Brazil urges Bush to relax security measures

Fingerprints and photos taken of foreign visitors

January 14, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Brazil intensified its campaign yesterday to be exempted from new American security measures that require most foreign visitors to be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival in the United States. The effort followed a personal appeal by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to President Bush at a meeting late Monday night.

"If there are already 27 countries, then why not 28?" da Silva was reported by Brazilian officials to have said to Bush, referring to a group of mostly European nations whose citizens are largely exempt from the policy. The meeting took place in Monterrey, Mexico, where leaders from the Western Hemisphere are gathered for the Summit of the Americas.

Brazil began fingerprinting and photographing all Americans arriving here on Jan. 1, on the orders of a judge in the state of Mato Grasso, who called the U.S. policy "xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors of the Nazis." The Foreign Ministry endorsed the new procedures, arguing that "reciprocity is a basic element of foreign relations."

Da Silva's talk with Bush came hours after Brazil's national government ordered Federal Police not to enforce an appeals court ruling suspending the security procedures in this resort. According to Brazilian news reports, da Silva intends to use the cumbersome procedures being imposed on Americans to pressure Washington to lift restrictions on Brazilians.

In a statement issued Monday, Brazil's Foreign Ministry said relations between the two countries were "intense and dynamic," but implied that ties could cool if the dispute continues.

"Recent episodes such as the new system of identification of travelers create a negative climate in public opinion with inevitable political implications, which is not in the interest of the two countries," the statement said.

Da Silva's efforts to pressure the United States to exempt Brazilians from the registration program seem doomed. Aside from establishing a precedent that other nations would presumably seek to follow, Brazil meets almost none of the standards set by the State Department for inclusion in the group of exempted countries.

For a nation to qualify, the refusal rate on requests for nonimmigrant visas to the United States must be below 3 percent; Brazil's rate is "up in the double digits, nowhere in that ballpark at all," an American consular official said yesterday. In addition, Brazil does not issue machine-scannable passports, another U.S. requirement.

The U.S. rules also require nations to "demonstrate that adequate safeguards against fraudulent use of their passports are in place." U.S. officials said Brazil is second only to Mexico in deportations of inadmissible immigrants because of false documentation or misrepresentation at U.S. ports of entry.

Rio de Janeiro's city government, worried that the national government's continued tough line may discourage tourism from the United States in the run-up to Carnival, is looking for ways to reduce any backlash. Visitors arriving here yesterday began receiving a "welcome kit" that includes a T-shirt reading "Rio Loves You" and other gifts.

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