Civil Protection boss forced to resign in new “degree” controversy

First we had the story of the dodgy engineering degree held by former prime minister José Sócrates. Then there was the case of PSD minister Miguel Relvas – who actually saw Lisbon judges declare his law degree null and void. There has even been a university dean accused of fudging his qualifications in “technical English” – and now we have news that the Civil Protection boss Rui Esteves’ may not have been as well-qualified for the job as everyone thought.

Without going into any of the details, suffice it to say Sr Esteves has resigned, just as elsewhere his service is under attack for alleged lack of vital coordination during the summer’s terrible fires.

A new man is holding the fort but, as political writer, former PM and former mayor of Lisbon Pedro Santana Lopes, has commented: “Santa Maria Madalena!!!”

Esteves’ dismal news came hot-on-the-heels of the equally dismal admission by defence minister Azeredo Lopes that Tancos military hardware heist (click here) “may have been nothing at all”.

As Santana Lopes explains in a column entitled “Absolutely outrageous”, first we were all told the heist was “very serious”, the hardware capable of starting a small war. Then we were informed (by the head of the Armed Forces) that the rocket launchers, 57 kilos of explosives and sundry hand-grenades – as well as all the clips and fuses that help them on their way – were ‘past their sell-by date’ – and shortly afterwards came the suggestion that there may never have been a theft at all… though Azeredo Lopes isn’t really sure what happened.

Now, says Santana Lopes, we have to accept that Civil Protection – that bastion of national emergency response – may have been in the hands of someone unqualified for the top job.

And this is coming out after the worst fire tragedy in Portugal’s living memory, where 64, if not 65 people, died in scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie.

Says the incisive regular commentator, the country’s top brass should be better than this. They should be aware that they are representing sovereign institutions that do not require “new areas of turmoil”.

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