December 27, 2021 - By Marc Vezzi
Interview with the fantastic diplomat, wife of Sergio Vieira de Mello!
How this episode started.
Good morning everyone!
How are our sparkling Marco and Erica?
Marco: “In a great way! You only ask me these questions when we do the show!” What a liar Marco! Prince Charming in his castle-dwelling in London and still complaining about sweet puppy Erica!
They are our two dispensers of contentment, and as always they spread happiness and if they could they would try to taaaaac, automatically put a smile on the face of all viewers!
A little less so when the song comes on, although actually this time apart from a bit of exhibitionism from Marco everything goes smoothly.
Here is the wonderful Hakuna Matata, the song by Elton John made famous by its presence in the Disney film, The Lion King.
The story of a courageous woman, UN diplomat.
This episode’s guest is a very special one!
We will be talking about and with a courageous woman who has devoted a large part of her life to working in the UN. Through diplomacy, she has tried to bring peace to the world, especially in the areas most at risk. She will tell us about her sometimes life-threatening experience alongside one of the highest representatives of this organisation, about which a film was recently made. He will present the organisation he recently founded to expand the teaching of diplomacy to the whole world. And finally, as well as updating us on the pandemic situation in Brazil, he will talk to us about pizza brasileira!
Here’s Argentina’s Carolina Larriera, an Argentinian economist and former member of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Missions.
And she’s connected from her Brazilian quarantine, from Sao Paulo, with a brasileiro outfit full of colours!
Her multiple occupations include working for the UN. Her association with Sergio Vieira de Mello.
While working for the United Nations he visited many countries.
On her right is a Chinese painting bought in Beijing with Mao. This job has certainly helped her because in South America they are not economically rich enough to afford such luxuries.
In her life she has done so many jobs, so much so that in addition to being a diplomat for the United Nations, a teacher at Harvard, a consultant, she has faced militias, terrorists… a super busy life!
Which can be summed up as fighting for human rights.
And this means trying to break all barriers (metaphorically Marco!) to reach one’s goals, barriers that are above all of the heart and mind.
And her name is linked to Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian diplomat and senior United Nations official, who was also mentioned in some circles as a suitable candidate for the post of Secretary-General of this body, which has done so much for world peace. Sergio died on 19 August 2003 in Baghdad, along with 21 other members of his staff, in an attack on the Canal Hotel, the UN headquarters. Carolina miraculously survived the event. The story of the last three years of Sergio Vieira de Mello’s life, with his wife Carolina at his side, is the focus of the film Sergio, distributed by Netflix.
Carolina never expected to co-star in a film, which is strange for her. Seeing a part of her story played by an actress is strange for her.
Marco: “Erica does a parody of me every day. And it’s not nice. She cuts her hair. And I have to pay her for the performance!”
Carolina has never been an actress, she can laugh yes in mock (applause!), but not cry, and she only sings in the shower!
Dating life in São Paulo.
Let’s leave Sergio for a moment and move on to the embarrassing questions about Carolina’s everyday life.
Carolina is now single, the film is set 17 years before, when she was 30.
And she is on the market, so as Marco says, but in quarantine because of Covid… she can’t go to the market!
Marco: “How is the dating life in São Paulo?”
Carolina thinks it’s ok, although with Covid it’s almost a challenge to wear masks, glass or plastic panels to distance yourself… there’s no magic!
There’s no magic.
So Carolina is at home, while in Brazil it’s going from summer to winter in terms of temperatures (note that the ‘cold’ there is in the 30s), and people are very keen to get out early.
Dramatic experiences as a UN diplomat.
Carolina, as we have mentioned, is a diplomat who has had to travel a lot in her life. She tells us about her experience in very dangerous countries, where you have to be aware that the level of security inevitably changes.
For example, in Baghdad, her life consisted of commuting to work under guard, so much so that she had to walk up and downstairs to train.
And now that he says so, Marco is planning to do it too, after the interview!
Marco: “Did you train to have a pistol, a rifle, a bazooka, the grenade, the tank?”
You are trained to focus on a perspective of safety in all situations and the possibility that it can change at any time.
When you are in danger everything changes suddenly and you have to be alert. She brings up the case that they were shooting at the UN building where she worked and a colleague asked for confirmation and wanted to go to the windows to see if it was true. Because Carolina says that we are human beings, beings who are naturally moved by curiosity and are also prone to danger because of that.
In East Timor, Carolina had to sleep with a knife under her pillow in case she had to defend her safety. Rambo style!
The movie Sergio.
Back to the film Sergio, it is based on the last years of Carolina’s husband’s life.
She thinks it is important to make a film that summarises years of life in a few hours. Even though this often leads to leaving out certain aspects that are not understood in the story.
She would have liked to see more of the family history, the normal life, not just the war part.
And the story of the two lovers is actually not as short as the film seems to show, which necessarily simplifies it.
In any case, one element that Carolina is keen to specify is the security aspect and the scene in which the high commissioner asks for a tank that seems to be guarding the UN building in Baghdad to be moved. One might think that Sergio was responsible for the security of the building, but this was not the case because there were other bodies in charge of this, he was a diplomat working with his team on the transition to the elections.
