O novo ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros presidiu, durante mais de 20 anos, à Fundação Luso Americana para o Desenvolvimento (FLAD). No entanto, não será por isso que a sua relação com os Estados Unidos – o mais poderoso aliado de Portugal – terá melhorias. De acordo com os telegramas diplomáticos enviados pela embaixada norte-americana em Lisboa para Washington, e divulgados pelo Wikileaks, Rui Machete era visto como um crítico dos Estados Unidos que sempre resistiu à intervenção da embaixada na FLAD. O embaixador Thomas Stephenson chegou mesmo a escrever, em 2008, que estava na “hora de decapitar Machete”. O novo ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros era também acusado de gastos sumptuosos – a fundação foi constituída com capitais norte-americanos – e de usar a FLAD em benefício próprio. As revelações foram feitas pelo Expresso em Março de 2011 e, na época, Rui Machete disse que as acusações não tinham fundamento e que se tratavam de um ataque pessoal a alguém que sempre geriu a FLAD com independência.
Este é o telegrama integral divulgado pelo Wikileaks:
C O N F I D E N T I A L LISBON 002780 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/05/2008
TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], AMGT [Management Operations], EAID [Foreign Economic Assistance], OEXC [Educational and Cultural Exchange Operations], SCUL [Cultural Affairs], PO [Portugal; Azores; Madeira Islands]
SUBJECT: PORTUGAL: PROBLEMS AT THE LUSO-AMERICAN FOUNDATION
1. (C) SUMMARY: In 1985, with the USAID mission to Portugal closing its doors, the U.S. and Portuguese governments created the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) in Lisbon to address Portugal’s development challenges and to promote U.S.-Portuguese cooperation. The USG subsequently contributed some $111 million to FLAD, but during the past two decades the Embassy’s efforts to exercise responsible oversight over FLAD’s financial management have been thwarted by the foundation’s leadership, creating deep and continuous friction between FLAD and the Embassy. We propose to wage another campaign to change FLAD’s direction, but failing that, we must consider whether our continued participation in this institution is in the USG’s interest. End Summary. FLAD’S EARLY YEARS ——————
2. (U) In 1983, Portuguese PM Balsemao and President Reagan announced the creation of the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) in Lisbon. The announcement grew out of the imminent closure of the USAID mission in Portugal and the recognition of the importance of carrying on development and bilateral cooperation projects. In 1985 FLAD opened its doors as the USG provided an initial endowment of $38 million. USG contributions to FLAD eventually totaled $111 million, much of which was in the form of Economic Support Funds (ESF) that the U.S. provided to Portugal through 1992. When ESF funding ended in 1992, FLAD no longer received any external financing and its revenue then derived solely from its endowment and investments.
3. (SBU) FLAD’s stated mission is to contribute “to the economic and social development of Portugal through the promotion of scientific, technical, cultural, educational, commercial, and business cooperation between Portugal and the United States.” It was envisioned as a short-term program to help boost Portugal to a development level commensurate with the rest of the EU, which Portugal joined in 1986. Thus, FLAD’s goal was to spend 75 percent of its available funds each year on grants for development, education and science projects.
4. (C) In 1987, then-Prime Minister (and now President) Cavaco Silva reorganized the foundation in a move likely aimed at tightening GOP control over its programming and budget. Key authorities were moved from the Board of Directors (where the U.S. Ambassador has a seat) to the day-to-day executive council (where he does not). U.S. Ambassador Rowell objected to this and other decisions and suspended his participation on the Board. According to our files, the foundation stopped holding Board meetings altogether in the late 1980s, effectively shielding itself from all oversight.
5. (C) In 1990, U.S. Ambassador Briggs tried a different approach. Although it was largely a symbolic gesture since the Board had not met in years, Briggs formally resigned from the Board because of his role in negotiating the new bilateral agreement regarding U.S. use of Lajes Air Base in the Azores (which he viewed as presenting a conflict with his FLAD duties). Shortly after, a member of the U.S. Congress contacted the Embassy requesting information about FLAD’s management and oversight, but FLAD Director Rui Machete refused to respond, saying FLAD operations were “none of your business.”
