Prédio Countinho stalwarts – the nine elderly men and women forced to live days in their homes without gas, water or electricity (click here) – remain firmly in place in the ‘condemned building’ this week, despite threats from environment minister José Pedro Matos Fernandes that they could be handed massive fines over their campaign of intransigence.
According to Matos Fernandes, the costs could be as high as 30,000 euros per month.
How the minister reached this sum, no one outside the government seems able to clarify.
It apparently involves the ‘running costs of VianaPolis’ – the entity created to oversee the demolition of the 13-storey apartment block and create a municipal market.
Matos Fernanades explained: “What we feel is that since October 2016, there has been no reason for the company (VianaPolis) to exist”.
But it has had to as its purpose has been consistently thwarted.
Thus, VianaPolis shareholders – the State and Viana do Castelo council – want “to be compensated for maintenance costs”.
The pensioners’ lawyer Magalhães Sant’ana says his redoubtable clients “do not fear” Matos Fernandes’ pressure.
They are waiting for the courts to decide this issue, and they have said that if the decision goes against them, they will leave quietly and let the bulldozing begin.
It has to be said that Matos Fernandes’ threat is to lodge a court case for costs “after the judicial holidays”.
A decision on Prédio Coutinho’s future however is expected imminently.
Meantime, a social media campaign to save the building – and sell off apartments that have been left empty – has received thousands of signatures.
The mayor of the town however is vehement: Prédio Coutinho’s residents are ‘illegal’ and acting against the public interest.
José Maria Costa has even said his municipality will forcibly remove the old folk.
But so far today, none of these threats have transpired.