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October 11 2013

Re-Imagining Lusophony and Decolonizing the Mind

The Fourth International Congress in Cultural Studies – Colonialisms, Post-colonialisms and Lusophonies has a call for paper submissions open until October 15, 2013:

To demystify, to dehierarchize, to establish a policy of difference, to allow a multiplicity of voices, to constitute so many projects of possible modernities/rationalities within post-modernity, to mobilize, to re-politicize, to imagine other political, social and economical models, this is the task (utopian, of course) that is, for us, essential in the re-imagining of Lusophony.

(…)

A postcolonial reflection in a Lusophone context cannot avoid the exercise of criticism to the old dichotomies of periphery/center, cosmopolitanism/rurality, civilized/savage, black/white, north/south, in a context of cultural globalization, transformed by new and revolutionary communication phenomena, which have also globalized marginality.

The congress will take place from April 28 to 30, 2014, in the city of Aveiro, Portugal.

October 03 2013

Local Elections in Portugal Confirm Distrust of Political Parties

The electoral campaign was marked by various highs and lows which revealed the distrust in the political parties. The best example was the success achieved by the Facebook page Tesourinhos das Autárquicas, which satirises various election posters and other moments of the campaign, followed by more than 127,000 people.

The electoral campaign was marked by several ups and downs which have revealed distrust of the political parties. The best example was the success achieved by the Facebook page Tesourinhos das Autárquicas (Little Gems from the Local Elections), with more than 127,000 followers, which satirises various election posters (as in this image, PSD´s poster on a dumpster) and other moments from the campaign.

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

Despite most of the national and international media focusing on the defeat of the incumbent government party, the Social Democrats Party (PSD), in the Portuguese local elections, the truth is that the big losers are actually all of the political parties.

A look at the general results reveals some interesting figures, such as the abstention rate of 47.36 percent, the highest ever rate in local elections. As for those who did vote, 3.86 percent of the votes were left blank, spoilt votes made up 2.95 percent, and the votes for independent candidates reached 6.66 percent.

Numbers from the Local Elections shared by Paula Montez on Facebook.

Numbers from the Local Elections, shared by Paula Montez on Facebook. “Absent: 47.36%, Blank votes: 3.86%, Spoilt votes: 2.95%. Total: 54.17%. 4,679,063 constituents did not vote for anyone! And the parties still say they have been elected by the majority.”

Strangely, none of the party leaders in their declarations made after the results were announced made reference to the fact that the electoral party system has only won the support of less than half of the population.

Minister for Defence Aguiar Branco was the only one to point out that:

É muito perigoso pensar que a democracia pode viver sem partidos.

It is very dangerous to think that democracy can exist without parties.

The results don't seem to be worrying the main political party figures, but maybe it is the right time to rethink the electoral system, since it seems to be deteriorating. In 2011, Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva was voted in during an election in which 53.37 percent of the electorate abstained from voting, and in the parliamentary elections of the same year the abstention rate was 41.24 percent. The number of blank and spoilt votes has doubled since the last local elections in 2009.

Voters and candidates abstain from social networks

In social networks too, “the lack of interest in the almost two-week-long campaign was clear”, reported Público newspaper. The article by Hugo Torres highlights “the dangerous political indifference” of the voters, the fact that the “candidates did not know how to utilise Facebook to increase the interest of voters”, and further adds that “the absence of televised debates may have been the main factor in the silence of the web users”.

The television networks opted not to provide coverage of the electoral campaign because of their interpretation of a law laid down by the National Elections Commission (CNE), stipulating that all candidates, independent of their power or influence, receive equal treatment from the mass media.

The CNE also imposed limits on propaganda, including on social media, regardless if published by candidates or ordinary citizens, subject to penalty of a fine or up to six months in prison:

No dia e na véspera da eleição autárquica é proibido fazer propaganda, independentemente do meio utilizado, conforme prevê o artigo 177.º da Lei Eleitoral.

On the day and on the eve of the local elections, propaganda is prohibited, regardless of the means employed, as provided in Art. 177 of the Electoral Law [which is prior to the era of online social media].

Spoilt vote shared on Twitter by Manuel Portela (@ManuelP264)

Spoilt vote shared on Twitter by Manuel Portela (@ManuelP264). The voter inserted one extra option with the name of a football player and his team.

This could perhaps explain the fact that on the day of the elections, on Twitter, the hashtag #autárquicas2013 (local elections 2013) only started trending when the results started coming through. Even so, the use of the hashtag was criticised by some users, uninterested in the outcome of the elections.

Others took to Facebook to discuss the validity of the political system, such as the economist Vitor Lima:

O problema aqui é o sistema e não o governo que dele emana. Alguma coisa estava em vias de mudar com estas autárquicas? Creio que não. E por isso não votar ou votar branco/nulo é uma das escassas possibilidades de nos manifestarmos contra o sistema e a classe política, TODA ela unidinha na manutenção do sistema.

The system is the problem, not the government which results from the system. Was anything going to change with these local elections? I don't believe so. Thus, choosing not to vote, or leaving blank/spoilt votes, is one of the few ways in which we can protest against the system and the political class, all of whom are united in maintaining the [current] system.

Winners and losers

It is a fact that the incumbent PSD party received their worst results in the local elections in 20 years, but it is also a fact that the Socialist Party (PS), the biggest opposition party, lost some of its most important municipalities, such as Braga, Matosinhos, Évora and Beja.

It is worth mentioning that there was a record number of 80 independent candidates. Thirteen of these candidates were elected, but a large number of the independent candidates were previously associated with one of the parties or have already been mayors in the past. The most prominent case is that of Rui Moreira, who won the district of Porto, the second biggest city in the country. He was supported by the Popular Party (CDS-PP), which is one of the parties of the current coalition government, and whose candidates were elected in some municipalities in the north of the country (which is generally more conservative), one in Madeira where the electorate traditionally votes for PSD, and another in the Azores.

Also worth observing are some important victories of the CDU coalition made up of the Portuguese Communist Party and the Environmentalist Party “The Greens” – which is openly against the austerity measures and made this the main point of their campaign. The coalition managed to win back some important cities in the south of the country such as Évora and Beja, which they had lost to PS in the 2009 elections.

From abstention to Euro-scepticism

These were the first local elections since the 78 billion euro bailout (about 111 billion US dollars) and the coming of the so-called Troika to Portugal, which is composed of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Union (EU). The results of these elections are a clear demonstration of the discontent of the Portuguese population in relation to the conduct of the political parties, especially those who support the bailout and the austerity measures.

The senior members of the EU and the IMF are reviewing the conditions necessary to meet the targets, demanding even more cuts, and there is talk of the need for a second bailout. This would prolong a recession which has already lasted two and a half years, and has caused an increase in unemployment, reaching an official record level of more than 17 percent.  A rate that is higher than 27 percent, if we include those who are not registered at job centres, the so-called real unemployment figure. Youth unemployment, according to the latest information, is already more than 42 percent.

The European Parliament elections in May 2014 are highly likely to be one of the most important tests of the electoral participation of the citizens. These are traditionally the elections with the lowest turnout. In 2009, there was an abstention rate of 63.22 percent which, as well as demonstrating discontent with the party system, could point to an embarrassing Euro-sceptism.

September 25 2013

Crowdsourcing Accountability of the Electoral Campaign in Portugal

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages.]

In the run up for this week's municipal elections in Portugal, the platform Campanha Limpa (Clean Campaign) invites all citizens to help monitor electoral spending, by sending pictures of campaign materials such as posters, banners, signs, gifts and treats, rallies and events.

The platform, an initiative of Transparência e Integridade Associação Cívica (Transparency and Integrity, Civic Association), or TIAC, provides a map and instructions for participants, as well as legal documents and real time statistics:

The most voted gift, by far right political party PNR.

