“We are Always after Dialogue and Getting Consensus not Confrontation” Underlines Brazilian Ambassador to Iran

 “We are Always after Dialogue and Getting Consensus not Confrontation” Underlines Brazilian Ambassador to Iran

Brazil is the biggest Portuguese-speaking country in the world, in addition, Brazil has one of the most multicultural and diversified societies due to the extensive immigration from various parts of the world, and it shares borders with Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, Suriname, and Guyana. This country also has a diverse range of wildlife, ecosystems and natural resources in protected habitats. Brazil is mentioned as an emerging world power and a potential superpower. Brazil’s nominal GDP in 2020 was the 12th largest GDP in the world and it was 8th in regard with purchasing power parity (PPP). In order to review the bilateral relations between Iran and Brazil, on the last day of the Brazilian ambassador’s stay in Tehran, we had an opportunity to have an interview with him, which you will read in the following.

AVA Diplomatic’s Exclusive Interview with

Mr. Laudemar Gonçalves de Aguiar Neto, Brazil’s Ambassador to Iran

From the time Your Excellency presented the copy of your credentials to Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran on 14th of March 2021, until today, which is the end of your mission in Tehran, what are your most important achievements?

In fact, it is my last day in Tehran. I am traveling tonight back to Brazil. I think there is not one single achievement. What I think is that I continued the work of my predecessors. With very good relations with the government officials, the private sector and the business sector, we managed to continue increasing and diversifying relations with Iran.

What is important to say is that this year we are celebrating the 120th anniversary of uninterrupted bilateral relations between Brazil and Iran.  During all this time, we have always had a very pragmatic mutually respected relationship with Iran. Even during the sanctions, we did not turn our back to Iran and I think Iran values the fact that we have this posture.

At the vote of confidence session held in the Foreign Relations Committee of the Federal Senate of Brazil, Your Excellency referred to the development of business relations with Iran and issues of human rights as the priorities of your mission. To what extent have you achieved your desired priorities?

Well, I don’t like to talk about the achievements. I think it is always a team work, not only by me but by the Embassy and my staff, as well as our Foreign Ministry. Other ministries in Brazil and the business communities are involved too. On the Iranian side, it is also Iran’s Embassy in Brazil, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad, parliamentarians and others. We achieved together. All organizations and entities and people involved in our bilateral relations, it was a collective effort.

What is the latest trade statistics between Iran and Brazil in terms of volume and dollar value?

I am very glad to see that our exports to Iran was more than doubled last year. In 2021, the direct bilateral trade was 1.9 billion dollars. Last year, our trade increased to 4.2 billion dollars. 95 percent of the bilateral trade is in favor of Brazil. If we count the indirect trade via third countries like Turkiye, Oman, UAE, even Switzerland, our trade could reach more than 7 billion dollars last year. Of course, these results have to do also with the conflict in Ukraine and the raise in the price of commodities, petrochemicals and so on. However, even discounting this raise in the prices, we had a real increase of around 50 percent in our exports in terms of volume.

We know that it may not happen every year but we hope that there will be an agreement either on JCPOA or any other deal that would lift at least part of the unilateral sanctions from the United States, so that we can trade and cooperate in several other sectors. There is so much from Iran to Brazil and from Brazil to Iran that we can trade, but nowadays it is impossible due to the sanctions.

Can the interim agreement which is being pursued by Iran and the United States as well as the European countries affect the relations between Iran and Brazil?

Absolutely. There are many sectors that we cannot trade with Iran because of secondary sanctions from the United States. Once those sanctions are lifted, not only Brazil but all partners of Iran will be able to trade in many other areas and sectors. That’s what we are hoping for.

Not only in terms of products and sectors but also in terms of price, things will change. We are not very close to each other, yet, we have this kind of trade. If flight prices go down or if we can establish direct maritime lines or direct flights between Brazil and Iran which we are prevented from doing now because we cannot refuel your aircrafts or ships, the prices would reduce for sure. So, we really hope that you reach an agreement because it will favor not only Iran but also all Iran’s partners, like Brazil.

Recently, a Brazilian soybean cargo has been unloaded in Iran’s Imam Khomeini port. This is while you have just mentioned there is no maritime line between the two countries. Would you elaborate on that?

