“The New Administration of the United States and the Priorities for the Northeast” Consul General Jessica Simon Remarks for Rotary Club – Recife
Thank you very much.
And thank you for the opportunity to be here during the 90th anniversary of the Rotary Recife.
Rotary, as an organization established in Chicago in 1905, truly represents many of the common values of the United States and Brazil. The work that Rotary has done though the years to help end Polio, promote peace, fight diseases, provide clean water, support education, grow local economies, protect the environment, and respond to disasters is a testimony to the fact that an organization with a strong mission like Rotary can endure through time.
Especially impressive is the work Rotary Recife has done with initiatives such as:
- Sponsorship in international exchanges for youth with special needs or without financial conditions
- Campaigns mobilizing donations and distribution of food baskets to needy communities in Recife during the current pandemic.
- The donation in partnership with the United States of the Surgical Unit Bus to the Altino Ventura Foundation, enabling more than 30,000 surgeries.
- Donation of musical instruments to the internationally renowned Orquestra Criança Cidadã, a Consulate’s partner in Recife, Ipojuca, and Igarassu.
- The Rotary Alto do Pascoal State School, founded 50 years ago in Recife’s North Zone, whose talented martial band collaborates with the Consulado. This award-winning marching band of talented public school students performed during American football games at the Arena Pernambuco stadium. Their beautiful performances generated emotional and enthusiastic reactions for this American music genre and inspired Brazilians in Pernambuco and beyond.
In the United States, Rotary is also well known for supporting international exchange programs…. (Jessica comments about her exchange experience)
Rotary is truly a remarkable organization with much to be proud of.
Since my arrival in Recife as consul general last September and with his arrival last year, Ambassador Todd Chapman has made it very clear that the Northeast region of Brazil is a priority for us. The Ambassador plans to devote time and energy to this fantastic region with so much potential and deep historic ties to the United States. He has already visited Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, and Pernambuco and plans to return often.
To demonstrate our commitment to this region, we have developed a theme for the work we do and the great plans we have for the Northeast.
It is called the United States Northeast Partnership. Today, I plan to outline for you what this Northeast Partnership means in concrete terms for the region that stretches from Sergipe to Maranhão. (for those you aren’t aware, Bahia is supported by our consulate general in Rio de Janeiro, so most of my remarks will focus on our work in the other eight states of the Northeast.)
As consul general in Recife, I am always aware that there is a very long and powerful history that goes before me. The United States’ first diplomatic presence in Brazil was established right here in Recife more than 200 years ago. And we have only grown stronger since then.
Today, in Brazil we have one of the United States’ largest diplomatic missions in the world with an Embassy in Brasilia and consulates general in Rio, Sao Paulo, Recife, and Porto Alegre, as well as an Embassy branch office in Belo Horizonte. We also have a one-person consular agency serving the needs of American citizens in Fortaleza.
One of the little told but absolutely remarkable moments in our shared history was during World War II, when thousands of U.S. troops were invited to Brazil to use ports and airstrips to launch support for our allies in Europe. And as you know, Brazilian soldiers also fought bravely in Italy in our united battle to preserve freedom and democracy.
Today, we are supporting efforts in Rio Grande do Norte and other parts of Brazil to preserve this important part of our shared history by linking Brazilian historians and secretaries of tourism with renowned American resources such as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
But our Northeast Partnership is about much more than preserving our past. It is about looking to the future.
Today, at the dawn of a new administration in the White House under President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, we have an excellent opportunity to talk about the new administration and our priorities for the Northeast.
One very recent example of our vision for the future is the memorandum of understanding that Ambassador Chapman signed this month with the governor of Paraiba. This MOU will guide our work together in that state for the coming years. We look forward to the opportunity to sign more of these memoranda with other states in the Northeast.
The work we do day-to-day in Brazil in partnership with Brazilians is truly vast and all-encompassing.
I will organize my remarks today in five areas. They are five key areas of importance for the U.S. diplomatic Mission to Brazil: bilateral trade; citizen security; combating climate change; human rights; and defeating Covid-19 and stimulating recovery.
For more than a year, the United States has stood with Brazil and the international community in our united effort to overcome Covid-19 and rebuild our economies.
U.S. investments in developing the world’s most efficacious COVID-19 vaccines are an important part of that response. U.S. contributions to Brazil’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including leveraging the U.S. private sector, have been key to helping Brazil access needed resources. Together, the U.S. government and private sector we have provided nearly $BR 400 million in assistance to Brazilian communities.
