‘We shouldn’t pay the debt’

Portugal’s PS Socialist Party has been embroiled in embarrassment after the acidic comments of its deputy chief whip at a party dinner in Castelo de Paiva last week.

Parliamentary bench leader, Pedro Nuno Santos, said that the Government should “threaten to not pay its public debts to foreign entities” as a blackmail tool to get a better deal over Portugal’s debt repayment terms.

In what was termed “a political atomic bomb”, the comments were hotly debated in Parliament at the end of last week.

At the Socialist dinner the weekend before last, Pedro Nuno Santos was filmed saying “I don’t give a monkey’s about our creditors.”

“First it’s the German bankers, then it’s the French bankers and only after the Portuguese people,” he said, adding that the Government needed to take a more assertive attitude with creditors.

“We’ve got an atomic bomb that can be used in the face of the Germans and French which is to simply say ‘We won’t pay!’” he slammed.

He said the Government should use a “poker tactic” and “bluff” in front of the “European big guys”.

“Either these gentlemen play fairly and squarely or we won’t pay up. That would make the legs of those German bankers shake,” he blasted.

The Secretary of State for the Presidency, Luís Marques Guedes, reacted to the comments after a Council of Ministers meeting by stating: “I would just say that these were rather unfortunate comments, but ones which have been corrected.”

The Parliamentary leader of the ruling PSD party, Luís Montenegro, retorted in Parliament: “It’s time we heard from the Secretary-General of the PS party, António Seguro, to see if he agrees or not with his backbench whip’s position.”

The former leader of the PS, Marques Mendes, termed the outburst as “unacceptable”.

But the left-wing poet MP Manuel Alegre defended the comments by the PS’s loose cannon by saying, “it’s good that there are young people in the PS like Pedro Nuno Santos who are prepared to shout what they feel in their souls.”

Pedro Nuno Santos later toned down his inflammatory statements by saying that what he had meant was in the spirit of “a negotiation process” where “both sides use the arms they have at their disposal”.