Portuguese citizens in Argentina on Wednesday, in Buenos Aires, promoted a new demonstration against the lack of consular service and denounced that Portuguese institutions decline responsibility, while thousands of people have been waiting for more than three years.
“Due tothelackofresponses to our demands for service, we decided to protest again. I took the initiative to organize this demonstration as a way to channel a growing movement in social networks of people who complain because they have been for years trying to get a simple spot to be attended. Without documents they can’t travel as if they had no identity”, denounced to Lusa the Lusodescendant Stefanny Gonçalves, 32 years old.
Stefanny took over the organization of the first demonstration, held in August 2022, when dozens of Portuguese, representing hundreds, went to the door of the Portuguese consulate in Buenos Aires to peacefully demand consular assistance.
Nine months later, the situation has not only not been resolved, but has worsened due to the accumulation of requests at a consulate with no answers. On average, the waiting time for a service slot exceeds three years, as in the case of Stefanny, who depends on renewing her documents to emigrate to Europe with her family.
“That’s how long I’m waiting just to be attended to. Then there will come other years until the documents are ready. Until then, our lives will be paralyzed,” lamented the Venezuelan-born Portuguese descendant.
Wednesday’s protest is scheduled from 09:00 to 13:00 Buenos Aires time (13:00 to 17:00 Lisbon time), exactly the four hours of public attendance that the consulate dedicates daily. It will be the third protest this month, the fourth since the modality began last year.
In none of them, the protesters were able to speak directly with Ambassador Jose Ludovice.
“People are angry and desperate. It would be nice if we could talk directly to the ambassador to try to sensitize him and for him to show some empathy. We know that the diplomats don’t like our pressure, but we have no choice but to insist because we need the documentation,” Gabriel de Sousa, 23, added to Lusa.
The Lusodescendant has been trying to renew his citizen card and passport for three years. His father and two brothers are in the same situation.
In June, Gabriel de Sousa was supposed to be in Europe for a job.
“I missed that job opportunity. In addition, my grandparents from Madeira have passed away. We need to travel to resolve legal inheritance issues, but we can’t. We are stuck,” criticized Sousa.
The service at the consulate depends on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ ‘online’ scheduling system. Every three months, the appointment is reopened, but the “Buenos Aires consulate” option always responds with the warning: “Currently, there are no vacancies available. Please try again later”.
The protesters intend to hand out a new list with 110 people who have been seeking assistance for years. The list has been growing as people find out about the initiative. During the past week, for example, other groups that were articulating through social networks with the same problem got in touch. The organizers believe that, throughout Argentina, thousands of people are seeking assistance.
The Portuguese wrote a letter to the consular section with four demands: “A better treatment and more effective answers”, because they claim that e-mails, phone calls and attempts to attend in person are not answered, “A web page that works”, “That the right to documentation is fulfilled”, and “That the disabled, elderly and those living in the interior of the country have quick answers”.
They point out that, by order of Ambassador José Ludovice, the embassy refused to sign and stamp the letter unless they added a fifth demand: an increase in staff at the Portuguese embassy to increase the speed of service to the public.
The protesters have been caught in the middle of a blame game between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Portuguese Embassy in Argentina.
By writing a complaint to the Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Lusodescendants receive as a protocol response from the Directorate of Services of Consular Administration and Protection: “It is informed that due note was taken that was forwarded to the Consular Section Embassy of Portugal in Buenos Aires for clarification.
Contacted by Lusa, the Embassy of Portugal claimed not to have authorization from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide statements.
Extra-official information given to the protesters argued that the consular section “works with a reduced staff while the requests for appointments are significantly higher.
There are only three people for attendance. A fourth person began receiving training last week.
The embassy authorities hope to make the Minister of the Presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva, who will be in Buenos Aires between June 8 and 11, aware of the need to reinforce the staff.
Argentina has received about 200 thousand Venezuelans in recent years as a consequence of the crisis caused by Nicolás Maduro’s regime. Part of this immigration is of Lusodescendants seeking care.
On the other hand, the country has the largest Jewish community in Latin America, with about 200,000 members, of which between 40,000 and 70,000 are Sephardim, some of whom want Portuguese nationality.
At the same time, Argentina is experiencing a profound economic crisis that has led Portuguese descendants to seek Portuguese nationality as a way to emigrate to Europe.
To the Venezuelans, the Portuguese Embassy told them to solve their case in Venezuela because the priority in Argentina is for the naturals.
“I feel marginalized because they violate my right to identity and I feel like a prisoner with my hands tied losing opportunities because I am denied assistance. I wish a better life for my family, especially for my daughter, but they demean us doubly because we come from Venezuela,” Stefanny vented.