President Marcelo has stepped into the gathering hysteria over emails sent to anti-racism activists and three MPs telling them to ‘leave the country within 48-hours’ or face measures against them and their families.
The emails went to members of SOS Racismo (anti-racists) and parliamentary left-wingers Mariana Mortágua, Beatriz Dias Gomes and Joacine Katar Moreira (the first MP to win a seat for the ‘free party’ Livre before falling out with it and leaving click here).
The mails were sent in the name of ‘anonymous extreme-right-wing’ group Nova Ordem de Avis (the New Order of Avis – Avis referring to one of the historic royal dynasties of Portugal).
This is the same order believed to have been behind a form of ‘Klu Klux Klan’ protest outside the premises of SOS Racismo in Lisbon over the weekend in which those ‘protesting’ wore white masks and carried flaming torches.
The whole subject of racism in Portugal has been bubbling away – most markedly in the capital – since the fatal shooting of black actor Bruno Candé last month by an 76-year-old former male nurse.
At the time, SOS Racismo and other groups, including left-wing Bloco de Esquerda, insisted the murder was a racist act.
The elderly man currently in preventive custody charged with carrying it out is equally vehement that there was no racial motivation for his actions. He claims he shot Candé because of the actor’s pet Labrador.
The Public Ministry is currently investigating all these various incidents, but clearly Marcelo has decided ‘enough is enough’.
Interviewed in Lisbon today, he referred to the “use, instrumentalisation and manipulation” of issues like these “in other countries as a way of radicalising political life, promoting anti-systemic phenomena and debilitating democracy”.
He warned that this should not be allowed to happen in Portugal.
Certainly there should be zero tolerance for any kind of racism, he told the cameras, but democrats (meaning anyone living in a democracy) need to keep their feet on the ground and be “aware of campaigns and escalations that are easy to mount within Portuguese society over sensitive subjects”.
Stressing that troublemakers like “nothing more than to create an emotional atmosphere”, the president said the moment calls for ‘sense’ and ‘intelligence’.
The threatening emails referred to August being “the month of the nationalist rebuild”.
Parliamentary leader Ferro Rodrigues has already condemned them as ‘an attempt at intimidation’, saying they were the work of a “very small far right group” that is promoting hatred.