December 2, 2010 — Brazil's minister-counselor to the United States told a University of Virginia audience on Wednesday that the recent release of more than 250,000 leaked U.S. embassy cables would have little effect on relations between the two countries.
Ernesto Araujo – who filled in when Brazilian ambassador Mauro Vieira had to travel home for business – told those gathered in the new Nau Hall auditorium that he found nothing surprising in the documents released by WikiLeaks.
"In diplomacy, we are all the time evaluating each other," Araujo said, adding. "Spying is not an uncommon occurrence."
Araujo was visiting the University as part of the Ambassadors' Speakers' Forum, a series presented by the Office of the Vice Provost for International Programs. Previous speakers this fall have included ambassadors from Iceland, the Netherlands and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Brazil's minister-counselor said it is important that diplomats have the opportunity to discuss bilateral relations in a private arena. "There was a conference in Colombia once; it was completely open to the public. In my point of view, it was a complete disaster," he said.
An embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks quotes former U.S. ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobel as saying a stronger Brazilian military would provide a more effective security partner to the United States. He also described as "white elephants" Brazil's efforts to build nuclear submarines.
Araujo says it's important that the people funding WikiLeaks be tracked down. "We need to know who finances WikiLeaks. If these guys think they are doing a service, I personally disagree," he said.
The Brazilian diplomat said U.S.-Brazilian relations are strong and have been from their inception. "From our point of view, the United States and Brazil see eye-to-eye," said Araujo, who noted that the U.S. was the first country to establish a consulate in Brazil in 1808.
Walt Whitman wrote a poem embracing Brazil in 1889, called "A Christmas Greeting from a Northern Star Group to a Southern." Araujo read the poem to the audience in its entirety, and said it is an example of the lasting bond between the northern and southern countries.
It begins with these words: "Welcome, Brazilian brother/Thy ample place is ready/A loving hand/a smile from the north/sunny instant hail!"