Pilot scheme has chauvinist overtones

People: Pele
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The Independent Online
Ezer Weizman is ''perhaps'' a male chauvinist, he acknowledges, but has no regrets about his criticism of Israeli government policies. Described as moving ''from figurehead to hammer head'', the 71-year-old President has been getting into a few scrapes lately. His latest was with Alice Miller, a soldier who won a legal battle to become a military test pilot.

Mr Weizman, himself a former fighter pilot, says he didn't mean to offend her when he called her ''Maedele'' - ''Missy'' in Yiddish - and wondered if she had ever seen a man darning socks. Asked on television if he was a chauvinist, he replied: ''Perhaps, perhaps,'' adding, "I think there is some criticism I need to take to heart, and I will take it to heart.''

The pilot issue has long been a Weizman bete noire. Asked several years ago why Israel had no female air force pilots, he proclaimed: ''The best men to the cockpit, the best women to the pilots.''

The President, whose role is largely ceremonial, has been critical of Israel's peace agreements with the Palestinians. ''I thought the pace was too fast. I felt duty-bound to say so.'' The Tourism Minister, Uzi Baram, thinks he should simply shut up. ''Weizman is president for better and for worse,'' Mr Baram said. ''For a long time, it has been for the worse.''

Pele is a rarity among black Brazilians: an opinion-maker. Now the sports minister and retired football star wants to spur others to do something about a country in which blacks are prominent in sport and entertainment, but not in government and the military. To improve their lives, he told the newspaper Jornal do Brasil, black Brazilians must alter the racial make-up of Congress.

''If the black man wants to improve his social level, he must put our people in Congress, people who will defend our race and resolve our problems,'' he said.

''On the other hand,'' Pele added, ''the lack of black congressmen has a good side, in that today politicians have a bad reputation of being corrupt. At least blacks don't carry that burden.''

The kidnapping of Rigoberta Menchu's cousin's baby has been solved. Guatemalan police have arrested the child's mother, Cristina Menchu Zapeta, and husband, Miguel Velasquez Lobos, for abducting their own son on 4 November in an extortion attempt.

Police say the couple had asked Ms Menchu, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner and human-rights campaigner, for a loan but she had refused them. The boy's father, they said, subsequently took 22-month-old Juan Carlos to his own mother's house, telling her he was having marital problems. Ms Menchu then received a demand for $500,000 for his safe return. No money was paid, and the child was found a week later, having allegedly been abandoned in a field.

While Juan Carlos was unhurt, Ms Menchu's reputation may have sustained some damage. After the boy disappeared, she was quick to blame the government, saying the kidnapping was designed to scare her away from political activity. Even some of her supporters would like to do that. They have criticised her for allowing herself to be sucked into a system she has long opposed.