Portugal divided over honour to coup leaders

Left calls for rehabilitation of officers who overthrew dictatorship in 1974

THIS MONTH Portugal commemorates the 25th anniversary of the "Carnation Revolution", the bloodless uprising by a clutch of romantic young army officers who overthrew a 48-year-old fascist dictatorship on 25 April 1974. But a quarter of a century later the legacy of the revolution is still dividing the country.

In the years that followed the fall of the Caetano dictatorship, revolutionary officers like Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, Melo Atunes and Vitor Alves saw their careers cut short - Saraiva de Carvalho was later accused of leading an urban guerrilla group. Recently, however, it was proposed that they should all now be promoted to the rank of general, setting off furious denunciation from opponents and equally passionate support among allies.

The Portuguese right-wing is outraged at the suggestion that junior officers who disobeyed their commanders should be honoured, but the communists support the proposal wholeheartedly. The socialist government, while keen to "correct injustices", is reluctant to stir controversy with elections due later this year.

The 25 April Association, which is pressing the case of the revolutionary officers, is furious at the uproar. "All we're asking is to put right the injustices afflicting a group of up to 500 officers who were forced to abandon their military careers for political reasons," said the association's president, Vasco Lourenco. "The dignity of the officers of 25 April who brought democracy to Portugal can never be bought with favours, nor their commitment to the struggle against injustice confused with the pursuit of gifts."

The promotions are largely symbolic. Most of the officers are now retired so, apart from glory, they would receive only improved pensions. Portuguese conservatives oppose the initiative on principle, while the communists and the 25 April Association say the cost to the state would be minuscule.

The row became so heated that the former socialist prime minister, Mario Soares, now the grand old man of Portuguese politics, intervened to try to calm things down. "I have nothing against the idea," he said. "It would be to grant a well-deserved distinction. Those captains who fought for freedom naturally deserve that distinction."

But the socialists are themselves divided: the Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres, says he will take no action, while his party has drafted a joint parliamentary proposal with the communists. "Our country cannot be the only one in the world that punishes its officers for carrying out a peaceful revolution that overthrew a dictatorship," said one socialist leader.

But one liberal critic, Miguel Sousa Tavares, reckons the revolutionary officers were not as enlightened as is generally thought. "I remember seeing the tanks in the streets that April morning in 1974," he said, "and thinking `Are these the same officers who supported the catastrophic wars in Angola and Mozambique, and collaborated with the PIDE secret police? They are.' Many of them just wanted to further their careers. Are we to conclude that they will stop at nothing to be made generals?"

Public opinion is broadly in sympathy with the officers. But in characteristically relaxed fashion, most Portuguese do not think their actions merit any special distinction. A survey carried out by the centre-left newspaper Publico found that 56 per cent of Portuguese thought the revolutionary officers had been "doing their duty" and 40 per cent considered them "heroes", while only 4 per cent thought them "traitors". But 61 per cent opposed promoting them to general, compared with 39 per cent in favour.

With that kind of electoral arithmetic, Mr Guterres may be tempted to drop the whole idea, or to concoct some inspired compromise that will sweeten the festive flypasts, military parades and showers of carnations planned a fortnight from today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links