“Heads rolling” in all directions as State acts over Tancos heist and football freebie scandal

Heads are rolling in so many directions this week that it’s almost difficult to keep up with them.

Last night (Monday), President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa met military top brass for dinner, and today he officially discharged lieutenant-general José Calçada, secretary of the superior council for national defence (CSDN).

Also out of the picture as a result of the embarrassing Tancos’ explosives heist (lampooned in the media) is the army’s operational commander lieutenant-general Faria Menezes, as well of course as the five Tancos’ generals removed last week (click here).

Later today, prime minister António Costa is due to meet the same military bosses that dined last night with the president, and further changes to institutional echelons are expected.

Bizarrely, Diário de Notícias explains that José Calçada was due to present a book last Friday, written by flamboyant retired lieutenant-colonel Tinoco de Faria who was organising a “delivery of swords” to Belém palace in protest to the way he considers political power led to the assault on Tancos.

Faria’s demo, larded with symbolism, ended up being cancelled – but the anger and frustration bubbling under the surface now is palpable.

As the retired Commando boss told SIC television this morning, he believes “political power” is guilty of “high treason” (lesa-pátria).

The issue is mired by financial constraints heaped upon the country’s armed forces by successive governments, most particularly since the ‘crisis years’.

But as the fallout from Tancos gathers steam, the government too is immersed in a major reshuffle, with ministers purportedly poised to get their marching orders, and secretaries of state confirmed as ‘official suspects’ in a criminal inquiry (click here) rapidly being replaced.

This afternoon, Lusa reported that minister for the economy Manuel Caldeira Cabral will be taking over where industry secretary João Vasconcelos left off.

Vasconcelos, for his part, has said he leaves his job with his ‘head held high’.

Similar words have come from former secretary of state for fiscal affairs Rocha Andrade, who insists he is also guilty of nothing.

CMTV meantime has been reporting how the men’s ‘freebie jet jollies’ to Euro 2016 matches in France cost as much as €3000 per flight. This means despite their protestations at the time that they would repay Galp the full cost of their journeys, this is unlikely to have actually happened.

Within the maelstrom and constant ‘change of places’, news that judges will be going on strike in the first few days of October – threatening the smooth-running of the country’s municipal elections – seems barely to have registered.

Further developments will come through tonight, but one thing is certain: Portugal’s image as a well-ordered country advancing nobly towards economic success has been knocked askew in the past few days, and may take quite a while to recover itself.

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