Obscene gesture results in second arrest in Brazil

Saturday, February 7, 2004

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- A second American in three weeks was arrested in Brazil on Friday after being accused of making an obscene gesture during new customs procedures for U.S. citizens. Police said Douglas A. Skolnick, 55, raised his middle finger while being photographed and fingerprinted. They said he was from New Jersey but did not release his hometown. Police accused Skolnick, who is with a tour group, of showing contempt to authorities while being checked in Foz de Iguacu, a southeastern resort town famed for its waterfalls.

The fingerprinting and picture-taking requirements were imposed in response to similar rules in the United States for citizens of Brazil and many other countries. The United States said it imposed the rules to prevent terrorists from entering the country.

American Airlines pilot Dale Robin Hersh was arrested on Jan. 14 on the same charge after making a similar gesture. The airline paid a $12,750 fine and Hersh returned home.

Skolnick "did it the same way as the American pilot," said Marcos Koren, a federal police spokesman.

A judge will decide how much to fine the American and whether to deport him or let him rejoin his tour group of about 80 Americans, most of them retirees, the spokesman said.

Officials with the American Embassy in Brasilia did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Foz de Iguacu sits at the border with Argentina and Paraguay, about 500 miles southeast of Sao Paulo.

Members of Skolnick's tour group arrived from Santiago, Chile, on a chartered flight. They were allowed into Brazil, and Skolnick's wife accompanied them to their hotel.

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