Congress should put on hold defense contract with Brazil

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-13th, is extremely upset — with good reason, of course — that the Obama administration has awarded a $950 million contract to an aerospace conglomerate controlled by the Brazilian government.

This is the same government in Brasilia that continues to protect the accused killer of U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Karl Hoerig.

The contract with Embraer for 20 airplanes to be delivered to Afghanistan is being awarded by the U.S. Air Force. The irony of the deal, viewed in the context of the Hoerig murder, is palpable.

Congressman Ryan, at the urging of Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, has been trying for several years to get the victim’s wife, Claudia Hoerig, extradited from Brazil. Claudia fled to her native country before her husband’s body was found in their Newton Falls home in 2007.

A Trumbull County grand jury indicted her on a charge of aggravated murder with a gun specification.

Last week, Ryan, a member of the House Defense Subcommittee, confronted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about the contract with Embraer, noting that an American company, Beechcraft, of Wichita, Kan., had protested the award because of concerns with the procurement process.

The Air Force overrode an automatic stay triggered by law, thereby clearing the way for the agreement to be finalized.

“We can’t reward bad behavior by giving Brazil this contract,” Congressman Ryan said. “Karl Hoerig served our country and died at the hands of a person now living freely and openly in Brazil. There has to be consequences for harboring fugitives.”

He pointed out that while the Light Air Support award to Embraer is worth $950 million, as many 27 countries could buy the aircraft. The total value of that transaction: $10 billion.

Even without the Hoerig murder as the subtext, the Air Force’s decision to gave the contract to a foreign company when there is an American company that is ready, willing and able to fill the order cannot be justified.

Unfortunately, President Obama and his administration have a blind spot when it comes to Brazil.

Cause of justice

We have long urged the president and Hillary Rodham Clinton, when she was secretary of state, to take up the cause of justice that is the Hoerig case. Indeed, we have advocated a hold on foreign aid to Brazil until the government agrees to extradite Claudia Hoerig.

She must stand trial in Trumbull County. The suggestion by some Brazilian government officials that a trial could be held in the South American country is idiotic. The murder occurred in the Mahoning Valley, Claudia Hoerig was a U.S. citizen, and she lived in Newton Falls with her husband, U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Karl Hoerig.

The fact that she fled the country speaks volumes.

Rep. Ryan, along with Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, have introduced bills to force the accused’s return by ending the issuance of visas by the U.S. to Brazilian citizens, and blocking $14 million in foreign aid to Brazil.

The Air Force’s decision to proceed with the contract with Embraer is an in-your-face move by the executive branch against Congress.

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