Wonderful Waldir Pires
(Carmen) Miranda Warning:
Boys of Brazil: Stop That Name-Calling This Instant!
Oh, they're turning on each other as the Investigations roll on in Brazil, where those behind the concerted efforts to scapegoat two innocent American pilots for the Sept. 29 air disaster are starting to look like thrashing pirannah. Too bad, because some of the testimony in the Senate inquiry has become riveting. Such as, a segreant in air traffic control saying that the secondary radar was known to be malfunctioning that day in the area of the crash, and controllers had been warned that aircraft transponders might be unreliable. More on that in a later post.
But really, this name-calling must stop! Yes, I know that way back in early October I began referring to Brazilian Defense Minister Waldir Pires as "Wonderful Waldir." Two weeks later, Wonderful Waldir denounced me as an "ignorant" and an "impudent youngster," the latter mild insult being especially delicious as I read it on the morning of my 60th birthday.
I am told the nickname "Wonderful" got under the skin of the octogenerian Defense Minister, and I myself kind of liked the way it was translated, non-alliteratively, in a few Portuguese-language newspapers: "Marveloso."
Wonderful Waldir, you will recall, is in charge of Brazilian air traffic control. His earliest and abiding impulse was to foolishly criminalize the accident, cover-up the manifest catastrophic chain of errors in air-traffic control that put two planes on a colllision course at 37,000 feet over the Amazon, and put all blame on the American pilots -- well before any investigation had time to get its boots on.
Wonderful Waldir, you might recall, ludicrously insisted the pilots were doing illegal "aerial maneuvers," like loop-d-loops, in the Amazon skies when the crash occurred, and never really backed down even after it was shown that Brazilian ATC radar has a habit of going heywire in the dead zones of Amazon air space that Pires and his cronies insisted did not exist.
The other day, a Brazilian senator who heads one of the congressional committees investigating the nine-months of air-traffic control chaos that have rattled air traffic in Brazil since the accident denounced Wonderful Waldir and called him a very bad word in Brazil:
One reason this is a graver insult in Portuguese than in English, evidently, is that the word, besides suggesting that the insultee is missing a few marbles, also could suggest the Banana republic era of South America and the odious military dictatorships that ruled in association with United States based banana-importing companies.
Obviously my blog postings on the Brazil crash and the aftermath over the last nine months have a strong point of view. Hey, I was there, and my six comrades on that lucky plane will tell you that I had this figured for a set-up within hours after we fell out of the sky onto that jungle air strip, literally unaware of what had hit us.
But I've tried to be very careful with the facts, even when I was the only one reporting them. (I'm still unable to figure out a way to import the Brazil posts before I broke out the Brazil news into this separate blog. To see the archives, please see http://www.joesharkey.com/)
So let's set the record straight on one thing.
Wonderful Waldir was no friend of the right-wing military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 till 1985. When the military coup against populist (but not popular) President Joao Goulart occurred in 1964 (with support from the United States, as many Brazilians will never forget), young Pires was a Goulart cabinet minister. In the dotage of an old leftie in South America, a reflexive anti-Americanism must be viewed in a certain context).
As the respected Brazilian journalist Alberto Dines wrote back in December, Pires is "an honest, courageous poilitician with an undefiled biography."
However, as the head of Brazilian commercial and military aviation ... well, not so hot. On his watch, huge sums of money went to supposedly improve what had been a third-world air traffic control system, while Brazilian commercial air traffic soared. Whatever they spent the money on, it didn't buy them a first-class system. The crash merely exposed the huge technological and human problems with Brazil's military-run air-traffic system that international pilots have talked about for years.
After the crash last Sept. 29, Pires flew off the tracks and greatly contributed to the current mess. As Dines wrote: His "intention was to make the government look good, or at least the ruling party." Pires, Dines said, "politicized the tragedy from the very beginning ... The pilots of the Legacy were Americans, ergo they were preliminarily guilty."
Pires has a lot to answer for, and so do some of the government's flunkies in the news media, who have been flogging the anti-American donkey since day one, irrespective of the facts in this particular case.
More detail later on what's been happening in the congressional investigations, some testimony in which has not pleased the "hang the Americans" mob.
Of course, some Brazilian newspapers and their amusingly delusional columnists (who genuflect to the authorities for their "scoops" so reflexively that I worry they'll soon require knee-replacement surgery), are of course still doing their desperate level-best to denounce inconvenient facts and villify apostates whose testimony gets in way of the story as they have been instructed to report it. That false story is taking on water like the Titanic.