2004Edition>News Center>World

American fined in Brazil for gesture
Updated: 2004-02-08 14:32

A second American paid a hefty fine for making an obscene gesture during fingerprinting procedures for U.S. citizens in Brazil, police said Saturday.

Douglas A. Skolnick will be allowed to leave the southeastern resort town of Foz do Iguacu with his tour group Sunday after paying $17,200 for raising his middle finger when he was fingerprinted and photographed, said federal police spokesman Marcos Koren.

The customs requirements were imposed in response to similar U.S. rules for citizens of Brazil and many other countries. The United States says its rules will help prevent terrorists from entering the country.

Skolnick, who arrived in Brazil on Friday, was taken before a judge early Saturday after being arrested and jailed for hours on the charge of showing contempt to authorities.

Skolnick, 55, of New Jersey, said he made the gesture as a joke, agreed to pay the fine and told the judge he was sorry, Koren said. Skolnick's hometown was not immediately known.

On Jan. 14, American Airlines pilot Dale Robin Hersh was arrested on the same charge after making a similar gesture when he was fingerprinted in Sao Paulo. Hersh returned home after paying a $12,750 fine.

Skolnick "said he knew what happened with the pilot but said he had no intention of insulting the Brazilian authorities or the Brazilian people, but we don't think that's true," Koren said.

Globo TV aired footage Saturday showing Skolnick entering a jail cell and telling Brazilian journalists, "I'm an American citizen. I'm not a monkey."

Koren said Skolnick was upset with the media attention.

U.S. consular officials in Brazil were aware of the incident but were not asked to provide any assistance, said Wesley Carrington, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia.

After the court hearing, Skolnick was taken to the hotel where the tour group was staying. He was kept inside his room with a police standing guard outside while the group toured the area, famed for its waterfalls, Koren said.

After paying the fine, Skolnick was free "to enjoy the little time he has left here," Koren said. He said money from the fine will be donated to two Brazilian charities for the elderly and children.

Foz do Iguacu sits at the border with Argentina and Paraguay, about 500 miles southeast of Sao Paulo. Skolnick's tour group arrived from Santiago, Chile, on a chartered flight.

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