Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has pressed his Colombian counterpart, Álvaro Uribe, to resurrect a light strike aircraft contest that Embraer was expected to win.

Colombia suspended the 24-aircraft programme, valued at $234 million, in November last year due to budget problems, and has yet to determine how it will replace its Cessna A-37 Dragonflys and Rockwell OV-10DBroncos. The US government also reportedly applied pressure on Colombia to drop the competition.

Aircraft bid included the Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano, Korea Aerospace Industries KO-1, Pilatus PC-21, and Raytheon T-6A. Sources say the EMB-314 was the winning candidate.

Brazilian and Colombian sources says the two presidents discussed the acquisition of 24-40 Super Tucanos and an intelligence data exchange between the countries regarding FARC guerrilla activities.

It is understood the Brazilian proposal encompasses use of its SIVAM assets to monitor the activities of FARC guerrillas along the Brazil/ Colombia border. The SIVAM system includes airborne early warning Embraer EMB-145SA and remote sensing EMB-145RS platforms.

Brazilian sources say the package will be on the agenda during a meeting in Brussels next month between the presidents.

The move comes as reports emerge that the FARC is negotiating the acquisition of armed helicopters to counter the Colombian government's anti-drug operations, particularly those that deal with the spraying of cocaine crops. The Colombian guerrilla group has recently shot down at least two aircraft.

Source: Flight International