Olhão Mayor rides into battle against government bulldozers

As the clock ticks towards this Saturday – the day government-backed bulldozers were to start destroying dozens of homes on Culatra island – campaigning Ria Formosa islanders got the news they were waiting for.

Olhão Mayor António Pina has played the legal route and won a victory. But whether it is enough to deter “the blindness and rage” shown this far by demolishers led by ‘environment agency’ Polis Litoral remains to be seen.

“There are no guarantees,” Pina stressed in a hard-hitting communiqué issued on Tuesday.

“We have to stay alert and keep fighting.”

Almost on cue, Polis Litoral confirmed that Pina’s victory made “no difference”.

It refers only to “one house, on Praia de Faro” and not to the scores of homes under orders to vacate this Liberty Day weekend at Farol, the agency president Sebastião Teixeira told us, adding “the demolition programme continues as planned”.

It is an attitude that not only islanders but the many hundreds right behind them simply do not understand.

The “environmental argument” justifying demolitions already lies in tatters since earlier demolitions on Ilhote das Ratas have actually seen the island sink below sea level at high tide.

And the “illegality” angle played by the government has been criticised for being “riddled with holes” (see the report https://www.portugalresident.com/%E2%80%9Cbarefaced-lies%E2%80%9D-the-truth-behind-environmental-plans-to-cleanse-ria-formosa-of-its-resident)

But as Teixeira explained, how he feels about what he is doing “is not the point”.

“We have a job to do, and that’s that,” he told us.

Islanders’ hopes now are pinned on last ditch initiatives to reinforce Mayor Pina’s ‘victory’ and see Polis in the “induced coma” that Pina outlines in his press statement.

On Monday, threatened families submitted new legal bids designed to stop bulldozers in their tracks, and on Wednesday (as the Resident went to press) Faro Mayor Rogério Bacalhau was due to fight the cause in a meeting with the environment ministry.

Bacalhau too has warned of a hidden agenda to prepare Culatra island for upmarket tourism.

And as public support for this agonising “Daniel versus Goliath” struggle grows apace, a group of islanders was preparing to be heard on national TV (RTP on Thursday morning) and be interviewed by an “international news agency”.

“We are doing everything we can to save our homes,” leading campaigner Vanessa Morgado told us.

“This has been an exercise in divide-and-conquer from the start, but they are not succeeding. We are more united now than ever!”

The uncertainty though is compounded by islanders’ vows that “there will be a disgrace” if the bulldozers move in.

Sebastião Teixeira is talking about “Monday” for Polis’ bulldozers to move in, but a lot can happen before then.

Meantime, a special human chain event is planned on the island on Saturday – see: https://www.facebook.com/events/1704922946401238

And a new petition, destined this time for the European Parliament, is running: http://peticaopublica.com/pview.aspx?pi=PT76810

“We have to ensure Polis’ extinction”, Mayor Pina’s letter tells his people. “As I have said before, a cause is only lost if people give up.”

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]

Photo by Zé Amaro – Facebook