Jornal do Brasil
Infraero reinforces espionage group
Intelligence sector helps depoliticize the state-owned firm and increased the military presence in aviation
There's something in the air besides airliners and the jobs taken away from PMDB party hacks at teh Brazilian AIrport Infrastructure Company (Infraero). The plan by the president of the state company, Air Force general Cleonilson Nicácio Silva, moralized and professionalized the body, but increased the militarization of the sector and consolidated the daring espionage machinery which has been finding its groove in the last three years and which stood out with radical changes which, in April, took by surprise the politicians of the parties allied in the support of president Lula, and their appointees.
The new order at Infraero has been set by a body with a pompous name, the Superintendency of Entrepreneurial Intelligence, filled with officers and intelligence professionals, whose activity guided the administrative reform which resulted in the reduction in special contracts filled with political appointees. At the beginning of April of this year, the cleanout organized by general Nicácio Silva resulted in the elimination of 97 jobs handed over to politicians in a niche known as special contracts - which fell from 109 to 12 - and in the substitution of more than 90% of the remaining at-pleasure appointees in the management of the 96 superintendencies spread around the country - 25 of them in the company's headquarters in Brasilia, four regional offices (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Manaus and Recife) and 67 in airports administered by Infraero in the states.
Applauded by employees and bombarded by government politicians, the changes were scheduled by the intelligence agents' fine tooth comb - functions which usually receive the malicious nickname of "arapongas" [a bird like a raven, but it means spy or goon] - , which gained importance during the general's administration. He transformed into a superintendency reporting directly to his office, a structure that his predecessors had treated as a support body.
The group is composed of eight professionals, five of them Infraero's payroll and the other three hired - originally from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) –, headed by colonel Hélcio Medeiros Ribeiro, an officer with experience in the areas of espionage and counter-espionage and a known member of the "community", who for ten years has been working in the Superintendency of Airport Security. At the beginning of this year, Infraero joined the more than 30 federal companies that make up the Brazilian Intelligence System (Sisbin), whose central organ has come be to the Brazilian Intelligence Agency(ABIN).
It is a needed leap to intelligence activity in an area susceptible to occurrences which go from drug trafficking to corruption to terrorism, but it's a shock to a political class which still lived the paranoia of the military period, when political espionage was as routine a practice as the movement in the airport concourses. The president of the National Union of Aeronauts, Graziella Baggio, affirms that the reinforcement of the intelligence structure illustrates the failure of the plan for demilitarization of civil aviation, begun with the creation of the Ministry of Defense, in 1999.
"The military control the traffic, the intelligence, and all the bodies related to prevention, administration and regulation of the sector", said Graziella. She thinks that the militarization of the sector, reinforced after the aviation blackout in 2007, is a contradiction by the PT Party's government and a step back in the process of demilitarizing the aviation sector, to which minister Nelson Jobim, of Defense, closed his eyes to not enter into conflict with the troops. Graziella thinks that the presence of Nicácio Silva breaks the civilian rhythm of the company's administration, but recognizes the general's actions find support among the employees who, like him, are nationalists (against privatization) and who thumb their noses at the political interference which resulted in accusations of corruption and of being a job bank for political hacks that have now detonated.
"He took advantage of the wave of ethics and moralization. The military power in civil aviation increased because it represents a career, a market set aside and ideological control," said the president of the Aeronauts' Union. According to her, all those in aviation know that Entrepreneurial Intelligence spies and was responsible for the production of dossiers which if on the one hand fleshed out supposed corruption schemes, on the other hand moved political nominees out of management jobs in the company. "Carlos Wilson was a victim and complained that he couldn't fight the strong military power inside Infraero."
Favorable to the cleanup that's being done at Infraero, the president of the Nacional Union of Airport Workers, Francisco Lemos, said that he has news of the reinforcement of intelligence ever since the flight controllers' mutiny, in 2007. "We heard comments (indicating) that Entrepreneurial Intelligence is the people who listen in," said Lemos.