The Rio Branco Institute (Instituto Rio Branco--IRBr) recruits from twenty to thirty candidates each year among college graduates. After four semesters of intensive study of language and diplomacy, graduates receive a certified bachelor of arts degree in diplomacy and begin their careers as third secretaries. In 1996 the IRBr began studies to upgrade the course to an M.A. program. The IRBr teaching staff is composed of senior diplomats and some academics from the University of Brasília (Universidade de Brasília). Some foreign students are admitted, mostly from Latin America and Africa.
After three or four years experience within several divisions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (known as Itamaraty, after the building it formerly occupied in Rio de Janeiro), the junior diplomat is posted overseas. Promotion to second and first secretary is by merit (evaluation by immediate superiors). Before promotion to minister second class, the diplomat goes through a mid-career course and produces a monograph, which is defended before an examining board. Many diplomats also acquire graduate degrees during their career. Promotion to the final positions of counselor (minister first class) and ambassador involves a combination of merit and political considerations; the president makes the final decision. Because Itamaraty has more diplomats than posts overseas and in Brasília, diplomats frequently fill key positions in other ministries, state enterprises, and the president's office. Brazilian diplomats generally are considered skilled and patient negotiators by their peers.
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