O ESTADO DE S.PAULO 30/03
Air Force may be taken to court at The Hague
Bruno Tavares and Tânia Monteiro
A year has passed since the most acute episode of the aviation crisis, when air traffic controllers in Brasilia, Curitiba, Manaus and Salvador paralyzed all flights in the country for more than five hours, on March 30, and the Brazilian Federation of Air Traffic Controllers (Febraca) is threatening to take the Air Force commandant, Juniti Saito, to the International Tribunal at the Hague. "Brazil will be in a delicate situation if it is condemned by an international court", foresees the entity's lawyer, Roberto Sobral, who also brought an action before the Supreme Court last Monday.
The lawyer said that he has proof that officers abandoned the air traffic control centers (Cindactas) in the days after the mutiny under orders from commanders. "Worse than moving into the barracks is leaving work posts. The decision left exposed all those who used air space", he accused. "Only the controllers were indicted. And the officers? Why didn't they receive the same treatment?", he questioned.
Besides the 34 controllers who had cases opened against them in the Military Courts, says the lawyer, dozens of sergeants and subofficers were transferred or suspended without explanations. "The persecutions are abominable", said Sobral. At least 80 were suspended. Some because they had not yet acquired stability in military service, and, on being evaluated in the fifth, seventh, or ninth year of service, were dismissed for being aligned with "negative influences".
Controllers heard by O Estado criticized the system. They alleged that the climate in the Cindactas is "very poor" and 80% of them are taking Civil Service exams to try other government careers. The FAB contests this and says that it is not an isolated fact, because there are dropouts from all three Forces because of the low salaries.
In response, Saito says that the minority of controllers who, even today, classify the system as unsafe is wrong and wants to "frighten the population". "Those who will not conform to law and order will have to leave." The brigadier guarantees that the air traffic control situation today is "absolutely normal". The commander refutes the decision by Febracta to bring a case against the FAB's top ranks in the Supreme Court. He said that the military cannot behave as if they are part of a union. "Who acted wrongly? We who were the bosses' chairs, or they who were no longer obeying?", he asked.
According to the director of the Department of Air Space Control (Decea), brigadier Ramon Borges Cardoso, today there are 2,700 flight controllers, compared to 2,300 a year ago. "We are only going to reach ideal numbers in 2010, when we expect to have four thousand controllers", the officer said.