Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim has urged US Secretary of State Colin Powell to exempt citizens of Brazil and other Organization of American States (OAS) countries from the air travel security checks that his government considers abusive.
The Foreign Ministry conformed that Powell and Amorim spoke over the phone about the controversial US-VISIT program, under which incoming visitors from most countries are to be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival in the United States.
Last week, a Brazilian judge ordered customs agents to apply the same measures to US nationals entering Brazil in what was seen as tit-for-tat retaliation for the move that has angered people in many of the affected countries such as Brazil.
Foreign Ministry officials said that Powell told Amorim the United States was disappointed by Brazil's retalitory move, and the minister replied that his government was willing to cooperate in reaching a fair, reciprocal and satisfactory solution.
He proposed that nations belonging to the Organization of American States, which includes most Western Hemisphere countries with Cuba as the major exception, from the security screening that became mandatory at US points of entry on January 1.
Citizens and nationals of only 27 countries, mainly from Europe, were exempted from the US measure aimed at adding an additional layer of security after US intelligence services warned of the immediate threat of terror attacks using aircraft.
In a statement, the US embassy complained that Brazil's insistence on photographing and fingerprinting U.S. visitors had created delays of up to nine hours for Americans arriving at Rio de Janeiro airport.
By way of contrast, the embassy noted that the new procedures implemented in the United States are based on speedy state-of-the- art technology that underwent a year of testing before being put into operation.
Rio de Janeiro Mayor Cesar Maia is another who thinks that this exercise in "simplistic reciprocity" will cause major damage to his city in the run up to the Mardi Gras festivities, which usually attract a large number of American tourists.