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Itamaraty | Bring Me The Head of Eduardo Saboia?

Roger Pinto

Bolvian Senator Roger Pinto: Fugitive or refugee?

Source:  Jornal do Brasil

The plot so far: In a unilateral gambit that angered Brazilian political leadership, career diplomat Eduardo Saboia arranged diplomatic asylum for a dissident Bolivian senator charged in multiple corruption cases in his native land.

After harboring the senator for 455 days in the Brazilian mission in La Paz, Saboia took the risky step of spiriting the would-be exile and political prisoner away without obtaining the necessary safe-conduct document.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patriota, was immediately fired.

This week, Saboia will be subject to disciplinary proceedings. He has requested Cablegate access to diplomatic communications on the case.

The diplomat’s request for access to the diplomatic memoranda exchanged between the Brazilian embassy in Bolivia, the Braziian foreign service and the presidency of the Republic, has not yet been honored by the commission appointed to judge him. The request was submitted four days ago. Ophir says the objective of opening these documents is to show that Saboia “did not disrespect hierarchy.”

[The defense also requested] all of the diplomatic telegrams on the matter — between May 28, 2012, when Pinto Molina sought asylum, to August 24, when he arrived in Brazil. Saboia’s defense says the diplomate has already related in detail what took place in the matter of the Bolivian senator.

On August 28, the disciplinary hearing was instituted.  …

Pinto Molina was transported out of Bolivia in an operation organized by Saboia, unleashing a diplomatic crisis. Brazil’s top diplomat at the time, Antonio Patriota, was replaced by Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado. In June 2012, Brazil granted Pinto diplomatic asylum, but the Bolivian government refused to issue the safe-conduct that would allow him to leave the country.

In Brazil for 13 days now, Pinto Molina spent 455 days in the La Paz embassy. The Morales government calls him “a common criminal.”  The senator denies accusations of misappropriation of funds and corrution. In all, he faces more than 20 prosecutions.

A high-ranking Bolivian diplomatic mission comprising three cabinet ministers and representatives of the prosector’s office are in Brasília today to discuss legal proceedings involving Molina.


Zero Hora provides a more detailed summary of a case that has “polarized opinion,” with links to a social network campaign supporting the beleagured diplomat.

Much more than a mere crises, here in Rio Grande do Sul we are living through a moment of what in common parlance is known as “Fla-Fluism” — an intense polarization.

The focus of the controversy that is dividing diplomats has an identifiable name, age, and profession, but faces an uncertain future: diplomat Eduardo Saboia, 46, who faces an internal disciplinary proceeding.

What did Saboia do? He brought opposition senator Roger Pinto out of Bolívia, supposedly without informing his superiors.

Pinto had spent a year and three months inside the Braziian embassy in La Paz. He covered 1,600 km in 22 hours in order to arrive in Brazil, where he intends to seek asylum and to  live with his family, which have now arrived in Brasileia (AC). He is the defendant in 20 criminal cases, including corruption and even homicide, in his native  Bolivias. Another disquieting fact for authorities are his accusation that the government has ties to the narcotraffic.

Pinto says he is the object of politial persecution.

The episode lends itself to the division of opinion. The first to arise was: “Is Pinto a fugitive or a refugee?”

Bolívia says he is a fugitive. Brazilian officials are studying the case to establish the most appropriate status.

The other focuses on the Brazilian diplomat. Fellow diplomats even make jokes about his change of name, which anticipated the orthographic reform by removing the accent over the o — just as he anticipated the indifference of Brazilian diplomacy.

That is a difficult joke to get even if you have no Portuguese.

There are basically two groups in relation to Saboia’s actions in the Pinto affair.

(1) Positive:  Pinto was locked up for a long time in the La Paz embassy. Depressed, he spoke of suicide. The Bolivian government refused him safe conduct in order to exile himself in Brazil. The case had reached a threshold and nothing was being done. Saboia says he acted as he did out of higher, humanitarian principles. Many diplomats believe that in this way he rescued the reputation of Brazilian diplomacy as a principled institution.

(2) Negative: Saboia violated one of the basic rules of diplomatic conduct in acting unilaterally and recklessly, allegedly putting Pinto’s life at risk. He allegedly failed to inform superiors in order to order the car used to transport the senator and he ordered two Braziilian marines to accompany him as he removed Pinto from the premises. This would, it is argued, set a dangerous precedent. And it led to a diplomatic incident with Bolivia.