There is of course, but not a regular direct line. I mean some shipments are direct when we have barter trade and so on but most of what we have is indirect. It goes to other countries before coming to Iran and goes from Iran to other countries like UAE or Oman before coming to Brazil.

Can you comment on the issue of Human Rights in Iran?

You mentioned human rights. Our foreign policy is not based on ideology but on historical principles. There was, of course, some changes during the last government. Even during that time, despite ideological differences, relations with Iran remained very pragmatic.

The most important example is the visit of the former minister of agriculture to Iran, Ms. Tereza Cristina, in February last year. That was the first high level authority on ministerial level that came to Iran since 2018.

Let me come back to human rights that you mentioned. As we have a foreign policy based on principles, we don’t target or we don’t deal with countries specifically. We usually deal with the global issues of human rights and defending wholistic principles of human rights in international organizations and agencies.

Of course, Brazil and Iran don’t agree on every single issue on the human rights agenda, or other issues that you may mention, as we don’t agree a hundred percent with any other country.

Would you possibly point out what topics the two countries do not agree upon?

I’d like to talk about principles. We would never finger point Iran or any other country on human rights. We talk about human rights in the United Nations agencies that deal with human rights. Within those agencies, we will defend our historical positions on human rights. However, we will never accept or we will never vote for expulsion of countries from the Human Rights Council, the Council for Women’s Rights and so on, as we haven’t done it in the case of Russia and the case of Iran. Even if we disagree on specific subjects or events, we think that international organizations are made to discuss and try to find consensus and try to bring countries on specific issues closer to our position.

I’ll give an example on human rights which you asked. Brazil is against death penalty. We don’t have capital punishment in Brazil. And we defend in international organizations and the Human Rights Council that there should be no capital punishment in any country in the world. Iran has a different position. It’s not only Iran but there are dozens of countries that apply capital punishment in their countries. It is normal in their legal system; like in Iran, like in China and like in the United States. For different reasons they apply the death penalty but Brazil would never join any resolution or any initiative to condemn Iran or China or the United States for capital punishment. We will wok diplomatically and try to convince Iran, China, the United States and all countries not to have capital punishment anymore.

We are always after dialogue and getting consensus not confrontation. For us, multilateralism is a pillar of our foreign policy. It’s a level where diplomacy has to work to obtain progress on different areas. If we don’t have different countries, different governments with different positions in international organizations, then why do we have international organizations. Otherwise that would be a like-minded club. That is not what multilateralism is all about.

Let’s come back to the relations with Iran. It is the same policy that Brazil apply to any other country which we have diplomatic relations with. Our disagreements on certain issues, like the capital punishment, do not prevent us from finding common grounds in other areas. So, that’s what we do in Brazil: we try to discuss the areas we don’t agree on, and we try to find consensus on areas that we might agree upon.

The Embassy of Brazil in Iran grants free humanitarian visas to Afghan citizens. Is there a limited number for issuing this humanitarian visa?

In Brazil, when dealing with a humanitarian emergency, we don’t work with numbers and limits. We deal with specific humanitarian situations and crises, depending on each country and its situation and on the capacity of Brazil to receive people on humanitarian grounds.

We have a state, not a government policy, in Brazil on granting visas on humanitarian grounds in specific humanitarian crisis .According to our capabilities we have received and still receive people from Haiti, Venezuela, Bolivia, from African countries like Angola, from the Middle East, like Syria, recently from Afghanistan, and from Ukraine .In each situation we try to help people in need depending on our capabilities at the moment.

How many humanitarian visas has the Brazilian Embassy in Tehran issued to Afghan citizens in the past year?

I can tell you roughly that, since the Taliban took power, we have interviewed more than eight thousand Afghan people. We have granted almost five thousand visas and we still have around two thousand visas to be granted or being processed in Brazil. We are a small embassy and even with support of the staff coming from Brasilia, it is still very hard to do this work and I’ll explain you why.

According to the decree that was issued when the Taliban took power, we should receive any Afghan who addresses us for the interviews. So, from January to middle June 2022, we had more than eleven thousand Afghan that asked for interviews and visas. When we received this number, we got very worried because the possibility of processing and receiving those people was limited even with more people. We started to receive thirty to fifty families a day; at least four days a week.

