Diplomatic incident in Brasilia?
Lisa-Marie Gervais Canada August 11, 2011
Although denied by the Canadian Embassy, information circulating about the diplomatic incident caused on Monday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his visit to Brazil, are not mere rumours. A journalist respected in political circles, the Brazilian columnist Eliane Cantanhede Brazilian, who revealed the alleged blunders of Mr. Harper sticks to the story. "I confirmed the information from my sources on site," she told Le Devoir, in a telephone interview from Brasília.
The facts are described in an article co-authored with her colleague Natuza Nery in Folha de São Paulo, the most influential newspaper in the country; Stephen Harper appears to be a rude person shamelessly violating protocol. "That's inelegant of him. People found it arrogant and crude," said Ms. Cantanhede.
The reported incidents have occurred in two stages. First, the Prime Minister would have insisted to speak to Canadian journalists at the presidential palace (Planalto), against tradition that has Heads of State visitors usually addressing the press from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Itamaraty). "Giving Interviews in the Planalto Palace, it is never done. All who come to visit, even Obama, speak to reporters from the Itamaraty, "said the journalist.
Official toast, before or after?
As the Brazilian authorities have refused him this privilege, Mr. Harper, upset, would have insisted to reverse part of the protocol, which is the official toast. The latter can be given before or after the meal, but the President of Brazil, Dilma Roussef, had wished to take place later. Canadian Prime Minister "demanded" it be done before and then he "locked himself in the private bathroom of foreign minister, Antonio Patriota," the article said.
"Taken off course, Brazilian diplomats did not know if they were to follow the expressed wishes of the President or give in to the capricious demands of the Canadian visitor," it said. Harper's whims eventually prevailed.
Have these events been misunderstood? Eliane Cantanhede, who was not there, says her sources are reliable. Someone present confided in her colleague Natuza Nery, who was nearby. "She told me about it and I then confirmed the information with advisors and diplomats present," she maintains.
Illustration from Montreal Simon.
ADDED by fh: Read some comments from Brazilians here. His behaviour did ^NOT go over well. To say the least.
ADDED by fh: Alison is on it.