Brazilian Priorities 

Brazil’s Consul General talks priorities

Just prior to the election that saw Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva win the Brazilian presidency, we interviewed Brazil’s Consul General in Miami, André Odenbreit Carvalho. We wanted to understand his priorities as a professional career diplomat, which are unlikely to change when Lula takes office in January: the continued improvement of trade and cultural ties with the U.S. in general and with Miami and Florida in particular. Prior to taking his post in March of this year, Consul General Carvalho served as part of the Brazilian mission to the EU in Brussels, and before that in the Brazilian embassies in London, Moscow, and Buenos Aires. 

What’s been the hallmark of your service in Miami so far? 

It’s been a very dynamic time, probably the busiest initial six months I’ve ever had at a posting. We had our president and foreign minister here in June because we opened the Brazilian vice consulate
in Orlando. Also in June, the national meeting for all the consul generals in the U.S. was held in Miami. We had a second visit by our foreign minister [who] met with different organizations at the end of September in Fort Lauderdale. And we had the first round of our elections. So it’s been a busy six months. 

How does Miami compare with other cities where you’ve been posted? 

I think it’s tremendously dynamic. I think it’s a very exciting time in the city and the state, which is a confirmation of what I heard before arriving. Everyone offered the message that the state and the city, economically and socially, were at a very positive phase in terms of both economic opportunities and people moving to live in Florida and Miami, both from within the U.S. and coming from abroad. The Brazilian community is growing very fast. 

What is your primary role here? 

Our bread and butter are consular services, which means ensuring those basic elements the Brazilian community here needs, whether it’s a passport, a birth certificate, or any kind of notary process… And that in itself is a very significant amount of work because the com- munity is growing, both the permanent community and the tourism community. [However,] the community here is growing to a point in which many other issues are gaining strength. You have the trade aspects and the investment aspects. That is an activity that we share, here at the consulate, with the Brazilian trade promotion agency [APEX], which has its headquarters in Miami. 

How important is trade to your role? 

We are in Miami because of the perception that Miami is central to the trade relationship between Brazil and the U.S. We are the main foreign trade partner with Florida, by far, and we are one of the big sources of foreign direct investment in Florida. We have about 125 Brazilian companies established in Florida. 

How large is the Brazilian population here? 

The informal estimates are as high as 400,000 to 450,000 in Florida. It would be difficult to estimate the numbers in Miami, but Miami-Dade and Broward are the two big counties where we have Brazilian communities. First Broward, then Miami-Dade, then Orange County. 

What can be done to increase the business relationship between Brazil and Miami? 

We have to work more on the flow from Florida. Brazil has clearly identified Florida and engaged. I think this is happening in the other direction also, but I think it’s at a more initial phase. When we speak with both the political and business leaders in Florida, the awareness is there… Brazil is a strong option for foreign direct investment, and we have some very significant investment projects right now, notably in the area of infrastructure. 

Outside of trade promotion, what are your priorities? 

As more and more Brazilians live in Florida, enhancing cultural ties to Brazil is going to become more and more of an issue. This is a priority for our work, in matters such as teaching Portuguese in Florida schools. [Another] is to improve the efficiency of our services. [We] are looking at ways to reduce the time to insure that people get a passport or birth certificate or whatever they need. 

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