When the number reached eleven thousand, we decided to stop receiving new requests until we could interview all those families that have requested before. All the people that requested visas received an automatic answer asking them to wait until we could interview all those eleven thousand people. After that eleven thousand, we had a further forty thousand requests which we didn’t accept until we could finish the former ones. After receiving more than eight thousand people, the ones that we are interviewing today have submitted their requests in March last year. So it took us more than a year until we could receive people for interviews. After that, we still have to process their requests and wait for their visa approval to come from Brazil. So the process is very lengthy, as there are so many people applying for this visa.

Now, as far as I am aware, Brazil is the only country in Iran that gives this visa openly. I mean we don’t pick this or that group. The problem we have is that there is no other Embassy granting visas like what we do. Maybe they are giving to one group or another specific person who worked for that country. And we have to do it in chronological order. With a few exceptions that I am not going to mention, we cannot interview someone who is in front of the Embassy today because we still have to interview someone who requested in March last year. And that is the problem we have in front of the Embassy, as the applicants don’t know that or they believe that if they stay in front of the Embassy, they will be interviewed earlier. We have this story every day. Sometimes more than two hundred people are in front of the embassy that want to be interviewed but they will not be interviewed because we have the list of the people according to the date that they have sent their request.

Some countries like Canada and Australia grant humanitarian visas to Iranian citizens. Is this in the agenda of the Brazilian government and embassy too? 

Of course not. We don’t think that Iran is in a humanitarian crisis that would justify us giving humanitarian visas to Iranians. Maybe those countries are giving visas for specific reasons or for specific professions, I don’t know, but we are not. Yet we give tourist visas, student visas and business visas to Iranians as fast as we can. If there are not visas to be issued to Afghans, it is done very quickly.

To finish this subject about Afghans, I have to mention that not only me but even UNHCR has applauded the policy of the Iranian government to receive Afghan people. Now there are more than five million Afghan refugees here in Iran legally or illegally with very little support from the international community and international organizations. Without a single doubt, Iran is one of the countries that best receives refugees in its territories. So we have to praise Iran for its humanitarian stance toward Afghan people.

With five million refugees here and the humanitarian crisis that they face in Afghanistan, it`s easy to understand why we have so many Afghans in front of our Embassy every day. Of course we are aware of the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and we show our solidarity by granting them humanitarian visas, though, we will never be able to give millions of visas for Afghan refugees. There are five Brazilian embassies in different countries that grant humanitarian visas but the main ones are here in Tehran and in Islamabad.

How many tourist and business visas has the Brazilian embassy in Tehran issued to the Iranians in the past year?

The number of visas is still very little. We must know each other better. Because of the distance between Brazil and Iran, people usually prefer to go to closer places. Last year only in Nowruz, we had more than a thousand Iranians that went to Brazil. This year, because of the air ticket prices, we had 551 during this month. There are no more than two thousand Iranians visiting Brazil every year, which is very little.

China and Brazil have recently agreed on putting aside dollar in their trade. Is there such a will in Brazil to abandon dollar in trade with Iran?

We haven’t put aside the dollar. It is still under negotiation but I think it’s a possibility. It’s a worldwide trend to try to have other currencies as well as the dollar because of the geopolitical environment. This is not happening only today. This has been going on for several years. Now we have other countries that have become more important in economics like China and India. I think more and more there will be different ways of trading and payment, especially because of the way the United States imposes sanctions on different countries.

The present government of Brazil refused to sign the statement condemning the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and announce we would not go along with the United States. It seems that president da Silva has entered into confrontation with U.S. on international issues such as Russia-Ukraine war.

Not at all. Again I say our foreign policy is based on principles. We didn’t support the expulsion of Russia from the Human Rights Council, on the other hand we condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in the United Nations Security Council. So, our positions are principled. We are against the breach of the international law by invading other countries. We favor territorial integrity of all countries but at the same time we are against unilateral sanctions and movements to expel countries from international organizations.

