April 9, 2013 / 1:16 PM / 7 years ago

Brazil's Embraer sells six planes to help Guatemala's drug war

* Embraer to deliver six Super Tucanos and command center

* Senegal orders three planes; fourth order from Africa

* Colombia called on the same plane in battle with the FARC

By Brad Haynes

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 9 (Reuters) - Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA has sold six Super Tucano light attack planes to Guatemala to bolster its fight against drug trafficking, according to a senior executive.

The Central American country has turned to the same turboprop aircraft that Colombia used in its battle against the FARC’s guerrilla forces, Embraer’s defense chief Luiz Carlos Aguiar said in an interview ahead of the LAAD defense industry show that starts on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro.

Like neighboring Mexico, Guatemala has suffered the violence of drug cartels that ship cocaine to the United States, giving the country one of the world’s highest murder rates. Guatemalan President Otto Perez, a former military officer, has been an outspoken critic of the prohibition policies fueling Latin America’s drug war, but the Super Tucano order makes clear that the battle with cartels remains a priority.

Embraer will deliver six planes and a communications center in Guatemala, Aguiar said. It is Embraer’s first order to include command and control operations since its defense unit incorporated Atech, a company specializing in the field.

Guatemala will be the sixth Latin American country flying Embraer’s Super Tucano, and Aguiar said the company had also added a fourth African client. Senegal ordered three of the planes following purchases by neighboring Mauritania, nearby Burkina Faso and Angola in southern Africa.

Aguiar said that sales activity surrounding the Super Tucano has clearly accelerated since Embraer clinched an order from the U.S. Air Force to supply 20 of the light attack planes for counterinsurgency missions in Afghanistan.

“There are new clients, countries we hadn’t even considered showing up on our radar,” said Aguiar.

The U.S. Air Force authorized Embraer last month to move ahead on the $428 million order despite protests from rival Beechcraft.

Aguiar said it will take about seven months to set up a new plant in Jacksonville, Florida, building planes for the U.S. contract. The first Super Tucanos should start rolling off the line four or five months later, he added.

The LAAD Defense and Security Exhibition is a four-day event and takes place every two years.

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