Bravo to Brazilian bravery

There’s a new level of rigmarole for Americans traveling to Brazil these days. Whether heading to the Copa-Cabana or the Amazon jungle, they have to be fingerprinted and photographed.

Since Jan. 1, Brazilian immigration officials have required these new measures for entering Americans because that’s precisely what Americans are doing to Brazilian travelers.

Brazil, although it is the most stringent, is not the only country adding new immigration procedures for incoming Americans, according to a Jan. 22 article in the Wall Street Journal.

The Chinese have boosted visa entry prices by 67 percent, the Saudi Arabians require an original letter of sponsorship and the Russians require a page long form of information including previous employers and any military experience.

The Bush Administration launched the US-VISIT program Jan. 5, which requires fingerprints and photographs of all foreigners entering the country.

Well, if the Americans can require more information, why can’t the Brazilians, the Chinese and the Russians?

But The Suits in Washington weren’t pleased when they caught wind of the bold diplomatic move by Brazilian President Luiz Ignácio Lula de Silva’s left-leaning government.

Who’d have thought a country known for little more than soccer, nuts and string bikinis would have the guts to stand up against the United States?

The move won’t last though, for a number of reasons. Brazil has neither the technological capability – passengers reported up to nine-hour delays upon entry during the initial days of the program – nor the terrorist threat to warrant such drastic measures. Brazil hardly proclaims a significant threat of terrorism originating from U.S. citizens.

And of course, there’s the money issue. Brazil, like almost every other nation in the world (barring perhaps Iraq…) is desperate for all the American tourists it can get.

Sergio Ricardo de Almeida, tourism secretary of Rio de Janeiro, explained in a report in London’s Financial Times, “We want Americans here. They spend more money than any other tourists.”

The city of Rio de Janeiro, through which the largest majority of Americans enter Brazil, has already obtained an exemption from the rule, in the hopes that it won’t affect turnout for the upcoming carnival. Rio can’t afford to scare away the camera-toting Americans with their khaki shorts, Hawaiian shirts and most importantly, fat wallets.

Such is the position of the rest of the world. It isn’t worth standing up against the United States because it’s a losing proposition. There is no way to stand up against this country from the outside, be it diplomatically, economically or, least of all, militarily.

I applaud the Brazilian effort, even if it is short lived. They stood up on principle to have their voice heard. Through common-sense reciprocity, they figured they would give the Americans a taste of their own medicine.

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