Portuguese media today is awash with photographs of President Marcelo emerging from a dip in the ocean.
The official story is that he is in Angola, on a mission of “fraternity” to celebrate the investiture of new president João Lourenço. But the background is much more complicated – not least because Angola’s recent elections were steeped in habitual controversy.
Warns Jornal i, Portugal’s long-running relationship with Angola is “at risk”.
“On a knife-edge” would be far more apt a description – hence the mission of the nation’s ‘President of Affections’.
Whether the heavy blanket of placatory PR will ‘work’ is a totally different matter.
Controversy extends far beyond the fairness of the Angolan electoral process which saw the ruling MPLA claim victory for the 42rd year running, and before all the votes had been counted.
Bubbling for months, it threatens to reach a new level of diplomatic hiatus now that the trial of a former magistrate accused of archiving cases at the bidding of high-ranking Angolan public figures is getting its day in court.
The “booking” of court space for Operation Fizz is due to get underway this week, reports i.
It centres on Orlando Figueira allegedly receiving thousands of euros from Angolan VIPs including the country’s retiring vice-president Manuel Vicente (click here).
Vicente not only refutes the claims, his defence suggests they are lies that “violate international law” and bilateral treaties.
A new legal challenge to Vicente’s citing in Fizz has just been lodged in court in Lisbon, and the fallout from this, more than anything else, is likely to have been the true reason for President Marcelo’s visit this week to Luanda.
Campaigning journalist Rafael Marques de Morais – a thorn in the side of Angola’s political ‘dynasty’ – has written in Observador that, in the end, it is in Portugal’s interests to buoy-up the MPLA regime.
He can of course say that he is “transmitting Portugal’s encouragement and support to the new president to face the challenges of human development in Angola, and we would all be happy – including the president elect and the MPLA, because cynicism is a characteristic that unites us”, says Morais.
The political activist’s comments follow criticism from Angola’s main opposition party UNITA that Portugal always “bends” in its relationships with Angola, putting the country in a “situation of real dependency”.