Portuguese American Journal

Today in History: Portuguese nation celebrates “Freedom Day” – Portugal

Every year, since 1974, Portugal commemorates the 25th of April as the nation’s “Freedom Day,” with a national holiday celebrating the values of democracy, the fight against fascism, and the end of Portuguese colonialism.

The day, which marks the bloodless military coup and brought democracy and civil liberties to the Portuguese people, is also sometimes called “Freedom Day” or “Liberty Day”.

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.

This year, the 48th anniversary of the 25th of April was honored in the Assembly of the Republic (Portuguese Parliament) with a special ceremonial session.

Traditionally, the solemn commemorative session of the 25th of April, includes speeches by deputies from the eight parties with parliamentary seats, in ascending order of representation, Livre, PAN, BE, PCP, Iniciativa Liberal, Chega, PSD and PS, by the President of the Assembly of the Republic, Augusto Santos Silva, and by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

The 48th April 25 was celebrated at a time of war in Ukraine, in which the invasion by the Russian Federation has lasted for two months, and the day after the re-election of Emmanuel Macron, liberal centrist, as President of France, against populist Marine Le Pen, of the extreme right.

On this day, the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa,  dedicated his speech to the Armed Forces, highlighting the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“Why am I on this 25th of April speaking of our Armed Forces in a democracy that we have to recreate day after day? Because without the Armed Forces, and strong Armed Forces united and motivated, our peace, our security, our freedom, our democracy, dreams of the 25th of April, will become weaker,” he said.

“Because recognizing how important the Armed Forces are in our life, our country requires more than remembering their importance in words. Because, if we wish a strong, united, motivated Armed Forces, we must want them to have the conditions to be stronger, united and motivated,” the President reiterated.

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. The current Constitution of Portugal was adopted in 1976, after the Carnation Revolution. It was adopted by the Constituent Assembly, which was elected on 25 April 1976, a year after the 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 to1974. The 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.

After General Spinola took over the revolution, 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 and led the country to a transition to democracy which ended the Portuguese Colonial War in Africa. Hundreds of political prisoners were released.

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.  The Portuguese Colonial War, which ended after the Carnation Revolution, lasted 13 years, 2 months, and 3 weeks, between 1961 and 1974. 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.

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.


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