Gabriel Catarino, the head of the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF-Foreign Affairs and Frontiers Service), has resigned. The decision was apparently taken after pressure from the Minister for Internal Affairs, António Costa.
The previous Secretary of State, Figueiredo Lopes, appointed Catarino in October 2003. Formerly, Catarino had been assistant national-director of the PSP and the Judicial Police (PJ).
Although Costa denied applying pressure on Catarino sources inside the service offer a different version of events. The SEF head appears to have reacted to an apparent loss of government confidence, evidenced in recent meetings with Costa and the Secretary of State for Internal Affairs, José Magalhães.
A meeting between António Costa and Gabriel Catarino, which allegedly led to the request for Catarino to stand down, took place on March 30. During the encounter Costa made clear to Catarino that the incoming government wanted to send a clear signal to the country that the SEF was changing. He then pointedly asked Catarino how this could be achieved. Catarino is said to have interpreted this as a request for his own resignation, at which point the meeting ended.
Gonçalo Rodrigues, president of the SEF’s union, said the union was sorry at the loss. “We regret his departure because his work was excellent at all levels,” he said.