Here in the Northeast, we have made large donations of medical sanitation supplies in Ceara, Maranhão, and Pernambuco, including to our trusted partners at SAMU. And at COMPAZ in Recife, we have delivered hundreds of food baskets to needy families. Also in the city of Bacabal in Maranhão, we delivered a 40-bed field hospital provided by the U.S. Department of Defense to serve the needs of surrounding communities.
Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic in both our nations will be key to economic recovery.
On that point, the U.S. government works daily to steadily increase bilateral trade. Our two countries believe in and practice free market economic systems and believe that strong bilateral trade grows both our economies.
We work actively to help small businesses succeed, especially female entrepreneurs. We have closely followed Josilene Santana’s success as an Afro-Brazilian woman who taught herself how to code, and who now has a successful IT consulting business. We’ve sent her on a professional exchange program to the United States and she participated in the Department of States’ Academy of Women Entrepreneurs program.
The consulate is also funding a unique program to develop the entrepreneurial skills of 100 low-income female entrepreneurs in gastronomy and food services in Recife, in collaboration with the NGO Meu Propósito, the Pernambuco-Georgia Partners of the Americas, and the Pernambuco State University.
We know that supporting female and minority community entrepreneurship and business ownership supports business growth at all levels.
Porto Digital, Recife’s technology park, is an example of how closely the U.S. and Brazilian IT sectors are linked. Large U.S. companies like Accenture and LifeRay are based here. Brazilian companies like InLoco Media got started here before opening offices in the United States. We are proud to partner with members of Recife’s IT ecosystem, like CESAR and Porto Social to help small businesses succeed.
In other exciting news, recently, in Maranhão, the Brazilian Space Agency (Agência Espacial Brasileira; AEB) and Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira, FAB) announced that three of the four companies selected for contracts to support future launches from the Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara are American companies. We are very proud of this bilateral partnership in space exploration. And I know from experience, U.S. businesses, as a rule, are examples of social responsibility.
Speaking of corporate responsibility, we are always encouraged when we observe companies taking on civic responsibilities for the greater good. For example, Coca Cola also invested in the national adopt-a-park program, and is pioneering solid-waste management solutions. The company also invests in people, training thousands of youth in Fortaleza to build job skills and help them succeed in business. Cola Solar, based in Fortaleza, has committed to using solar energy, including constructing a solar plant in Bahia.
The topic of solar and other clean energy sources makes me think of our third priory area: combating climate change.
The United States and Brazil have a long history of cooperation on environmental preservation and helping communities most impacted by environmental issues.
Consulate General Recife has been an active partner of the government of Pernambuco in this area, since 2016 and before. Our predecessors organized events with the LEAP grant to bring together experts from the United States and the Northeast to discuss climate change and renewable energy. They led a delegation to California to learn about renewable energy technology with the Under 2 coalition. Consulate General Recife invited a U.S. Speaker to Recife in 2019 to discuss renewable energy storage and distribution solutions.
Recently, Ambassador Chapman received a letter from 24 of the 27 Brazilian governors, including many in the Northeast, showing their commitment to addressing climate change. Pernambuco Governor Paulo Camara spoke on behalf of the Northeast, noting the region’s interest in combatting climate change and promoting environmental action.
U.S. government programs are in conducted in close coordination with the government of Brazil. With the new Administration of President Biden, we have set even more ambitious targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and we are working with Brazil to achieve more ambitious climate goals. Together we can find the best ways to support economic growth, protect the environment, and achieve sustainability.
We would like to partner even more with the Northeast to address the region’s environmental concerns, including sustainability in the Caatinga and Sertao biomes. Especially to use U.S. technology to harness the region’s extraordinary wind and solar power. And also on water issues, both water and sanitation as well as ocean issues are areas of great potential.
US Companies and their Brazilian partners recognize this potential. GE subsidiary LM Wind Power makes wind blades near Suape, and their product is back-ordered for years due to high demand. GE technology is also used in the LNG plant in Sergipe, a massive investment in transitional energy in the region. Similarly, Golar is building LNG infrastructure in Suape. These investments are helping to decarbonize the energy matrix.
