Ria Formosa islanders rally to last-ditch efforts to save threatened communities

Today (Friday) sees islanders throughout Ria Formosa on maximum alert. The final six-day countdown to the loss of up to 81 homes is ticking as efforts to save a way of life appear still to be hitting a brick wall of institutional intransigence.

No matter how many voices speak out against the planned demolitions, the government’s mantra continues: “These houses are illegal and need to go”.

Chinks of light persist, in that 23 homes that Minister for the Environment Matos Fernandes says are “allegedly homes of primary residence” within the threatened communities of Hangares and Farol are currently being evaluated. But the numbers do not ‘add up’.

Of the 81 properties facing the wrecking ball, 64 are ‘confirmed’ as ‘deserving it’, Matos Fernandes told parliament yesterday. That suggests only 17 appear would be under evaluation.

For their part, islanders are having none of it. This is the “extermination of a people” based on spurious reasoning, lies and hypocrisy.

Tonight, in Olhão, there is a mass silent protest planned from the council building to the municipal auditorium where a talk about the history of the islands is planned as part of a Poetry of the South initiative.

Later, the council is calling an emergency meeting in the town hall with only one item on the agenda: “The immediate suspension of barrier-island demolitions”.

Behind the scenes, the PCP, Green Party (Os Verdes) and Bloco de Esquerda are working to the same ends, but what no one appears to understand is the level of deafness existent in parliament to widespread opposition, even among MEPs in Brussels.

SOS Ria Formosa’s Facebook page is meantime calling on all islanders to show up in force today and every day leading up to next Thursday, when authorities are expected to resort to force if necessary to wrestle people from their homes.

Military exercises on Hangares’ nucleus this week have developed to the imminent arrival of a 200-ton naval vessel in Farol, and orders from the ports captain that people who do not remove their boats from the eastern end of the port risk having them impounded by the State.

The “scandal” (in the words of island residents) has prompted fears that ferries to the island could be affected in the days leading up to the so-called ‘tomada de posse’ (seizure of homes).

“We need you all”, says the campaign’s Facebook page. “We cannot allow these tyrannical measures to intimidate. Only by struggling and persistence will we reach a good port. Serene and without violence we will win”.

For more on this David versus Goliath battle, see portugalresident over the weekend.