Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Flower

Cheers, Carnations and Problems

One week after the army coup that ousted a dictatorship of almost half a century, Portugal was still in a festive, holiday mood, still celebrating the sudden, surprising gift of freedom. At Portela Airport outside Lisbon, nearly every plane brought in a new group of exiles, many of whom had not been home for years. Red carnations, the popular insignia of the April 25th revolution, sprouted from buttonholes and blouses everywhere.
Though the new ruling military junta had feared trouble on May Day, the day of traditional celebration of workers' solidarity passed without mishap. Car horns in the capital honked the happy rhythm of "Spín-Spín-Spínola" to honor the head of the junta, General António de Spínola, 64, and 200,000 people jammed a soccer stadium to hear speeches by leftist leaders newly returned from exile. THANK YOU, ARMED FORCES, read one banner paraded in the stadium. The only somber note was the continued hunt for members of the old regime's secret police, whose sadistic efficiency has now made them outlaws throughout the country.
Full Freedom. The first important exile to return was Socialist Mario Scares, 49, who had been jailed twelve times before being deported five years ago. Soares was met at Lisbon's Santa Apolonia Railroad Station by a throng of 7,000, a scene that some compared to Lenin's famous arrival at the Finland Station in 1917 after the fall of the Czar. The second prominent exile to come back was Communist Alvaro Cunhal, 59, who had been living in Eastern Europe for the past 14 years, after serving 13 years in Portuguese jails. Cunhal's presence was the most tangible sign so far that the junta is sincere when it promises full freedom of expression.
Soares and Cunhal met with Spinola —and both indicated that they expect their parties to be included in the provisional government Spinola will soon form to guide the country until national elections are held within the next year. "The Communist Party is ready to assume its responsibility in the present political structure," said Cunhal. "We must all remain united and work with the junta to consolidate the gains of April 25th," said Soares, who was enthusiastic after meeting Spínola. "What intellectual stature this man has," he said. "He accepted what was thrust upon him by the revolution, and he has done a great thing for his people."
In the months to come, Spínola may have to do even greater things if Portugal is to keep its new-found democracy. Even as the cheers echoed through Lisbon and the ubiquitous red carnations were still fresh, the dark outline of Portugal's multitudinous problems loomed behind the celebrations like a grim, surrealistic bas-relief.
Despite their protestations of solidarity, the Socialists and the Communists were jockeying for control of more leftists than anyone knew existed in Portugal. The middle-class center had yet to be heard from; it was apparently totally confused and alarmed by the most momentous week in the country's modern history. The right, represented by the storied families that own most of the land and run the economy, prudently sought a low profile.
"Our company is more than 100 years old, and we have worked under regimes different from the previous one," said Jorge de Mello, co-owner of the Companhia União Fabril conglomerate and Portugal's leading industrialist. "I am confident that we can meet the challenge of adapting to new conditions. After all, private businesses flourish under socialism in Scandinavia, Britain, and Holland, don't they?"
Under the dictatorship, the right had enjoyed such unique privileges as a law prohibiting strikes; as a result, Portuguese workers were the most poorly paid in Western Europe. How long businessmen would remain silent was still a question mark. "The families will fight like fury, like eunuchs in a seraglio, to retain their status," predicted Scares. "They will use all manner of economic and political sabotage."
The most immediate test for the Spinola regime will be whether it can unite the country behind a common policy toward its three African territories —Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea. All the factions of the left want an immediate settlement with native guerrillas, while the right, supported by many whites in Angola and Mozambique, wants the fight against the guer rillas to go on unabated. In the book that sparked the coup, Portugal and the Future, Spinola himself talked vaguely about a federation of the territories. For their part, rebel groups in all three places have vowed to continue the battle (see box).
When he took power in France in 1958, Charles de Gaulle faced problems with French Africa that were similar to what Spinola faces now. But De Gaulle at least had a democratic tradition and a certain amount of stability at home. Spinola has neither. What he does have is respect and affection from his countrymen—the depths of which he will soon measure.

Time, Monday May 13, 1974

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