Rui Rio
Rui Rio today in Miranda do Douro

Rui Rio ‘returns’ to call for justice for populations of Miranda do Douro

Communities want taxes paid to benefit area

Former PSD leader Rui Rio has broken his media silence of the past few months to call for justice for the populations of Miranda do Douro which have been fighting for the last couple of years for money due through taxes on EDP’s sale of six hydro-dams to French group Engie.

As the pressure group, Movimento Cultural da Terra de Miranda, has been explaining since even before the sale, stamp duty due (roughly €110 million) should by rights be used for the good of the communities which otherwise have just been ‘plundered’ for their natural resources, with zero in the form of compensation.

But for reasons extraordinarily unclear that stamp duty has not been forthcoming.

Today, the municipal assembly of Miranda do Douro held an extraordinary session in order to put this matter ‘back in the public eye’ – hence Rui Rio’s intervention.

The former leader of the social democrats has always supported the communities’ case – telling reporters today that when he was still active in parliament he “confronted the prime minister with this issue” and António Costa told him the tax authority was “studying the matter” and would “quickly produce an opinion on this issue”.

But two years now have passed, without the tax authority’s ‘opinion’, which is actually very simple to understand, suggests Mr Rio.

Technically, the taxes are due, and there is a certain fear in writing that they are not due”.

In other words, the State has been “complicit” in this process, he claims. Indeed, in “some circumstances it almost seemed to act like the defence attorney” for EDP.

“It is absolutely clear that there is favouritism” at work here, said Rui Rio this afternoon: “at stake is a sale on which taxes must be paid, but are not being paid.

“This is elementary justice. We in Portugal have an absolutely brutal tax burden; the citizen lives asphyxiated by taxes, and then we see here a simulation, a form of legal engineering to ensure the non-payment of taxes, attempting a fiscal pardon”.

The former MP said he has no intention of starting to pronounce on political events; his appearance today was simply to “continue the contribution” to “see if there is any justice, if the big companies, those who have more money, also pay their taxes, just like the small ones”.

“This non-payment of taxes harms the Portuguese people as a whole, but particularly harms those most forgotten, most abandoned by central power”, he said.

Backing up his opinion was Catarina Martins, the coordinator of Bloco de Esquerda, also present at today’s extraordinary municipal assembly. She told reporters that her party wants all taxes due on the dam sale paid in full: “Any small rural landowner here is paying their IMI. It cannot be that the biggest economic groups, and those who make the most money, are not paying their obligations. We are in Trás-os-Montes, where so much of the country’s energy is produced, and nothing is left here…”

Filling in some of the background, Lusa reports that the deal to sell the dam concession is ostensibly being investigated by the Public Prosecutions Office, as a result of complaints by the Terra da Miranda movement.

“EDP sold six dams in Portugal (Picote, Miranda do Douro, Bemposta, Sabor, Feiticeiro and Tua, all in the district of Bragança) to a consortium of investors, formed by Engie, Crédit Agricole Assurances and Mirova, for €2.2 billion.

“In December 2020 the company MOVHERA was created, which is part of the Engie group and to which was transferred what is “the second largest hydroelectric portfolio in Portugal”, according to the description made by the group itself.

“The opponents of the deal claim the payment of taxes, roughly € 100 million relates to stamp duty (imposto do selo) and Municipal Property Tax (IMI)”.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com