Georgians and Brazilians – Both fond of Football, Music and Parties
03 May, 2012
Georgians and Brazilians – Both fond of Football, Music and Parties

Interview with the Ambassador of Federative Republic of Brazil to Georgia

This is Brazil. No, your eyes are not cheating you – her majesty Brazil. This is a real exclusive, as nobody has ever imagined that in Georgia such embassy exists. Georgian Journal actually discovered this pleasant fact some four or five months ago. However, due to the rather specific agenda of H.E. Carlos Alberto Asfora, as specific as his homeland, we have not been able to meet until now. Everything

is different as far as South America is concerned – and soon there will be a year’s anniversary of opening of the first embassy ever from Latin America.

 

G.J:  How was the embassy opened in Georgia?

C.A: We have had diplomatic relations for 19 years now. Next year, 2013, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. It was initiated by our missions in New York City, at the UN, where all the diplomatic relations get started, however, without having a resident ambassador. We had very good contacts in New York and in other international organizations. After so many years, we decided to open resident embassies in each other’s countries and Georgia took the first step and opened the Georgian Embassy in Brasilia, capital of Brazil in 2010. Of course, Brazil wanted to reciprocate the gesture. As Georgia plays a key role regionally, we found it important to have an embassy here. Brazil has experienced lots of changes in the last couple of decades. We lived through the military dictatorship between the mid 60s and 80s and after Brazil became a democracy again, the country went through a period of let’s call it ‘soul-searching’. We experienced problems like high inflation, and finally, around the mid-90s, we managed to stabilize our currency, our economy. Since then, Brazil has experienced a very impressive economic growth. And this has led to a further broadening of Brazil`s presence on the world scene, with a bigger role on the world scene in the last several years than we used to. This is partly due to the exponential growth of our economy. Nowadays, in terms of gross national product, Brazil is number 6 in the world, that is we have the 6th largest GDP. Along with this bigger economic presence, we felt that our country needs to be more represented overseas. We have a long tradition of diplomacy. Brazil has had a professional diplomatic service for a long time. We have a Diplomatic Academy since after World War Two, which is quite well reputed internationally, and all our ambassadors and diplomats are career diplomats. Brazil has had a good diplomatic representation overseas. But in the last few years, we felt it necessary to expand our presence, also because the world changed. Georgia is an example of one among so many countries that as a young nation became independent a bit more than 20 years ago. Likewise, there are some other countries in which we have to define our presence.

G.J: How can you sum up your first year in Georgia?

C.A: This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We are starting to establish very solid channels of cooperation. We had the honor to receive last week in Brazil Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri, who was the first head of government from Georgia to visit our country. He was in Brasilia but also in Sao Paulo, our biggest and most important city, and had high-level meetings in both places. In June, we expect His Excellency President Saakashvili to go to Rio de Janeiro to participate in the UN conference Rio+20. It’s a conference about the environment that will go further from the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development held in Rio. This year, we are celebrating its 20th anniversary and we expect lots of heads of states to be present. President Saakashvili has confirmed that he will grace the occasion with his presence. Before Mr. Gilauri’s visit, we had the honor to receive your foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze.  He speaks perfect Portuguese so he had a very good visit and there seemed to be a very easy relationship between him and our Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota. Both visits (of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister) were very successful.

G.J: Did you have any information before coming to this country?

C:A: I consulted all the information that we had in our ministry because our embassy in Ankara was in charge of relations with Georgia before I came. But in the Spring of 2011, the Georgian government invited the Brazilian representative at the United Nations, in New York to visit Georgia. She happens to be a friend of mine. After she went back from Tbilisi to New York, she called me because she knew that I was going to be an ambassador here. She told me: ‘You will love it, it’s a beautiful place”. She spent one hour on the phone telling me about Georgia, Tbilisi. She really gave me a lot of information. But I also bought some tourist books. I was posted in The Hague, Holland, before. I had the English-language and French language guidebooks, because my son lives in France. When I lived in Holland, I often spent weekends in Paris with him and I could get some guides. So, I read a lot about Georgia. Of course, it has such a long history it’s very difficult to memorize everything but it’s a fascinating history too. So, I knew a little about the country when I came here.

G.J: What can you say about this country as a person and as a diplomat?

C.A: The characteristic that impressed me most both as a person and as a diplomat it’s how people are helpful and friendly. People are friendly and helpful on my everyday life but also on the official level – the Georgian government was always very helpful and very quick to everything I needed. It’s really amazing. I have served in many other countries. My first post was in the Brazilian mission to UNESCO in Paris. Then I went to Mexico City, then to New Delhi, then, The Hague, Beijing China, then Santiago Chile, then back to The Hague, Netherlands and then Tbilisi. So, I had many different experiences and I’m sure that in Georgia people are the most helpful of them all – it’s really outstanding how nice people can be in this country. Actually, I find many common traits between Georgians and Brazilians. Georgians like to be informal, Brazilians too, they are both fond of music, Georgians like football and Brazilians also like football, it’s easy to find connections between the two nations. They are both open-hearted, they like to party, we have many things in common.

