PORTUGAL PROTESTS FOLLOWING YET ANOTHER BAIL OUT PLAN
Earlier this month, as scandal engulfed Dominique Strauss – Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund accused of alleged sexual assaultagainst a hotel housekeeper at a New York City hotel, an assault of a different kind was in operation. Colleagues of Strauss – Kahn at the IMF were pushing forward with yet another rescue package (3 year plan) in the form of a loan to Portugal. EU ministers issued a joint statement declaring “ministers concur (with the European Commission and European Central Bank) that providing a loan to Portugal is warranted to safeguard financial stability in the euro area and EU as a whole.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/gilts/8517580/European-finance-ministers-shrug-off-Dominique-Strauss-Kahn-scandal-to-strike-Portugal-deal.html
The Telegraph also reported that, “Europe will provide Portugal a 52 billion euro loan at a rate of about 5.5%, while the IMF will offer 26 billion euro at 3.25 %.”
I corresponded with Portuguese campaigners to find out what approach they were taking to highlight their concerns to government but first of all I followed up on a week of Spanish civil unrest.
A few days ago Asia Despatch reported on anti-cuts demonstrations from the Spanish camp at Puerta Del Sol square in the centre of Madrid where tens of thousands camped out prior to the elections to show their displeasure at government greed and corruption, high unemployment and the need for political, social and economic reform http://www.asiadespatch.com/2011/05/interview-thousands-on-pre-election-march-in-spain/ The demonstrations which defied a legal ban are ongoing and cover 20 cities. This is seen as a public awakening and taking responsibility through peaceful protest and is likely to continue for some time to come.
I caught up with Teresa Gardes, the PhD student I interviewed last week for her view on the Spanish election results. She spoke of feeling “empowered” and had this to say, “The PP (Peoples Party) has a clear win, and the Socialists have clearly been handed a reprimand by the people. The United Left (IU) has gained momentum and are optimistic. Some people have become disenchanted but these results were expected. Democracy Real Ya (Real Democracy Now) who have fronted the move for reform) needs time to build on this past week. Revolution doesn’t happen in a week. It takes time.”She also added that,
“Spanish news is not highlighting that IU (Izquierda Unida) was voted by half a million people more than in the last elections.”
Website Etb.com reported Prime Minister, Jose Luis Zapatero as saying that the result on Sunday was “due punishment of his government for the state of the economy”. The outcome of the elections was summarised as “the worst performance on record by the socialist party in local and regional elections, the numbers reflecting the loss were stunning: the conservative Popular Party won at the municipal level by about 2 million votes compared to 150-thousand in its win in 2007, and in 13 regional governments that were up for grabs, Zapatero’s party lost in virtually all of them” http://www.eitb.com/news/life/detail/664508/spanish-angry-ones-see-little-hope-change-election-result/
So what is happening in neighbouring Portugal where many people are also in a state of discontent? I spoke with Ana Margarida Fernandes Esteves a post doctoral fellow at Tulane University originally from Torres Vedras a city 50km north of the capital, Lisbon. She informed me that the protests were centred around Rossio Square in Lisbon where a camp similar to that in Puerta Del Sol in Madrid had been established. This is not the first
time that the Portuguese have marched against cuts and lack of employment opportunities. They took to the streets in March descending on the Avenida De Liberade from the Marques de Pombal Square to the Rossio. At that time International Viewpoint Online wrote that (according to protest organiser, Paula Gil), “participation of the ‘breadline generation’ far exceeded the numbers originally expected, with about 300,000 people taking part across the country. She also emphasised that “this was the first step in a
participatory democracy in Portugal.” Citizens continue to suffer due to austerity measures, high unemployment levels and little faith in politicians that have failed to avert a burdening debt crisis. I was informed by my contact Ana Margarida Fernandes Esteves that a Popular Assembly has now been established and the following Manifesto was agreed on 22nd May, 2011 and approved for distribution:-
FIRST MANIFESTO OF THE ROSSIO SQUARE CAMP
The protesters, assembled in the Rossio Square, conscious that what is set in March is an act of resistance, hereby agree to state the following:
We, citizens, women and men, workers, migrants, students, unemployed and retired people, united by our indignation in front of a situation that we refuse to accept as inevitable, have taken our streets. We thus join those that around the world today fight for their rights against the constant oppression of the ruling economical-financial system.
From Reykjavik to Cairo, from Wisconsin to Madrid, a popular wave sweeps the world. This wave is silenced and twisted with disinformation by the media, the same media that doesn’t question the permanent injustices in every country, only proclaiming the inevitability of austerity, the end of rights, the funeral of democracy.
Real democracy will never exist as long as the world is managed by a financial dictatorship. The ransom signed behind our backs with the IMF and the EU has abducted democracy and our lives. The countries in which the IMF intervenes see a brutal drop in the average life expectancy. The IMF kills! We can only reject it. We refuse to have our wages, our pensions and social supports cut, while simultaneously the culprits for this crisis are spared and recapitalized. Why do we have to choose between unemployment and precarious labour? Why do they want to take away our public services, stealing from us, through privatizations, of what we paid for all our lives? Our answer is no. We
defend the withdrawal of the troika (IMF, EU, BC) plan. Following the example of many countries around the world, such as Iceland, we will not accept to bury our future for a debt that isn’t ours.
We refuse to accept the theft of our future. We intend to assume control of our lives and intervene effectively in each and every process of political, social and economical life. We are doing it, today, in the popular assemblies gathered all around. We appeal to all the people to join, in the streets, in the squares, in each corner, under the shade of every statue so that, united, we may change once and for all the rules of this crooked game.
This is just the beginning. The streets are ours.
Lisbon, 22nd of May 2011
(Thanks to Jerome E Roos, writer, activist and political commentator for translation, http://roarmag.org/ )
TIME … Protests: Has The Revolution Come To Spain
Precarious Generation On The March (Portugal)
Carol Grayson is Director Co-ordination Asia Despatch and a UK researcher /campaigner on global health/human rights awarded ESRC Michael Young Prize 2009