Piragibe Santos Tarragô

Canada recieves a new Brazilian ambassador.

By Sacha Vaz

Piragibe Santos Tarragô

Piragibe Santos Tarragô, the undersecretary for political affairs at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has just taken over the post of Brazilian Ambassador to Canada. Tarragô was approved by the senate committee on November 25th, 2010, but only arrived in Ottawa at the end of January. The new ambassador, a Gaúcho, born in Santiago, Rio Grande do Sul, has over 35 years experience in the Foreign Ministry. Below, is the interview granted by Tarragô to the Wave team.

 Share with us, the career trajectory that led you to the Brazilian Embassy in Canada?
Tarragô – I held various posts in my career, and I already have 35 years at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Itamaraty). I served in many embassies such as in Mozambique, New York, Ottawa, Geneva, Caracas and London. During this period I also had several stints in Brasilia working in different areas. This will be my second time in Ottawa; the first was between 1983 and 1985, acting as the First Secretary.

 What are the criteria adopted by the Senate at the time of nomination for office? Does it require specific training or recommendation?
Tarragô – The Senate considers the nomination of the President. They evaluate the curriculum of the professional and do some kind of diligence to ascertain whether the person is able to take office. The candidate goes through an interview at a meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee, and also makes a presentation on issues related to the new position. This is how the candidate is assessed.

 What exactly is the role of an ambassador? In what way does it differ from a consul? Is the appointment for a set period?
Tarragô – The Ambassador in Ottawa is the representative of the President with the Canadian Government. This is the role of ambassador – all communication that the Brazilian Government wants to send or receive from Canada, goes through the ambassadors. The ambassador assists, encourages and develops the relations between the two countries, so that there are benefits to both, in different areas such as trade, culture, science and technology, politics, cooperation in general, and tourism.

The consulates, though, operate closer to the Brazilian communities in Canada by supporting Brazilians who are visiting or residing in Canada, giving them every assistance, making sure they receive the necessary documents, maintaining contact with Brazil. Therefore, consulates take care of documents such passports, visas, powers of attorney, and notarizations.

There is no set period for the position. The Foreign Ministry’s practice is to alternate the posts. Overall, the ambassadors remain three to four years in each country. But they may stay longer or they may stay less, depending on the circumstances.

What kind of situations require the intervention and / or presence of an ambassador?
Tarragô – For instance, organizing a visit of the Brazilian President to Canada or the Canadian Prime Minister to Brazil. The embassy establishes the program of the visit, the contacts, schedules meetings and topics to be addressed. Politically, if there is any interest by both parties to discuss an international issue, the embassy also works to establish the necessary contacts.

In the event of trade frictions, for example, the disputes between Bombardier and Embraer, and the ban of Brazilian beef, does the embassy intervene?
Tarragô – The Embassy gets involved only in order to become better informed about the issues and objections made. The embassy gathers all the material on the subject and sends it to the relevant Brazilian authorities. In the case of trade, it could be sent first to Itamaraty which has an important commercial section, and then to other ministries, according to subject matter, such as Finance, Trade and Development, or Agriculture.

How do you see the evolution of the strategic partnership between Canada and Brazil?
Tarragô – I think there is a positive disposition of both Governments to move forward with this strategic partnership. A dialogue was created so that we could have this partnership in place, and we now have an open channel to discuss the interests of both countries. The prospects are good for Canada as they were since the beginning of the Lula government. Brazil has shown interest in building a more fruitful relationship.

 Currently, with the change of President, is there some change in planning with respect to Brazil/Canada relations? Is there any prospect of President Dilma visiting Canada?
Tarragô –The government of President Dilma will give continuity to the Lula government, because both belong to the same party, have the same political line and same world vision. So in terms of foreign policy, we have the same orientation. The new Brazilian Foreign Minister is Ambassador Antonio Patriota, former Secretary-General (equivalent to Deputy Minister) of Itamaraty. There have been no statements about new plans and goals for the foreign policy in Dilma Rousseff’s Government, but I believe there will not be any changes.

There is still no foreseen visit of President Dilma to Canada. She has just taken over the government and is in the process of getting to know the issues, so after that, she will be able to define her agenda.

 Recently, your predecessor, Paulo Cordeiro de Andrade Pinto, acknowledged that “we do not sell Brazil as we should.” What is your opinion on this?
Tarragô – Well, I do not know the exact context of the sentence, but I think he meant that we can improve even further and make our country better known by our partners in general. I agree with that statement!

 Up until a few months ago, Paul Hunt was the Canadian ambassador to Brazil and, recently, Jamal Khokhar took over the office. Have you ever met him, how is your relationship with him?
Tarragô – Yes, recently Ambassador Khokhar visited me in Brasilia, we had a long talk about relations between Brazil and Canada and about his appointment as ambassador to Brazil. We had a very good meeting, it was a nice visit with Ambassador Khokhar and I hope to maintain this good relationship during my sojourn in Canada.

 What are the main challenges you will face as a new Brazilian ambassador to Canada?
Tarragô – The biggest challenge I foresee is probably what Ambassador Paulo Cordeiro said, about making Brazil better known in Canada. I also think it will be challenging to make our relationship more fruitful in various fields. There is plenty to do in the commercial and cultural areas. I would like to encourage more Brazilian cultural events and improve the sale of our products. Tourism is another important area; I would like to arouse more interest in Canadians to travel to Brazil. The area of Canadian Science and Technology is vast, so we can also explore and obtain more partnerships and cooperation with Brazil. Finally, in education, we can also improve the exchange between Canadian and Brazilian universities. In the area of cooperation with third countries, we would like to develop with Canada, for example, joint projects to help Haiti put an end to the suffering of their people. There are a number of areas we can work on together and it’s obviously a great challenge!

 Please feel free to send a message to the Brazilian community in Canada.
Tarragô – I would like to salute the Brazilian community in Canada and to emphasize my willingness to maintain close contact with community representatives. The doors of the Brazilian Embassy in Ottawa will be open to receive them and we can discuss many subjects. I am a person open to hearing suggestions to further improve the good relationship between Brazil and Canada.