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President ‘sacks’ two advisors for speaking out

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Portugal’s President Cavaco Silva was back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons last week, after effectively sacking two advisors for saying they didn’t agree with him.
Only the week before during a visit to the Algarve, Cavaco Silva said in apparent seriousness: “I think one can never ignore the voices one hears in the street, whatever they are, as long as they appear reasonable.” At the time, he had only just driven right past well over 50 ‘voices in the street’ – all of them calling for his resignation.
Now, he has chosen not to listen to two highly-respected advisors who put their names to a hard-hitting manifesto drawn up by 74 of the country’s leading political thinkers. The document calls for a restructuring of the country’s debt “over 40 years or more”, maintaining it is the only way Portugal will ever climb out of its economic quicksand.
Sevinate Pinto, former agricultural minister, has been an advisor to Cavaco Silva since 2006, writes Correio da Manhã newspaper, while Vítor Martins, former secretary of state for European Affairs, arrived in Belém after a key position as administrator at Caixa Geral de Depósitos bank.
The two men put their names to the controversial manifesto without pre-informing the President.
According to Público newspaper, Sevinate Pinto and Vítor Martins have, in fact, resigned their position as advisors to the President, contradicting claims that they have been sacked.
Caught thus a little off-balance when the news broke, Cavaco Silva dismissed the manifesto’s claims that Portugal’s debt is unsustainable as “masochism” – an expression he also used during an official visit to Sweden in October last year.
His point of view was wholeheartedly supported by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, who said the whole notion of the manifesto was “irresponsible” and “so off the agenda” he had difficulty trying even to explain it.
Poul Thomsen, who was the first IMF representative in charge of the Troika mission in Portugal, backed Passos Coelho’s statement and said this was not the time to talk about a restructuring of the debt.