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US Calls on Brazil to Revise New Entry Procedures for American Visitors - 2004-01-07


The United States called on Brazil to revise new entry procedures for American visitors to that country, saying they are unfair and causing huge delays at airport terminals. Brazil is requiring incoming U.S. citizens to be photographed and fingerprinted in apparent retaliation for new security measures at U.S. points of entry.

The Bush administration initially had an ambivalent response to the Brazilian measures, saying that country had a right to impose whatever entry formalities it wanted.

However, after seeing the practical effect of the new measures, including hours-long delays for U.S. citizens at Brazilian airports, the State Department is calling them unfair and demanding their revision.

Brazil this week began requiring arriving U.S. visitors to be photographed and to submit to a police-style ten-finger ink fingerprinting procedure.

A Brazilian judge ordered the measures in response to the United States' new security program called U.S.-VISIT, under which tourists and others entering from most countries are digitally photographed and fingerprinted.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the new U.S. formalities, including an inkless, digital scan of a visitor's index finger, have added only about 15 seconds, on average, to the clearance process.

But in contrast he said, Americans at the Rio de Janeiro airport Monday experienced delays of as long as nine hours. He said the Brazilian program is ill-prepared and discriminatory since it singles out U.S. citizens for exceptional treatment:

"I would leave it to them to describe why they are doing it, whether it's punishment or reciprocity or what," he said. "What we have seen is a program that was quickly instituted and not well-prepared, and which results in significant delays which are not in the interests of the United States, of American travelers, or frankly in the interests of Brazil in terms of attracting business and tourism."

The new U.S. measures were put in place as part of an effort to bolster security in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and apply to citizens of more than 150 countries.

Visitors from nearly 30 countries, mostly in western Europe, with which the United States has reciprocal no-visa entry agreements are excepted from the requirements.