Monday, November 28, 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Journal Entry for October 23, 1999: Cabinet Visit, Meetings and Advocacy

The clouds and sun have been playing tag for most of the day, with rain every now and again signaling the score. I just came in from a dip in the pool and noticed the water is within inches of the top. (And I don’t know how to empty it.) The temperature must be in the high 70’s or maybe 80o. Not bad at all....

Had a good week. Secretary of Transport Rodney Slater visited. Very nice guy. I met his FAA N1 Gulf Stream at the airport and later went with his whole delegation to a churrascaria for dinner. Next day we did briefings in the Embassy, a lunch at a lakeside restaurant specializing in Bahian food and then meetings with the government, topped off by an encounter with President Cardoso. The Embassy handled the visit beautifully and we ended up at the gem and stone museum/shop on the TV tower. On Friday, we held a Principal Officers conference where our consul generals and consuls came to Brasilia for the day. In between, I met with representatives of Mattel Toys -- who want help lowering import barriers in Brazil -- and worked more on a nasty case of re-nationalization in which a state government is trying to remove U.S. shareholders of an energy company.

Meanwhile, the government here quickly granted agrement for a prospective new U.S. ambassador. There is a 50/50 chance, I’d guess, at his getting approved this year....

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

From the Journal Entry for October 10, 1999: Doing Business

Back in Brasilia. The weather was apparently very warm while I was away – up over 100 a couple of days – but has been okay since I got back, though a little warm during the heat of the day. The nights are still cool enough to sleep with just a fan and a dip in the pool – still a bit chilly – gets the old body temperature down nicely. But the rains have come and spring is springing. Everything is green again and the insects greet the rising and setting of the sun with a vigorous symphony that sounds like a huge collection of tiny buzz saws. Not unpleasurable, but loud enough to have waked me at 6:37 am (which must be sunrise today).

Had a busy week back. Getting through papers and issues that had collected while I was back in Washington. I had receptions and dinners every single night except Friday. On Wednesday, I hosted a large reception for the Russell 2020 group (they paid). This is a group of U.S. pension managers who together manage $2 trillion. Trillion. When they arrived at the ambassador’s residence for the reception, I was treated to shaking about 50 hands at once. They marched up with their name tags hanging from their necks with their first names boldly emblazoned on them. I had two “Charlie’s” in a row. The group is heavy enough into Brazil to have been somewhat dismayed at the decline of the local stock market over the last year. But being pension managers, they take the “long view” and have to put their money somewhere. I told Mr. Russell that I was a bit more conservative than that and would never put money into Brazil since I might not live long enough for the “long view” and didn’t have the nerves for the “overnight.”

At lunch the next day, the group was running a bit late. We had our fish, rice and veggie course, but not dessert or coffee. But they had to leave in five minutes, and so did I. Two minutes left and the waiters start bringing out new plates. I figured, ah, dessert. Turns out it was a next course of steak and potatoes. I thought we must be getting someone else’s lunch. Anyway, up we all jump and dash out to the total bewilderment of the Brazilian guests. God, I love Americans.

Had a nice dinner at the Bolivian ambassador’s on Thursday. Met the Israeli ambassador, who had to be physically separated from his wife by at least several feet to be able to get a word in edgewise. The week ended on Friday with my attending a graduation at the Federal Police Academy for a course given by the FBI. Actually, it didn’t end there since the deputy chief told me the police would be happy to take 15 Huey helicopters recently returned to us by the Mexicans. We then had to arrange a quick meeting to “talk turkey” and ready our request for Washington before the local four-day holiday set in. Speaking of which, I went to see Notting Hill with our USAID director last night. A funny movie and surprisingly good. Today, it’s another soccer game and tomorrow, me and a group of around 40 (!) from the embassy will swarm out to an otherwise lovely waterfall [see below].


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

From the Journal Entry of September 18, 1999

Hosted a very nice dinner for some diplomatic colleagues on Thursday. Good food and talk, plus cigars for the men (as the season’s first real rain fell). Everyone enjoyed it. The Argentine ambassador sent me an email “thank you” and a copy of a talk he gave to the Brazilian military. My reply follows: ”Thank you for sending me your palestra.  I agree that the chief challenge for all countries and regions is to deal with where we are in the present stage of capitalism. The 'wavefront' of this challenge is indeed to ensure that liberal democracy and the free market do not fail, to ensure that they can provide health, well-being and productive labor for the majority of the World’s people. The only way forward must be to ride this wave -- to 'surf' it -- in the absolute best way we can. Your point about Mercosur's market being too small for Brazil and Argentina to fight over is exactly right. Instead, the countries of Mercosur ought to be working together for more space in the global community. No country can hope for a better future until we all can become 'significant provinces of human civilization."

Tomorrow I go to Rio for three days, then later in the week back to Washington. I am finishing up my first three months here and I have accomplished my main objectives. I have largely stayed out of trouble and the Brazilians don’t hate me (a colleague from the Foreign Ministry told me yesterday, over drinks and steak, that Itamaraty thinks of me as part of their professional family). I have gotten a decent hand around the Mission, ahead of past problems (especially differences over our counter-narcotics cooperation) and we have had several successful VIP visits. If there is no sign of a new ambassador by the time I get back to Brasilia next month, I may start stepping out a bit more.