AROUND 600 members of the armed forces gathered in Lisbon’s Rossio Square last Thursday in protest against government budgetary cuts in medical assistance.
The rally, for Justice and Legality, organised by the Commission for Military Personnel (COMIL, Comissão de Militares), was not as well attended as the illegal March of Discontent last year, with most members being retired or in mufti.
Under the Portuguese Official Secrets Act, members of the armed forces and secret services are prohibited from making public demonstrations against a particular ruling government or its policies.
According to Fernandes Torres, president of COMIL, the initiative was “a success” although he had to admit that it was “sad” that participation in such protests by members of the military has to be “an act of courage” because of the legal implications.
The president had asked active serving members of the armed forces “not to turn up in uniform” to avoid having the authorities take disciplinary action against them.
Fernandes Torres criticised the government for failing to fulfil the laws governing pensions in the armed forces and not supplying medicine and other social assistance free of charge as was available before.
“The careers of military personnel are also on the line with proposed cuts in serving personnel while privates are deliberately not being promoted to keep down costs,” he blasted.
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