The most voted gift (on September 24, 2013): food by far right political party PNR (National Renovator Party). “The best photos will be featured and used to illustrate the (a)typical folklore of the electoral campaign, in the Portuguese way.”

os dados recolhidos sobre o número e o custo dos cartazes espalhados pelo país [são conferidos] e [comparados] com os orçamentos de campanha entregues pelos candidatos.

collected data on the number and cost of posters spread throughout the country [is verified] and compared with the budget of the campaign previously delivered by the candidates.

Citizens can report via mobile with an Android app.

The electoral campaign started on September 17 and lasts until Friday, September 27. The vote will take place on September 29. About 1,500 candidates (some more eccentric than others) are running for 308 municipalities.

September 14 2013

Where Parody Ends and Politics Begin: Comedians Running for Office

Homens da Luta on Optimus Alive music festival, 2011. Photo by José Goulão on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Homens da Luta at Optimus Alive music festival, 2011. Photo by José Goulão on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The well-known musical parody group Homens da Luta (Men of Struggle) from Portugal have turned their Facebook page, with more than half a million followers, into the online front of an electoral campaign for this year's municipal elections.

The group has become notably famous for its improvisational comedy and musical street performances in the anti-austerity protests that have taken place in the country since early 2011, and later received a boost from an appearance in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011. In their performances, they parody revolutionary tunes while satirizing historical characters and invoking the term “struggle” as much as they can.

Now, one of the two brothers who lead the band, Nuno Duarte ”Jel”, the nickname can be read as “hair gel”, is running for mayor of Cascais, one of the richest municipalities in Portugal, a coastal city just 30 kilometers west of the capital of Lisbon.

While the band mobilized and entertained masses in Portugal, for some critics, like João Silva Jordão, the “false resistance” of Homens da Luta [pt] has been a symbol of ”the decay of the political class” and one of the factors that has helped “the Portuguese people to remain in a dizzying state of apathy”:

Um desses factores é precisamente a tendência para ridicularizar todos os que tentam ativamente questionar o sistema, e sobretudo, os que mostram raiva e verdadeira indignação contra um sistema político, financeiro e económico que é estruturalmente desenhado para manter a população subjugada e confusa. E o exponente maior desta tendência são, em Portugal, os ‘Homens da Luta’.

One of these factors is precisely the tendency to ridicule those who actively try to question the system, and especially those who show true anger and indignation against a political, economic and financial system which is structurally designed to keep the population subdued and confused. And the greatest exponent of this trend are, in Portugal, the ‘Men of Struggle'.

Democracy, parodied

In the Mexican city of Xalapa, a cat candidate, Candigato (Candicat), didn't make it to the mayor's seat last June, but he gathered more than 160 thousands likes on his Facebook page.

In the Mexican city of Xalapa, a cat candidate, El Candigato Morris, didn't make it to the mayor's seat last June, but he gathered more than 160,000 likes on his Facebook page.

The trend of eccentric personas running for election is not new, but their success might be speeding up with social media.

For example, take Italian comedian Beppe Grillo and the political party he founded in 2009, the Five Star Movement, that won 25.55 percent of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies in the 2013 general election. Or Jón Gnarr, a popular comedic actor from Iceland with more than 72,000 followers on Facebook, who was elected mayor of the capital city Reykjavík in 2010. The humorous video of the campaign of the party he founded, The Best Party, went viral on YouTube.

In Brazil, more than 50 clowns ran as candidates in the 2012 municipal elections. The phenomenon followed the election of the popular clown-musician Tirica for a seat in Congress “with more votes than any other candidate in the [2010] elections,” the BBC reported. His name became a worldwide trending topic [pt] on Twitter, and the video of his campaign on YouTube has been watched more than 6.8 million times. He used Twitter (@tiririca2222, with 209,414 followers today) and Facebook (about 61,000 today), to disseminate his political slogans, such as:

O que é que faz um Deputado Federal? Na realidade eu não sei. Mas vote em mim que eu te conto. Vote no Tiririca, pior do que tá não fica.

What does a federal deputy do? Truly, I don't know. But vote for me and I will find out for you! Vote Tiririca, it can't get any worse.

One common ingredient among these particularly comic candidates is huge success on social media – even prior to becoming conventional political actors. In fact, their online popularity is often seen as appealing by political parties, who in turn invite them to run for elections together, as was the case of Homens da Luta and the invitation from the Portuguese Labour Party (PTP, in Portuguese).

A post on the website Plox speaks about that phenomenon [pt] in Brazil, pointing out Tiririca's affiliation with the Party of the Republic:

pois um bom candidato é um “puxador” que além de se eleger poderá render mais cadeiras legislativas para a legenda e, assim, ajudar a eleger colegas do partido. O Partido Republicano (PR), de Tiririca, é uma das siglas mais incentivadoras do humor na política.

because a good candidate is a “puller” who besides being elected may yield more legislative seats for the legend and thus help elect party colleagues. The Republic Party (PR), of Tiririca, is one of the acronyms that promotes the most humor in politics.

Society of Spectacle 2.0

According to analysts on Brazil quoted by the BBC, the rise of popularity of this type of electoral celebrities may reflect disillusion with mainstream politicians. The fact is that contemporary political processes are now being fueled by heated campaigns taking place in the new agoras of today's hyper connected world: social media.

The subject has been addressed in a seminar organized by the Cásper Líbero Faculty in São Paulo on “communication and politics in the society of spectacle” (a reference to Guy Debord's The Society of Spectacle (1967), a critique of citizens as mere passive spectators “who have been drugged by spectacular images”).

At the seminar of 2012, Electoral Campaigns and Political Process in the Society of Spectacle [pt], researcher Synésio Cônsolo Filho, argued [pt] that:

nas redes sociais virtuais a comunicação assume um caráter imagético, marcado pelo entretenimento e dispersão de ideias

in virtual social networks communication plays an imaging role, marked by entertainment and the dispersion of ideas

Blogger Marcelo Ariel from Santos in the state of São Paulo also made a link between the spectacularization of the electoral process and the elections result in his region:

Nenhum dos candidatos discutiu a fundo o ‘mito da governabilidade', modos de neutralizar o tráfico de influência e o clientelismo, de superar a ‘política de eventos’ e o pior, cada um dos candidatos se apresentou como um evento em si mesmo.

None of the candidates has discussed in depth the ‘myth of governability', ways of neutralizing the influence peddling, patronage, ways to overcome the ‘politics of events’ and – even worse – each candidate presented himself as an event in him/herself.

Still, in Portugal Homens da Luta, or Cascais na Linha (Cascais in the line, or in order, a play with words) as their Facebook page has been renamed to follow the motto of the independent candidacy, have turned a bit more sober and are doing what they can to convince voters without forgetting the cheer. Posts on their Facebook wall often attract hundreds of reactions. They create short videos presenting their ideas for the city, mixing humour with some concrete proposals that they promise to realize if elected.

The vote will take place on September 29, 2013 in Portugal. About 1,500 candidates are running for 308 municipalities.

August 29 2013

‘The Worst Tours’ Unveils Darker Side of Portugal's Top Travel Destination

Named by Lonely Planet as the top 10 European travel destination for 2013, the city of Porto in the north of Portugal “has emerged as a vibrant arts capital that’s rightfully getting a lot of buzz as a great value destination”, according to the travel guide publisher. But there is more than meets the eye in this picturesque city home to a World Heritage UNESCO site, flavourful wines and hospitable people and weather.

While the country's afflicted economy welcomes the money flow from visiting foreigners, the average tourist experience often doesn't show much of what daily life really is like for the people who live under times of austerity.

Enter The Worst Tours, “a low-rated tours agency” for those who wish to look beyond the shiny surface of Porto, the second largest city in Portugal:

Austerity killed the economy. Three out of work architects facing sudden economic destruction refuse leaving town and decide to open an unlikely walking-tours-agency – Porto, big picture, good and bad: Architecture, History, Politics, Urbanism, Slow food, and Hearsay.

