Alumni News

The Accidental Diplomat
Posted 11/17/2016 01:00PM

Diplomat Thiago de Aragão '01Thiago de Aragao ’01 is a sociologist based in Brazil who specializes in political risk analysis. He is a member of various think tanks in the UK, France, and Brazil and is a regular columnist for the main Brazilian news group, Agencia Estado de Sao Paulo. We caught up with Thiago to learn more about his life and connections to TASIS.

Can you explain your role as a political consultant?
My company, Arko Advice, is the main political analysis and strategy company in Latin America. We advise over 130 of the largest companies, banks, investment funds, and rating agencies in the world. My role is not only to offer my perspectives on short, middle, and long-term scenarios for the political environment in the region, but also to design strategies that can be applied by my clients in relation to a specific goal or target they have. Consequently, because of this role of explaining the political environment and its perspectives, governments of countries from all over the world often invite me to their countries to discuss Latin America with their presidents, ministers of finance, or ministers of foreign affairs. Also, in Brasilia, where I’m based, embassies from all over the world and the government of my own country seek my views on the future perspectives of several political and social issues.

You are also involved in foreign policy think tanks in the UK and in France. How important are these international connections to your work?
They are extremely important. These think tanks offer the opportunity for discussions with well-prepared individuals from several countries and to learn about their views of the same issues which I analyze. Also, the interaction between cultures and perspectives is very important to offer me new tools to use with my own analyses. Think tanks are exactly what the name suggests: groups and organizations in which thinking and seeking new views on several different situations is the main goal. My connection with the UK has always been very strong. I’m in London around six times a year where I meet many of my clients: those who work at the think tanks I’m involved with, but also the British Foreign Office and the British media. These international connections are also interesting since they provide me platforms for presentations, which are always good opportunities to contact companies, banks, and investment funds that could become potential clients.

Brazil has been in the global news a lot recently in many contexts; the Olympics, Rouseff’s impeachment, and the Zika virus. How can Brazil use this global attention to raise its profile, perhaps leading to further tourism and investment opportunities?
Brazil has always relied excessively on the soft power provided by its positive image worldwide: football, culture, arts, music, etc. This has generated the lazy approach of the previous Brazilian governments that has not emphasized the true assets of the country. Although we have many structural difficulties as a country, we have a democratic system with solid institutions. Unfortunately, the individuals occupying these institutions are not at the level that they should be, though the solidity of the institutions is still very visible. Brazil is a country almost the size of Europe, with a melting pot of cultures, possibilities, problems, and opportunities. Of course we have parts of the country that suffer more due to violence and lack of infrastructure, though we also have many other parts of the country which offer conditions to expand tourism, business, and attract more and more individuals. Things are never as bad as portrayed, though they are never as good as the over-optimistic [pundits] point out.

Your work as a columnist and speaker is prolific. Why are these roles important to you?
These roles are very important because, at the end of the day, they are the result of my work. The more I’m invited to speak or to write, the more it demonstrates that I’m on the right path in terms of preparation and direction. To be a speaker or a columnist on Brazilian and Latin American politics, social dynamics, security, and intelligence is very complicated, as I must be on the top of the main subjects continuously. It is something that requires continuous reading, consultation with experienced thinkers, direct contact with the key decision-makers, and exchange of information with the key opinion-makers. In this sense, being invited to speak at universities and with governments is recognition that fuels me to learn more and more.

We are keen to know how TASIS inspired or shaped your world now.
TASIS is a magical place. I realized its uniqueness not only when I was at the school, but also every time I fondly remember my years there. At TASIS the most diverse cultures were living side by side, showing me habits, views of the world, different dreams, objectives, etc.—all under the prism of respect, friendship, and companionship. At TASIS we learn to become diplomats without even acknowledging it, and it is fantastic! Mr. Aeschliman was a teacher who had a very positive impact on me during his Art History courses. Mr. d’Azzo taught me Italian with so much passion and accuracy that I never forgot it and, today, whenever I have the chance, I proudly enjoy making presentations in Italian. Mr. Klein was a great mentor as was Mr. Panhuys.

My years at TASIS were very special years. At the time, I moved to Switzerland to play for the city football club, FC Lugano. I recall that I had to leave the school after class to practice as we were disputing several national championships with the club. At the same time, I had to come home at night and prepare homework for classes like Art History or WWII History. The clash of situations was critical for me to become a sociologist later in life.

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