It is true that Ecuador is far from Hungary, but we will see that there are important links that can benefit both countries. José Luis Salazar, Ambassador of Ecuador to Hungary, was interviewed by Daily News Hungary:
Daily News Hungary (DNH): Hungary and Ecuador are more than 10,000 kilometers apart. What did you know about Hungary before being appointed ambassador to our country?
Ambassador HE José Luis Salazar: Although I had never been to Hungary before, I knew that your country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire under Emperor Franz Joseph I until the end of the First World War and then at the end of World War II was invaded by the Nazis until 1945 when the Soviets arrived. and I stayed until 1990. As I am a history buff, I had learned a lot about your country before assuming the post of Ambassador of Ecuador to Hungary, who also oversees 4 countries from Budapest: Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria.
DNH: During our previous discussion, you already clarified that you did not come here as a career diplomat, but as a businessman. Tell us a bit about yourself and your previous work experience.
Ambassador Salazar: After graduating from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. in 1977 I started working for Citibank in Ecuador and in 1980 I moved to a local bank which was in the process of being founded as of Banco Bolivariano in Guayaquil and I worked there until 1997 and I resigned to open McDonald’s in Ecuador as CEO/Joint Venture Partner where, after 18 years and 24 restaurants, I decided to sell my shares to the society. Since then, I have participated in several Boards of Directors and have been closely involved with the largest non-profit organization in Ecuador (Junta de Beneficencia) as a volunteer.
DNH: How do you see the Hungarian market as a potential export destination for Ecuadorian products?
Ambassador Salazar: Undoubtedly, Hungary is a very attractive market for Ecuadorian products and at present Hungarian importers are already buying bananas, roses, cocoa and black pepper from Ecuador, but there is also an excellent potential to export shrimp, tuna, teak wood, coffee, broccoli, to name a few products.
DNH: And which Hungarian products are worth bringing to Ecuador?
Ambassador Salazar: At present, all Suzuki vehicles imported from Ecuador are produced in Hungary and I also see the opportunity for other products such as, for example, wines.
DNH: What type of cultural and educational cooperation can the two countries engage in?
Ambassador Salazar: Since the year 2015, Ecuador has been an important partner of the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarship program and every year 75 Ecuadorian students come to Hungary to pursue their master’s or doctoral studies. I also see that there are many other areas where Ecuador and Hungary can establish cooperation agreements such as water treatment, medicine and forestry to name a few, where we can learn from Hungary’s best practices in these areas.
DNH: How many Ecuadorians currently live in Hungary?
Ambassador Salazar: At present, we estimate that there are over 300 Ecuadorian nationals living in Hungary, the majority of them being students, but there are also a good number who have settled here permanently and founded their family and are very happy to live in this beautiful country.
DNH: What are the main upcoming events at the Embassy?
Ambassador Salazar: On August 31, we will inaugurate a painting exhibition at the Instituto Cervantes and it will remain there for 3 full days. The paintings belong to our famous artist Servio Zapata who is very well known in Ecuador as he is one of the most prestigious painters.
DNH: Since your appointment, you have met many people. What is your impression of the Hungarian people?
Ambassador Salazar: My wife and I are very happy to be here in Budapest and have found that its people are very friendly and educated. I must admit that we were impressed by the excellent level of security in the city.
DNH: You must already have familiarized yourself with Hungary to some degree, so you may be familiar with many attractions outside of Budapest. What is your favorite rural town?
Ambassador Salazar: So far I have only visited Eger, Balaton and Gödöllő and I hope that in a few weeks I will have the opportunity to visit the Tokaj region and since my wife and I are very fond of wines, I have high expectations for visiting this famous region.
DNH: Hungary has a rich gastronomy, full of culture and flavors. What are your favorite local foods and drinks?
Ambassador Salazar: My wife and I love Goulash both as a soup and as a stew.
DNH: Finally, what message do you have for those who have not yet been to Ecuador? Why visit this beautiful exotic country far from Hungary?
Ambassador Salazar: Ecuador is a land of contrast, very natural and with all kinds of attractions because we have 4 completely different regions, the coastal region with its pristine beaches, mangroves and rivers and its mild/hot climate, the Andean region with its volcanoes, green valleys and with a cold/mild climate, the Amazon region with its world-class diversity and its virgin jungles with a mild and humid climate and last but not least the world famous Galápagos Islands with their unique animals and volcanic landscapes . All this magical paradise is only 12 hours direct flight from Amsterdam (KLM) or Madrid (Iberia).