The incident was born the moment Saboia and Pinto stepped onto Brazilian soil and a serious controversy made the rounds of Itamaraty. Expressions such as “courageous,” “Don Quixote” and “heroism” were heard. And a complain: That senior diplomats included Saboia’s name in its statement to the press, contrary to the custom of not identifying the diplomat to avoid exposing him or her. Hours late, the decisions of the government would provoke more discomfort and controversy in the halls of the foreign ministry.

First came the resignation of top diplomat Antonio Patriota.

Next came the creation of a commission to conduct the internal investigation.

The comission will be presided  by fiscal auditor Dionísio Carvalhedo Barbosa together with the ambassadors Clemente de Lima Baena Soares and Glivânia Maria de Oliveira.

Discontent over the exit of Patriota was deep and widespread, and the commission has been the target of criticism as to its composition, merit and form. As soon as Order No. 9 was issued, designating the investigative team, the question was heard: why a fiscal auditor?

As to the merits of the case, diplomats commented quietly that Saboia reached an impasse due to the lack of official responses to his request for instructions. He had even traveled to Brasília various times asking for express guidance from his superiors.

Saboia was pressured from all sides, including the senior international relations aide to the presidency, Marco Aurélio Garcia and the congressional foreign relations committee, which advises on and consents to new ambassadors.

He experienced moments of great tension as he … received no guidance on how to bring the episode to a close, when the Bolivian government refused to grant a safe-conduct. The Bolivians were clearly concerned not to give in to an opposition figure who, a defendant in numerous criminal cases, had accused government officials of ties to the narcotraffic.

Organization Launches Campaign for Diplomat

After taking a course of action that some diplomats consider heroic and others condemn, Eduardo Saboia, whose curriculum includes postings at the IMF and the World Bank as well service as the charge d’affaires in La Paz, would likely have cut to the head of the line and been assigned to an ambassadorship. The chargé d’affaires is a sort of vice-ambassador.

Now, he may well have his career cut short after the spy-movie escape of Roger Pinto.

At the moment, the NGO Avaaz is carrying on a campaign against punishing Saboia, at this address.

Avaaz is not the organization behind the campaign, with its modest 1,600 signatories, but rather a poll-hosting social networking Web site.

The campaign argues that Saboia acted with “conscience and courage,” bringing an end to what was “an improper and unsustainable  state of imprisonment without due process” against the senator.

During the time of Pinto’s presence in the embassy, he occupied a 20 square meter room in one of the embassy’s salons.

Saboia traveled on eight occasions to Oruro, where 12 fans of the São Paulo football club were arrested and charged with involvement in the death of Kevin Espada, who has hit by a rocket during a Liberator’s Cup match. He went so far as to provide infrastructure and food to the Brazilian prisoners. At around that same time, he was decorated by Lulawith the Order of the Rio Branco.

Friends and family members of the diplomat say that, given a choice between stardom and conscience, he would always opt for the latter.

Pressure on Patriot Angers Diplomats

As to Patriota, a man with diplomacy running in his veins — his brothers and his father are diplomats — respect for his work predominates. Described as an “excellent functionary” who adheres closely to the diplomatic liturgies, it is no secret that he has had his differences with the President on various subjects.

At one point, a petition by retired ambassadors made the rounds which laid out the reasons Patriota ought to resign. Why? Because of the lack of respect for protocol and the humiliations imposed on the diplomatic corps by Dilma and Garcia.

The expectation is that nothing will change, owing to the fact that the new minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, is a career diplomat and has a stronger temperament,,which colleagues believe will make him less complacent with outside interference.

Even so, there is a suspicion among diplomats that the resignation of Patriota is nothing more than a “theatrical spectacle” so that Brazil and Bolivia can lend credence to the notion that they knew nothing of Saboia’s actions. Another piece of evidence to support this interpretation is the fact Patriota was “kicked upstairs” …

Patriota was named as ambassador to the United Nations.

Even the most experienced ambassadors and ex-ambassadors are divided over the question of Saboia’s decision, taken without informing Brasília, to smuggle out Bolivian senator Roger Pinto Molina, … former top diplomat elso Lafer said he has “respect” for Saboia’s courage in taking action at a critical juncture without letting bureaucracy slow him down. Ex-ambassador to Washington Rubens Barbosa views the incident as a risky and unprecedented violation of hierarchy, but adds that Saboia “may have solved the problem for Brazil.

Former foreign minister Luiz Felipe Lampreia called the operation an act of “total insubordination” with the potential of turning Brazilian diplomacy into “complete chaos.”

Thus, even the most senior diplomats cannot agree among themselves, and the debate goes on.