We’ll show you the alleys, the abandoned buildings, the squares, the mean streets, the old markets, the cheap ‘tascas’ of spicy petiscos, the stories behind them all and have great discussions on very partial points of view.

They make fun of statements by Portuguese politicians, such as “lower your expectations” or “live within your possibilities” by using then out of context as slogans for their tours. In an interview for Sustanability Stories they say that “de-constructing the dominant speech requires a certain dose of surrealism. Sometimes taking a slogan out of its context is enough to empty it. ”

The Worst Tours makes fun of statements by Portuguese politicians – such as “lower your expectations” or “live within your possibilities” – by using them as slogans for their tours.

The Worst Tours takes tourists to places that give an idea of how the economic crisis dramatically changes the lives of people in Portugal. In an interview for the Sustainability Stories blog, they say that one of their most popular tours goes into the typical “islands” of Porto, a type of collective housing that “appeared with the Industrial Revolution as a way of accommodating the cheap labour arriving to the city”. They further explain that their aim is “[to show] a city that despite being a ruin is a beautiful ruin”:

The crisis is easy to see: the city is eroded due to austerity, it is abandoned, empty, it has poverty… and it has very interesting buildings and places too. It has contrasts; it is not a postcard, not even an illustrated one. We think that tourism is a damaged and commodified word. To travel is to let yourself involve in the places you visit. To go beyond the contradictions-free, clean and shiny touristy circuits.

Flyer with some of The Worst Tours prepared.

The Worst Tours flyer

Global Voices author Stanislas Jourdan visited the city and was deeply impacted by the paralyzed housing market, the lack of opportunities for people as unemployment grows, and the figures of emigration (“the city of Porto has lost 65,000 inhabitants since the 1990s”, he says). After a “worst tour”, he wrote on his blog about “Porto, a ghost town in the making”:

The first hours of my stay in Porto left me a great impression of the city. I could admire the beauty of the city and its amazing bridges from the train or from the nice terrace where I ended up first before catching another bus to Lisbon. But there was a dark side of the city I only discovered the next day of my arrival.

More than anywhere else in Portugal, Porto is turning into a ghost town. In every street, dozens of empty houses with broken windows, or ‘for sale’ posters are popping up. Plenty of them have been for sale since decades, and it is not rare to find ruined houses in the city center. According to 2011 figures, 12.7% of all houses in the Greater Porto area is vacant, and it is even higher to 18.8% inside the municipality of Porto.

“Bleeding houses grafitti against state violence”. On July 2013, the mayor violently evicted poor people from their homes at the Fontaínhas neighbourhood in Porto, then “someone” painted solidarity grafitti on the abandoned houses. The dwellers have since been displaced to “social housing” with no River Douro Views. Check the Facebook page of The Worst Tours for more pictures.

People of all ages, activists or not, coming from countries as diverse as Australia, Thailand and Germany who simply want to get to know the city through a different lens, have joined The Worst Tours. That was the case of Eva V., who wrote on her blog after a trip to Porto:

if you're into alternative touring and like to support these out of work architects, check out their website and book yourself a Worst Tour! Disappointment guaranteed. ;-)

You can listen to an interview in English with The Worst Tours on the audio portal of German community radios, or through this map, prepared in a hackathon-like workshop by Global Voices for German language broadcasters willing to tell more stories about creative alternatives rising in face of the European economic crisis, with special focus on the countries from the south. The radio segment was produced at the Free Radios Camp, and broadcast live from the shores of Lake Constance on May 9, 2013.

July 13 2013

How Europe's Solution for Economic Crisis is Actually the Problem

Europe's current crisis is more than economic. Between the German government advocating a dangerous austerity policy and European authorities lacking any other suggestions, it is clear that the 2008 financial crisis is no longer solely responsible for the downward spiral of Europe.

The GDP for countries in Europe has fallen by a considerable amount: 5.3 percent for Greece, 3.9 percent for Portugal, 4.1 percent for Cyprus, 2.3 percent for Italy, and two percent for Spain. This is without even mentioning the recession into which France is entering. In the first quarter of this year, the European Union economy contracted by 0.7 percent, or one percent when only taking into consideration the eurozone.

If it was only the 2008 economic crisis that was responsible for all this, Europe would not be one of the only one to suffer so much. For example, the United States, the birthplace of this crisis, registered a 1.9 percent increase in their economy in 2013 [fr] while their unemployment rate was at its lowest in four years.

Europe, which for a long time has aimed to maintain growth that compares favorably with  United States, now finds itself completely lost among incoherent policies and disputes between countries [fr].

One of the main reasons for this current instability in Europe is the evident failure of the European policy authorities when their proposals seem more than enigmatic. Restricting interchange fees as proposed by Michel Barnier, the European Union Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, is a perfect example of is a perfect example of  the Commission taking measures that will not have any concrete impact.

Capping interchange fees, bank charges paid by retailers when they make a card payment, would not only increase personal bank charges [fr], as the banks would want to recuperate the money lost by this cap, but the retailers profit margin will also increase, as they rarely lower their prices just because their costs have decreased.

The other significant issue which has notably accelerated the decline of Europe is the restricted austerity policy which the majority of EU countries have undertaken. It would be more logical for Europe to take inspiration from the countries that have pulled through, i.e. the United States, in order to stimulate the market rather than only focusing on reducing the deficit.

Le taux de chômage des jeunes en Europe de 2005-13 via Les crises, domaine public

Youth unemployment rate in Europe between 2005-2013 via Les Crises – public domain

The most frustrating aspect about this issue is that the majority of the European leaders agree on this point, but no one dares to confront the life-long defenders of austerity, also know as « Sparkurs » [de] in Germany and its strict chancellor, Angela Merkel [fr]. But there are also critics of austerity on the German side. Last week, Gilles Moëc, head economist at Deutsche Bank, admitted to the news outlet Agence France-Presse that “there were some errors” [fr] in the selected strategy.

However, it's not as if the Merkel method was fully tried and tested, in fact, it was far from it. Portugal, for example, had never been in such a terrible state until it was subjected to the European austerity policy. In two years, its unemployment rate increased by 5.3 percent, its budget deficit by 1.1 percent. As for its public debt, it's now 123 percent higher than its GDP.

Julio Salazar Moreno, Secretary-General of Spanish worker's trade union USO, believes that the countries within the European Union need to stop with the austerity policy [pt], according to online newspaper Público:

Os países da União Europeia (UE) têm de parar “de uma vez por todas” com a aplicação de medidas recessivas, porque os cidadãos, alerta, estão a viver no limite dos sacrifícios

The countries within the European Union (EU) must refrain from enforcing austerity policies “once and for all” because the alert citizens are living at the very limits of their possible sacrifices.

The sledgehammer approach is just as inefficient for Greece, claims Gregor Gyzi, a president from a left-wing parliamentary group in Germany Bundestag by addressing the Greek readers [el] of news247:

οι επιβληθείσες, κυρίως από την γερμανική κυβέρνηση, περικοπές σε μισθούς και συντάξεις, οι απολύσεις και οι ιδιωτικοποιήσεις, όχι μόνο ώθησαν την Ελλάδα σε βαθιά ύφεση και κοινωνικά προβλήματα, αλλά κατέστησαν και αδύνατη την επιστροφή των δανείων στο εγγύς μέλλον

Imposed primarily by the German government, salary and retirement cuts, redundancies and privatisations, are not only going to push Greece into a major recession and cause social problems, but its also going to make loan repayments equally impossible.

Emigration figures for Europe are also far from surprising. In two years, 2.5 percent of the Portuguese population left the country. Who would have said ten years ago that today many Europeans would leave the continent to work in countries like Angola or Brazil?

Facing this alarming development, it is even more depressing to hear the responses of others, like that of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, also the former minister of the Eurogroup, who recently gave his thoughts on the European crisis [fr] and concluded that what Europe needs is some “TLC”: a statement which speaks for itself.

