Former Portuguese president Mario Soares has died, aged 92. He was one of the few Portuguese statesmen to become an international name (well, I can’t think of another one!). He steered Portugal through a tortuous period post-revolution, putting the country on the road to social democracy.
I met him in 2005. The indomitable Soares, then 81, was running yet again for the Portuguese presidency as the official candidate of the Socialist Party. He had already served two terms as president, between 1986 and 1996, but was running for a third five-year term (the Portuguese constitution allows for an individual to run for three terms as long as they are not consecutive).
Soares gave a lunchtime address, hosted by the British and German Chambers of Commerce. It was no secret that Soares disliked his principal opponent Cavaco Silva intensely (the conservative candidate who eventually defeated him easily for the presidency) and this was reflected in several well-directed personal barbs – without naming him directly.
I remember Soares arriving at the hotel and quickly knocking back a glass of red wine in one go, his whole body reclining as he drained the last drop (I mean no disrespect when I mention that. It’s pretty normal for Portuguese culture.).
He was devastated to lose the election the following year to Cavaco Silva. I also covered Cavaco Silva’s inaugural address and Soares did not join in the applause following the new president’s speech.
RIP Mario Soares
Gabriel Hershman, journalist and author
Editor’s note: Gabriel covered the luncheon event for the Resident at the time. You can find the article at portugalresident.com (title: ‘Mário Soares parades the human touch’)