Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa
Making the best of a very unfortunate meeting in Murça, President Marcelo puts the status quo down to democracy if not in action, in situ at least

Emigré’s tirade brings Marcelo up close and uncomfortable with 40 years of democracy

Furious diatribe caught fully on camera

President Marcelo has been on a nationwide ‘walkabout’ in a bid to draw a line over the way firefighting is tackled during the heat of the summer months. But in bracing winter sunshine in Murça yesterday he was verbally accosted by a furious emigré and at least one other ‘local citizen’ whose sense of anger and exasperation sent leader writers racing to their keyboards.

“For 40 years we have been fighting fires with buckets of water and hoses (…)  What have the PS and PSD been doing? (…) What have you been doing? (…) You speak very nicely, you are very well mannered, but you do nothing (…) Five years on from Pedrógão Grande, and everything’s just the same (…) The forests are not cleared or cleaned (…) Incompetence!” This was the general flavour of the criticism which then turned ‘political’… “(Manuel) Pinho earns €15,000 a month; Sócrates earned €3000 in prison, a firefighting takes home peanuts…”

And so it went on with the head of State trying his best to calm what refused to be calmed.

“We are all conscious that certain things have not gone as well”, he attempted to intercede as reporters held their microphones over the swirling melée.

“In a democracy there can be 60%, 70%, 80%, 90% of people who understand that there are things that take time to change. There are those who suffer and are more critical of the parties that are in government, and with things that have nothing to do with anything. This is democracy”, he ventured.

But after 40 years of it, Portugal “does not have health, does not have education, does not have security, does not have justice”, railed the emigré (so far unnamed).

“From the mouth of a citizen”, writes leader writer Manuel S. Fonseca in a short column in Correio da Manhã today. ‘As wrong as that citizen’s analysis may be’, it remains “a horrible perception of 40 years of democracy. Marcelo has heard it, but the ears that will be on fire are those of (prime minister António) Costa and (leader of the centre-right Social Democrats Luís) Montenegro”, because for all the heckling and ugliness, there was a dismal ring of truth to the emigré’s tirade.

Portugal is entering a New Year with “confidence”, the PM suggested in his Christmas speech. It is perhaps not surprising that opposition parties accused him of being overly optimistic.