June 06 2013

Mozambique: Mia Couto's 30 Years of Literature Honored with Prestigious Prize

[All links lead to pages written in Portuguese unless stated otherwise]

Mia Couto's three decades-long career in literature was acknowledged on the 27 May, 2013 when he was awarded the 25th Camões Prize in literature, worth 100,000 euros, and widely considered one of the most prestigious prize for Portuguese-speaking writers. Author of 23 books [en], among them romance novels, poems and chronicles translated into 22 languages, Mia became the second Mozambican author to win the prize, after poet José Craveirinha, who won it in 1991.

Mia entered the literary arena in 1983, with the publication of his first book of poems, Raiz de Orvalho. His first romantic novel came with Terra Sonâmbula (1992), considered one of the twelve best African books of the 20th century by the International Book Fair in Zimbabwe (2011). The work exposes Mozambique's history after the colonization process, decolonization and political independence [en], as pointed out by Pedro Puro Sasse da Silva of Rio de Janeiro Federal University, in a literary blog:

Já nas histórias de Kindzu encontramos inicialmente as previsões de seu pai sobre a independência do país fatos que poucos conheciam. Essa marginalização dos processos políticos do país revela que mesmo com os ditos revolucionários atos de descolonização, a vida do povo não mudou em nada, para eles, ser explorado por um branco ou por um negro em pouco mudava sua vida. Saindo de uma guerra para uma seguida entrada em outra o povo apesar de desconhecer as motivações, sabiam bem como defini-la, assim dizia Taímo: “A guerra é uma cobra que usa os nossos próprios dentes para nos morder.”

(…)

Percebemos, então, através dessa análise, que Terra Sonâmbula é um vivo retrato do povo moçambicano, uma descrição histórica de como a guerra acontece por trás da perspectiva da capital. Um povo que vive na dualidade de um passado rico em mitos e crenças, com um presente duro e cruel.

In Kindzu's histories we initially find his father's forecasts about the independence of his country, facts that only few knew. This marginalization of political processes of the country reveals that even with the revolutionary tales, the life of the people didn’t change in anything, for them, being exploited by a white or by a Negro didn’t change their life. A war after another, though not knowing the reasons, they knew how to define it, so said Taímo: “The war is a snake which uses our own teeth to bite us.”

We perceive, then, through this analyse, that Terra Sonâmbula is an alive portrait of Mozambican people, a historical description of how the war happens behind the capital perspective. People that live in duality of a past rich in myths and beliefs, with a hard and grim present.

Another one of Mia's books, Cada Homem é Uma Raça (1990), explores the race-perspective in Mozambican identity politics, as pointed out by Willian Conceiçao of Santa Catarina Federal University in Brasil:

Entre os mortos e vivos. O colonial e o independente. Entre raças? Cada homem é uma raça, possui algo que é próprio, todos com seus conflitos, vivenciado de formas especificas. “A pessoa é uma humanidade individual. Cada homem é uma raça, senhor polícia” [Aspas internas de Mia Couto].

Among the dead and the living. The colonial and the independent. Among races? Each man is a race, possesses something which is proper, all with their conflicts, living in specific ways. “The person is an individual humanity. Each person is a race, Mr Police” [Mia Couto's internal quotation marks].

By Luis Miguel Martins from Portug

Photo: Luis Miguel Martins/ CC-BY-SA-3.0/ via Wikimedia Commons

One of the political themes that features prominently in Mia's writing is that of Mozambican independence from Portuguese colonialism. The preface of the book Cronicando (1988), as mentioned in Sermos Galiza, helps shed light on the man himself:

Os intelectuais europeus olharam-no, ao conhecê-lo, com surpresa: era um jovem apesar de ter nome feminino (Mia), era um branco (cabelos louros, olhos claros) apesar de ser africano”, escreve Fernando Dacosta no prefacio de Cronicando, para explicar a posição do escritor no mundo, que responde à própria origem do género humano, “desobedecer aos mapas e desinventar bússolas, sua vocação é a de desordenar paisagens”, diz o escritor.

“The European intellectuals look at him with surprise: he was a young man although with a feminine name (Mia), was a white man (blonde hair, light eyes) although he is African”, writes Fernando Dacosta on the preface of Cronicando, to explain the position of the witter in the world, who answers to the origin of the human gender “disobey the maps and miss invent compasses, his vocation is to clutter the landscape”, says the writer.

Liliane Lobo, from Lusophone University in Lisbon, wrote about Mia's literary style in her blog:

A sua escrita apela o lado mais “natural” das coisas, explorando a ligação humana à terra, à natureza. As suas obras têm levado a língua portuguesa além fronteiras, enaltecendo sempre a sua estreita ligação com as tradições e cultura africanas. Mia Couto rejeita a ideia que a lusofonia seja um sentido singular, considera que existem várias lusofonias.

His writing appeals the most “natural” side of the things, exploring the human connection to earth, to nature. His works have taken the Portuguese language beyond frontiers, always exalting his straight connection to African traditions and culture. Mia Couto refuses the idea that lusophony is a singular sense; he considers that there are several Lusophonies.

In a recent presentation in Figueira da Foz, in Portugal, Mia reflected on the conception of lusophony – the group of Portuguese speaking countries – answering questions from the audience, as shown in the video below:

Mia says that:

(…) [A] certa pressa em proclamar a lusofonia assim como o nome dessa família(…) Agora há uma reação inversa que foi criada porque é preciso perceber que Moçambique tem outras línguas (…) que são suas, que são línguas maternas, que a maior parte dos moçambicanos não falam português no seu cotidiano, falam outras línguas e tem com essas línguas essa relação de amor que nós todos temos com a língua materna(…)

(…) Certain rush to proclaim the Lusophony as well as the name of this family (…) Now there is an inverse reaction that was created because there is need to perceive that Mozambique has other languages (…) which are his, which are mother tongues, that the majority of Mozambicans don't speak Portuguese regularly, they speak other languages and they have with these languages this relationship of love that we all have with our mother tongues. (…)

Born in July 5, 1955, in Beira City to Portuguese parents, Mia Couto was baptized as António Emílio Leite Couto [en]. In 1971 he went to live in Lourenço Marques, now, Maputo, capital of Mozambique. Leaving his medical studies, he opted for a journalistic career in 1974, having contributed to newspapers like A Tribuna, Notícias and Mozambique Information Agency (AIM). In 1985, Mia returned to university to graduate in biology at Eduardo Mondlane University, where he teaches currently.

May 13 2013

Hommage théâtral à Álvaro Cunhal

« Si tu es fait prisonnier camarade, tu auras à porter une lourde responsabilité. Tu devras continuer à défendre ton parti et tes camarades mais dans des circonstances très différentes, exposé aux insultes et aux violences de l'ennemi. Si tu es fait prisonnier camarade, tu devras faire face aux conditions les plus dures que tu auras sans doute eues à affronter. » Dès les premiers mots, l'acteur Luís Vicente, dans un corps à corps avec la figure charismatique d'Álvaro Cunhal, capte l'attention et (...) - Le lac des signes / Portugal, Culture, Histoire, Théâtre

Hommage à Álvaro Cunhal

« Si tu es fait prisonnier camarade, tu auras à porter une lourde responsabilité. Tu devras continuer à défendre ton parti et tes camarades mais dans des circonstances très différentes, exposé aux insultes et aux violences de l'ennemi. Si tu es fait prisonnier camarade, tu devras faire face aux conditions les plus dures que tu auras sans doute eues à affronter. » Dès les premiers mots, l'acteur Luís Vicente, dans un corps à corps avec la figure charismatique d'Álvaro Cunhal, capte l'attention et (...) - Le lac des signes / Portugal, Culture, Histoire, Théâtre

April 09 2013

Portugal's Constitutional Court Blocks Bailout Measures

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

Portugal's Constitutional Court has struck down [pt] austerity measures considered necessary by the government to meet the conditions of its 78-billion-euro (101 billion US dollars) bailout program, opening a gap of 1.3 billion euros in the country's 2013 budget.

