This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)
Translated by Angela Barbosa
In an exclusive interview with Tribuna Newspaper, the new consul general of Brazil Ambassador Fernando de Mello Barreto, who took the position as the head of the Consulate General in Hartford on June 4, shares his diplomatic experiences and elucidates his vision and plans to improve the services provided to the Brazilian community in his consular jurisdiction.
In his 10th diplomatic post, Ambassador Barreto brings 38 years of knowhow, which will be beneficial to improve services at the Consulate in Hartford.
Identifying the Challenges
Ambassador Barreto explains that the problems he encountered in Hartford are different from other consulates.
“Every consulate faces challenges because worldwide the demand for services is greater than the ability to serve. Here, compared to other experiences I have had, it is not more difficult because it is a fairly new consulate, six years in service, and it started the right way,” he stated.
“We must always make adjustments to improve, but resources are limited, as public resources have always been.”
According to Ambassador Barreto, there is no instruction at this time to resume the itinerant services.
“We don’t have the financial means to provide that service. Although I am aware that here, just like in other consulates, the Brazilian community helps to organize and maintain the itinerant, there are also costs such as transportation of employees and overtime when they work on weekends, which the Consulate has to pick up.”
Aware that not everyone in the community has the physical or financial capability to go to the consulate, ambassador recognizes the urgent need to restart the itinerant service.
“Despite the fact that we don’t have money, I will seek the possibility of offering the itinerant services on weekdays. It is not the ideal because people work; however, I believe it is better than nothing.”
On the matter of additional costs – gas, transportation, food, etc. – Ambassador Barreto hopes he can count on the community to help. “Maybe we will be able to do it that way.”
Those interested in helping can contact the consulate at 860-760-3100.
Changes / New Plans
A few measures have been adopted since he arrived. “I like to be democratic and always listen to all employees first because they are in direct contact with the public. I also listen to the members of the Citizens Council and meet regularly with them.”
Employees, as well as the Citizen Council members and the media, are mechanisms that the ambassador intends to utilize as a channel to listen to the needs of the community and, therefore, improve the services they offer.
“The biggest challenge is the number of employees to assist with passport issuance and scheduling… which are regular complaints. I have not yet found a solution to that problem. I am studying a way to attenuate it.”
Among the few measures adopted is the elimination of the long lines of people at the consulate entrance who have not scheduled an appointment.
“We have assisted with emergency and legal priority cases. However, we cannot have lines anymore. I have asked the community to come only with an appointment. I have seen people arrive here late at night and sit on the floor, people with physical disabilities who slept outside. In my experience in other posts, this is bad and unsafe.”
There are priorities with scheduling – pregnant and breastfeeding women, the elderly and people with disabilities. It is also necessary to understand the definition of “emergency” so your date can be booked faster – for instance, if you have recently lost a family member or if you were scheduled to appear at an immigration agency.
The ambassador explains that there are criteria to be followed and that everyone at the consulate should be treated equally. With scarce resources, few employees and a growing demand for passports, service can be provided only by appointment.
The second change is improving the working hours of the employees and considering an early start at 8 am instead of 9 am.
“I believe that in a couple of months, with a few adjustments, the situation will change. My intention is to introduce gradual changes rather than radical ones. This consulate is considered a model, and we have highly motivated employees. We also have a lot of people inside and outside of the consulate with determination and interest with whom we can work on finding solutions.”
Ambassador Barreto was not surprised with the Brazilian community in Hartford.
“I found a very interesting community that left me with a good impression. The meetings that I had with the Citizens Council and the contacts that I have had with local entities also show that the Brazilian community is well liked and appreciated.”
“It is a community that, for we diplomats who serve abroad, brings great pride. It is a community that I believe reflects something positive of Brazil because our mission here, among others, is to depict Brazil.”
He emphasizes that “Brazilians’ quality” is their hard work and efforts to achieve a better life. “I do not perceive the community as a weight for the government but rather something really positive which benefits Brazil and themselves. May they continue to be like that, the Brazilians we are proud to be.”