G.J: Brazil is known as a tropical country. How did you get accustomed to the Georgian climate?

C.A: Well, I like the idea of having four seasons, because in my home town – Recife we only have two seasons – summer and winter. What we call the winter, it’s the rainy season. But in Brasilia, the capital, the rainy season is in the summer (note: what a surprise!), and the winter is the dry season and it gets very dry. Each region has its own microclimate. But usually, we don’t have four seasons. But I have to say that if I have to choose between hot and cold, I choose hot. I don’t like snow so much. In my hometown the average temperature is 28degrees. Though, I must tell you that Brazil is a huge country and there are some small areas where we have low temperatures and the occasional snowfall in winter.

G.J: Unfortunately, I haven’t tasted anything from your cooking but I guess your dishes will be very interesting and distinctive. What can you say about the Georgian cuisine in relation to Brazilian?

C.A: We do have common things that we both like. For instance, it’s very easy for Brazilians to like Khachapuri because the cheese that is used for the latter is not very different from a type of cheese that is made in my region. In Brazil, we eat lots of beans and you too. Of course, you have your own specialities and we too, but it’s not so exotic for me, like in China for instance, where I ate Scorpions.

G.J: What about the Georgian culture?

C.A: We are planning to organize the Georgian cultural days in Brazil that will be followed by the Brazilian cultural days in Georgia. You have a very nice ambassador in Brazil who is organizing those days. I saw some Georgian cultural expressions last year when I was in Holland. The First Lady of Georgia, Mrs. Sandra Roelofs, visited Holland for the 20th anniversary of Independence of Georgia and in that period the Georgian embassy in The Hague organized some cultural events and I was really enchanted about the dance and singing – it was absolutely beautiful. I hope that when they go to Brazil there will be a big success.

G.J: Your one ordinary day?

C.A: I come to the embassy and sometimes I have meetings, sometimes we have delegations visiting. For instance, last week, there was a Brazilian delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture and Brazilian Agricultural Research Institute. They came to Georgia to establish a cooperation program with the Georgian authorities. Sometimes we have visitors from Brazil, sometimes we have just a routine work in the embassy and of course I also have very good contacts with the colleagues in the diplomatic corps. Every once in a while I meet with another colleague from another embassy – it’s always good to exchange views and to be in touch.

G.J: How do you spend your leisure?

C.A: I tend to stay home a lot. I play guitar and sing. I live alone as my wife had a health problem and she is recovering in Brazil. Right now my son is here visiting me with his wife and some friends. I watch DVDs and listen to music. Sometimes I go out for dinner. There are so many good restaurants in Tbilisi. I go there with Georgian and foreign friends.

G.J: What can you say about the Georgian political culture?

C.A: I am observing. I am a newcomer, so I don’t have very clear ideas. I don’t want to make hasty judgments. I prefer to get to know the country better.

G.J: And media?

C.A: You are actually my first interviewer. I am following the news through the English-language media.

G.J: Have you heard of the event organized by Georgian Journal called ‘Ambassador of the Year’? What is your opinion about it?

C.A: I remember. The American Ambassador to Georgia was the winner. He is a good friend. I don’t remember having seen this kind of event in other countries but I think it’s an interesting idea and that will give us – ambassadors – an extra reason to try to do a good job.

G.J: I am not a big fan of soap operas. However, I know that Brazilian ones are much more interesting and less absurd than others. Do you think that the soap operas that are world-known are realistic expressions of the Brazilian character?

C.A: Well, there is a lot of imagination but there is a connection to real life too. Brazil achieved a higher level of soap operas. I would say it’s the most accomplished popular art form in Brazil because we make movies too and theatrical plays but soap operas have achieved such a wide audience all over the world that they became probably the number one Brazilian cultural product. It’s something that we cannot run away from. Because most of the soap operas are shown in the evening, many husbands watch them too in Brazil. I personally am not a television person and I never was. But my wife is. Many people are like that – they are connected to the TV.

There is one thing that might interest your readers –Visas. When Foreign Minister Vashadze visited Brazil, Georgia and Brazil signed an agreement to eliminate the need for visas for diplomatic and official passports. So, nowadays, they are visa-free. We also signed an agreement to eliminate the need for visas for tourists but it’s not in force yet, it’s being still examined by the Brazilian Parliament. We hope soon to have it implemented.

 

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