Amnesty International calls for “evaluation of effects of austerity in Portugal”

Amnesty International has now joined the avalanche of indignation prompted by last week’s admission by EC President Jean-Claude Juncker that the troika “sinned against the dignity of the people” of Portugal.

The humanitarian organisation’s stance highlights the fact that despite prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s efforts to refute Juncker’s remarks, they have ignited a political bushfire that, a week on, shows no sign of dampening.

With leader writers still expounding on the damages wreaked upon Portugal in the name of austerity, Amnesty International has said it is time to judge whether troika-led cuts and policies “collided” with human rights.

In declarations to Lusa, Amnesty International’s Portugal spokesperson Antónia Barradas said: “We are talking about the need to protect certain groups which are the most vulnerable to the impacts of austerity.” Groups, for instance, which prompted the Constitutional Court to veto government measures “due to their disproportionate impact on social and economic rights”.

As readers will be aware, the coalition government reacted to the Constitutional Court’s vetoes with remarks that the court should be abolished, but Amnesty International, and indeed many of the country’s thinkers, do not see it that way.
Writing his weekly column for Correio da Manhã today (Wednesday February 25), campaigning journalist Baptista-Bastos itemised the effects of austerity in Portugal:

“One million and a half unemployed; two million on the poverty line; 140,000 children going to school hungry every morning; almost 200,000 young people forced to leave the country due to the total lack of any decent future; tens of patients dying in hospital corridors due to lack of assistance; old people stripped of any form of subsistence and civil servants and others hit with cuts to already low salaries.”

If this is not “loss of dignity”, he asks, what is it?

Criticising Portugal’s prime minister for wearing the “glasses of Pangloss” (Voltaire’s fictitious doctor in the satire “Candide” who saw everything “in the best possible light” no matter how ghastly it was), Baptista-Bastos claims the Portuguese have been “coerced into losing the values that cement our being, even in the darkest times”. Thus Amnesty’s call may well achieve its aim.

Antónia Barradas told Lusa that the organisation had actually asked the government to come up with a report evaluating the effects of austerity last year – to no apparent avail.

“Once again we reiterate the necessity to verify obligations when it comes to human rights, specifically when it comes to the principle of non-discrimination, as if there has been direct or indirect impact on certain groups, this must be noted,” she stressed.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]