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Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Shut Down Key Posts

03/28/2017 - 12h35

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PATRÍCIA CAMPOS MELLO
FROM SÃO PAULO

Brazil's minister of foreign affairs initiated a process that will reduce the number of diplomats occupying so-called A posts, which are more coveted and expensive than the rest, such as the embassies in New York, London and Paris.

A memo addressed to embassies considered to have sufficient or even excessive diplomats working for them was sent out on Monday (27).

In it, the minister requests a report on all the employees working at each of these places, along with a detailed description of their duties.

Itamaraty, Brazil's ministry of foreign affairs, will use these reports to determine where cuts will be implemented.

According to the minister, too many diplomats are occupying positions at coveted embassies, while several so-called D posts, which are considered the hardest to manage, have many vacancies.

Such is the case of the Brazilian embassies in Freetown, the capital of Serra Leoa (Africa), Baghdad, in Iraq, and Pyongyang, in North Korea.

Upon taking office, the former foreign affairs minister José Serra requested that a study be conducted to look into the cost and performance of diplomatic posts that were inaugurated under the Lula administration (2003 - 2010) as well as the Dilma administration (2011 - 2016) so as to determine whether any of them should be shut down.

The embassies that were targeted were the ones that were created in recent years in Africa and in the Caribbean.

The creation of embassies and posts in poor countries - most of which were opened in Africa and the Caribbean - was one of Lula's trademarks.

Lula himself inaugurated 17 embassies and traveled to African countries on numerous occasions.

However, shutting down embassies also produces huge costs due to labor lawsuits and contract terminations, not to mention political costs.

Folha discovered that the plan to shut down diplomatic posts is being carried out slowly.

Diminishing the number of diplomats occupying A posts would be another way of making budget cuts in the ministry.

However, according to the ministry itself, these cuts have nothing to do with balancing the books, rather they are a form of balancing the number of diplomats both in Brazil and abroad.

Brasília has 70 vacant diplomatic posts, while filling D posts has been a chronic problem.

According to the current rules, if a diplomat has spent 3 years at an A post, such as Madrid, and another three years at a B post, such as Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia), the diplomat may apply for a C post.

However, according to the new rules, that same diplomat would be forced to occupy a D post or return to Brasília.

This new rule was not well-received by diplomats, who consider it a form of prohibiting professionals from occupying the most coveted posts.

According to the ministry, diplomats will not be forced to leave an A post before completing the normal period of time - which can last up to three years.

Changing such norms is a process that will take at least a couple of years to be implemented.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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