Portuguese American Journal

Today in History: “Dia da Liberdade” celebrated under duress – Portugal

Since 1974 the Portuguese nation has been celebrating “Dia da Liberdade” [Freedom Day], with a national holiday on 25th April Revolution, to mark the bloodless military coup which brought democracy and civil liberties to modern Portugal.

This year, due to the COVID19 epidemic, the celebrations have been simplified to a shorter non-public ceremony in the Portuguese Parliament [Assembleia da República] presided by the President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of Parliament Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, and Prime Minister António Costa.

Cabinet members, parliamentary deputies and a limited number of invited guests were also present. Instead of the customary 700 people, only about 100 were present. The traditional parade and other national festive displays were cancelled.

Currently under the state of emergency, the Portuguese Government is considering decreeing a state of calamity in Portugal as of May 3.

The death toll in Portugal as of today has risen to 880. There are 23,392 confirmed cases a 3% increase since last Friday. The North region has the highest number of deaths (502), followed by the Central region (188), Lisbon and the Tagus Valley (170), Algarve (11), Alentejo (1), the Azores (8) and Madeira (0). According to the Minister of Health, Marta Temido, the death rate is 3.8%. For those over 70 years of age, the rate is 13.6%.


The 1974 Carnation Revolution


Also celebrated as the Carnation Revolution, the event of April 25th came about after almost five decades of an authoritarian regime led by Oliveira Salazar, lasting from 1937 to 1974.

The April 25th Revolution ended the Salazar Estado Novo regime, the longest dictatorship in twentieth century Europe.

Supported by the civilian population, the revolution changed the Portuguese political system from the authoritarian rule to a modern democracy.

The military coup was undertaken by the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) led by General Antonio Spinola and other prominent civilian and military leaders.

In a matter of hours, General Spinola was handed the surrender of the ruling Prime Minister Marcelo Caetano who was overthrown and forced into exile in Brazil.

Spinola took charge of a Provisional Government which promised to restore civil liberties and hold democratic general elections. Hundreds of political prisoners were released.

Carnation Revolution 1974 (archive)

In 1974, more than half of Portugal’s government budget was spent with the military engaged in wars in three of Portugal’s colonies in Africa.

Under the new established democratic rule, a swift decolonization program was implemented granting independence to Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde Islands, Sao Tome and Principe and Angola.

Following the revolution, according to the Portuguese Constitution of 1976, a parliamentary republic was established. Portugal has since been governed by a constitutional democracy with a president, a prime minister, and a parliament elected in multiparty elections.

Over the course of the next decades a stable two-party system was established and consolidated. In 1980, the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores became autonomous self-governed regions.

In 1986, Portugal became a member of the European Union and has since evolved as a modern democratic state where the Portuguese population (10,632,069) enjoys many civil liberties.

With a relatively low rate of violent crime, Portugal has been ranked as one the most peaceful countries in the world. According to the 2019 Global Peace Index Portugal ranked as the 3th most peaceful country in the world after Iceland and New Zealand.

Portugal remains one of the poorest countries in Europe and of the European Union. Unemployment fell below 8% in December (2017) for the first time in more than 13 years. In 2018 the minimum wage was fixed at €676 per month and is currently at about €700.

According to Eurostat (2019), the countries of the European Union with the highest minimum wages are Luxembourg (€1,999), Ireland (€1,563), the Netherlands (€1,552), Belgium (€1,532), Germany (€1,498), France (€1,480) and the United Kingdom (€1,397). The member states with the lowest minimum wages are Bulgaria (€235), Romania (€275), Latvia and Lithuania (€380).

In 2015, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCDE) reported the gap between rich and poor in Portugal as one of the most unequal, ranking 9th out of 34 countries measured.

Carolina Matos/Editor

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