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__ dementesim . . Do rio que tudo arrasta se diz que é violento Mas ninguém diz violentas as margens que o comprimem. . _____ . Quem luta pelo comunismo Deve saber lutar e não lutar, Dizer a verdade e não dizer a verdade, Prestar serviços e recusar serviços, Ter fé e não ter fé, Expor-se ao perigo e evitá-lo, Ser reconhecido e não ser reconhecido. Quem luta pelo comunismo . . Só tem uma verdade: A de lutar pelo comunismo. . . Bertold Brecht

terça-feira, novembro 24, 2015

Portugal: Socialist government takes power with Left support

november 24 2015
tags: Portugal, coalitions, austerity, wages, pensions, workers rights

After a lengthy wait, Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva has finally agreed this morning to have the Secretary General of the Socialist Party and former mayor of Lisbon, Antonio Luis Santos da Costa, form a government with the support of the Communist, Ecologist (Green) and Left Bloc deputies in the national parliament.

This government replaces the right wing regime of now ex-Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho. The coalition headed by Passos Coelho, consisting of his Social Democratic Party and the smaller People's Party, lost its majority in the Portuguese Parliament in the election of Oct. 4 this year, ending up with 107 seats in Parliament to a total of 112 for the combined forces of the Socialist Party, the Left Bloc, and a united front of the Communist Party and the Ecologist, or Green Party.

The defeat of the Passos Coelho government came as a result of austerity policies it had enacted as a condition for an $83 billion bailout loan from the "Troika" of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The resulting layoffs of state employees and cuts in wages, pensions and social services including health care and schools, have angered millions of Portuguese.

Portugal's unemployment rate is still high, especially among young people. At one point Prime Minister Passos Coelho had "suggested" to young Portuguese who could not find jobs that they should simply leave the country and go and live in the former Portuguese colonies of Angola and Brazil. This not only angered young people but also created diplomatic friction with Angola and Brazil, whose governments had not been consulted.

In the past the Socialists had feuded with the Communists, Greens and Left Bloc, but on this occasion Mr. Costa was able to work out an agreement with them whereby the Passos Coelho government would be ousted, as a shared priority of all of them.

Cavaco Silva, who belongs to the same political party as Passos Coelho, the Social Democrats - in Portugal a right-wing party in spite of its name-had expressed extreme reluctance to appoint a Socialist Party government, on the grounds that its reliance on Communist, Green and Left Bloc votes for a parliamentary majority would antagonize investors and thus harm the Portuguese economy. Initially re appointing the Passos Coelho government, Cavaco Silva had made red baiting statements about the prospect, even though the Communists, Greens and Left Blocs had agreed to take demands such as leaving NATO, the Euro Currency and the European Union off the table, and did not ask for ministerial positions in the new government. As the Secretary General of the Communist Party, Jeronimo de Sousa, repeated numerous times, the left's goal was to oust the Passos Coelho government and fight for the reversal of its austerity measures. In the left's agreement with Costa, items emphasized are restoring wages, pensions, and health and education services, defending rights of workers and unions, stopping privatization and reversing bans on abortion and adoption by same sex couples.

These demands alone are enough to enrage Portugal's right wing and the European financial establishment, so the new government will have a tough fight on its hands. But it is in somewhat better shape than Greece whose left wing government was forced to accept a continuation and intensification of austerity measures earlier this year.

President Cavaco Silva finally gave in when the Socialists and the left were able to vote no-confidence in the government and elect a socialist as speaker of the parliament, without dissention within the Socialist Party that the president had hoped for. So Cavaco has now appointed a Socialist-led government rather than appointing a caretaker government under Passos Coelho, which would not have been able to get any of its bills passed because of its lack of a parliamentary majority, pending a new election in June at the earliest.

 Meanwhile, Portugal has a presidential election on Jan. 24 of next year, with a second round on February 14 if no candidate gets a majority. If Cavaco Silva had blocked a new government that has majority support, it could have affected the chances of the Social Democratic Party candidate for president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. Although Rebelo de Sousa is polling well so far, the candidates of the Socialists, Communist-Green Alliance (CDU) and Left Bloc and others are in full campaign mode already.

The new Socialist Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, lost no time in naming his cabinet. The new occupant of the all-important position of Finance Minister, Mario Centeno, has made statements to reassure Portugal's creditors so far. One of the first African descended people to be appointed to a Portuguese cabinet, Francisca van Dunem, who was born in Angola and was involved in that country's struggle for independence against Portugal, will be the new minister of justice.

