Image from Luís Dias Twitter profile

Tragic berry farmer takes up new hunger strike, this time in garden of PM’s official residence

Tragic berry farmer Luís Dias is trying, yet again, to win justice for the destruction of his agricultural project in two devastating storms over four years ago.

The profoundly deaf man who was hospitalised three times when he staged a hunger strike outside Belém Palace last summer (click here), is planning a re-run, this time outside the official residence of prime Minister António Costa – aware that this time, he could die in the process.

“It’s winter. It’ll be difficult to come out of this alive, I realise”, he has told reporters.

But it is also the month of legislative elections tipped as unlikely to see the government returned with a safe working majority.

Mr Costa would hardly win useful Brownie points if a disgruntled citizen died in the garden of his official residence just before polling day.

And the facts of this matter are that Mr Dias is indeed entitled to compensation. The Portuguese Ombudsman ruled in his favour in 2019, writes Expresso today.

But so much time has passed in bureaucratic shenanigans that the Ministry of Agriculture appears to be trying to ‘bargain’ its way out of the issue, suggesting most recently that Mr Dias ‘reduce the size of his farm’ and would then be entitled to a reduced amount of compensation.

It is a long and frustrating story (for both Mr Dias and his wife, a partner in the berry business that collapsed). He told Expresso this week that he feels he has no alternative but to try once again for proper recognition of his rights. “At least I am showing people the difference between propaganda and reality”, he said.

One of the most tragic aspects of this lone stand is that when Luís Dias staged his hunger strike in the summer, he was fleetingly visited by President Marcelo. Marcelo was wearing a mask, however – thus the words he spoke were ‘lost’, as Mr Dias relies on lip-reading in order to be able to communicate.

Perhaps, three weeks from legislative elections, there is a chance that this latest stand will ‘bear fruit’. With luck, Expresso’s coverage will spread to other news outlets.

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