The court, which reviewed the constitutionality of the measures at the request in early January 2013 of President Cavaco Silva and all opposition parties, announced that it had rejected four of this year's budget's nine contested measures on April 5, 2013. It ruled that wage and pension cuts as well as reductions to sick leave and unemployment benefits violated the country's constitutional principles of equality and fair distribution of fiscal burden.

Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho warned that the government will now have to find spending cuts elsewhere to make up the deficit.

Portugal opened its doors for the “troika”, formed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank, and the European Commission (EC), on April 6, 2011 to bailout the country's public debt. The Portuguese people, after nearly two years scraping by with austerity and economic recession, reacted to the court's ruling harshly.

Portugal's government defeated a no confidence motion, while the move united all the opposition in parliament against austerity policies and rattled the stock market. Photo by Thomas Meyer copyright Demotix (03/04/2013)

Days before the Constitutional Court blocked austerity measures, Portugal's government survived a no-confidence motion brought against it by the opposition. Photo by Thomas Meyer copyright Demotix (03/04/2013)

In light of the year's now dysfunctional state budget, having had parts of it struck down in April, Max writing on the blog Informação Incorrecta claimed [pt] that the government has two options: asking the troika for “more time to meet budget deficit targets” which should reach this year 5.5 percent of the GDP, or asking for one more bailout tranche:

o chumbo do Tribunal representa talvez a única possibilidade para chamar em causa responsabilidades alheias e invocar uma nova ajuda do FMI-BCE-UE.

Que fique claro: um segundo resgate seria uma tragédia e a esperança é que a troika aceite conceder mais tempo para que Portugal consiga alcançar os objectivos orçamentais. Pessoalmente espero estar enganado. Mas não podemos esquecer que o País tem uma economia em recessão, um desemprego que não baixa (e que aumentará nos próximos tempos), enormes juros que têm de ser pagos, receitas fiscais em queda. E nos cofres não há um tostão.

the Court's admonishment perhaps represents the only possibility [for the government] to call into question someone else's responsibilities and to invoke a new aid from IMF-EU-ECB.

Let it be clear: a second bailout would be a tragedy and the hope is that the troika agrees to concede more time for Portugal to achieve the budgetary targets. Personally I hope to be wrong. But we must not forget that the country has an economy in recession, an unemployment [rate] that doesn't get any better (and it wont in the near future), huge interest rates that must be paid, falling tax revenues. And in the coffers there is not a penny.

On blog Aventar, Jorge “Fliscorno” argued [pt] that the prime minister “knew from the outset that the budget would not be constitutional” but used it as a strategy to achieve a goal:

Passos Coelho anunciou que precisa de  ir buscar a outro lado o dinheiro que previa sacar ilegalmente aos portugueses. (…) Ficou com um pretexto para prosseguir a política que tem levado a cabo desde que foi eleito e completamente em oposição ao que prometeu enquanto oposição e em campanha eleitoral. (…)

O Primeiro-ministro deste país faltou novamente à palavra e anunciou mais cortes na  segurança social, saúde, educação e empresas públicas.

Passos Coelho announced that he needs look elsewhere for money that he expected to take illegally from the Portuguese. (…) He has the excuse to go on with the policy that he has undertaken since being elected and in complete opposition to what he promised while in opposition and in electoral campaign. (…)

The prime minister of this country has once again gone against his word and announced more cuts in social welfare, health, education, and public companies.

It was “the D week for Portuguese politics”, wrote journalist Tiago Carrasco on The Crisis Republic blog. In fact, in the days before the Constitutional Court's decision became known, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Miguel Relvas, who is the prime minister's controversial right-hand man, resigned, and the main opposition Socialist Party presented a motion of no-confidence against the government in the Parliament, which ultimately failed.

But as Carrasco said, “the real motion of no confidence [would] come at the end of the week” with the analysis of the 2013′s annual budget. He predicted that “the coalition government will probably fall”, an idea already shared by many, including labor unions, opposition party politicians, and citizens:

First because it’s the second time [the government] would deal with a Constitutional error. Second, they would face an [sic] huge popular protest. And finally (and the most important one) the internal coalition is already rotten with centrists PP’s [People's Party] deputies disagreeing often with liberal’s measures and many discussions about the minister’s recasting.

So Portugal calmly waits for the announced political collapse.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

March 01 2013

Portugal Gets the Giggles Ahead of Austerity Protests

This post is part of our Europe in Crisis special coverage.

In the fight against tough government austerity, crisis-weary Portuguese are giving laughter a try.

Besides pursuing politicians with the historic and revolutionary song Grândola Vila Morena in public appearances, people in Portugal are speaking out against the government's tough tax hikes and spending cuts in creative, non-violent, and funny ways.

Humour is a useful tactic “when people affected by the issue are not being consulted”, according to Tactical Technology Collective's 10 Tactics. With the troika (European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund, and European Commission) overseeing the country's economy, Portuguese citizens shut out of the country's decision making are not surprisingly playing up the absurdities of political power.

The greatest enemy of authority is contempt and the surest way to undermine it is laughter.

– Hannah Arendt

Can I have your tax ID number?

Asking for receipts under the name of ministers has gone viral. Since January 2013, the government imposed a new legal measure that imposes fines up to 2,000 euros on consumers who don't ask for receipts. A list of tax ID numbers [pt] from several ministers soon started spreading around the social web.

"To identify a pimp, use the adequate number." Image by Filipe Roque shared on the Facebook page "Eu já pedi factura em nome de ministros" (I´ve already asked for a receipt under the name of a minister).

A collection of crowdsourced scanned receipts is being uploaded to the Facebook page “Eu já pedi factura em nome de ministros” (I've already asked for a receipt under the name of ministers, with more than 2,500 likes at the time this post was published). This image, by Filipe Roque, reads, “To identify a pimp, use the adequate number.”

Call it either “austerity revenge” or a “hijacking” of ministers’ tax affairs, as international media reported, the fact is that thousands of bills in ministers’ name [pt] are flooding tax offices and confusing the system of declared income from politicians.

Who tweets this?

If you want to giggle a bit on Twitter, then follow “Pedro the PM” (@Passos_PM), a fake alter-ego of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho (also on Facebook). But don't be disappointed if he wont follow you: he only follows the Chancellor and the Finance Minister of Germany, Angela Merkel (@Angela_Merkel) and Wolfgang Schäuble (@Wolf_Schauble).

On February 22, 2013, he tweeted:

O Sr. Ministro Gaspar deseja saber quem foram os 500 engraçadinhos q compraram 500 calculadoras com factura em nome dele.

Mr. [Finance] Minister Gaspar wants to know who were the 500 jokers who bought 500 calculators and ordered receipts under his name.

Later in the week, his thoughts were:

Durante o ajustamento temos vindo a acumular credibilidade. Também acumulámos recessão, falências e desemprego, mas não servem p negociar.

During the European Union's bailout program, we have been piling up credibility. We have also piled up recession, bankruptcy, and unemployment, but those can't be used for negotiations.

And he added:

Aos portugueses e às famílias deixo um conselho: não têm pão, comam credibilidade.

To the Portuguese and to the families, here's some advice: you don't have bread, then eat credibility.

Also on Twitter and with a blog too, Manuel Parreira (@manuelparreira) has a rather peculiar way of lampooning the Portuguese left through extreme right-wing views.

For instance, on February 6, 2013, he suggested:

Porque não encerrar metade dos hospitais? Ao menos mantínhamos a TAP e a RTP.

