Photo taken from Global Platform 4 Syrian Students Facebook page

Three days of national mourning declared as tributes to Jorge Sampaio pour in from every quarter of society

Prime minister António Costa has declared three days of national mourning following the death of former president of the Republic Jorge Sampaio.

Following a declaration by President Marcelo – and as tributes to the 81-year-old come pouring in – Mr Costa described his feelings of “profound sadness and loss”.

The PS (Socialists) municipal election campaign has been temporarily suspended to give militants and candidates the opportunity to “join collective tributes”.

Jorge Sampaio’s legacy is so much more than that of a politician who became a president. As one of the many newspaper tributes to his life explains irrespective of a curriculum that involved “the most important positions in Portugal for almost 30 years” his overriding commitment “even before he reached adulthood” was a “permanent concern for others”.

Honouring his exceptional life today, President Marcelo said: “He could have resigned himself to the easier path of a privileged jurist” but chose instead “the most ungrateful”: the defence of the most vulnerable.

Marcelo recalled Jorge Sampaio’s activism against the dictatorship, his support of student riots, of political prisoners, “the way he built bridges inside and outside of the Socialist Party” – even his opposition to the invasion of Iraq, which Portugal as a country ‘supported’.

His legacy, said Marcelo, was two-fold: “liberty and equality” and “intelligence and sensitivity”.

Most recently Mr Sampaio had been involved in ensuring further education for Syrian students displaced by the war in their country (click here), and there is even the understanding that before being admitted to hospital he was trying to power support for similar help for Afghan women students (click here).

His death has seen all his attributes highlighted, praised, honoured and revered. “He was a good man”, said Marcelo as former president António Cavaco Silva (a figure on the opposite side of the political spectrum) has described Jorge Sampaio as “a man of causes who served Portugal with great wisdom and dedication”.

Elsewhere, high ranking figures have been reacting to what they agree has been an “unrecoverable loss” (this coined by former prime minister Francisco Pinto Balsemão.)

With some political parties already falling in line with the PS decision to halt their election campaigns over the weekend, universities, trades unions, business entities, town halls, parish councils, civic organisations, even football clubs have been expressing their sadness and admiration for one of the ‘best examples’ of what it is to be Portuguese in this frantically developing world.

Further afield, European figures including Ursula von der Leyen and David Sassoli have extended their condolences.

Writing over Twitter, Ms von der Leyen described the “sad day for Portugal.

“I had the honour to meet Jorge Sampaio during my first official visit to Portugal. In this moment of sadness, I send my condolences to his family and friends. My thoughts are with those who lament his passing, inside and outside of Portugal”, said the European Commissioner.

Stories and articles about Mr Sampaio will continue through the weekend, but for now we can quote some of the ‘facts that you may not have known’, compiled by Expresso in 2012 when a biography written by José Pedro Castanheira was published:

Nickname: because of his freckles and red hair, he was known as “Carrot” at school 

Grandfather: politics was a family tradition: his grandfather on his mother’s side was Fernando Branco minister of foreign affairs between 1930-1932

Education: One of Portugal’s most famous actresses (Mariana Rey Monteiro) was Mr Sampaio’s kindergarten teacher

Elections: He won the first elections for president of the Faculty of Law Students Association in 1961… by just one vote

Debt: when he was young, he gave a well known columnist in dire financial straits “três contos” (equivalent now to around €15) the money was never fully paid back

Churchill: at the age of 13 he was deeply impressed by a speech by Winston Churchill

University: he entered to study Law with relatively low marks – failing two subjects in the first year. He finally graduated with a medium of 12 (not considered ‘fantastic’ these days).

MAR: a founder of the Movimento de Ação Revolucionário (movement for revolutionary action) with João Cravinho (father of the current minister for defence João Gomes Cravinho) before the April 25 revolution, he admitted that he would be “incapable of setting a bomb”.

“25 DE ABRIL, SEMPRE”. The post-revolutionary slogan was actually coined by Jorge Sampaio, in 1977 on the first anniversary of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic

BEJA. This was a famous legal case, which he took on the invitation of Mário Soares, to defend political prisoners. He did such a brilliant job that Soares called him “Jorge Mason Sampaio” alluding to fictional defence lawyer Perry Mason.

SPORTING. Passionate about football, he was a supporter of Sporting FC from the 1950s.

SOCIALIST PARTY (PS): He was invited to be the founder of the PS Socialist Party, but refused. He later joined in 1978.

APRIL 25. One of the urban myths about Jorge Sampaio is that he was ‘so well behaved’ that he didn’t even go out onto the streets on the day of the Carnation Revolution. This is not actually true. He went out in the morning, but after hearing recommendations from the military to return home, he complied without taking part in the events that went on in central Lisbon.

FOOTBALL. He loved playing the game – but in later life ‘graduated to golf’.

“Obrigado Jorge Sampaio” – this was one of the first tributes tweeted today by defence minister João Gomes Cravinho, and is the overriding sentiment in everything coming out about the man whose commendable life has given the country an enormous sense of pride.
natasha.donn@algarveresident.com