Brazil detains U.S. airline crew after pilot makes obscene gesture
Police escort American Airlines pilot Dale Robin Hirsch, center, at Sao Paulo's airport Wednesday.
SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) -- An American Airlines pilot was arrested at Sao Paulo International Airport Wednesday after making an obscene gesture while being photographed by Brazilian immigration officers, police said.
The pilot, identified as Dale Robin Hirsch, raised his middle finger at police to protest new Brazilian security measures that require U.S. citizens to be fingerprinted and photographed upon entering the South American country.
Brazil implemented the policy on January 1 in retaliation for a similar U.S. program that requires those foreign visitors who need visas to have their fingerprints and pictures taken on arrival in the United States.
"He made an internationally known obscene gesture when he was being photographed by the Federal Police," Federal Police agent Wagner Castilho told Reuters news agency. He said the other crew members were denied entry after refusing to cooperate with security officials.
The incident came just one day after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva personally appealed to President Bush to suspend visa requirements for each other's nationals and thus fingerprint checks.
Lula's request was expected to fall on deaf ears in Washington, D.C. Brazilians are among the top groups of illegal immigrants detained in the United States.
Castilho said the pilot will be charged with disobeying authority. A judge will decide whether Hirsch, 52, will be deported or tried in Brazil, Castilho added.
The remaining 11 members of the Miami, Florida-based crew were expected to be returned to the United States.
Samba dancers greet tourists in Rio de Janeiro as part of a campaign to make up for long airport lines.
A spokesman in Sao Paulo for American Airlines said the carrier "respects the laws of the countries in which it operates," but declined further comment.
U.S. citizens have been subject to long lines at Brazilian airports since the new security measures were implemented, prompting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to complain that Americans were being discriminated against.
Eager to speed up the process, Brazil on Wednesday rushed to gather digital fingerprint readers from police stations across the country. Officials said they will be ready by Thursday to register U.S. visitors in "30 seconds" rather than the hours it takes with an ink pad.
With Rio de Janeiro's famous Carnival coming in February, the city is worried about the impact on tourism. It has taken to handing out roses and "Rio Loves You" T-shirts to U.S. visitors and Wednesday laid on hip-wriggling Samba dancers at its airport arrival gate.
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