Minister of the Sea Ana Paula Vitorino will be riding into a sea of troubles when she alights in the Algarve on Friday morning – ostensibly to present ‘brave new plans’ behind the government’s bid to extend Portuguese territory over four million square kilometres of sea.
Anti-oil groups already threatening a collective hunger strike have agreed to converge outside the gates of this year’s super-sized “Feira do Mar”, opening in Portimão Arena on Thursday (click here) to confront Vitorino over what they see as ‘collective lies’ behind government plans for Portugal’s bid for the sea.
Last weekend’s visit to Faro by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa did nothing to assuage environmental concerns, as he appeared to be talking nonsense (click here).
Said a joint statement put out this morning by MALP – one of the earliest anti-oil groups -, Preservar Aljezur, Stop Petróleo Vila do Bispo and Tavira em Transição: “The President was not telling the truth when he guaranteed to citizens, in front of media cameras and microphones, that only the contract in respect of Aljezur was ‘current’ in the Algarve, and that it only authorises prospection, not exploration.
“We know the contracts for Repsol/ Partex at sea in front of Tavira and Faro remain in place (the government has only executed a caution), and we know the contracts signed with oil companies allow for both prospection and exploration”.
Ana Paula Vitorino’s “lies” in parliament on the subject are another reason for the demo, earmarked for 10 am on Friday.
“The minister of the sea has been trying to sell the region and the country to oil companies in the United States”, says the statement, referring to Vitorino’s trip last year in which she was caught promoting drilling off Aljezur’s coast before the results of the statutory period for public consultation were known.
“And she lied in the Republican Assembly, saying there were no contracts for the production of oil in Portugal” – which anti-oil groups have repeatedly shown that there are.
Add to this the fact that the environment minister “thinks oil prospection on Portuguese territory is normal”, prime minister António Costa has “not responded to the request for an urgent audience with 27 groups, movements, regional and national associations” on the subject and public consultation of 42,000 people against oil exploration appear to have been “thrown in the rubbish” and the reasons for Friday’s initiative are fully explained.
“We decided that if the government does not act to stop the Aljezur drilling now, we would advance with a collective hunger strike in the name of the ecological sustainability of the region and the lives of people today and future generations”, explain the groups.
Friday’s action is designed to “defend democracy in the name of the dignity of Algarve populations, a decent society and to stand against oppression and barbarity”.
Because, says the statement, politicians decision to “offer oil companies the territory of the Algarve and Portugal is neither acceptable or tolerable”, and because “defence of the Algarve’s territory” is to avoid a “death sentence”.
MALP, Preservar Aljezur, Stop Petróleo Vila do Bispo and Tavira em Transição promise even more “actions” until people’s voices are heard and notice taken of what they call “reason and decency”.