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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea