To better link the Republic of Estonia with South Florida, the ministry of foreign affairs in the Northern European nation recently appointed an honorary consul for its new Miami office.
Jorge L. Viera, a retired executive from Northern Trust Bank and current member of the board of BAC Florida Bank, said his mission is simple: “Raise awareness of what each region can offer.”
“We want to promote Estonia and offer assistance to Estonians,” said Viera, who operates from an office in downtown Miami and is originally from Cuba.
The nation, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, is in the Baltic region and has a population of about 1.5 million, said Viera, who worked with Estonians in the banking industry.
He said Estonia is technologically advanced, citing the software for Skype, the video communication tool, being created in Tallinn, the capital.
“I don’t think people are aware of all of the good things in Estonia,” he said.
His appointment means he is confirmed by the U.S. State Department and Estonia to represent the nation. Unlike consul generals, honorary consuls are not employees of the government of the nation they are representing.
So far, Viera said the Miami office — officially dedicated late last month at a ceremony with Marina Kaljurand, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the United States, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Estonia’s Consul General in New York Sten Schwede — has been operating for a few months. The office has helped about 40 Estonians with document and passport issues.
While not entirely clear how many Estonians are living in South Florida, Viera said it is believed about 3,000 live in the region. He said having an office in South Florida — only the second in the state — gives Estonians an option for help without having to go to New York where the Consulate General of Estonia is located. The other Florida office is in St. Petersburg.
Evi Kallas, the secretary of Estonian National Association of South Florida, said having an honorary consulate is a welcome addition.
“Florida is a big state and there are quite a few Estonians here,” she said. “I think it’s a great idea to have some representation here.”
Kallas, whose husband Arno is the president of the club, which serves about 150 people, said “Estonians seem to hang together like a flock of birds.”
“We look for each other and try to help each other out,” she said.
Estonia joins several other nations that have honorary consulates in South Florida, including the Czech Republic, Guyana and Luxembourg. There are also several nations that have consulate generals in South Florida including the Bahamas, Brazil, Israel and Mexico.