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Last update - 13:58 08/01/2010
Brazil under fire for spending $350 million on Israeli drones
By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz Correspondent
The anticipated use of Israeli-made drones by Brazilian police Tuesday drew criticism from a prominent ruling party politician. It also prompted social activists to seek greater cooperation with Palestinian movements to protest the "importation of Israeli oppression."
The sale of Israeli drones to Brazil "confirms that Israel draws indirect benefits from the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories," Valter Pomar, secretary of international relations for the leftist Workers Party (PT), told Haaretz.
Pomar said he disagreed with the "democratically-reached" decision to equip Brazilian police with drones used as part of what he termed "Israel's illegal and illegitimate actions."
"It is symptomatic that Brazil imports tactics and equipment from Israel, an ultra-militarized country which keeps an entire population under military occupation," said Mauricio Campos, a spokesman for the Network of Communities and Movements against Violence.
He added that the network - a prominent grassroots organization which sprang up six years ago in Rio's poor favelas, or shantytowns - will discuss the pending sale on Thursday, during a general meeting. "Without doubt, we will make our voices heard over this," Campos told Haaretz.
His group has organized various events to protest Israel's policies and what the network called "genocidal attacks" on Palestinians.
The discussion on Thursday of the drone sale was scheduled after Brazilian media reported last week that Rio's state police force is considering buying six Israeli Skylark I unmanned aerial vehicles to combat rampant crime.
In November, during President Shimon Peres' state visit to Brazil, Israel and Brazil sealed a $350 million deal for the supply of 14 Israeli Heron UAVs to several Brazilian law enforcement agencies.
That deal was completed weeks after a drug gang from a Rio favela shot down a police helicopter with a short range rocket.