«It’s time for the government to go» and «The bankers are the ones who owe money here», people shouted up yesterday in the streets of 40 towns in Portugal.
The demonstrations of yesterday, March 2, in 40 cities of Portugal gathered, according to press reports, 1.5 million people against the troika (IMF, ECB, EU) and the right-wing coalition government which, under the guise of «debt repayment» – a debt that is not public but private, and was ‘nationalized’ at the service of the private entities who contracted it –, operate a massive counter-reform whose objective is to destroy the welfare state, cut wages and subsidies, promote redundancies, make a massive transfer of resources from labor to capital.
In Lisbon, between the beginning of the demonstration, the Marques de Pombal Square, and the place where it ended, the Terreiro do Paço, opposite the Tagus river, which are distant 2.6 kilometers were filled with people eager to get rid of the right-wing government and the troika. When the head of the demonstration started moving, already the mile long Avenida da Liberdade (Freedom Avenue) stretching before them were full of a human tide shouting slogans like «It’s time for the government to go» or «The bankers are the ones who owe money here». As in April 25, 1974, at the start of the Carnation Revolution, people chanted again «The people united will never be defeated». The international dimension of the problems that the Portuguese and the peoples of Southern Europe are facing was not forgotten either: «Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal – our struggle is international», chanted the demonstrators.
In Oporto, the country’s second city, there were 400 thousand people in the streets – the largest demonstration ever in the capital of Portugal’s North – which completely filled Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square), Praça do General Humberto Delgado and the Avenue of the Allies.
«Thieves», «Corrupt», «Robbers» were other words that appeared on homemade posters taken by people. «You better vote for Ali Baba, at least we know they are only 40 thieves», said one.
The demonstrations were called by the collective Que se Lixe a Troika (Damn the Troika), a constellation of activist groups, and not by the left-wing parties and trade unions. However, BE and PCP announced their support and some of the leaders and MPs of these left-wing parties and also of the Socialist party were present. For the first time, the largest trade union, CGTP, led by the Communist Party, publicly joined an initiative not promoted by itself. However, António José Seguro, general secretary of the Socialists, the main opposition party, chose to be absent in a small town in Alentejo where there was no demonstration and he was ambiguous in his words, referring to the need to change policy, but not government.
A sign of crisis, almost 24 hours after these events neither the President nor the government spoke about the massive demonstrations.
Another sign of the association of yesterday’s demonstrations with the democratic revolution of 25 April 1974 was the chant of ‘Grândola, sun tanned town’, the song by José Afonso who served as a signal to the troops that came to overthrow the dictatorship, by many thousands of throats, from North to South of the country – and even abroad, as in Paris, where a hundred protesters concentrated in front of Portugal’s Consulate.
«The April 25 [revolution] that my father did I’ll have to re-do it myself», said Isabel Mora, a 46 year-old woman who marched beside her 16 year-old daughter.