Costa “confident” after two-hour meeting with military top brass

Prime minister António Costa has pronounced his “confidence” in the safety of the country’s military installations following a two-hour meeting last night with military top brass against the backdrop of swirling controversy.

The issue has been riding paramount in the media since 57 kilos-worth of explosives – including 44 rocket launchers/ anti-tank grenades and 150 hand grenades – were stolen from Tancos army base (Santarém) in circumstances that have yet to be established.

In a clear effort at damage-control, Costa said the country “owes a lot to its Armed Forces, and Portuguese people should respect and admire our Armed Forces”.

The heist, particularly lampooned by a Spanish newspaper, was described a “serious fact” but one from which “lessons have been taken” and “measures adopted that will allow our Armed Forces to reinforce security and guarantee full operability”.

Costa gave his statement flanked by chief of the armed forces Artur Pina Monteiro, who described the explosives heist as a “punch in the stomach” but added that “the material stolen was only valued at €34,000”.

Portugaldigital has pointed out that Pina Monteiro gave “no information on the destructive power of the stolen material”.

The Tancos’ robbery has been picked up by a number of foreign news services, including the BBC, which listed some of the stolen material last week, as 1,450 9mm ammunition cartridges, 150 hand grenades, 44 anti-tank grenades, 18 teargas grenades, 102 explosive charges and 264 pieces of plastic explosive.

A full list of the arsenal was published in Spanish by daily paper El Español.

Another positive aspect of last night’s meeting was Costa’s assertion that his minister of defence Azeredo Lopes is not going to be dismissed as a result of the embarrassment.

Any changes in the government will come after the municipal elections in October, he said.

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