Photo: Portuguese Socialist Party leader Antonio Luis Santos da Costa addresses the parliament in Lisbon during the debate of the government's four-year policy program, November 10. Armando Franca | AP


Elections throw future of Portugal’s right wing government in doubt

october 6 2015
tags: Portugal, world, elections, politics, international

Portugal had legislative elections on Sunday, Oct. 4.  At writing, the question of whether Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho will stay on, and on what basis, is the subject of intense negotiations.

The ruling right wing  coalition  of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coehlo got 38.5 percent of the vote (as compared to 50.4 percent in the last election, in 2011) lost 23 parliamentary seats in the 230 seat parliament or Assembly of the Republic, thus also losing its slender majority, but still got the largest number of seats in total, at 104.

 The Socialist Party, which earlier looked to be overtaking the governing parties, faded toward the end but still picked up 11 seats in the 230 for a total of 85, with a popular vote of 32.4 percent compared to 28 percent last time around.

On the left, the United Democratic Coalition, composed of the Communist Party and the Ecologist (Greens) Party, more than held its own with 8.3 percent of the vote (compared to 7.9 percent in the 2011 election) and picked up an additional seat for a total of 17.

The Left Bloc, BE in Portuguese, surged at the very end and swept past the Communist-Green alliance for a total of 10.2 percent of the popular vote, and 19 parliamentary seats.  With a few races still to be decided, six seats were won by smaller parties, and none by groups to the right of the government.

Media in the United States misleadingly reported the Portuguese election results as a "victory" for Passos Coelho's government.  In fact, it was a major setback.

What happens now is that the coalition government, because it won more seats than any one other party, consults with the mostly ceremonial president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, who will probably ask Passos Coehlo to form a new government.

However, this is not automatic.  The parties of the left and left-center outnumber the ruling coalition with 121 seats to 104.  As both the Communists and the BE quickly pointed out, this leaves the Socialist Party in the position of kingmaker, depending on whether it moves to support Passos Coelho's continuation in power, or to block it. The combined Socialist, Communist and Left Bloc government could vote "no confidence" in the government and cause its demise.

This election was fought on the subject of austerity and the subordination of Portugal to the dictates of the "Troika" of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank.  This austerity was imposed, as in the case of Greece, in exchange for a financial bailout of $87 billion.

In the 2011 election, the Socialist Party, then in power under the leadership of former Prime Minister Jose Socrates, was severely punished by the voters for having acceded to the Troika's demands and imposed austerity, and this brought in the right wing government of Passos Coelho, a coalition between the Social Democratic Party (in Portugal a right-wing party in spite of its name) and the Democratic and Social Center-People's Party.

However, Passos Coelho continued to implement austerity measures including wage and pension cuts, firing of public sector workers, dismantlement of social welfare programs,  measures to weaken the unions, and onerous tax hikes, leading to widespread suffering on the part of the Portuguese working class and ordinary citizens.    The government was the target of many mass protest actions led by the labor movement and the left, and as the election season got underway it looked as if it would be swept from power.

But the Socialist Party had to deal not only with the opprobrium of having implemented austerity, of not having opposed it strongly once in opposition, and with scandals involving ex Prime Minister Socrates.

When Socrates resigned as Secretary General of the Socialist Party he was replaced by the Mayor of Lisbon, Antonio Costa, whose initial statements indeed seemed to signal a move toward the left.

What brought about the surge of the Left Bloc at the last minute will be a matter of much speculation.  At its founding it brought in organizations connected to the politics of Leon Trotsky's "Fourth International" and other far lefts, however it has moved away from those origins in recent years.

What happens now that Passos Coelho does not have a majority any more?  The Socialists, Communists and Left Bloc don't have a recent history of working together.  Both the Communists and the Left Bloc express skepticism as to Portugal's continuation in the Euro currency group and other European Union institutions, but the Socialists are committed to remain.

 So far it looks as if Passos Coelho will continue as prime minister, and this will be clinched if the Socialist Party ultimately decides to join in a coalition with him.  But this is a risk for the Socialists as they will be blamed all the more for continuing austerity. They will have to bear in mind the fate of the similar PASOK party in Greece, which joined the right in a coalition and as a result has been reduced to marginality.

The General Secretary of the Communist Party, Jeronimo de Sousa stated that his party would vote in parliament against the continuation of the present government and called on the Socialist Party to do likewise.            

Meanwhile, Catarina Martins, head of the Left Bloc, guaranteed to their supporters that her party would not lend itself to any arrangement that would allow the right wing government to continue in power or implement more austerity policies.

