General Carlos Jerónimo – the head of Portugal’s Army – resigned yesterday afternoon in the wake of claims that Lisbon’s military college actively discriminated against homosexuals.
The claims – made by a lieutenant-colonel at the college in interview with Observador website – caused uproar almost the minute they were made.
But it was the way defence minister Azeredo Lopes dealt with the controversy that appears to have been “the last straw” for General Jerónimo.
Diário de Notícias explains that at the very least, the army boss expected to have been approached by Lopes before the minister went extremely public, with declarations that: “The ministry of defence considers any discrimination for sexual orientation or any other questions absolutely unacceptable and against the Constitution and the Law”.
Lopes told journalists that he had asked Army Command for “clarification” over the declarations as well as on “the measures it would be adopting”.
His comments, “before any investigation had been undertaken”, were “an absolute lack of respect for the army and an error in the evaluation of the facts”, a source told the paper.
They came after an earlier set-to with the ministry – in which Lopes had said Portugal “was not ready to fight in Syria”, when army chiefs feel they are.
In other words, General Jerónimo saw this latest emotionally-charged row as “the drop of water that made him slam the door”, writes DN.
He “took full responsibilities” for the inflammatory comments “just as a good military chief should”, colonel Nuno Pereira da Silva told DN – and President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has accepted the top soldier’s departure.
But considering Marcelo promised a ‘new beginning’ for the country’s military only a couple of weeks ago (click here), the news has been less than whelming to the armed forces.
DN writes that General Jerónimo’s replacement is almost certain to be chosen from four lieutenant generals: José Carlos Calçada, Fernando Serafino, Rovisco Duarte and Faria Menezes (currently commander of the territorial forces).