LIBERTY!!! Court frees islanders from threat of government bulldozers

On the eve of one of the most emblematic events in the Portuguese calendar Loulé administrative court has freed scores of Ria Formosa islanders from the immediate threat of losing their homes.

Today (Friday April 24) was to have been the day government-backed agency Polis Litoral took possession of homes on Culatra island (Farol nucleus) ahead of its fiercely-contested demolition programme scheduled to start next week.

But instead came the news that 134 embargoes prohibiting the destruction were accepted by judges.

It’s a victory, but by no means the end of the struggle.

Sulinformação website writes the embargoes prohibit Polis from taking possession of islanders homes, though it now has 10-days to present its own arguments.

“Only after this, will there be a final decision”.

In other words, the April 25 commemoration of the anniversary of Liberty Day will be the celebration of another kind of People’s revolution in Ria Formosa. The day a community discovered power comes through determination.

“It’s great news” PCP MP Paulo Sá agreed. “It’s a stimulus in the struggle, but it is by no means the end. We now have to concentrate on getting this policy of destruction thrown out altogether”.

Meantime, further embargoes for houses due to have been “seized” by Polis in May were presented today, all powered by the same lawyers – hired by islanders who have always affirmed: “we are not moving”.

Tomorrow, the islander’s Human Chain event is going ahead as scheduled. But instead of playing out in full view of battalions of earthmovers, it will take place in an atmosphere of relief and community spirit.

“We’ll all sleep well this evening”, campaigner Vanessa Morgado told us. “There’s much more ahead of us, but we’ve won a battle along the way”.

Earlier this week islanders appeared on State television, publicising their plight in a 40-minute programme that saw its hosts wishing them every success.

Psychologist Mauro Paulino told RTP’s Agora Nós morning show that Polis’ programme was not simply the destruction of homes, it was “the demolition of lives, of people who are real, not simply numbers in processes.

“What is more frightening than losing a past, and losing the present, is not having any perspectives for a future”, he added. “It creates terrible anxiety”.

But at least for this year’s “Dia da Liberdade” islanders are free to celebrate “em grande” with a Human Chain that shows the extent of their unity.

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