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The Plague

The Plague

It is unacceptable that the "trust no one" policy of the
Brazilian
government be extended to Americans who live in the US.
Such measures only help to fuel the inaccurate international
perception that Brazilians are dishonest crooks and that in turn trust no one.
By Ernest Barteldes

It is ironic. I’d only left Brazil for a week or so when I spotted an employment
opportunity advertisement in the New York Times. The ad said that they needed
someone who could use a computer and have good Portuguese skills. I figured that I had the
qualifications for the job, so I took the chance and dialed the number that was printed on
the ad.

The person on the other side of the line was a Brazilian-born woman who was in charge
of selecting prospective employees for the position. We basically spoke in Portuguese as
she told me what the job consisted of. At first, she thought I was a Brazilian citizen, so
she constantly repeated that I’d need a US job permit in order to be eligible. It took me
several minutes to finally convince her that I was an American citizen who happened to
speak Portuguese as a native, since I’d spent most of my life in that country.

Then she told me which documents were needed to apply for the position, which set me
aback. They wanted notarized copies of my passport and high school (or university)
diplomas, plus a doctor’s statement saying that I am "apt" for working forty
hours a day, and in addition to all that, they wanted me to go to the police and request a
"Statement of Good Conduct," which would prove that I have never been arrested
or prosecuted.

In Brazil, no photocopies of documents are accepted unless they are notarized, and
notary publics are a very lucrative industry in the country. Any contract you sign must be
registered in a notary office and your signature has to be authenticated by a notary
public at a charge of about $1 for every authenticated document. The procedure is taken to
avoid forgery.

Brazilian law requires that employees have a yearly physical performed by a physician,
and the law has been very lucrative to doctors. In Brazil, such expenses are paid by the
employer, which is not the case in New York. In order to apply for a simple job, I would
have to spend no less than $80 (the Police certificate alone costs $30). It is good to
remind the reader that the minimum wage in Brazil is less than that, so most Brazilians
would have been unable to apply for a job like this. However, we are not in Brazil.

Upon learning that, I immediately e-mailed my mother so that she’d send me my original
diploma, which I had left in Brazil in order to get the proper translations so I can
register for my master’s degree in January. Unfortunately, the documents never reached me
in time for the application deadline.

On that last day, I went to the UN offices with the documents I had in hand (plus a
photocopy of my Brazilian university diploma) and I was denied applying for the job. The
woman in charge (I will not mention her name here, for it is not her fault) told me that
no exception would be made, since the Brazilian government stated in a circular letter
that incomplete applications would be automatically disqualified.

I argued that my diploma was not a forgery, and that I would make a sworn statement of
that if necessary. The lady replied that unfortunately, due to the government’s
bureaucracy I knew so well of, she was unable to help me (what about the jeitinho?).
It is totally unacceptable that this "trust no one" policy of the Brazilian
government be extended to law-abiding, legal aliens or American citizens who live in the
U.S.

Such measures only help to fuel the inaccurate international perception that Brazilians
are dishonest crooks(as mentioned in Brazil and The Brazilians, by E. Twegen) who
no one is entitled to trust and that in turn trust no one unless you actually document
that you can be trusted—which is no evidence of anything—just take a look at the
recent happenings in Brazilian politics.

If Brazil wants to seek a change in their image, the country has to step ahead and make
an effort to believe in people until they give evidence of being unworthy of being
believed in.

Ernest Barteldes, the author, was born in Michigan USA and has been a
teacher of English in Brazil for over ten years. He is a graduate from Ceará State
University and recently married a Brazilian. Barteldes has been a regular columnist for
the Greenwich Village Gazette in New York City and has also collaborated to a number of
magazines and newspapers in the US and in Brazil. He can be contacted at ebarteldes@yahoo.com

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