• 40 years after revolution, Portugal is angry
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     | April 26,2014
     
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    People carry pictures of world figures connected with struggles for people’s rights and liberties while taking part in a march celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, Friday in Lisbon’s Liberdade Avenue. Euphoria gripped Portugal during the April 25, 1974 revolution, when junior army officers swept away a four-decade dictatorship. The almost bloodless coup brought what for the Portuguese were novelties: the right to vote, universal health care, public education, old-age pensions and labor rights.

    LISBON, Portugal — Euphoria gripped Portugal during the 1974 Carnation Revolution, when junior army officers swept away a four-decade dictatorship. The almost bloodless coup brought what for the Portuguese were novelties — the right to vote, universal health care, public education, old-age pensions and labor rights.

    On the coup’s 40th anniversary Friday, the prevailing mood among the Portuguese is anger at how their government is now stripping away those cherished entitlements amid a financial crisis.

    “Many people are feeling very cheated,” said Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, a former army captain who masterminded the pre-dawn military takeover. “What we’re living through now, it’s like it’s signing the death warrant of the hopes and values of (the revolution).”

    As commemorations began, around 2,000 people listened to speeches given by some of those who participated in the upheaval four decades ago. In the afternoon, several thousand marched in downtown Lisbon, many wearing red carnations as a symbol of the revolution.

    April 25, an annual public holiday, has this year provided a lightning rod for those keen to voice their discontent at austerity measures. It’s a sentiment also encountered in other European Union countries feeling the pain of public spending cuts aimed at defusing a recent debt crisis.

    Portugal, like Greece and Ireland, had to ask for an international bailout in 2011, needing 78 billion euros ($107.8 billion) to avoid bankruptcy. It became a ward of foreign creditors, who have compelled the country of 10.5 million people to slash social programs and job protection laws established in the revolution’s aftermath.

    The Carnation Revolution, which saw a million people fill the streets in a mass celebration, is regarded as one of the glorious moments of Portugal’s 20th-century history. It is named for the red flowers — in season and plentiful at the time — which people stuck in the barrels of soldiers’ rifles on that landmark day. Within a year, elections were held.

    For most Portuguese under 50 years old, the revolution is a milestone they learned about at school. But with youth unemployment at 35 percent, the anniversary has struck a chord with many young people. Nationwide commemorations include dozens of protest events organized on social media.

    Miguel Januario, a 33-year-old street artist painting a commemorative mural on a wall of Lisbon’s New University, said he held dear the changes brought by an event he didn’t live through, “but since then we’ve allowed new forms of dictatorship — in this case financial — to take over.”

    Portuguese of all ages have plenty to complain about after three straight years of recession.

    Budget cuts have, for example, forced the closure of local health centers and reduced subsidies for prescription drugs. High schools have seen staff levels fall and the purchase of new equipment postponed. New laws have made it easier and cheaper to hire and fire workers.

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