U.S. Pilot Fined for Gesture in Brazil
SAO PAULO, Brazil - An American Airlines pilot was fined nearly
$13,000 Wednesday on accusations he made an obscene gesture when being
photographed at the airport as part of entry requirements for U.S. citizens, officials said.
Brazil imposed the new rules that Americans be fingerprinted
and photographed at entry points in response the similar rules in the United
citizens of Brazil and other countries whose citizens need visas to enter.
The pilot, Dale Robin Hersh, lifted his middle finger while undergoing
the new security process at Sao Paulo's Guarulhos International Airport,
prosecutor Matheus Baraldi Magnani.
Police accused the Miami-based pilot of showing contempt to authorities,
a crime in Brazil, and escorted him to a nearby federal courthouse for
However, Hersh agreed to pay a fine before he leaves Brazil in exchange for no charges being filed, the prosecutor said.
"Since this was a minor crime I proposed that he be fined 36,000
reals ($12,750), which will later be donated to a home for the elderly,"
Hersh was freed on his own recognizance. The prosecutor said
Hersh expected to pay the fine on Thursday. It wasn't immediately clear
where Hersh was
staying Wednesday night.
The prosecutor said Hersh could have faced charges punishable by up to two years in jail.
Hersh's 10-member crew was detained inside the airport when the
incident began Wednesday morning and was not allowed to enter Brazil. Police
crew was not charged with anything and was returning to the United States on an evening flight.
American Airlines spokeswoman Martha Pantin said the incident was the result of a misunderstanding.
"The company apologizes to the Brazilian government, the airport
authorities, the police or anyone else who may have perceived anything
they believe to
have been disrespectful," Pantin said.
Late Wednesday, when asked if the airline was paying the fine, Patin said: "We are taking care of any Brazilian government levies at this time."
The incident is the latest flap in growing diplomatic spat between Brazil and the United States.
The Brazilian requirement was first imposed at the order of the
federal judge but on Monday it became the government's official policy,
citing the diplomatic
concept of "reciprocity."
On Monday, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva asked
President Bush to drop the visa requirement for Brazilians entering the
United States, while
Brazil's Foreign Ministry said the requirement could lead to a souring between the two nations.
"Recent episodes, such as the new system of identification of
travelers, create a negative climate in public opinion with inevitable
which is not in the interest of the two countries," the ministry said.
But in Rio de Janeiro, tourism officials are trying to console
American tourists arriving at the airport by treating them to samba music
and dancers and giving
them flowers, jewelry and T-shirts.
Brazil currently requires Americans to have visas to enter Brazil because of reciprocity.