If Passos Coelho cannot put together a viable parliamentary coalition or finds it impossible to govern, another election will have to happen after a constitutionally required minimum period of six months.

Photo: Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho picks up his ballot to vote.   |   AP


Portuguese government to unemployed: “There’s the door!”

march 5 2012
tags: Portugal, international, analysis, history

Portugal's prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, of the right-wing Social Democratic Party, shocked many on Dec. 18, when he suggested publicly that one solution for his country's growing unemployment problem, especially for schoolteachers and youth, is to leave the country and go find work in Portugal's former colonies, especially prosperous Brazil and oil-rich Angola. This was not a frustrated blurt-out; several ministers in Passos Coelho's cabinet have made the same explicit invitation.

Passos Coelho came to power in June of last year when the governing Socialist Party essentially committed political suicide by agreeing to brutal austerity measures dictated to it by the European Union, the Central Bank of Europe, and the International Monetary Fund. Voters punished the socialists by ousting them, but unemployment has continued to rise as the economy shrinks. It now stands at 14 percent, and is especially high among young people, including college educated ones who had hoped to go into important fields like teaching.

Passos Coelho should know about life in Angola, as he was raised there (though born in Portugal).

Angola was one of the first of Portugal's colonies in Africa, starting with slave, gold, and ivory trading posts on the coast in the 1400s. Comparisons among European colonial policies in Africa are difficult, as they were all pretty terrible. But Portugal's colonial regimes in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, the Cape Verde Islands and São Tome and Principe have got have been somewhere near the bottom (Belgian colonialism under the "Congo Free State" of King Leopold II would take the prize). Plunder and exploitation was brutal, and impoverished Portugal did nothing to develop the human capital of colonies whatsoever, leaving them without doctors, engineers, scientists, or a sufficient number of teachers of African background.

In April 1974, the "Estado Novo" (New State) of fascist dictator Antonio de Oilveira Salazar and his successor, Marcelo Caetano, was ended by the "Carnation Revolution."  Young military officers tired of being used as cannon fodder in unwinnable counterinsurgency wars in Guinea Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique joined with workers, students, and others to oust Caetano and introduce a democratic regime. For a while, the Carnation Revolution took a decidedly left-wing course, with an important role for the Portuguese Communist Party.

One of the first things the new government did was to grant immediate independence to almost all remaining Portuguese colonies. But the war between the Portuguese Military and rebels in Angola and Mozambique was quickly transformed, with the aid of the CIA and the apartheid era South African government, into two bloody civil wars.

There followed quickly a massive return of Portuguese settlers from the colonies to Portugal, between a half million and a million by most accounts. The Passos Coelho family was one of the first "retornados." As the Whites had monopolized skill in the colonies, this was a blow to the economic development of these countries. Cuba, the Soviet Union, China, and other socialist countries worked to fill the gap with various aid programs.

When the "retornados" arrived in Portugal, many of them were destitute and boiling with resentment against the left-wing politicians who, they thought, had ended their sweet life in the tropics. The arrival of this mass of people contributed to a rightward movement in the Portuguese body politic. Over successive election periods, support for the Left dropped.

The irony! Not only does Passos Coelho, the retornado, whose policies are contributing mightily to his country's economic problems, tell unemployed Portuguese youth and schoolteachers that they should go back to where he came from, he was in Angola in November to sign business deals whereby the oil rich African country could "help" Portugal in its difficulties by, among other things, buying up privatized Portuguese national resources, including power generation stations, banks, and other important things.

And evidently, before blurting out his invitation to the unemployed to leave, he did not discuss the idea with either the Angolans or the Brazilians: Both countries replied frostily that they had no need of teachers from Portugal right now. In fact, in recent years there has already been massive Portuguese immigration to Brazil and Angola, in the hundreds of thousands, coming from a country of only 11 million people.

Nor was Passos Coelho's suggestion greeted warmly in Portugal. Demonstrating teachers shouted at him that he is the one who should leave. Jeronimo de Sousa, the Secretary General of the Portuguese Communist Party, which has vehemently opposed the austerity policies of Passos Coelho and his Socialist Party predecessor, Jose Socrates, summed it up, as quoted in the "Publico" news website:

"How is it that they are worried when all the measures they undertake go in the direction of more unemployment, with this wandering idea that Passos Coelho now has put forward, that the alternative would be emigration to Brazil or Angola. It's unacceptable...[our] young people have the right to remain in their country, to build their futures, their lives and their own autonomy here."

Photo: Portugese Prime Minister Coelho arrives at Lisbon Technical University.   Francisco Seco/AP


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