And why not close down half of the hospitals? At least we would hold on to TAP [the state-owned national airline company, currently being privatized] and RTP [public broadcasting coorporation also being privatized amidst controversy, as Global Voices reported].

He often makes parodies of Portuguese society, such as in a series of tweets in early February where he poked fun at citizens whining on Twitter and the Communist Party's rather dense and obsolete speech, as well as exposed the ridiculous red-tape at the European level. For instance, a tweet where he assumes the character of Edite Estrela, a member of the European Parliament from the Portuguese Socialist Party (PS), reads:

TwitEstrela: Estou numa reunião para estabelecer o regulamento preliminar para a uniformização das cores Pantone dos semáforos europeus.

TwitEStrela: I am in a meeting to establish the preliminary by-law for the uniformization of Pantone colours of the European traffic lights.

Subverting public figures

The Independent called him “the fraudster who fooled a whole nation“. Artur Baptista da Silva was widely interviewed by Portuguese mainstream media as an economics expert, but he was discovered to have false credentials and zero experience on what he would be invited to talk about.

Various social media pages have been dedicated to satirizing the phony: there is a Tumblr blog and a Facebook page called Eu trabalhei na ONU com o Artur Baptista da Silva (I worked at the UN with Artur Baptista da Silva) [pt] with re-appropriated visuals of “Artur Baptista da Silva, UN's volunteer consultant, in several places”:

"Me, at UN's Christmas party".

“Me, at the UN's Christmas party”

A photograph from late last year shows a protester in a hot pink bathing suit holding a sign that reads “I have the files of the submarines!” The tongue-in-cheek declaration is a reference to an obscure submarines deal between the current Minister of Foreign Affairs Paulo Portas, who was the the minister of state and defense in 2004, and the German Submarine Consortium (GSC), which has cost between 712 million and one billion euros in public funds, as stated on Wikipedia:

The cost of the purchase came due in 2010 and was a major factor in the budgetary crisis that erupted that year and led to political fingerpointing in what came to be known in Portuguese as caso dos submarinos (the case of the submarines).

When investigators started to look into the case, which involved corruption, Paulo Portas, who was considered a suspect by the attorney general, said the files about the purchase of the submarines “had disappeared”.

"I have the documents of the submarines!" Photo shared by RiseUP Portugal.

“I have the files of the submarines!” Photo shared by RiseUP Portugal on August 2012.

Portuguese citizens plan to take to the streets once again next Saturday, March 2, 2013 in a protest organized by the Que se Lixe a Troika (Screw Troika) [pt] movement, which was born from the momentum from the massive September 2012 protest.

This post is part of our Europe in Crisis special coverage.

February 28 2013

Contemporary Portugal with São Tomé and Príncipe

Foto partilhada no álbum "Portugal Contemporâneo Com São Tomé e Príncipe" da página de Facebook da Pantalassa (usada com Permissão).

Photo from the album “Contemporary Portugal with São Tomé e Príncipe” from Pantalassa's Facebook page  (used with permission).

Until March 1, 2013, Pantalassa, a cultural association working with Portuguese language countries, is organizing a multidisciplinary program of artistic residences in the “marvellous islands” of São Tomé and Príncipe, together with CACAU. The mutual sharing of experiences and affections is presented in a photo-album, which is being updated throughout the project [all links in pt].

February 27 2013

Weary of Austerity, Portugal Sings a Song of Revolution

This post is part of our Europe in Crisis special coverage.

Thousands of Portuguese people, unhappy with the austerity measures imposed by the government, have promised to again fill the streets of the country on March 2, 2013.

The call for protest is gaining momentum on social networking sites, echoing what happened with the massive protests on September 15, 2012 and March 12, 2011 that helped bring down the last government. A number of protests are organized on Facebook [pt], where messages of discontent are multiplying.

The blog Que Se Lixe a Troika (Screw the Troika) [pt] is collecting appeals for participation in the protest, such as this one [pt] by José João Louro:

Não é tempo para recriminações. Muitos deixaram-se enganar. Agora é um tempo de mobilização contra a apatia e contra a aceitação do sofrimento colectivo. É um tempo de abandonar as televisões e as telenovelas e ir para a rua protestar. É um tempo de participar em todas as manifestações de protesto, sejam convocadas pelos sindicatos ou por pessoas anónimas. Não é tempo de ver quem está ou quem não está, é tempo de estarmos todos.

It is not time for blame. Many let themselves be fooled. Now is the time to mobilize against apathy and against the acceptance of collective suffering. It is time to abandon the television and soap operas and take to the streets to protest. It is time to participate in all kinds of protest, whether they be called by unions or by anonymous people. It is not time to see who is going or who is not going, it is time for us all to go.
Poster shared on the page of the event Screw The Troika. The People are In Charge!

Poster shared on the page of the event “Screw The Troika. The People are In Charge!”

In an extraordinary move, the country's largest trade union federation, known as the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, confirmed through its leader Arménio Carlos that union members will also take to the streets “with the people demanding new policies and a change of government”, as can be seen in this video [pt], made available by those in charge of the blog Aventar. The decision is remarkable, given that there is no memory of the union federation ever officially participating in a protest that it or one of its member unions did not organize.

Politicians pursued by song

In spite of the little attention given by mainstream media, the protest came to public's attention thanks to a series of actions designed to stop ministers from speaking in some of their public appearances.

For this, demonstrators have revived a historic song, composed and sung by Zeca Afonso, that was used as the second signal by the revolutionary coup that brought down Portugal's dictatorship on the night of April 25, 1974. The song, Grândola Vila Morena, became a symbol of the revolution and of democracy in Portugal.

The first of these actions actually occurred in the Parliament, when a group of citizens interrupted Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho's speech, during the fortnightly debate of February 15, 2013, ignoring appeals by the president of the assembly for them to leave or be quiet [pt]:

The demonstration was praised [es] on Twitter by journalist Jesus Maraña, ex-director of the Spanish newspaper Público and current director of the online newspaper infoLibre, who called it a “beautiful form of protest”.

Subsequently, Adjunct Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Miguel Relvas, whose career has been most controversial, was interrupted twice. First, in Vila Nova de Gaia during a speech [pt] at the Clube dos Pensadores (Thinkers Club), where he even tried to fight the protest, and after, in Lisbon during a conference about the future of journalism organized by the TV station TVI. There, protesters not only sang Grândola Vila Morena, but they also chanted slogans forcing the minister to leave without being able to speak, as can be seen in this video [pt]:

A number of politicians, ex-politicians, and commentators called the actions anti-democratic. First, it was Luís Montenegro, the leader of the Social Democratic party leading the governing coalition, stating to Público newspaper [pt] that:

Não há democracia se os representantes legítimos do povo, por estes eleitos directa ou indirectamente, forem impedidos de expressar o seu pensamento.

There is no democracy if the legitimate representatives of the people, elected by them directly or indirectly, are prevented from expressing their thoughts.

Then it was the ex-socialist minister Augusto Santos Silva, who called these behaviors “anti-democratic” and “unacceptable” in an interview [pt] with TVI24 channel. The managing editor of TVI himself, José Alberto Carvalho, said [pt]:

Liberdade de expressão é a liberdade para as pessoas se manifestarem, para protestarem, contestarem, criticarem. A liberdade de expressão termina no momento em que, por excesso dessa liberdade de expressão, impedimos os outros de se manifestarem eles próprios.

Freedom of expression is the freedom for people to demonstrate, to protest, to contest, and to criticize. Freedom of expression ends in the moment when, by excess use of this freedom of expression, we prevent others from making themselves heard.

Without the privileged space that all of these individuals above enjoy in the media, average and anonymous citizens have not given up on their forms of protest and strategy to silence the ministers.

Poster disseminated on Facebook and Twitter, announcing the presence of the Minister of Internal Administration, in Guarda.

Poster disseminated on Facebook and Twitter, announcing the presence of Minister of Internal Administration Miguel Macedo in Guarda.

