At the busiest airport in South America, a cat-and-mouse game to catch cocaine smugglers

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — The gray carry-on glides along the conveyor belt toward the X-ray machine.

It’s almost midnight at Guarulhos International Airport, just outside São Paulo, and the suitcase and its owner, a bald Nigerian man in jeans and a T-shirt, are first in line at Terminal 2 security for the 2:30 a.m. flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The X-ray machine operator peers at the images on her screens, then asks federal agent Elza Lucia de Melo to take a look and decide if the bag should be searched. Melo gives a curt nod.

Read the rest of this story on the Los Angeles Times website.

By Jill Langlois

Photos by Flavio Forner for the Los Angeles Times

Originally published in the Los Angeles Times on January 16, 2018.