St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and Brazil have signed a visa-free travel agreement, which will see visa free movement of Vincentians and Brazilians between both countries commencing on Nov. 15.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sen. Camillo Gonsalves made the announcement to Parliament on Friday, telling lawmakers and media audiences that nationals of both countries will be able to visit each other, visa-free, for up to
90 days in the first instance, renewable for up to 180 days.
“Of course, this is for tourism purposes. If you are going as a student, or if you are going to work, there are still requirements that you will have to fulfil,” Gonsalves said.
He said that Brazil is a footballing mecca and is regarded as a carnival capital, adding that a number of Caribbean nations will beg to differ with the carnival assessment.
“But, in addition to soccer and samba, there is quite a bit more to Brazil that is of interest to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and of interest to the world,” Gonsalves said, noting that Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country, both in terms of size and population.
He also noted that over half of Brazil’s 200 million citizens are of African descent, making it one of the largest countries of people of African descent in the world.
“It is a top 10 economy; Brazil is ranked seventh in the world — its economy, and has a GDP of two and a half trillion US dollars and it is one of what they calls the BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — the largest and most influential emerging economies,” Gonsalves said.
He said Brazil has a unique culture, rich history and bright future, and will host the Olympic games in August 2016.
“And Vincentians can now plan their trip to Brazil to cheer on our own athletes and regional athletes without having to worry about the impediment of getting a visa for the Olympic games,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said.
He said that the Unity Labour Party government, which came to office in 2001, has made Brazil a priority area.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has formed strong personal ties with former president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and those have continued with the current president, Dilma Rousseff, Sen. Gonsalves said.
He said Prime Minister Gonsalves was a key player in the first CARICOM-Bazil summit in Brasilia in 2010.
One of the outcomes of that summit was that Brazil committed to putting resident ambassador in each CARICOM country.
Sen. Gonsalves said that Prime Minister Gonsalves has enunciated repeatedly the “Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean (ABC) policy”, adding that the closest link between the Caribbean and West Africa is Brazil.
“And he has said repeatedly that we have to try to forge strong links of transportation, of culture, of communication, not only with the hundred-plus million members of the African diaspora who live in Brazil, but, of course, the entire continent of Africa. And, the logical place, is not for us to go north to come south to Africa, but to go south to Brazil and then simply then go across east to visit the motherland,” Sen. Gonsalves said.
“With the waiver of visas, that is another step in the forging and strengthening of this ABC connection,” he said, adding that Vincentians already do not require visas to visit several African countries.
The agreement with Brazil brings to
40 the number of non-CARICOM countries with which SVG has formal reciprocal visa waivers for non-diplomatic passports, Sen. Gonsalves said.
The CARICOM countries take the number up to 54, and Gonsalves said he is anticipating that number increasing to 80 countries soon, because the nation is in the midst of negotiations for reciprocal waivers of visas to the Schengen zone of Europe, which comprises 26 countries.
“And we hope very soon to complete negotiations in that regard, so that we won’t need visas to visit Europe,” he said.