Brazil Says It Will Shoot Down Suspected Drug Planes

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Starting this week, the government of Brazil joins Colombia in empowering its air force to shoot down suspected drug planes. The policy is meant to staunch a growing commerce in cocaine using airstrips hidden in the vast Amazon forest. The Aviation Crime Prevention Institute (ACPI), based in Ormond Beach, Fla., warned last week that the policy could increase aircraft thefts, because drug smugglers will seek to replace any lost aircraft. So far this year, nine single-engine Cessnas have been reported stolen, four of those in Baja, Mexico, the ACPI said. Authorities in Brazil said they have careful procedures in place to ensure that no innocent flyers are shot down. Planning a trip? Brazil's government distributed 100,000 pamphlets and 10,000 posters at airports and fueling stations to inform pilots about what to do if they are intercepted, and also is broadcasting warnings by radio. Opponents to the policy say it is equivalent to the death penalty, which is banned in Brazil. Peru reversed its policy of armed attacks after two innocent people died in a missionary aircraft shot down in 2001.