Manuel Pizarro named as Portugal’s new minister for health
Manuel Pizarro was secretary of State for health in the era of Socialist health minister Ana Jorge

Manuel Pizarro named as Portugal’s new minister for health

Pizarro was secretary of State for health in final government of José Sócrates

As the country starting packing up for a final Saturday of sunshine ‘before the storm’, the government announced the country’s new health minister.

He is Manuel Pizarro – a doctor by profession (full name: Dr. Manuel Francisco Pizarro de Sampaio e Castro) who has been a Euro MP since 2019.

Manuel Pizarro is a returnee to government. He was secretary of state for health in the government of José Sócrates between the years of 2008-2011 (at which point the country requested a €79 billion bailout).

According to Wikipedia, as secretary of State he was responsible “among others for the dynamism of the reform of primary health care, for extending the ‘dentist’s cheque’ programme for children, for the creation of the Public Bank of umbilical cord cells (lusocord), and the first public ‘gametes’ bank (in Porto). He also laid the first stone in the ‘materno-infantil centre of the north’.

In addition to this, his name came up with regard to investigations into the Octapharma/ blood mafia scandal – a case that in spite of its age, has never reached a courtroom.

The Octapharma/ Blood Mafia investigation  is currently the only case remaining with Judge Ivo Rose, removed from exclusivity in the BES/ GES case earlier this week.

As a choice by the prime minister, Manuel Pizarro is very much ‘of the Socialist stable’. He has been one of the contenders since the outset of this ‘race’, albeit not the favourite within the health sector. Regular television commentator Luís Marques Mendes described him last week as a “conciliator”, hazarding correctly that he would be the candidate chosen.

The 58-year-old is due to be sworn in in a ceremony at Belém Palace tomorrow evening.

Tabloid Correio da Manhã has commented on this appointment in an uncomplimentary editorial headlined “Sick Majority”. Eduardo Dâmaso, the paper’s editorial director general, says it “confirms the premature illness of this absolute majority” government.

“Pizarro is a weak choice and comes straight from the Socialist apparatus close to Sócrates. Even worse, he comes from the dangerous ‘business’ universe of health, with connections to Cunha Ribeiro, former INEM director and suspect in the Blood Mafia case, as well as (connections to) Lalanda e Castro, former boss of Octapharma and of José Sócrates…”

Dâmaso stresses that no accusations were made against Pizarro, in spite of various wire taps. “But the truth is this is the Sócratic nebulsim into which Costa is putting the government. Politically, the issue is already explosive. It remains to be seen whether the pre-trial phase of the Blood Mafia case brings anything new”.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com