Brazilian drivers have long track record chauffeuring China's elite

Updated: 2015-05-18 12:32

By Lia Zhu(China Daily USA)

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Brazilian drivers have long track record chauffeuring China's elite

Jose Aprigio, a driver with VIP Exectur transportation company, joins his colleague Luiz Gonzaga on Sunday afternoon beside Gonzaga's van at the Royal Tulip Braslia Alvorada hotel in Brasilia. Over 60 vans and sedans are assigned to transport the Chinese delegation starting Monday for a two-day visit to Brasilia. Lia Zhu / China Daily

To 70-year-old Brazilian driver Jose Aprigio, China isn't far away at all.

He is used to seeing Chinese presidents and premiers personally and up close. Working for Brasilia-based transportation company VIP Exectur, he has driven numerous visiting Chinese officials at various levels during his more than 50 years of service.

"I hope I get to drive the Chinese premier tomorrow," Aprigio, dressed in white shirt and black suit, told China Daily through a translator on Sunday afternoon, while he was checking his black Toyota sedan at Royal Tulip Braslia Alvorada, the hotel where Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will stay during his visit to the Brazilian capital.

Brazilian drivers have long track record chauffeuring China's elite

At the invitation of the presdients of Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile, Li left Beijing on Sunday morning for official visits to the four Latin American countries from May 18 through May 26. Brasilia will be the first stop on his visit to Brazil, followed by Rio de Janeiro.

Along with Aprigio, more than 60 drivers have been assigned to chauffer the Chinese delegation during its two-day visit. The roads in front of the hotel are already lined with vans and sedans with stickers of Chinese and Brazilian flags, as well as numbers stuck on the windshield. Four vans have been designated for the press corps traveling with the premier.

Despite his long history serving visiting Chinese officials, Aprigio said he is always excited to drive guests from China. "I'm happy to meet different people," he said.

VIP Exectur boasts a long history of doing business with the Chinese Embassy in Brasilia.

"I have served five Chinese presidents and three Chinese premiers since the 1960s," said Francisco Rastro, CEO of VIP Exectur, who set up a station in the hotel's lobby providing round-the-clock "coordination of transportation" services.

Rastro said that last July he opened the door for Chinese President Xi Jinping during his state visit to Brazil and attendance at the China-Latin America and the Caribbean Summit held in Brasilia. More than 50 bilateral accords were signed between the two countries during Xi's visit.

In less than a year, the company is ready to welcome another top leader from China.

During Li's upcoming visit, which will be accompanied by a sizeable trade mission, the two countries are expected to sign accords in such fields as politics, economy, trade, finance, agriculture and culture.

This demonstrates the great emphasis the leaders of the two countries place on their ties, China's Ambassador to Brazil Li Jinzhang said.

"It will provide strong momentum for developing new growth points and bright spots in bilateral cooperation," Li said.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said recently she hopes that Chinese investment will help to upgrade her country's railways, highways, ports and airports.

One of the main topics on the agenda during Li's visit will be expanding bilateral cooperation in production capacity and investment, according to the Chinese ambassador.

Rastro said he sees more business coming from China.

"I'm happy to see a growing China and stronger ties between China and Brazil," he said.

He also seemed happy for a decision he made many years ago.

"I faced a choice of working for either the Chinese embassy or the US embassy. I chose China because the Chinese people are very nice and kind to work with," Rastro said, who even got a Chinese nickname, "Da Xigua", meaning "big water melon" from a member of a Chinese delegation in the 1980s.

"I have been known as Da Xigua ever since," said Rastro with a smile.