Social networking sites continue to be used to call for actions and disseminate where numerous members of government will be present. Over the final weekend of February 2013, the minister of internal administration in Guarda and the minister of the economy in São João da Madeira were received with the revolutionary song, in spite of an increasing police presence.

The song has already crossed the border into Spain, becoming a symbol of Iberian protest.

Coincidentally, the composer of the song, Zeca Afonso, died 26 years ago, on February 23, 1989. To commemorate the date, Grândola Vila Morena was sung in the Largo do Carmo in Lisbon, the place where the 1974 coup reached its climax.

On YouTube, Lara Sardinha, 34 year-old unemployed interior designer, made a video tribute to the song and dedicated it to “a better Portugal” [pt and en]:

February 22 2013

L'Angola au secours du Portugal

Avec une croissance de 7 % tirée par les exportations de pétrole, l'Angola se trouve en situation d'aider son ancien colonisateur, le Portugal. Au-delà de la crise, les acteurs économiques des deux pays envisagent des liens pérennes. / Angola, Portugal, Banque, Commerce international, Économie, (...) / Angola, Portugal, Banque, Commerce international, Économie, Énergie, Entreprise, Finance, Multinationales, Pétrole - 2012/05

February 15 2013

“A Thousand Europeans Staring Back at You”

Paula Garrido's avatar reads "Europe staring back at itself!"

Paula Garrido's avatar reads “Europe staring back at itself!”

The Portuguese website Variações Sobre a Europa (Variations on Europe) [pt] invites one thousand citizens to create a digital avatar and to participate with their opinions for the construction of a democratic Europe.

February 02 2013

Portugal: Authorities Bring Charges Against Women Activists

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

Following a series of demonstrations against austerity in Portugal, the country's national police force, known as the Public Security Police (PSP), and the prosecutor general's office, known as the the Public Ministry (MP), have faced heavy criticism for their decision to bring legal action against several protesters and activists.

Myriam Zaluar, a freelance journalist, teacher, and one of the founders of the movement Precários Inflexíveis (Inflexible Precarious) [pt], was indicted on charges of qualified disobedience related to having organized a collective registration of unemployed people at one of the centers of the Institute of Employment and Vocational Training (IEFP, the governmental body responsible for training and employment). The intention of this symbolic act of protest was to draw attention to unemployment in Portugal [not all the unemployed are registered there and the statistics only show the numbers released by IEFP].

Myriam became known in 2011 for an open-letter she wrote to the Prime Minister, widely shared on social networks [pt], following his recommendation for the unemployed to emigrate.

 Call for solidarity with Myriam Zaluar. Image shared by  Artigo 21º

Call for solidarity with Myriam Zaluar. Image shared by  Artigo 21º

This time, Myriam wanted to show that the unemployment figures in Portugal are flawed, but police considered her action to be a non-authorized demonstration – although it only involved four direct participants and the distribution of flyers – and thus authorities should had been informed 48 hours before. Myriam rejects the accusation and denies having committed any crime.

The case has raised questions about restrictions on freedom of expression, the definition of demonstration, and police intervention in political matters, as well as sparked a heated discussion online. According to the Movimento Sem Emprego (MSE, Movement Without a Job) [pt], the situation is an example of authorities attempting to intimidate citizens in order to stop them from taking to the streets with their demands. Laura Fortuna Pinto commented [pt] on Facebook:

Por mais vezes que leia o artigo, ñ consigo perceber o fundamento da acusação. Mas das 4 pessoas presentes no protesto foi a única a ser notificada? Este país está a ficar estranho!!!

No matter how many times I read the article, I simply can't understand the basis of the accusation. But from the four people present at the protest was she the only one being notified? This country is becoming weird!!!

On the day of the first court hearing – which was postponed in the end – several people staged a demonstration [pt] in support of Myriam that was discussed on social networks and broadcast by traditional media.

The case of Mariana Avelãs

A similar case is that of Mariana Avelãs, who belongs to the movement Que se Lixe a Troika (Screw Troika) [pt]. Police filed charges against her following a press conference announcing the September 15 protests in which thousands took to the streets in Portugal and Spain to demonstrate against government austerity measures. By the end of November, P3 reported [pt]:

Segundo Mariana Avelãs, nesse dia, a PSP dirigiu-se aos 15 membros, que ergueram uma faixa do movimento, para pedir a identificação de uma pessoa, mas garantiram que “não haveria consequências”. (…)
Contudo, (…) “duas ou três semanas depois” foi informada de que “estava a ser alvo de denúncia de um crime”. A activista social confirmou ter sido constituída arguida a 8 de Novembro pelo crime de organização de manifestação não comunicada. (…)
Mariana Avelãs descreve a acção da polícia como uma tentativa de “criminalizar os movimentos” para dar a ideia de que são “terroristas e revolucionários”.

According to Mariana Avelãs, that day PSP addressed the 15 members, who had raised a banner for the movement, asking for the identification of one person, but they assured them that “there wouldn't be any consequences”. (…)

However, (…) “two or three weeks later” she was informed that she “legal action had been brought against her”. The social activist confirmed on November 8 she was charged with organizing an unannounced demonstration. (…)

Mariana Avelãs describes the actions of authorities as an attempt to “criminalize movements” in order to give the impression that they are “terrorists and revolutionaries”.

Paulo Jorge Vieira [pt] echoed Mariana's outrage:

Parece ser uma anedota mas não o é. Assim se limita o uso do espaço público na sociedade portuguesa nos nossos dias. A situação é, no seu todo, demasiado grave e realmente limitadora do direitos de associação, manifestação ou simples encontro no espaço público das cidades portuguesas.

It seems like a joke but it isn't. This is how the use of public space in Portuguese society is limited nowadays. The situation is, as a whole, very serious and truly restrictive of the right to associate, demonstrate or simply meet in a public space within Portuguese cities.

Stones or camera?

The massive November 14 demonstration, which saw thousands of Europeans coming out to protest against austerity measures, ended in Lisbon with a group of protesters throwing stones in front of the Parliament building. Police have faced criticism from the public for their reaction to the protesters. In the days that followed, police tried to identify as many protesters as possible, using not only the images collected by the agents themselves, but also videos posted by other people on YouTube, and even – in a case that ended with the resignation of the managing editor of the public channel RTP – the images collected by television channels on site.

It was with disbelief that Paula Montez, who participated in the demonstration, received some time after a notification from the prosecutor general's office, in which she was accused of assaulting police officers. In a widely circulated post [pt] from mid-December, Paula said:

Ontem apresentei-me no DIAP [Departamento de Investigação e Acção Penal] acompanhada de um advogado. Foi-me lido o auto de denúncia e mostradas imagens captadas na manifestação. As imagens todas elas de má qualidade e inconclusivas, mostram-me de braço no ar com um objecto na mão que os “denunciantes” referiram ser pedras. Na verdade o objecto que tenho na mão é nada mais do que a minha máquina fotográfica que costumo elevar devido à minha estatura ser baixa para captar imagens, como sempre tenho feito em todas as manifestações e protestos onde vou[...];além disso, na foto de qualidade duvidosa, onde se vê o meu braço erguido segurando o tal objecto (máquina fotográfica) pode-se ler na legenda que arremessei à polícia cerca de 20 pedras ou outros objectos…

Agora pergunto eu: se a PSP me identificou a arremessar 20 pedras e a colocar em causa a sua integridade física, por que não fui eu detida logo ali? Por que não fui de imediato impedida de mandar mais projécteis que pudessem atentar contra os agentes? Sim, como é possível ter sido vista a atirar coisas, contarem uma a uma as cerca de 20 pedras que eu não atirei, mas que alguém afirma ter-me visto atirar, e deixarem-me à solta para atirar mais?

