What Laura Lavandeira buys at the fresh food markets in Porto has changed in the last several years, as her pension was reduced by around 500 euros per month — a government austerity measure.
She now gets around 1,500 euros, which is not so bad compared to other pensions in Portugal.
“I only buy essentials. I far prefer fish rather than meat, but I buy cheaper fish than I used to. I have to choose carefully which vegetables to get. I was raised in Africa and I love tropical fruit, but I don’t buy it anymore, it’s become much too expensive.”
Lavandeira’s pension might be enough for her, but she has to support her daughter as well, who has been unemployed for four years, and her granddaughter.
Lavandeira is campaigning. She joined the new United Retirees and Pensioners Party. Austerity got her into politics, at age 75.
Out encouraging people to vote, she asked: “Do you want the prime minister out?” The prime minister’s name, Coelho, means rabbit.
“Then vote for us.”
Lavandeira’s motivation: “They’ve cut everything. We don’t own anything in this country. It’s been a long time that I’ve been seeing the decline in education and health services. Everything has gone to ruin, and if we don’t fight it, who will?
Our journalist asked: “Do you hope the country can change direction with a new government, whichever party wins?”
“I hope that if some of us are elected, we’ll be able to contribute to that. If things go on the way they have been going, I have no hope at all.”
Nélson Aguiar is part of a generation younger than Lavandeira, but his life is no easier. He works three different jobs, to pocket around 650 euros per month.
“I worked as a security guard till six o’clock this morning. I slept for three to four hours, which is the usual. Then I gave classes till one pm. At half past three this afternoon, I start at the gym, where I work till seven-thirty. Then I’ll have two hours for dinner, a bath and a rest, and then I’ll go back to the security guard job till morning.”
Nélson is 30, and a World Champion kickboxer. He lives in his parents house, and eats meals with them, on their budget. But he hasn’t lost hope. He dreams of having a job with a contract and rights.
“I am going to vote. I hope the new government will try to improve conditions, not only for precarious workers like me, but that it will try to solve other problems our country has.”
Our correspondent Filipa Soares summed up: “Young or old, the Portuguese don’t seem to believe in politicians or that the next elections will bring big changes.”