Outspoken Madeiran leader condemned for besmirching opponent’s honour

Outgoing PSD president of the regional government of Madeira, Alberto João Jardim, has been condemned to pay €4,000 in damages in a civil action taken out by former opponent Gil da Silva Canha whom he accused of being involved in a Venezuelan drug cartel.

Canha – who was running for the new democracy party PND in the 2009 municipal elections – also successfully sued a JSD party follower, Marco António Freitas.

But the €16,000 in damages he asked for fell short of half. Freitas was also ordered by the judge to pay Canha €4,000.

Meantime, Canha is once more contesting Madeiran elections for the PND – this time for a seat in the regional parliament (elections due March 29).

The offences to his honour involved the moment when Jardim blocked PND access to a political rally and ordered young JSD followers to unfurl banners which proclaimed: “Canha flee to Brazil! Venezuelan justice is after you…”

As Canha told the court, “he felt offended, humiliated, vexed and revolted by the words and the way they were presented” – quite apart from the fact that there was “no information corresponding to the truth in the accusation”.

He claimed the defendants had set out to “denigrate his image, good name, moral, personal and professional integrity” – and the judge agreed with him.

She said that damages caused to Gil Canha were not simply uncomfortable but “lesions beyond banality that assumed sufficient gravity to deserve compensation”.

As no national media has yet pointed out, a €4,000 fine for a politician in power longer even than Salazar presided over the country as dictator is unlikely to set Jardim back in any way at all.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]