By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On August 25th, diplomat John S. Creamer took office as U.S. Consul General to Rio de Janeiro, replacing Dennis Hearne, who left Brazil in early August. Mr. Creamer is no stranger to Rio, having first visited the city in 1998, attended Carnival in 2002, and since returned a number of times for work.
The diplomat entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1986, and has served at the U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, South Africa, Haiti, Argentina and Colombia. In Washington, he has served as Senior Desk Officer for Brazil, South Africa, and Colombia.
Now living and working in Rio for several months, Mr. Creamer is impressed at how much the city has changed since his first visit almost fifteen years ago. “[Rio] has turned the corner, consolidating itself as a global city… it’s a great time to be here.”
Speaking about specific experiences that have impressed him since living here full time; “[There are] parts of Rio that we hadn’t gotten to know as a tourist, Lapa and Santa Teresa … part of the Rio renaissance, Rio’s revival.”
Mr. Creamer will be in Rio for three years, through the 2014 World Cup, and is excited about how much the city is changing, with many new social, security and economic policies making progress. Commenting that now the “U.S. and Brazil bi-lateral relations are very good”, there are a lot of opportunities to build links, including state-level collaborations, businesses and special interest groups.
Another area of major change for the U.S. Consulate, and relations between the two largest democracies in the hemisphere, is with immigration. Following the January 2011 announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama, and subsequent changes in visa policy, getting Brazilians to the U.S. faster and easier has been a priority.
Mr. Creamer explained that there has been a dramatic increase in staff at the U.S. Consulate in Rio staff for this purpose, increasing forty percent over the last year. The number is expecting to reach 300 consulate staff in Rio by the end of this year, of those, approximately 100 work in visa processing.
The result, says Creamer is: “Reducing the waiting time [for Brazilians] from 140 days to a low of two days in some cases, and 10-12 days at the most.” Adding that the process for Brazilians is now “much less frustrating and intimidating.”
Perhaps one of the most encouraging efforts undertaken by the consulate this year is supporting the progress on the Science Without Borders program (Government of Brazil-funded), which brought President Rousseff to Harvard among other universities earlier this year. The program aims to provide 101,000 scholarships for Brazilians to study abroad in the world’s best universities between now and 2014.
To this end, the consulate is involved with a number of education programs, including “UP with English” language project for youth in Rocinha, which is a joint effort with the U.S. Consulate, American Chamber of Commerce, IBEU and the American School to teach English to less-privileged children. Mr. Creamer acknowledges that “the number one constraint to hitting the [Science Without Borders] numbers it the [lack of] English language.”
The next year will be full of more challenges, changes and forging new ground in Rio, and Mr. Creamer is excited to be a part of it. He told The Rio Times what he is looking forward to most in 2013 is; “Helping Rio prepare and implement [international events] like the Catholic World Youth Day and Confederations Cup.”