By A. J. Gevaerd
Editor Brazilian UFO Magazine
One of the smallest countries in South America, Uruguay is also the place where the military are more open-minded towards the UFO Phenomenon. UFO occurrences are investigated by the Uruguayan Air Force (FAU) as part of their routine activities. Here is the full interview with Colonel Ariel Sanchez, chairman of the Commission for the Reception and Investigation of UFO Reports (Cridovni)
Few people know that a small country in South America has an official office for flying saucer research as part of its Air Force. The office is continuously operating since 1979 when it was established by the president of theRepublic himself. That’s right: it has been more than three decades since the Committee for the Reception and Investigation of UFO Reports (Cridovni) operates in Uruguay. Only three other similar institutions are known in the continent. These are the Center for the Study of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (CEFAA), established in Chile in 1997 and working within the country’s General Civil Aviation Office; the Office for the Investigation of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (OIFAA), in the Peruvian Air Force (FAP); and an Argentine committee created last year but still under development.
All of the examples above are generally ignored by the worldwide UFO community. Those nations have official bodies openly exploring the possible extraterrestrial origin of UFOs. The same has happened in Brazil in the 50s and the 60s, and something similar in the 70s. To uncover these initiatives and to try to make Brazilian authorities engage again in official investigations of the UFO Phenomena was some of thepurposes of the campaign “UFOs: Freedom of Information Now”, released in 2004 by the Brazilian Committee of UFO Researchers (CBU). Its goals were the declassification of official UFO files — already achieved — as well as establishing an official body for UFO investigation in the country. Although Brazil had openly acknowledged the issue and released documents dated from 1950 to 2010, the country still misses an institution like Cridovni, CEFAA or OIFAA. In fact, it was promised back in May 2005 by Brigadier Luis Carlos da Silva Bueno, former Brazilian Air Force (FAB) commander. We still wait for the fulfillment of that promise.
A Skillful Researcher
In 2010 I was in Montevideo to make a presentation on the Brazilian process of UFO disclosure. I took that opportunity to better understand the work of an official UFO research institution, since they include civilians in their ranks. That time I interviewed the chair of Cridovni, a FAU officer who is also an ufologist and a gifted speaker. He was many times in Brazil presenting the works of the body he runs — yes, he is also a common presence in international conferences.
The opportunity of interviewing Coronel Ariel Sanchez at the headquarters of his Committee at the Boiso Lanza Air Base, 30km from Montevideo, was a great one. We had a long talk just like the ones I had with other military in Brazil and abroad, a kind of talk which is significant to increase transparency on UFO issues. The interview was actually a three-hour friendly chat followed by a lunch in the air base and a tour around its facilities. “We keep no secrets and it is a pleasure to show UFO Magazine everything we do”, said Sanchez on the way to his country’s air traffic control center — also located at Boiso Lanza.
Ariel Sanchez has been international correspondent of the Brazilian UFO Magazine for over a decadeand holds a reputable background in UFO experiences. His post as the chair of the Uruguayan Committee makes him a unique person. “Our files contain any kind of UFO cases you would see in the X-Files”, he says. It is very much true as you will see below. He and his team — including Lt. Daniel Silveira, also a consultant to UFO Magazine —, are like Mulders and Scullys, as thorough researchers as those could be. It was interestingseeing how Cridovni works. Its members are professional ufologists, since they are paid by FAU. In fact, they are regular Air Force staff dedicating part of their time to UFO research and standing by for any call. When reported any occurrence they go after it in uniforms and official vehicles. They interview witnesses, collect samples, gather data, and then start a thorough investigation following strict methodological standards. Uruguay is a model to be reproduced by every country in her continent.
Another good example to be taken is their I International Congress on Investigation of Aerospace and Terrestrial Phenomena, organized by Cridovni, in Montevideo, in November 2010. That was the first Ufological event in the world known to be supported by a military branch — the Air Force in this case. The audience was filled with military garments. There is yet another thing: in order to extend the outreach within its little country, Cridovni established a civilian section — the Regional Center for Investigation of Aerospace and Terrestrial Phenomena (Crifat) is operating for 10 years now. “We still got no answers regarding the UFO phenomenon, what these vehicles and their origin are, but we keep on researching with the utmost disposition”, says Sanchez before adding, “As men at the service of Uruguay we must be impartial. We don’t encourage or discourage any particular point of view”.
An Open Mind Towards New Ideas
Regarding the Congress held in Montevideo, Coronel Ariel Sanchez says “I wanted it to be as open as possible”. The event attracted big names of South-American Ufology. Although Cridovni adopts a scientific approach towards the UFO phenomenon, its members keep an open mind and agree to discuss Ufology with representatives of many other lines of interpretation. Sanchez confirms they have received over 2200 reports so far including photos and videos that reach the office everyday through letters, e-mails and phone calls. “However, we still haven’t found any evidence of direct contacts with ETs”.
Also an air traffic controller, Sanchez narrates intriguing cases in his country. Some of which involve military and civilian aircraft in events that endangered flight security. “We had to report the facts immediately to the Air Force commander who contacted the Defense minister who, in turn, contacted the President”, he says regarding a case involving a Lufthansa aircraft in 2007. Coronel Sanchez reveals that Cridovni works in partnership with civilian research groups and official institutions in other countries. In summary, he tells of how an official UFO research institution should be — just in case other military abroad need an example. Below we share his interview.
