A year on from the largest demonstration the Algarve has ever seen, islanders whose homes in Ria Formosa are still under threat of demolition were joined by hundreds of supporters today to reiterate demands to be “freed from the dictatorship of Polis” – the government organisation intent on sending bulldozers in to obliterate the fishing communities of Hangares and Farol.
Speaking to national television crew as today’s protest used a human chain to spell out SOS in the sand, Mayor of Olhão António Pina explained that the issue of demolitions “seems to have become a personal one for the president of Polis” – Sebastião Teixeira, the man known locally as “homem demolidor” (demolition man).
“Polis’ attitude worries us”, he told RTP. It is not a question of calling for Teixeira’s resignation, but more of “questioning how people exercise their responsibilities”.
Earlier this weekend, leading campaigner Vanessa Morgado echoed Pina’s concerns.
“This has nothing to do with the environment anymore”, she told us. “Worse, Polis is using ‘tame reporters’ to put out erroneous scare stories just to alarm people”.
She was referring to a report in Público that went out in the early hours of Saturday morning, suggesting Polis’ bulldozers were poised to start as a Supreme Court ruling had “definitively closed” all forms of dissent.
“This was absolute nonsense”, Morgado explained. “But newspapers duly printed it, which upset people who didn’t know better.
“The Supreme Court still has an embargo to consider that was filed by Olhão council”, she explained, while the government has suspended all demolitions until a decision has been made by the environment ministry.
Farol’s parish council leader Feliciano Júlio also stressed on camera that Loulé’s administrative court still has to decide on 46 legal challenges” filed by householders who live permanently on the Farol nucleus of Culatra island, and who have no other place to call home.
“It is true that the Supreme Court has rejected the providência cautelar (embargo bid) put in by the residents’ association”, he said. “But we are preparing a new case with our lawyers to defend ourselves and all the buildings on Farol, which come to 210.
“Polis cannot start with the demolitions”, he added. “This is a strategy they want to impose, but they cannot do it”.
Mayor Pina explained that many of the homes had been won as a result of the April 25 revolution – and it was time to legalise all those that had not managed to do so this far.
“It is time for us to be freed from the dictatorship of Polis”, he repeated.
Islanders’ hard-fought campaign to save their homes and heritage has lurched every which way since the last government signalled the go-ahead to demolitions on the basis that houses were damaging the Ria’s environmental sustainability.
Islanders refute this, saying the estuary is much more at risk from other problems which Polis and the authorities are simply not properly addressing.
For background on this story (click here).
Meantime, the islanders’ Facebook page has sent out special thanks to the company Drone Algarve for taking aerial photos.