Caesar DePaço, the millionaire philanthropist, entrepreneur, soccer club owner and honorary Daytona Beach cop who since 2014 has been the consul at the Honorary Consulate of Portugal in Palm Coast, resigned abruptly–and indignantly–Tuesday evening, citing “irreconcilable and incompatible perspectives that I had with the Ambassador of Portugal to the United States.”
DePaço did not go into details, but said his differences with the ambassador, Domingos Fezas Vital, “will negatively impact Portugal’s national interest.” DePaço posted his statement in Portuguese and in English on his personal Facebook page. “As these irreconcilable differences were substantial, I requested my resignation be accepted immediately and irreversibly.”
Except for an embassy staffer’s salary, paid for by the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DePaço had assumed all the costs of renting and running the honorary consulate, which officially opened at the Chiumento building in Palm Coast’s Town Center in August 2015, with a ceremonial dedication hosted by Portugal’s secretary of state of Portuguese Communities Abroad.
The opening of an honorary consulate in a relatively modest town such as Palm Coast was significant, reflecting the pull of the local Portuguese-American community, whose club boasts some 1,200 members. Eddie Branquinho, the Palm Coast City Council member who holds dual Portuguese, citizenship, says estimates of local residents of Portuguese extraction run as high as 12,000. Branquinho was himself stunned of learning of DePaço’s resignation this morning, though he said he had no insights as to what led to it: he and DePaço have not been seeing eye to eye for a couple of years, and have not spoken for as long. “There was nothing bad, no disrespect, we just grew apart,” Branquinho said.
“I wish I’d known,” Branquinho said of the reason behind the resignation. “I really don’t know.” He was scrambling on the phone this morning, trying to gauge the consequences of the resignation and attempting to find out how to preserve the honorary consulate in Palm Coast. “I don’t want to see it go away,” he said.
Branquinho said as he understands it, the resignation must still be accepted by the foreign minister, perhaps leaving a little bit of room for a reversal in the decision.
A reaction to the statement from Hélder Fragueiro Antunes, who refers to himself as a friend of DePaço with whom he’s had conversations about his diplomatic service, sheds some light about the consul’s decision: “My thoughts as your friend,” Antunes wrote him, “are of happiness because quite frankly, you don’t need the headaches and the lack of appreciation from second rate politicians which seem to always take the diaspora for granted. We have had many discussions on the topic thus you know where I stand and I have no doubt that you will continue to help and enrich Portuguese lives and Portuguese culture, without the shackles of an incompetent and corrupt socialist state!” (Portugal is led by a Social Democratic president and a Socialist Party prime minister.)
Three dozen others reacted with outpourings of affection and support. DePaço did not respond to an email requesting comment.
“I leave because I cannot compromise my principles and I will not overlook unacceptable conduct.”
“I leave because I cannot compromise my [principles] and I will not overlook unacceptable conduct,” DePaço said in his statement, without elaborating about the conduct. “It is in the best interests of my fellow citizens and friends, that lead me to the inescapable conclusion, that I must step down. Although I am saddened to tell you this, I leave with the conscience of duty done. I could have stayed and accomplished so much more for you all, but I leave because my country is more important than any ego, including my own. Furthermore, my clean [conscience] is more important than title and status.”
The English translation he posted may have confused some of the meanings he intended, but he appeared to suggest that this was not the first time that he’d been “stripped” of titles before, an implication that the ambassador or the foreign ministry may have played a role in the development: “As a result of my dedication to [principles], I have always been challenged for my strong beliefs and morals, and therefore have lost and will continue to be stripped of positions, titles and/or power,” he wrote. “Remarkably, I am very comfortable with this fact and will always remain true to self. All of this is ephemeral, as is the vanity that diminishes with time and age.”
A resident of Plantation Bay in Flagler County, DePaço owns New Jersey-based Summit Nutritionals International, which provides raw materials to pharmaceutical companies. He owns CF Canelas, the third-division club in the Portuguese Football Federation, and is known for his philanthropic work on behalf of law enforcement agencies, especially his numerous donations of K-9 dogs. The honorary consulate in Palm Coast provides official documentation such as birth and death certificates and identification cards to Portuguese citizens living abroad.