In an interview with Brazil’s leading weekly newsmagazine Veja, Thomas A. Shannon, the American ambassador in Brazil revealed that Washington is very interested in eliminating the need of visas for Brazilians traveling to the United States.
Nowadays Brazilians are submitted to a serious check of their economic background in order to guarantee they won’t try to stay illegally in the US once their visa expires.
They also have to pay a US$ 140 fee to get the document. Brazil in retaliation charges the same amount and gives American citizens similar hard time to grant a Brazilian visa.
300,000 Brazilians apply for a Brazilian visa every year. Only China, India and Mexico have more applications. Ninety five percent of these applicants get their visa approved.
This is not enough, however, to make Brazil exempt of the visa requirement. Shannon says Brazil still have to improve in this area. According to him, the country is still 2% shy of a threshold created by Washington: (He doesn’t mention, however, that the 5% rejected are subject to not-always-objective criteria that might be changed in order to pass this artificial barrier.)
“Reaching 97% approval is a prerequisite for a country to be included in the visa waiver program,” said Shannon. “There is great interest in granting Brazilian such status, especially among Americans connected with the tourism industry.”
The Yankee diplomat stressed that receiving Brazilian travelers in the US creates job for Americans. Last year alone Brazilians spent US$ 785 million in Florida, for example. But he doesn’t know when the new policy might become a reality: “I cannot give dates but I can say that we’re seriously studying the issue.”
In his interview, Shannon also mentioned the new prominent role of Brazil in the world. Questioned about the harm the release of the WikiLeaks could bring to the ties between Brasília and Washington, the ambassador dismissed the whole imbroglio as not serious enough to affect the relation between the two countries.
New WikiLeaks’ revelations just released this Friday show that U.S. diplomats in 2005 wrote their bosses in Washington that the then newly-appointed chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, had organized three bank robberies.
The same documents also allege that Rousseff planned the legendary theft of Adhemar’s safe. This in reference to a terrorist group that on July of 1969 stole in Rio de Janeiro the vault of former governor of São Paulo, Adhemar de Barros.
Shannon’s reaction: “The U.S. government has no information to confirm these allegations. Au contraire, we have with the president-elect a long and positive relationship, which began in 1992 with an exchange program and continued during her tenures as Minister of Mines and Energy and as chief of staff of the Presidency.”
And he noted that American president Barack Obama has already shown interest in meeting Rousseff as soon as possible.