6. (C) The tension came to a head in 1992 when the Embassy directly approached Prime Minister Cavaco Silva seeking clarification of reports that FLAD Director Rui Machete had offered FLAD business to companies in which he had a stake. Machete admitted no wrongdoing but did terminate one key contract. Separately in 1992, the USG’s sunsetting of Portugal’s ESF program ended all U.S. funding to FLAD. While the decision to cut off ESF funding was objectively based on Portugal’s national development levels, the GOP evidently believed it was a response to allegations of mismanagement. Shortly after the dustup over the Congressional inquiry and a separate independent study of FLAD’s management, the foundation resumed its semi-annual Board meetings, and the U.S. Ambassador returned to the Board of Directors. On the nine-member Board, the U.S. ambassador holds one seat and the right to nominate a second director. THE LAST MAN STANDING ———————
7. (C) Rui Machete, a lawyer and politician who held cabinet positions in the 1983-85 Portuguese government (including Minister of Justice and Deputy Prime Minister) has been FLAD’s director since 1988, getting the job as a consolation prize after he lost his cabinet post in the change of government in 1985. Machete has long been critical of the U.S. and has resisted embassy participation at every turn. He is wired into both major political parties and is suspected of disbursing FLAD grants to curry political favor and maintain his sinecure. Machete has historically opposed all efforts at independent oversight, professional accounting practices, and transparent review of FLAD’s programs. Since the early 1990s, nearly every U.S. ambassador has urged Machete to carry out his fiduciary duties or step aside, but to no avail: – (C) In 1992, Ambassador Briggs reported that, “As long as Machete is there, FLAD can only be marginally useful to us.” The foundation’s overhead then was 60% of revenue, leaving only 40% for actual programming. Today, this figure is only somewhat better as FLAD continues to spend 46% of its budget on overhead for its luxurious art-adorned offices, bloated staff, fleet of chauffeured BMWs, and on “personnel and administrative costs” that has included at times wardrobe allowances, low-interest loans to staff, and honoraria for staffers participating in FLAD’s own programs. – (C) The Boris Report, a 1993 independent review conducted in the U.S., noted that the Board of Directors was excluded from planning and was given inadequate briefing materials before their semi-annual meetings. (Comment: this is a favorite Machete tactic and continues to this day: key documents for the Board’s consideration are distributed by Machete only days, and in some cases hours, before Board meetings to avoid informed discussions that might run counter to his objectives.) The Boris Report also recommended that FLAD develop investment goals and restructure its endowment portfolio to guarantee its long-term viability; this has not been done. – (C) In June 2006, in response to Ambassador Hoffman’s criticisms, Machete suddenly announced that he had approached Prime Minister Socrates with proposed changes to FLAD’s bylaws that would grant the GOP full control over the foundation and wholly eliminate the U.S. ambassador from the Board. Ambassador Hoffman protested to then-Foreign Minister Amaral, who was our designated GOP contact on the issue. Serendipitously, FM Amaral resigned a week later for unrelated health reasons and Machete’s plan was quietly shelved. – (C) Since late 2007, in Board meetings and in private discussions Ambassador Stephenson has repeatedly called on FLAD to reform itself and cut overhead, pointing out that the 2008 and 2009 budgets were unrealistic and unsustainable, given difficult market conditions, and would result in a diminished endowment. Both budgets were approved by the Board over the Ambassador’s objections. Another Board member, who shares our concerns, points out that not only is the budget built on excessive overhead and unrealistic forecasts for the endowment, but Machete’s promises to improve the accounting and transparency underlying the budget process have not been met.
8. (C) In 2008, beyond its overhead costs, FLAD spent 1.5 million euros on actual grants to fund projects such as: 10,000 euros for an Innovation Seminar held at FLAD’s offices; 89,000 euros for a conference about Franklin Roosevelt in the Azores; and 15,000 euros per quarter to a politically-connected public relations firm. Previous foundation boondoggles have included a conference in South Africa with no discernable connection to the United States or bilateral relations.
9. (C) Ambassador Stephenson had a frank conversation last week with FLAD Director Rui Machete, who appeared to accept the Ambassador’s grim diagnosis of the foundation’s ills, even speculating aloud about the challenge of cutting staff under Portuguese labor laws. Machete confided that he is stepping down in 2010, on FLAD’s 25th anniversary, and would like to make progress on reforms before then. Machete said that the issue should be first raised privately with Prime Minister Socrates, who could provide political cover and possibly assistance in addressing labor and other vexing issues. Ambassador Stephenson tentatively agreed to participate in a meeting with the Prime Minister –if the Ambassador is still here after January 20. COMMENT: TIME FOR MACHETE TO GET THE AXE —————————————–
10. (C) FLAD’s portfolio in November 2007 was 122 million euro. By November 2008 this had shrunk to 106 million euro. At this pace, FLAD could burn through the entire endowment by about 2014. While this money is no longer on the USG’s books, it originally came from the U.S. taxpayer with the goal of strengthening bilateral cooperation and supporting development projects. In spite of our long-running and high-level best efforts, we believe the current FLAD management is unable and unwilling to face economic reality and will fritter away the endowment — preferring to go over a cliff with the status quo rather than make the wrenching reforms necessary to put the foundation on the path to solvency and responsible planning. Two decades of the current leadership have not been good for FLAD, and its alienation from the US Embassy is both a cause and a symptom of the disease.
11. (C) The Embassy proposes to wage one more campaign to change FLAD’s direction via pressure on Machete and discussions with the highest level of the GOP. We are somewhat encouraged by Machete’s acceptance at last week’s meeting of the need for deep, immediate reforms, but he has made many empty promises to many U.S. Ambassadors over the years. We will believe in changes at the foundation only when we see them, and failing that, we must consider whether our continued participation in this institution remains in the USG’s interest. STEPHENSON