With the G20 summit beginning in Osaka this Friday, the expectation was that Jair Bolsonaro’s meetings with China’s general secretary Xi Jinping would take center stage in the Brazilian news cycle. That was not to be, and a case of international drug smuggling has stolen the spotlight.

On Tuesday morning, a 38-year-old Air Force flight attendant traveling with Jair Bolsonaro’s advance party was arrested in the Spanish city of Seville with 39 kilos of cocaine in his hand luggage.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The delegation was on its way to Osaka, stopping in Spain on the way as planned. The craft was the president&#8217;s so-called &#8220;backup plane,&#8221; which would accompany Mr. Bolsonaro to Osaka, providing him with a secondary craft in the case of any issues with his lead plane.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The crew member, who holds the rank of &#8220;second sergeant&#8221; in the Brazilian Air Force, was set to work on Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s return flight to Brazil, according to government sources.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The arrest was made as the advance party underwent routine customs checks at Seville&#8217;s airport. Inspectors of the Spanish Civil Guard expressed their surprise that no attempt was made to conceal the drugs, with the arrested flight attendant simply filling a small suitcase with 37 packets of cocaine.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Spanish police are currently investigating the final destination of the drugs, and whether the arrestee has any links to organized crime groups.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s delegation was set to make a similar stopover in Seville this morning, but changed its route and refueled in Lisbon instead.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Upon hearing of the story, Jair Bolsonaro posted on <a href="https://twitter.com/jairbolsonaro/status/1143634937125494784">social media</a> that he had &#8220;ordered the Defence Minister to cooperate with Spanish police in order to establish the facts and cooperate with every stage of the investigation.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He said that the sergeant will be &#8220;tried and convicted in accordance with the law,&#8221; but made sure to reaffirm that there are &#8220;around 300,000 men and women in the Armed Forces who are trained to uphold the highest principles of ethics and morality.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Speaking as acting President in Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s absence, Hamilton Mourão described the arrestee as a &#8220;qualified [drug] mule,&#8221; and said the military is not immune to the &#8220;scourge of drugs.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Air Force sergeant will face charges of committing a crime against public health, which is an umbrella term in Spanish law that includes drug trafficking. It is as of yet unclear whether he will be extradited to Brazil, or remain in Spain. Negotiations are underway between the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Spanish government.</span></p> <h2>Not the first time</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil&#8217;s Air Force has previous when it comes to drug smuggling. In 1999, a lieutenant colonel was involved in trafficking 33 kilos of cocaine on an official flight to France, stopping off in the Canary Islands. Judged to be part of a gang of international drug smugglers who used Air Force planes to transport controlled substances, he was given 17 years in jail. In April 2018, he was definitively expelled from the Armed Forces by the Superior Military Court.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In February of this year, congressman and the president&#8217;s son Eduardo Bolsonaro posted a video on social media denouncing the use of government aircraft to smuggle <a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2019/02/08/brazil-plan-drugs/">drugs</a>. He claimed it was a recurring practice in neighboring Venezuela, and insinuated that the previous Workers&#8217; Party government was involved in these crimes. Mr. Bolsonaro was proved almost right, but it is the government of his father that is suffering from said scandal.

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PowerJun 26, 2019

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