Letter from Cascais

Dear Reader,
Temperatures this winter, here and in other parts of Portugal, have been lower than in the last few years. In mid-January, overnight temperatures here fell well below 10º C.

Heating systems in Portugal, especially in older buildings, are inadequate for such conditions. In the European Union, Portugal ranks as one of the worst countries with regard to keeping people safely warm in winter months. In rural areas, open fires often serve to provide domestic heat.

Friends in other parts of Europe call to enquire about our wellbeing. Portugal is in the news due to the worsening Covid-19 situation here. At present, this is one of the most affected countries in Europe.

In these precarious and depressing circumstances, it is necessary to keep a positive mindset and to focus on good news. A friend is searching the internet for websites offering “positive news”, while the major national and international news media keep bombarding us with frightening news about the pandemic.

One positive report: 11 miners were rescued in China after being trapped for two weeks underground.

For many of us, the most encouraging event has been the inauguration last week of Joe Biden as the new President of the United States, following the departure of his erratic and incompetent predecessor.

While the US remains a divided nation still suffering severely from the pandemic, Biden’s presidency and his choice of cabinet members will hopefully bring more competence and decency to Washington DC and help to restore America’s damaged international relations.

In Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was re-elected as President of the Republic by a large majority on Sunday. However, over 60% of voters abstained, which reflects not only the impact of the pandemic but most likely a high degree of political apathy. Interestingly, the right-wing Chega party candidate attracted over 11% of the vote.

On January 1, Portugal took over the six-month presidency of the European Council in which EU government leaders determine policy guidelines.
Now that the distraction of Brexit is over, the EU must concentrate on addressing its internal challenges, including the primary need to overcome the pandemic.

Please stay well and positive and look for good news!

Jurgen H. Racherbaumer