Pilot's obscene gesture offends Brazil
Brazil arrests an American Airlines pilot and detains the crew after the pilot lifts his middle finger during a security check.
From Herald Staff and Wire Reports
SAO PAULO, Brazil - It was apparently an expression discernible in any language.
An American Airlines pilot from Coral Springs gave Brazilian
authorities the finger as they photographed him as part of increased security
measures for U.S.
It was a bad move. Brazilian police arrested him, and he was fined $12,700. American Airlines paid the fine.
The pilot, Dale Hersh, lifted his middle finger while undergoing
a new fingerprinting and photographing process put in place Jan. 1 by Brazil
as a response
to similar U.S. procedures, said Francisco Baltazar da Silva, chief of Sao Paulo's federal police.
Hersh, 52, was taken to a federal courthouse. He could have faced
up to two years in jail, but federal prosecutor Matheus Baraldi Magnani
said he asked a
local magistrate to impose a fine rather than go to trial, for what he termed Hersh's ``insulting behavior.''
The judge complied, fining Hersh 36,000 reals ($12,700) and releasing him, Agence France Presse reported.
The fine, the judge said, represented 150 times the Brazilian
minimum monthly wage and took into account ``the pilot's financial circumstances
insult to national pride and the federal police.''
''Basically, it was a joke done in bad taste,'' da Silva said.
He said Hersh apologized repeatedly after learning the ramifications of the joke.
So did his employer.
''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,'' said Martha Pantín, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, which is conducting its own investigation of the incident.
The crew of the airplane arriving at Sao Paulo's international
airport from Miami was detained and not allowed to officially enter Brazil
after they laughed
and joked during the incident, he said.
In Washington, a State Department official said Hersh and the
rest of the plane's crew likely would leave for the United States on Wednesday
American's flights from Sao Paulo typically arrive in Miami or Dallas in the early morning.
PILOT AND CREW
The incident is the latest flap in a growing diplomatic spat between Brazil and the United States.
Brazil began requiring Americans to be photographed and fingerprinted
upon entering Brazil in response to a U.S. antiterrorism measure that requires
same from citizens of all countries who need visas to enter 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 Inácio Lula da Silva asked President Bush to drop the visa requirement for Brazilians entering the United States.
In a statement issued Tuesday by the Foreign Ministry, the Brazilian government 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 statement 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.
Herald business writer Ina Paiva Cordle contributed to this report.