South Florida residents are accustomed to hearing Portuguese
accents as Brazilian visitors flock to stores and tourist attractions,
but they may not be aware of just how popular the Sunshine State is in
Mauro Vieira, Brazilâ€™s ambassador to the United States,
said Friday that new figures show that of the 1.8 million Brazilians who
traveled abroad in 2012, 75 percent came to Florida.
a very important state for Brazil,â€™â€™ said Vieira, who was a speaker at
the 8th Annual Latin American Symposium, which is organized by the
University of Miamiâ€™s Center for Hemispheric Policy.
Speakers at the day-long event, which was held at the Four
Seasons Hotel Miami, addressed everything from the changing political
landscape in Latin America and the need for economic reforms to trade
and political issues that are driving the U.S.-Latin American
relationship. Juan Carlos PinzÃ³n, Colombiaâ€™s Minister of Defense, also
discussed his countryâ€™s strategy for lowering violence levels associated
with drug trafficking, guerrilla movements and organized crime.
meanwhile, is Floridaâ€™s top trading partner with $19.6 billion in trade
last year and the second largest source of international visitors.
Canada is still tops. But in Miami-Dade County, Brazilians have
dethroned Canadians as the top international visitors.
travel between the United State and Brazil is a top priority for the
U.S. travel industry and for Bill Talbert, president and chief executive
of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, in particular.
has become a tireless advocate for a visa waiver program that would
allow Brazilians to travel to the United States for up to 90 days
without a visa.
A working group to study elimination of visa requirements between the two countries met for the first time last November.
But Vieira said, â€œThis is a very, very long negotiation. It is not an easy one.â€
He said the first step in the process of getting a visa waiver program
may be setting up a Global Entry program between the two countries.
Under the U.S. Global Entry program, pre-approved, low-risk travelers,
who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, get expedited processing
through Customs when they enter the United States. They pay a fee of
$100 every five years.
The ambassador said a similar program would
have to be set up in Brazil, and then pre-approved travelers from both
countries could take part in a reciprocal program.
A visa waiver
program would have to be approved by the Brazilian Congress and â€œwill
take longer,â€™â€™ said Vieira. â€œIt is a work of patience.â€