So it’s important to point out that it didn’t happen that Sergio was responsible for the attack because he had the garrison moved to the headquarters, it wasn’t his responsibility. In any case, a tank could have done little against a car bomb.
And so what has been called the ‘September 11’ of the UN took place, changing the history of Iraq and of the UN itself.
Before working for the UN, Carolina worked in the financial district of NY but felt she needed something more, a bigger challenge that would make a real and decisive impact on people. Even a small contribution can actually make a difference, so she committed to this new job.
Cooperation for a better world. The importance of curiosity.
As our Marco and Erica remind us, Carolina really is a fantastic human being: if everyone were like her and our presenters, people would help each other and the world would be better!
And she gives us another lesson.
Even though she is quarantined in her house, she has a perspective and thinks that having a reference horizon and meaning is always necessary to find in one’s life. You may be closed in your house, but with the Internet you can be connected to everyone just the same, certainly in an emergency situation, but that’s a privilege not everyone can have.
Erica: “What is the most beautiful experience you have in your heart?”
Carolina has had many experiences, but basically she carries in her heart the new people she has met. Because you often don’t know but close to you there is someone who has fantastic stories to tell and experiences. And we lack the curiosity many times to scratch the surface and discover the unimaginable.
The appeal is to curiosity: let’s be curious! Let us question the people around us and we will discover fantastic stories!
We will learn from their experiences and enrich ourselves.
Carolina has acquired certain wisdom from this and she still carries it with her.
Sergio Vieira De Mello Center.
A truly enriching dialogue! Carolina, despite what she has been through, conveys positivity, perspectives, a will to live.
Together with Sergio’s mother, Gilda Vieira de Mello, she founded an NGO organisation in his honour, called the Sergio Vieira De Mello Center. You can find this on Instagram, Facebook, there is a website.
The Centre focuses on democratising the teaching of diplomacy so that those who do not have access can develop skills that are in high demand in the labour market: the ability to speak in public, negotiation, conflict resolution, etiquette, correctness in expressing oneself can all be useful in getting young people into the workplace. Skills that are useful both for work but also basic in everyday life.
Let us applaud the democratisation of diplomacy!
This point then leads to mentioning also those who are not always brought in, i.e. the less fortunate, those in need and not always helped.
It is important, says Carolina, to connect the super-rich and those who have nothing, to reduce this gap. The invitation to take part in the initiatives of this organisation is therefore extended to the entire audience, hurry up!
Also because it is based in Brazil but is expanding. Through zoom, they are trying to unite kids from Brazil to kids from Timor and now, for example, through Britalians TV kids from the UK and Italy.
What Carolina Larriera would do if she were a ghost for a day.
Erica: “If you were a ghost for a day, what would you do?”
Carolina would like to travel back in time, to the period between the wars.
And visit countries not directly involved in the war, like Brazil, to see how they saw it, and how they indirectly took part in it.
Because the war, despite everything, was the first step towards the globalisation of the world.
It is no coincidence that extensive travel and airlines were born with the war and immediately after it. The world conflict catalysed these processes.
So much so that the world after the Coronavirus is a new kind of world that catalyses the pharmaceutical industry to produce a vaccine in record time whereas it usually takes 10 years to develop. It’s a really fantastic process. And we are experiencing something unique.
The Covid situation in Brazil.
In Brazil, the Covid situation, according to Carolina, is not very positive. The lockdown started late. Government sources gave mixed messages, but people out of their inherent curiosity sought answers to what didn’t add up, and that created a lot of confusion.
In Brazil, too, so they locked themselves in like London.
Marco: “Let’s go hunting for food.”
Erica: “We have ducks running, squirrels.”
Erica: “You find them where you never thought!”
Marco: “Like in my jacket!
I’m really good at it and I don’t even need the rifle, I just go behind and catch them.
I’m a genius.
My intelligence is wasted.
I should have been a Prime Minister or something!”
Pizza in Brazil.
Last words before leaving our hostage.
Marco: “Now let’s talk about serious things. How is the pizza in Brazil?”
Carolina tells us about a type of Brazilian pizza with chocolate instead of tomato and bananas, a sweet pizza!
Marco: “Earlier you talked about globalisation.
Why can’t I get a decent coffee in London yet?
We bought the Italian coffee, the machine!
Give me a coffee!”
“Because you have to make it yourself.”
Marco: “We have the Moka.
I grow my own beans!
On the balcony.
We have lamps.”
Erica: “We got the Brazil corner on the balcony.”
Marco: “Let’s do the Macarena!”
Erica: “Or the Lambada!”
The invitation to watch a new chapter in Carolina’s life.
Carolina, like many other Britalians TV guests, was held hostage for more than an hour. In addition to dealing with terrorists and wars, she will now have to add this experience of ours to her CV!
In fact, talking to her was so enriching and enjoyable that time passed so quickly for our Marco and Erica!
So if you want to see this new chapter in Carolina’s life story, don’t miss this episode!