In March, we were pleased to participate in a handover event of a unique technology that seeks to harness energy from the sea as a source of renewable energy. This partnership between the Instituto Federal de Pernambuco in Recife and Wave Water Works in Michigan is an example of how together, Brazilians and Americans can lead in our race to control climate change. Together, we are committed to leaving a sustainable planet to our children and grandchildren.
The importance of climate security is real. Our day to day data security is also real. Economic growth and citizen security depend on secure 5G and data.
All nations should take the risks of insecure 5G extremely seriously. 5G technology will touch every aspect of life, of business, of government, and creates incredible opportunities and vulnerabilities. Decisions on 5G security will be key factors in driving foreign direct investment and economic growth.
We are pleased to see that U.S.-based company Seaborn will establish a fiberoptic cable connection from Recife in the second half of 2021. The cable will connect Recife to Sao Paulo and New Jersey, allowing faster connections to grow Recife’s digital economy. Seaborn will also create a data center in Recife.
16 Subsea fiberoptic cables connect in Fortaleza, making it the second most connected city in the world. Many U.S. companies have invested in data centers in Fortaleza to take advantage of its connectivity. Brazil’s Ministries of Communications and External Relations announced May 13 Brazil would participate in a Chile-led Humbolt trans-Pacific cable project to connect Valapariso Chile to Fortaleza via terrestrial fiber-optic networks to improve internet connectivity between Asia and North America/Europe.
Also here in the Northeast, offices from the U.S. Consulate (RSO and FCS) are engaging with the Pernambuco government, and soon Ceara, on utilizing American companies (or other secure providers) for their security technology infrastructure upgrades.
Multiple independent studies show that the cost to utilize clean equipment, including replacement costs as networks migrate to true 5G, are manageable and represent an investment in the future. Building 5G networks with equipment from trusted providers is important to protect democratic values. Citizen data in the hands of authoritarians threatens democratic freedoms and opens countries to blackmail.
The four topics I have already discussed today are unifying priorities for us at the U.S. diplomatic Mission to Brazil: defeating COVID-19, promoting bilateral trade, combating climate change, and assuring citizen and 5G security.
I will close today on the fifth point: human rights and social issues.
Human rights are foundational to U.S. policy at home and abroad. Brazil has been and can continue to be a leader in promoting human rights. The opportunities for the United States and Brazil to work together on these issues are nearly endless.
Human rights are central to our efforts to advance inclusive security and growth in our nations and the region. The U.S. and Brazil share aspects of our national histories, democratic values, and demographic makeup that make us natural partners in sharing approaches to promoting women’s rights, racial justice, equality for LGBTQ+ individuals, and strengthening civil society.
This week we are at the one year anniversary of the tragic killing of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis. As a nation, and as individuals, Americans of all backgrounds have reflected on and have mourned this tragedy. It is our collective responsibility to learn from events such as these. And it is our responsibility to commit to doing better. To being better.
At the State Department and here at the U.S. diplomatic Mission to Brazil we have taken action and we are dedicated to recognizing our weaknesses and to working toward a more inclusive and equitable society.
Here in Recife, we meet regularly with people at all levels of society to better understand racism, gender-based violence, religious freedom issues (especially issues involving “religiões de matriz Africana” like Candomble), child labor, and other human rights issues. Understanding the needs and issues of members of Quilombo communities and indigenous Brazilians is of great importance to us.
We recently launched three special English courses for indigenous and Afro-Brazilian leaders selected by the governors of the states of the Northeast in partnership with the Northeast Consorcio. Today more than 80 professionals from Alagoas, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraiba, Piaui, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, and Sergipe are benefiting from these courses to support our efforts at increased social inclusion of historically under represented community members.
In June, we will highlight our commitment to the human rights of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters by raising the pride flag at the U.S. Embassy and all consulates across Brazil. The human rights, dignity, and safely of people in these communities cannot be taken for granted. Especially transgendered persons who are too often victims of violence and murder in Brazil.
I invite you Rotary Recife to join us in working for a more just, safe, and equitable society by supporting the human rights of every member of our societies.
Today has been a wonderful opportunity for me to share with you the priorities of the United States in this new Administration and to highlight just a sample of great work we are doing together under the United States Northeast Partnership to increase bilateral trade, protect all our citizens, and overcome COVID-19 and grow our economies.
I look forward to responding to your questions and wish to congratulate you once again on the 90th anniversary of Rotary Recife!