He fought fascism but as president backed neoliberal policies
FORMER Portuguese president Mario Soares, who reversed many gains of the 1974 Carnation Revolution at the behest of European social democracy, died in Lisbon at the weekend. The 92-year-old had been in a deep coma for the past fortnight.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced three days of national mourning, beginning today, and that a state funeral would be arranged.
“His cause was always the same — freedom. At decisive moments, he was always a winner,” said President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
Born in Lisbon in 1924, Mr Soares opposed the Estado Novo (New State) fascist dictatorship headed from 1932 to 1968 by Antonio Salazar.
Influenced by legendary Communist Party (PCP) leader Alvaro Cunhal, he joined the Movement of Anti-Fascist National Unity (Munaf) in 1943, before charting his own course in the mid-1950s, adopting a more explicitly socialdemocratic stance and laying the basis for the Socialist Party.
Mr Soares was arrested on a dozen occasions for prodemocracy activity, including representing political prisoners, serving short detentions totalling three years, before being deported to the Sao Tome colonial island in 1968. The Marcello Caetano government released him in 1970 on condition that he be exiled in France.
Mr Soares returned to Lisbon three days after the Carnation Revolution — so-called because soldiers refused to take action against revolutionaries who placed carnations in their rifle barrels — walking arm in arm with the PCP leader on May Day holding a carnation.
It was all change by May Day the following year, when PS officials ordered activists to link arms to prevent fraternisation with their erstwhile PCP comrades.
Mr Soares, as president, collaborated with neoliberal Prime Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva to privatise the banks and other industries taken into public ownership by the revolution. Rural workers, who had seized the estates on which they toiled, especially in the Alentejo region, were dispossessed.
PCP secretariat member Jose Capucho praised Mr Soares as a “significant personality in national political life” and a “participant in the fight against the fascist dictatorship.”
But he stressed the party’s antagonism to his role in “fighting against the emancipatory march of the April Revolution and its achievements, including national sovereignty.”
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