did not lift
off and crashed on the ground into a tree. One unhurt
survivor on the plane was arrested.
6. (C) PolCouns noted that the incident has raised some
questions for Washington agencies about how such police
actions fit into the broader GOB interdiction program. The
GOB side indicated its willingness to engage in future
consultations with the USG on the issue should they be
requested. The Brazilian delegation then provided the
following verbal and written answers to USG questions already
submitted informally to the GOB on police actions in lethal
interdictions, as follows:
USG QUESTION: Does the GOB consider Brazilian police to be
authorized under the 1998 law and 2004 Presidential Decree to
exercise lethal force against civil aircraft?
GOB RESPONSE: No.
USG QUESTION: Does the GOB consider the 2004 USG-GOB
shootdown agreement to cover actions taken by GOB components
other than the Brazilian air force, such as Brazilian police?
GOB RESPONSE: No.
USG QUESTION: Does the GOB consider "Ground Control Measures"
(MCS), referred to in the 2004 shootdown agreement, include
the possibility of the use of lethal force against civil
GOB RESPONSE: No.
USG QUESTION: Are personnel responsible for implementation of
MCS aware of the prohibition of destruction of civil aircraft
in service established in the Convention on Suppression of
Illegal Acts Against the Security of Civil Aviation, signed
in Montreal in 23 September 1971 ("Montreal Convention")?
GOB RESPONSE: Yes.
USG QUESTION: Under what circumstances, apart from
self-defense, is the use of lethal force permitted against
civil aircraft by Brazilian police (or any other agency other
than the Brazilian Air Force)?
GOB RESPONSE: In no circumstances.
USG QUESTION: Have Brazilian police professionals (and those
of other relevant agencies) already been informed of their
role in pursuit of aircraft suspected of narcotrafficking and
of procedures to be adopted to minimize loss of innocent
GOB RESPONSE: Yes.
USG QUESTION: Are the professionals involved aware of the
prohibition on destruction of civil aircraft established by
the Montreal Convention?
GOB RESPONSE: Yes.
POSSIBLE OPERATIONAL PAUSE
7. (C) PolCouns indicated the commitment of Washington
agencies to present a recommendation to the President
regarding renewal of the Presidential Determination on or
before 16 October, the date the current PD would expire.
However, in the event of issues or problems that would delay
renewal of the determination by that date, PolCouns asked if
the GOB would consider a temporary suspension of the lethal
force measures (i.e., warning shots and shootdown) in its
interdiction program until any questions in the USG
determination process can be resolved. PolCouns stressed
that both governments could keep the fact of the suspension
confidential, so as not to undermine the deterrent effect of
Brazil's program on narcotraffickers while the determination
issue is worked out. The GOB delegation indicated a
willingness to consider such a suspension if necessary, but
asked that the USG make its request on this to the Brazilian
Air Force by no later than 13 October, should a suspension be
necessary. PolCouns and Air Attache undertook to meet that
requirement on behalf of the USG.
MISSION RECOMMENDATION AND ACTION REQUEST
8. (C) The GOB's official declarations in this consultation
affirmed that the ABD program described in the 2004
understanding between the USG and Brazilian government
remains in effect and unchanged, functioning in the same
terms agreed between the governments. Hence it appears to
this Mission that the Brazilian program continues to satisfy
the USG requirement that the program's safety procedures
remain adequate to protect against the loss of innocent life
in the air and on the ground. In view of this and also the
GOB's stated willingness to discuss with us any issues raised
by Brazilian police activities, we recommend that the
Presidential Determination be renewed for Brazil. We also
ask that Department inform us asap if there is likely to be a
delay in renewal of the PD, so that we can coordinate with
the Brazilian Air Force and MOD on a possible suspension of
lethal force measures pending resolution of outstanding