Fires out – but now comes the anger, political censure and deep, deep shame

Almost the minute the country’s fires were dominated, social and political fallout has begun.

Citizens groups are appearing over social media calling for demonstrations.

Says Diário de Notícias, demands range from “sustainable policies for the future, to ministers being sent on holiday” (this being a jibe at the Minister for Internal Administration who has refused to resign – despite multiple calls for her to do so – suggesting it would be much easier to throw in the towel and go on holiday).

As protests are being organised via Facebook – the first of which is due to take place this evening outside Belém Palace in Lisbon, CDS leader Assunção Cristas held a press conference to say she will be presenting a motion of censure against the government in parliament, and hopes to get PSD support.

Cristas added that she has already spoken with President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and that the gist of her motion – that if successful could topple the government – is that the Executive has failed in the State’s most basic function: to protect its people.

She said: “The government hasn’t given one apology, nor has it taken the lead in compensating the families of the victims” in what she calls “the latest tragedy” – coming four months after the horrors of Pedrógão Grande where no less than 65 people lost their lives as authorities on the ground ‘failed in every way’.

Just as Cristas announced her initiative, the official death toll from Sunday’s “worst day of the year for forest fires” rose to 41.

Not long after President Marcelo addressed the nation in an impassioned speech which has been interpreted as “an ultimatum to the government”.

Talking of the importance of “civic humility” – with the inference that there has been none – Marcelo’s bottom line was that this has to be a turning point towards a “new cycle” in which there can be no more fire tragedies on this Dantesque scale.

He then went out to do precisely what no member of government has done: meet shattered victims who have had their lives and families torn apart.

This emotive video was posted late last night by SIC television, and shows exactly how people need this president’s human touch (click here).

The next few days in politics promise to be explosive.

Marcelo has warned that the government “must ponder how to serve in this new cycle” while parliament “must see if it wants to keep the government”.

As for the protests, DN says today’s is dubbed “Todos a Belém” and will “converge” with another group, calling itself “Vão de férias – Protesto Civil e Apartidário” (Go on Holiday – Civil Non-Partisan Protest).

Tomorrow (Wednesday) it will be the turn of “Todos Juntos pela Reflorestação do Pinhal de Leira” (Everyone for Reforestation of the (ancient) Leiria Pine Forest), and the on Friday, in Braga, there promises to be a demo dubbed “Incendios, até quando?” (loosely translated as “how much longer do we have to have fires?”.

There is also a demo scheduled for Saturday, in front of Lisbon’s parliamentary building, which will call for a sustainable future.

Organised by the movement Fénix (Phoenix), ‘rebirthing from the ashes’, it is described as calling for a national pact to bring “immediate results” as well as those in the long-term.

Today, with rain bucketing down in areas that lie broken and twisted, video clips of communities left to fight on their own, left with no advice or instructions – even left with dead bodies uncollected – are appearing like mushrooms.

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