Portugal’s new government described as a “social mosaic”

There really is ‘something for everyone’ in the new government taking up the reins of power this afternoon in Lisbon.

As Portugal’s best-selling newspaper Correio da Manhã explains, it is “one of the most pluralist and integrative executives of all time: a real social mosaic”, which not only includes Portugal’s first black female minister, but secretaries of state that are blind and of gypsy origin.

Along with the more typical Portuguese assortment of ‘family ties’, there is also a cousin of ‘special one’ football trainer José Mourinho.

With most newspapers highlighting the choice of incoming Angolan-Portuguese Justice Minister (Francisca Van Dunem) as having “broken with taboos”, the blind secretary of state for the handicapped (Sofia Antunes), and the former mayor of gypsy origin (Carlos Miguel) have been rather left in the shadows.

This is what we can tell you about them:

Antunes, 34, is president of ACAPO (the Portuguese association for the blind). She was born blind and is a qualified lawyer. She is known for having said that a “country that does not respect its handicapped citizens is one that does not respect itself” and she is described as having dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of handicapped people generally.

Prime Minister António Costa has worked with Antunes in the past, appointing her to lead the department connected to pedestrian mobility.

Talking to journalists since the news of her latest appointment, Antunes says she is not worried about being able to get around the Republican Assembly – though if she were in a wheelchair there would be problems, as the building is not yet sufficiently wheelchair-friendly.

The inference is that Ana Sofia Antunes will be addressing this lapse very shortly.

One reader commenting on the DN story remarked that Antunes was certainly not the first blind minister to take up responsibilities in Portugal.

“Portugal has been governed for the last 40 years by people not only completely blind, but sick in the head,” wrote António Manuel Rodrigues Lourenço.

But even he agreed that the country could only wish Antunes good luck.

Good luck may well already be following Carlos Miguel, a lawyer by profession who is known as “the gypsy lawyer”, due to his family’s origins.

Miguel has been the mayor of Torres Vedras for the last 11 years, and before that he used to defend the causes of the gypsy community, writes Lusa. He has been an advisor to the High Commission of Migrations and a member of the Social and Economic Council. But, more to the point perhaps, he has seen discrimination first hand and dealt with it his way, by taking control.

Perhaps it was the gypsy ‘gift of foresight’ that led him to tell Expresso newspaper eight years ago: “I never had doubts that António Costa would be elected to Lisbon and I think that if he wants to, one day he could be prime minister.”
Miguel will be secretary of state for borough councils, working under Prime Minister Costa’s right-hand man, Eduardo Cabrita.

After today’s swearing in ceremony at 4pm, the new executive of ministers and secretaries of state will be convening tomorrow (Friday) to debate the government’s programme, due for final approval as soon as Wednesday next week.

[email protected]