Uruguay has a unique approach towards UFO research by officially responding to occurrences as soon as possible and applying a military methodology to it. We could call you the real “X-Files”. Tell us, Coronel Sanchez, how does it feel to be an "official ufologist," a person to whom Ufology is also a military mission?
Despite the responsibilities as representatives of the Uruguayan Air Force (FAU) we have a normal life. We are the State of Uruguay when issuing reports on our findings. The Committee must adopt a certain approach towards witnesses and media. Most of all, we must be impartial and objective when handling the UFO issue. This is meant to not encourage or discourage investigations. Also, we release information collected in the field in the most serious manner. As representatives of FAU we should not rush into conclusive reports when more investigation is needed. We must be unbiased in our work and this is not meant to withhold information. Instead, this is in order to better inform the people as they deserve our respect.
The full Length Interview:
AJ: It seems your father was the military who started Cridovni in 1979. For how long have you been involved in the Committee? Did you want to follow his example?
CAS: Not really. It has been 20 years since I first joined the Committee as a first lieutenant. I was invited by Coronel Freddy Prieto, the then chair of the Committee. He thought I was well suited for this kind of activity and made me a secretary in the institution. In other words, I started by taking care of the files. I had to read them one by one and learn many cases by heart so that I could work on the investigations and address the media on certain issues. As a member of an official institution involved with the UFO phenomenon, one must know it well in order to explain investigated cases without making mistakes. I’ve been the chair of the Committee for four years now, and it makes 32 years of continuous work since its establishment in 1979.
AJ: What do you believe to be the greatest strength of Cridovni besides its investigation and findings?
CAS: I should say that the most important thing we have is our human resources. Yes, the human assets of the institution which are our researchers and analysts. This is our greatest strength, even greater than the technology or facilities we employ in our activities. The most important thing in this Committee is its personnel. They have the technical skills needed to provide FAU and our Government with consistent information on UFO occurrences.
AJ: How many cases has Cridovni investigated before you joined? How many after?
CAS: The Committee has now more than 2200 sighting reports collected over the last 30 years. Around 1250 of them were investigated. It means that a report not always leads to an investigation, since it may contain little information on which we could proceed. In that case we register the facts, what was seen, when that happened, what time that was, etc, but stop it there due to the lack of data. However, when a good report reaches the Committee, one that has witnesses or credible evidence, then we open an investigation into what would be regarded as a “UFO case”.
High “Level of Strangeness”
AJ: How is Cridovni’s investigative approach? Would it be similar to the methods of civilian ufologists?
CAS: Yes. Due to the lack of detailed information on some occurrences we could investigate just around 50% of a total 2200 reports. Among the 1250 investigations, we found that 40 should be classified as UFO cases — these are the ones that could not be solved, the ones that gave no scientific explanation about the nature of an object. Those were unconventional events to which our air and space knowledge have no explanation so far. They are very strange and peculiar. They come in a high Level of Strangeness which doesn’t
allow us to any conclusion. It is a considerable number of confirmed occurrences and it is slightly higher than world average because Cridovni applies more rigorous standards which civilian ufology does not apply.
AJ: When you say “Level of Strangeness” I believe you employ J. A. Hynek’s standards for close encounters, right?
CAS: His classification was the system we initially employed in our work. However, that system was improved so that we could apply it to our needs. As you may know, Hynek says that a series of factors can increase the “Level of Strangeness” and also the “level of credibility” of witnesses. When that all amount to a high level we could think of an UFO occurrence.
AJ: Among those 40 cases with a high Level of Strangeness which one caught your attention the most? Could you describe it?
CAS: The most shocking events involved Uruguayan aircraft pursuing a UFO. It occurred mainly in 1986. Two military aircraft tried to intercept a UFO which entered Uruguayan airspace without authorization. I believe the Official UFO Night in Brazil occurred in the same year and month (19 May 1986).
AJ: Do you believe this UFO pursuit in Uruguay was part of the same phenomenon seen in Brazil? (When more than 20 round-shaped UFOs of around 100m in diameter jammed radars of several capitals in South-Eastern Brazil)
CAS: I would have to check the dates in our files, but it is possible. It was around 20h30 when those two fighters I’ve mentioned tried to approach an object maneuvering over a dam. They tried twice to reach the UFO. They didn’t succeed because the object managed to escape maneuvering at great speed which our aircraft could not follow.
AJ: What were the procedures adopted in the investigation of this case?
CAS: We collected all the flight data such as the type of our aircraft, duration and speed of their flight, etc, then we had a thorough interview with the pilots. They were four pilots aboard two Argentine-made FMA IA 58 Pucara — a two-turboprop-engined aircraft for fast combat. (Pucara means fortress in Quechua language. This aircraft was often used during the war over the Falklands). The Pucara reached a 400 to 500/h speed but the UFO was much faster. We estimate it to be at around 1.000 km/h. That was double our speed if not more.
AJ: Besides the incredible speed did the UFO display any other signals of a possible extraordinary origin?
CAS: Yes. A peculiar thing was seeing the object changing colors while increasing its acceleration. It went from yellow to orange then turned red. It moved away at an enormous speed until it disappeared from our sight. In a second attempt to intercept it, the object did the same thing: when the Pucara got closer, the UFO vanished at an incredible speed towards the West. Without much they could do the pilots simply quit the pursuit and returned to the base.