The Brazilian ambassador to Guinea-Bissau, Fábio Franco, will leave his post in the African country after an investigation by the Itamaraty showed that his wife interfered in the activities of the diplomatic representation, even without having a formal link with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to reports collected by Folha, Shirley Carvalhêdo Franco interfered in the embassy’s routine, even occupying a room there. Respondents also claim that she practiced bullying and uttered racist offenses against Guineans who work for the diplomatic mission.
The report heard seven people, Brazilian and local, from different hierarchical levels and varied ties with the representation. They spoke on condition of anonymity, as they fear retaliation. Shirley is reported to have called Guineans “monkeys” and said that they “are only good for sex, not work.”
One server said that, in August, the ambassador would have prevented her husband from seeking replacements for two female minister posts, after the incumbents asked to be removed, and two other higher-level ones that remained vacant. Shirley is reported to have said that she herself would advise Franco and “moralize” the agency.
After accusations, the Itamaraty Internal Affairs Unit opened an investigation that resulted in the signing, on November 8, of a Conduct Adjustment Term (TAC) by Fábio Franco, an administrative procedure applied to irregularities “with less offensive potential”.
In the TAC, sent to the report, the ambassador declared that he “recognized the inadequacy of his conduct” and pledged to comply with the duties and prohibitions provided for by law for civil servants. He will return to Brazil two years ahead of schedule, and the case will be closed. The diplomat signed the term for non-compliance with article 117, item 6, of law 8112/90, which prohibits the public agent from transferring “a person outside the office […] the performance of the assignment that is his or her subordinate’s responsibility”.
Folha sent emails to Fábio and Shirley Franco asking for answers to the accusations, and Itamaraty said it had sent the reporter’s contact details to the ambassador. Until the publication of this report, they did not respond to questions.
As it is not the Ministry’s competence to open administrative proceedings against the ambassador, since she is not a servant, the investigation does not address reports of racial insult and moral harassment. Shirley is a professor at the Faculty of Information Sciences at UnB and has been on unpaid leave since 2013.
Four interviewees confirmed that she occupied a room at the embassy. From there, he would have controlled administrative processes, from changes in employee schedules to purchase authorizations, and interfered mainly in the cultural area. According to them, Shirley claimed to have the approval of her husband to act like this.
On the agency’s official Facebook page, Shirley appears in videos of online ceremonies presented by the ambassador or conducting the events herself. According to reports, the ambassador assumed the place that would have been Ticiana Souza, director of the Brazil-Guinea-Bissau Cultural Center — sought out, Souza said only that “the appropriate measures have already been taken”.
One of the people who filed the complaint with the ministry said that, at the official residence, workers had to raise their arms when they arrived, to be “disinfected” with alcohol, and that Shirley threatened to throw caustic soda on everyone “because they stank.” A service provider claims to have witnessed scenes of the type, including the ambassador declaring that “would use the whip” against employees.
At events and in front of people in high positions, however, according to these accounts, Shirley claimed to love Guineans. The offenses went unscathed because, as an embassy official explains, the victims were afraid to file complaints, for fear of losing their jobs.
An official at the official residence says he thought about resigning after being called “junk”. He says he heard from Shirley that Guineans’ eyes were always red because they were “full of malaria” and that “they’re not good for work, just for sex.”
According to the server, the ambassador even defended him once. Most respondents say that Franco is cordial to the employees, but accepts his wife’s behavior. Folha only heard reports from third parties of problems that the diplomat would have had with the team.
This is the first time that Franco assumes a post as ambassador. He entered the diplomatic career in 1992 and was approved for the post in Guinea-Bissau in November 2018.
Before, he was commercial director for Brazil in Taiwan. In August, he was part of the delegation of Guinean President Umaro Sissoco Embaló’s visit to Brazil. Accused of promoting an authoritarian shift in his country, Embaló traveled at the invitation of Jair Bolsonaro, who used to call him the “Bolsonaro of Africa”.
In 2020, Brazil exported US$ 3.4 million to Guinea-Bissau and imported US$ 606,000 from the African country.
According to reports, after the husband signed the TAC and was recalled, the ambassador no longer appeared at the headquarters of the diplomatic representation. Officials say they were informed informally that the couple will return to Brazil in December. They also say that last Sunday (7) Shirley had a birthday party and farewell, without mentioning the reason for her return.