This is not a new story. Brazil has been here before. International
organizations in which the country
is member are not being paid.
Rentals of overseas offices are not being paid on time and
bills payments are late. Brazilian diplomats serving
around the world are also getting their
The lack of money is putting Brazil in a very delicate position before several international organizations in which the
country is a member. The Brazilian government is about to be barred from voting in places like the UN, International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA), and International Labor Organization (ILO) for not paying its dues. Consular personnel all over the
world have been subject to all kinds of embarrassing situations and some live under the threat of being evicted from their
houses or offices, again for lack of payment.
Brazil’s largest daily, Folha de S.
Paulo, has revealed that the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, known as Itamaraty,
asked for 800 million reais (266 million dollars) from the government to pay outstanding bills throughout the world, but
received only 196 million reais (65 million dollars). Without money there is nothing Foreign Minister Celso Amorim can do.
The Brazilian government owes UN and its organs about US$ 200 million. US$ 2.5 million are owed to the
International Atomic Energy Agency and another US$ 3.5 million to the International Labor Organization. The debt to UN proper is
around US$ 100 million. The minimum Brasília has to pay to avoid the humiliation of not being allowed to vote in that
organization is US$ 20 million. Apparently, that’s what the Itamaraty intends to do, postponing the rest of the debt for God knows when.
There is not enough money either to pay the rent of consular buildings in big capitals like Tokyo, Rome and Paris.
The money is also too short to pay the costs of water, power and telephone. In New York, money is lacking to settle rental
bills for the consulate and Brazil’s UN office. The debts with these contracts alone have already reached US$ 5 million,
according to Folha.
Late payment of salaries to consular workers serving overseas has become routine and there is the fear that some
staff could complain to the local labor authorities or go to the courts complicating even more an already thorny situation.
Supplementary payment like housing-aid and moving-aid, given to consular personnel to help them with expenses with new
residences, are not being made. It’s estimated that the Itamaraty owes its overseas workers US$ 130 million for 4 months of
This aid is supposed to cover up to 80 percent of the expenses incurred with rent. In practice a secretary, the first
rung in the diplomatic career, with wife and a child gets up to US$ 400 a months for rental if he lives in Canada and US$ 300
when living in Paraguay.
According to Folha, the Itamaraty Palace in Brasília, the Foreign Ministry headquarters, has been flooded with
SOS messages from ambassadors serving all around the world. But it was the
Correio Braziliense, a daily from Brasília, that
revealed that, in October, Luiz Augusto de Castro Neves, Brazilian ambassador to Paraguay sent a note complaining that
telephone calls and rented cars used during President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s visit to that country had not been paid. The
presidential visit was in August. Castro Neves informed that some firms were threatening to go to court to get the money. The whole
of the debt? A mere US$ 5,000.
There are 1067 diplomats working at Itamaraty: 536 are secretaries, (third, second and first secretaries), 223 are
counselors, 152 are ministers and 156 are ambassadors. There are still a staff of 1400 officers and aides who live overseas or
are constantly traveling to foreign lands.
A minister, a position just below that of an ambassador, makes US$ 11,000 a month in Madrid, Lisbon, Rome,
London and Paris. Not too much when you have to use this money for rental, clothes and parties. According to a diplomat
serving in Europe, a married diplomat who has a couple of children needs to live in a tree-bedroom apartment. The rent, in this
case, is around US$ 5,500 when power, water and telephone are included. The diplomat’s spouse cannot work in a foreign country.
From this salary also comes the money to pay for the car and an expensive insurance. Diplomats are not allowed to
bring their old car with them and since they are not permanent residents the insurance is way more expensive. Car expenses
might eat as much as US$ 2,000 a month. Adding to the burden is the fact that payments are made in dollars. Two years and a
half ago, 1 euro was worth 80 cents, but now you need US$ 1.20 to buy one euro.
The late payment of salaries for diplomats and consular personnel is not a new phenomenon. It happened before
during the Fernando Collor de Mello and the Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s administrations. The
Folha story, however, shows that Brazilian diplomats in Europe are barely surviving in the more expensive cities like Paris and London.
To make ends
meet, many of them are being forced to obtain personal loans from Banco do Brasil, the Brazilian government’s financial
institution. With growing debts, however, these envoys are being unable to repay their loans. In Paris, one diplomat has to
pay everything cash now. Due to late payments, though, he has already lost his credit cards and had his bank account closed.