Whether or not President Obama ever reads the letter Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins sent him last month, there are many important points that should be shared with the public.
Since U.S. Air Force Major Karl Hoerig was murdered on March 12, 2007, Watkins has been trying to bring the prime suspect to trial. The suspect, Hoerig's wife Claudia, fled to her native Brazil shortly after the murder in Newton Falls.
A 1988 amendment to the Brazilian constitution prohibits its citizens from being extradited despite a 1964 treaty between the U.S. and Brazil that calls for the extradition of anyone accused or convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of a year or more.
So Claudia Hoerig is safe from prosecution until she leaves Brazil. The same goes for Sebastian DeCastro, a Brazilian working as an Austin, Texas, cab driver when he was arrested for rape; DeCastro posted bond and fled to Brazil. The same goes for David Britto, a Brazilian serving as a Boynton Beach., Fla., police officer when he was charged with drug trafficking; he posted bond and fled to Brazil. The same goes for Elias Lourenco-Batista, a Brazilian charged in Nebraska with the deaths of a family of missionaries; Batista fled to Brazil.
In his letter to Obama, Watkins endorsed a bill proposed by U.S. Rep Tim Ryan, D-Niles, that calls for restricting the $14 million in foreign aid to Brazil until the treaty is recognized. Watkins criticizes plans to open two new U.S. consulates in Brazil and ''drastically'' reduce the time it takes for Brazilians to obtain visas to enter the U.S. (in light of the extradition prohibition more scrutiny would seem to be in order). Watkins criticized Obama for signing an executive order this year promoting tourism between the U.S. and Brazil.
Some of what Watkins proposes is inappropriate. His call for Obama to boycott the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil, for example, makes too many innocent bystanders, namely athletes who have dedicated lifetimes to making it, pay the price.
The same goes for a bill proposed by Ryan that would suspend the issuance of visas to Brazilian nationals until the extradition prohibition is lifted. Again, many innocent Americans would get hurt. Youngstown State University's Williamson School of Business, for example, has educational exchanges with Brazilian students, and many Americans have relatives visiting from Brazil.
Perhaps Watkins' most compelling suggestion, and the one that affects the fewest bystanders, is his call for diplomatic pressure. Sean Goldman was taken from his natural father in New Jersey to Brazil where his ''guardian'' was protected. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intervened, and the diplomatic pressure resulted in the child being returned to his father.
Obama should read Watkins' letter and the president should respond with diplomatic pressure.