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Portugal's Carnation hope overpowered by austerity bitterness


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Portugal's Carnation hope overpowered by austerity bitterness

Forty years after the Carnation Revolution freed Portugal from dictatorship, many Portuguese are in a different sort of straight jacket today: austerity measures imposed to allow Portugal to qualify for an economic bailout, a programme drawing to a close next month. Direct participants in the Revolution are especially bitter.

One of its leaders, retired Colonel José Cardoso Fontão, said: “The grand humanist principles of the Revolution have been battered and smashed and are now just about gone.”

The military retirement home he was in raised the rent. As he still supports his daughter, who has no work, he moved to a cheaper apartment.

The 25th of April anniversary of the Portuguese Revolution is also José‘s 82nd birthday. He is not celebrating. Under the austerity regime, his pension is half what it used to be.

Cardoso Fontão said: “Your life is orderly and organised, and you can plan your budget and then it all falls apart. I know there are many people far worse off, but this is totally unacceptable. My situation is dishonorable; for others it is unacceptable!”

The pensioner considers that among the major achievements of the Revolution life got better for women; but feminist, anti-fascist activist Manuela Góis puts that into a modern perspective.

Góis said: “The 25th of April Revolution brought freedom, rights and guarantees for the people in general and independence for the Portuguese colonies. There was a visible advance in women rights; before it was like being in the Middle Ages.”

Like the old colonel, the social worker is concerned about the future for young people. Like him, she has to financially support her adult children. One is unemployed, the other’s work is unsteady.

“When I calculated how much I’d need when I retired I thought my pension would be enough, but I’ve had to organise my life completely differently, to be able to support my sons.”

Forty years after the revolution, migration for work is once again an economic reality.

In 2012, almost a fifth of the Portuguese struggled to survive on around 400 euros per month.

José Gil, also a keen thinker on the events of 40 years ago — and their later impact — told us that many today fear losing everything.

Maria Barradas, euronews: “We are joined from Lisbon by José Gil, a teacher, philosopher, writer and attentive observer of Portuguese society. Professor, your book ‘Portugal Today – Fear of Existing’ in the first decade of the 2000s, aroused extensive interest. Today, four decades after the end of the dictatorship, what is different about the Portuguese mentality?”

José Gil, author: “Much has changed and much is the same. Firstly, freedom brought changes to individual being and to the way of being in society. For example, one of the changes has been consumerism, especially in the years Cavaco Silva has been president. That consumerism, with more money and the improvement in the standard of living showed a more pronounced individualism. The Portuguese have become at least somewhat accustomed to having rights — and started learning how to demand their rights in the new democracy and freedom — timidly, but strongly. There are still limits, however; there have always been limits.”

euronews: “Why has the Portuguese enchantment with the Carnation Revolution promises worn off?”

Gil: “Well, it happened precisely because the April 25 Revolution promised a utopian society, which was outlined in the socialist constitution. That constitution was one of the most advanced in theoretical socialism anywhere in the world, and that utopian society, little by little, was contravened and replaced by another real society that imposed a rule, quite simply, not of socialism but of capitalism. Not even the ideals of ​​democracy and freedom had any concrete development in society, so a disappointment set in; this disappointment remains, and is increasingly acute today.”

euronews: “Portugal’s still ‘afraid to exist’ or has the crisis created a new dynamic in society?”

Gil: “No. I think Portugal is now afraid of not existing. I mean, the Portuguese people have another kind of fear: the fear of losing their jobs, losing all the rights they acquired to health, justice and education. Austerity policy is now increasing a general feeling of fear. There is no new dynamic in society. There are success stories for companies but there is no government policy to promote a dynamic of logical economic development — which, incidentally, also depends on Europe. Our situation today rests on this lack of dynamic.”
Portuguese, 40 years after Revolution, fear losing everything – José Gil

Maria Barradas, euronews: “We are joined from Lisbon by José Gil, a teacher, philosopher, writer and attentive observer of Portuguese society. Professor, your book ‘Portugal Today – Fear of Existing’ in the first decade of the 2000s, aroused extensive interest. Today, four decades after the end of the dictatorship, what is different about the Portuguese mentality?”

José Gil, author: “Much has changed and much is the same. Firstly, freedom brought changes to individual being and to the way of being in society. For example, one of the changes has been consumerism, especially in the years Cavaco Silva has been president. That consumerism, with more money and the improvement in the standard of living showed a more pronounced individualism. The Portuguese have become at least somewhat accustomed to having rights — and started learning how to demand their rights in the new democracy and freedom — timidly, but strongly. There are still limits, however; there have always been limits.”

euronews: “Why has the Portuguese enchantment with the Carnation Revolution promises worn off?”

Gil: “Well, it happened precisely because the April 25 Revolution promised a utopian society, which was outlined in the socialist constitution. That constitution was one of the most advanced in theoretical socialism anywhere in the world, and that utopian society, little by little, was contravened and replaced by another real society that imposed a rule, quite simply, not of socialism but of capitalism. Not even the ideals of ​​democracy and freedom had any concrete development in society, so a disappointment set in; this disappointment remains, and is increasingly acute today.”

euronews: “Portugal’s still ‘afraid to exist’ or has the crisis created a new dynamic in society?”

Gil: “No. I think Portugal is now afraid of not existing. I mean, the Portuguese people have another kind of fear: the fear of losing their jobs, losing all the rights they acquired to health, justice and education. Austerity policy is now increasing a general feeling of fear. There is no new dynamic in society. There are success stories for companies but there is no government policy to promote a dynamic of logical economic development — which, incidentally, also depends on Europe. Our situation today rests on this lack of dynamic.”

Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.

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