Yesterday I showed up at DIAP [Department of Investigation and Penal Action] accompanied by a lawyer. I was read the complaint and shown the images captured at the rally. The images – all of which are shoddy and inconclusive – show me with an arm in the air with an object in my hand that “informants” described as stones. In fact, the object in my hand is nothing more than my camera which I usually raise due to my short stature — as I have always done in all the demonstrations and protests I go to [...], in addition, in the photo of dubious quality, where you see my arm raised holding an object (camera) the captions reads that I threw around 20 stones or other objects at police…

Now I wonder: if the PSP identified me throwing 20 stones and putting them in harm's way, why wasn't I stopped right there? Why wasn't I immediately prevented from launching more projectiles that could undermine the agents? Yes, how is it possible that I was seen throwing things, [they] counted one by one about 20 stones that I did not throw, that someone claims to have seen me throwing, yet they left me alone to throw more?

Paula could face serious charges of rioting or causing damage. She was notified of the complaint by mobile phone, and sought help from netizens to prove her innocence:

Peço a quem tiver imagens minhas na manifestação de 14 de Novembro (ou noutra manifestação qualquer) a tirar fotografias que as envie a fim de constituírem prova neste processo. Obrigada pela vossa solidariedade.

I ask whoever has images of me taking photos during the November 14 demonstration (or in any other demonstration) to send them my way in order to use them as evidence in this process. Thank you for your solidarity.

Around the same time, a video showing people in the assembly throwing stones that suggested the presence of undercover agents began to make the rounds on the Internet:

Ivo Gonçalves, on his personal blog [pt], questioned the actions of the PSP and the MP:

[...]não creio  que a PSP tenha cobertura legal, vocação, e até recursos adequados para fazer recolha e análise de informações na área política. (…)

Finalizando, é evidente que tudo isto vai contribuir para refrear a vontade de participação em manifestações.

I don't believe that PSP has the legal status, the vocation, or even the proper resources to collect and analyze information from the political arena. (…)

Finally, it is evident that all of this will work to curb the people's willingness to participate in demonstrations.

A new hearing in the trial of Myriam Zaluar is scheduled for March 13. Paula Montez and Mariana Avelãs await new developments and are released under the condition that they do not change their residence without reporting to the authorities, and that they check in with police anytime requested. The crime of qualified disobedience is punishable with imprisonment up to two years or a fine. Participation in a riot is punishable with imprisonment up to one year or a fine, and the crime of causing damage up to three years in prison.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

January 11 2013

Rethinking Public Service: Portuguese Bloggers Translate IMF Report

Whether you agree with its content or not, it is unacceptable that the only available version is in English.

The author of the Portuguese blog Aventar refers [pt] to a recent report released by the IMF, ‘Rethinking the State - Selected Expenditure Reform Options', which “may be the basis for many governmental decisions that will have an impact in the life of Portuguese citizens”. The blog has launched a call for collaborative translation of the document.

January 09 2013

Day by Day Happiness for the Elderly

Happiness is to find an old friend. Illustration by Tiago Albuquerque on Felicidário

“Happiness is to find an old friend”. Illustration by Tiago Albuquerque on Felicidário

A collective of Portuguese artists has come together to illustrate practical daily definitions of happiness for the elderly. The online calendar can be found on Felicidário.

January 03 2013

Arab World: Al-Andalus: Fall or Reconquista?

Every year, on the 2nd of January, “El día de la Toma de Granada” is celebrated in Granada in Spain. On that day in 1492, Muhammad XII of Granada (King Boabdil) surrendered the Emirate of Granada. The Umayyad Caliphate conquered the Iberian Peninsula eight centuries earlier, and the fall of Granada on that day put an end to the Islamic control of that part of the world, or what is known in as Al-Andalus in the Arab world.

This year, on the other side of The Mediterranean Sea, some Arabs decided to tweet in remembrance of the fall of Al-Andalus.

‏@taherofficial: We remember the 521st Anniversary of the fall of Al #Andalus.

Photo shared by @Al_Andalus_ showing King Boabdil handing the keys of the city over to King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile

Many netizens seized the opportunity to tweet about the Islamic and Arabic civilization:

@adnan_hws: Remembering #Andalus is more than crying for the loss of a kingdom, it's to learn from our mistakes to rebuild such a glorious civilisation

@morabeteen: الأندلس ليست بمكان ولا زمان, بل هي تجربة حضارية إنسانية لا مثيل لها استمرت تنير ظلمات العالم زهاء الثمانية قرون من الزمان..

@morabeteen: Al Andalus is not just a place or chapter in history, it is an unmatched civilization in the history of mankind that kept on illuminating the world for about eight centuries.

Others claimed more examples for the effect of such civilization:

‏@Nouh1919: In Portuguese there are more than 3000 Arabic words as there are over a 1000 Arabic word in medicine and chemistry in English! #andalus

@mdamra: While London is sinking in mud, Córdoba recorded the 1st dustbin in history, there were collection vehicles and street cleaning!

However, a bigger debate started on Twitter later on. Some users believed that this day marks the loss of a part of the Islamic world.

@HmdSaud: Do you think dear Spanish we forget it

@AliElKhateeb: on January 2, 1492, Emir Muhammad surrendered the Emirate of Granada (#Andalus ♥), we won't forget any land taken from Muslims by force.

@NadaMadridista: On this day above all days we recall those who were murdered and tortured by the Spanish Inquisition 5 centuries ago. #Moorish #Andalus

While others replied by saying that it was basically an occupation.

@samaralii: اسمها عودة الاندلس لأهلها الإسبان بعد احتلال عربي، زي كده سينا رجعت كاملة لينا، بلاش تكيلوا بميكيالين

@samaralii: It is called the return of Al-Andalus to the Spanish people after it has been occupied by the Arabs. It is the same as we [Egyptians] reacquired Sinai after it has been occupied. Stop having double standards.

@MoudBarthez: زعلان ان الأندلس راحت منك ؟ كان نفسك تفضل محتلها طول العمر ؟ علي كدا شباب بريطانيا لازم يتظاهر عشان يرجعوا يحتلوا مصر تأني

@MoudBarthez: Are you sad because you lost Al-Andalus? You wish you had occupied it forever? If so, then the British people should demonstrate to re-occupy Egypt again.

Yet, others insisted that it was not an occupation:

@alaa: حكم المسلمون الأندلس سبعة قرون لا يمكن ان يوصف بالاحتلال و لا معنى لتقييم حكمهم بمعايير اليوم اصلا.

@alaa: The Arab ruling of Al-Andalus for seven centuries can never be described as occupation. And no way to evaluate it with today's standards.

@SherifKhairy: الناس اللي بتتكلم عن إن حضارة المسلمين في #الأندلس كانت احتلال زي احتلال الإنجليز مثلا، بالتأكيد مقرأوش كلمة عن ما حدث وقت دخولها وبعده

@SherifKhairy: Those who call the Muslim civilization in Al-Andalus occupation, and compare it to the English occupation of Egypt, for sure never read a word about that phase of history.

One netizen created a mobile application to mark the occasion, while two others decided to make fun of the whole debate. The first was worried [Ar] that FC Barcelona might become as bad as the the Egyptian football teams if Arabs decided to occupy Al-Andalus again. While the other, after looking at the status of the Arab world today, decided that “we did them the biggest favour ever” by leaving them alone.

Finally, this debate didn't stop some Egyptians from arranging a demonstration carrying banners that read in Spanish, “No hemos olvidado” [We have not forgotten] and “Volvera por supuesto” [We will be back for sure”].

Call for Portuguese Blogs of the Year 2012

Blogs of the Year 2012 Competition. Banner from Aventar.eu

Blogs of the Year 2012 Competition. Banner from Aventar.eu

Around 380 blogs have already registered on the ‘Blogs of the Year 2012′ competition launched by Aventar.eu. The most interesting citizen media initiatives from the Portuguese and Portuguese language blogosphere can register until January 4, 2012. Voting starts on January 7.

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