Brazil has chance to prove it embraces the rule of law


We aren’t under any illusions that the United States will boycott the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro if the alleged killer of Newton Falls resident Karl Hoerig isn’t extradited by Brazil to stand trial in Trumbull County — Prosecutor Dennis Watkins tossed out that suggestion recently. But that doesn’t mean the Obama administration can’t use the games to pressure the Brazilians.

From a public relations standpoint, Brazil would certainly benefit greatly if it can demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law. After all, when International Olympics Committee last week selected Rio de Janeiro as the site for the 2016 Olympics, one of the sidebars to the main story was the high crime rate in one of the world’s leading tourist spots and government corruption.

Last year, the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) revealed that despite measures to decrease poverty and protect human rights, the country still faces violence and many forms of exploitation, which includes forced labor and sexual exploitation.

According to Pedro Abramovay, under-secretary for legislative affairs of the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, violence is still a serious issue. In 2007, 40,000 homicides were registered in Brazil, while 420,000 people were in prison.

That reputation certainly would not be helped by news reports about the Brazilian government protecting a woman with dual citizenship who has been indicted on a charge of aggravated murder with a gun specification.

Claudia C. Hoerig, who was married to Karl Hoerig, a major in the Air Force Reserve, fled to her native Brazil after allegedly murdering her husband.

She was an American citizen when she boarded a plane home — she had retained her Brazilian citizenship — and for the past two years has succeeded in avoiding prosecution.

An ally?

How? By the Brazilian government thumbing its nose at its ally, the United States. Not only has Watkins’ request for extradition of the accused been ignored, the Brazilians have suggested that Claudia Hoerig could be tried in her native land.

The reason for the government’s intransigence is simple: The Obama administration, like its successor, the Bush administration, has refused to use its muscle and influence to persuade the Brazilians that the rule of law knows no boundaries.

But, seeing as how Rio de Janeiro beat out Chicago to play host to the 2016 Olympics, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have an incentive to show the hosts that their behavior will be scrutinized globally from now on. And, they should let the government know that the story of Karl Hoerig’s brutal murder will not go away. It hasn’t for the past two years.

Prosecutor Watkins has no intention of giving up on his extradition bid. He has garnered the support of local officials and members of Congress from the region and also has succeeded in focusing attention on Karl Hoerig’s service to his country.

As Congressman John Boccieri of Alliance, D-16th, formerly of New Middletown, a major in the Air Force Reserve, said earlier this year, “Karl fought for all of us, and now we must fight for him.”

That’s a compelling story line that will undoubtedly gain national media attention as the 2016 Olympic Games draw near.

Brazil, a country with a history of corruption, cannot afford the bad press.

Sending Claudia Hoerig back to Trumbull County to stand trial for the murder of her husband will buy the South American nation a lot of American goodwill.

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