PCP leader flanked by Algarve MP buoy-up threatened Ria Formosa islanders

Once again threatened by the spectre of demolitions, Ria Formosa islanders were buoyed up today by a visit from PCP leader Jerónimo de Sousa, alongside one of their most tireless supporters, Algarve PCP MP Paulo Sá.

Said campaigner Vanessa Morgado of the island’s SOS Ria Formosa campaign: “Today I met a great man who told me that we have to continue being the principal actors in our own lives. I took it all in, as he took in that the areas at risk here cannot and should not be defined according to the monetary power of people”.

Islanders’ struggle against what was once a mass demolitions plan have always been a David versus Goliath scenario, overshadowed by the underlying whiff of property speculation.

According to campaigners, a source that has to remain anonymous actually saw the maquette (3D model) of a marina and VIP resort destined for the Farol area of Culatra at the PSD’s summer party, known as Festa do Pontal, in 2014.

The model was being shown to a “select group”, and was swiftly removed from the sight of others as soon as it caused attention, one islander told us during a visit to Farol and Hangares’ communities by Bloco de Esquerda MP João Vasconcelos in October (click here).

Paulo Sá has always maintained that the so-called environmental reasons for cleansing the islands of their inhabitants have to do with real estate (click here).

Thus today’s visit served to ‘strengthen resolve’ that is already legendary for its staying power, and challenge the latest round of demolitions notices, targeting 50 houses for the simple reason that dredgers removed their shoreline for years in the 80s and 90s, and now houses that were well set back from the sea find themselves what authorities have said is ‘dangerously close’ to it.

Spurring islanders on to defending their homes, Jerónimo de Sousa reminded them that nothing has yet been decided. Compulsory ‘seizure’ of the properties has not been scheduled before February 22, and there is still the chance to challenge notices affecting some of the properties.

Tuesday is likely to bring further news as it is the day earmarked for the “urgent audience” that the PCP has requested with environment minister José Pedro Matos Fernandes. But meantime islanders are simply delighting in the fact that this was the first visit to Culatra of the head of one of the country’s major political parties: one that is part of the left-wing alliance that helped bring the current government into power ‘through the back door’ after 2015’s hung election result.

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