Just to finish, we seek dialogue. We think this conflict has to end and the parties should come to consensus about this conflict that only hurts people and is the root of a huge humanitarian crisis, as you know. We are against the invasion of any country by any country. We only accept decisions made by the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council because we are part of the United Nations and should abide the decisions of Security Council and the General Assembly.

Is the end of the war between Russia and Ukraine predictable? Will we witness a tedious war? What is your analysis?

I think you should ask president Putin, the president of Ukraine and all the countries involved in the negotiations. There is no futurology in international relations. Nobody predicted the falling of Berlin Wall until it fell.

Likewise, no one predicted that Finland, which has border with Russia, would become a NATO member while Russia was trying to keep NATO away from its boarders by attacking Ukraine.

Yes, and maybe Sweden joins NATO as well.

Yes, that’s right. Sweden is also pursuing the process of joining NATO, and of course, it should get the support of Turkiye. 

Yes, that’s because of some organizations in Sweden, which Turkiye has listed as terrorist.

In the meetings with the Iranian officials, Your Excellency has emphasized on the importance of food diplomacy. Is there a concrete program between the two countries in this regard?

What we have is the international food diplomacy of Brazil. It is not only about Iran. We feed around one billion people around the world with our commodities. One of the worries of Brazil, and especially this government, is food security. If we can help and support other countries to reduce food insecurity, and to have international arrangements, like in FAO or other organizations, to reduce hunger and food insecurity in the world, Brazil will be part of it. You know that with the war in Ukraine, we have now more food insecurity and more energy insecurity. They are related.

Developing countries have been touched more than developed countries. Several countries, like Yemen, are facing severe shortages of food because of this conflict. So countries and governments should pay attention to the consequences of their policies because more and more those consequences are global.

Can Brazil fill the gap of Ukraine in providing world food security?

Not filling the gap because we don’t produce all the products that other countries produce. For instance, Russia and Ukraine produce wheat as their main commodities while we don’t produce enough wheat and import it. So, that depends on the product and on our production capacity which, of course, relies on the climate, investments, prices and so on.

Ukraine was also one of the biggest corn producers in the world, and now the stability of this market has also been disrupted.

We produce corn too and we are the second or third biggest corn producer in the world.

Let us talk about the scientific and academic cooperation between Iran and Brazil. How many Iranian students are studying in Brazil? What is the status of academic cooperation between the two countries?

We do receive students from Iran especially in higher education in engineering, but their number is very limited. And here Brazilian students can be counted with one hand. Because of the presidential campaign last year and the change of government, unfortunately things went more slowly than I thought but we had contacts with several universities like University of Tehran, Allameh Tabataba’i University, University of Kashan and Ahlul Bayt University. I also went to Qom where some Brazilian students study religion. We really need to increase this exchange.

The main barrier between Brazil and Iran, I don’t think is the distance. It is lack of knowledge of each country. Being very simplistic to put this, it’s just like most Brazilians think that you are riding camels in the deserts because they don’t know the difference between the countries in the Middle East. In the same way, maybe you think that we are only in carnivals and in the beaches playing soccer and there is the Amazon but you don’t know the diversity in Brazil and think all Latin America is the same which is not. Even within Iran and within Brazil, we are so diverse. That lack of knowledge needs to be shortened.

We have so much to offer to each other in terms of sports and in terms of culture. You have at least six thousand years of civilization which we don’t or maybe we do. Before the Europeans came, we had indigenous people. We have so much to share and to exchange in the academic and cultural fields, as well as sports. We have several Brazilian football players here and also coaches here in Iran. Let’s try to take advantage of 120 years of relations to show more of each country.

I am sure my successor will continue all the work me and my predecessors have developed here and will work closely with the Embassy of Iran in Brazil and the authorities here. I hope my successor would be here by 16th of June when we actually celebrate 120 years of bilateral relations. I am sure, he will be very happy and have a very positive impression of Iran when he arrives. I don’t know any person, diplomats or tourists that came to Iran and was not positively surprised by your country. Everybody who leaves Iran, leaves sad because the experience has been so good for us and especially because of your people. You have a wonderful and kind people. Iranian people are very welcoming to foreigners.

I want to finish my interview by saying Abadan Brezilete! (Abadan is/is your Brazil)!


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