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Tuesday 26 January 2021

The Man Who Would Be Salazar

Within the living memory of those of A Certain Age, the southern fringe of Europe was dotted with totalitarian dictatorships, all now almost forgotten. In Greece, the régime of the Colonels expired in the aftermath of a foolish attempt to impose énosis on Cyprus - the result of which, partition, is still with us. The following year, Francisco Franco died and his Falangist state soon followed him to the grave. And then there was Portugal.

André Ventura - the man who would be kingmaker

The very oldest of those dictatorships, the Estado Novo, was established in the early 1930s under the less than benign leadership of António de Oliveira Salazar. He balanced the books, doing do by keeping his people poor, and for many years, less than totally literate. Portugal was still the poorest country in Western Europe by the time the Estado Novo was overthrown peacefully by the Carnation Revolution of April 1974.

Salazar’s régime was corporate, authoritarian, and only marginally less brutal than that of Franco. Going back to those dark times was not a serious proposition - until last weekend’s Presidential Election. Centre-right-to-Independent favourite Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa won a second term with over 60% of the vote. But there in third place, with almost 12% of the vote, was André Ventura. Remember his name well.

António de Oliveira Salazar - the casting of a long dark shadow

Ventura became a Deputado in the Portuguese Assembly in 2019. He has criticised his Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He has been scratching an anti-Roma racist itch, saying those people should be put into camps. He has called for a new dictatorship. He has claimed that the Presidential vote may be rigged. Sound familiar?

As his Wikipedia entry points out, “he provoked an outcry in Parliament in January 2020 by proposing that a black colleague be ‘returned to her country of origin’. At the 2020 convention of the Chega [‘enough’] party, he passed a motion at the party's 2020 convention calling for the removal of ovaries from women who have abortions”.

A playbook we have seen before ...

Where is he, politically? “At the beginning of the Portuguese electoral campaign, the president of the French Rassemblement National party, Marine Le Pen, confirmed that she would go to Lisbon to support André Ventura's presidential candidacy”. Right there.

What is more concerning is where Ventura got his support: as well as largely rural Bragança and Portalegre, he did well in Évora, Beja and Faro - the areas from where the 1974 revolution drew its support. And how did he get his message across? As Aitor Hernández-Morales has shown in a must-read thread [HERE], it’s a familiar story.

... and fringe loudmouths amplified by the media

In addition to copying the Bannon / Trump playbook in terms of diatribe, Ventura also similarly benefitted by media complicity in his rise. Portuguese TV personalities were totally fine with bringing him onto their shows (and whitewashing him) in order to boost their ratings”. Just as the BBC did with Nigel “Thirsty” Farage. Look where that led us.

Portugal’s constitution prohibits “armed associations, military, militarized or paramilitary-type associations and organizations that are racist or display a fascist ideology”. It looks like André Ventura is determined to put that to the test in the near future. His latest claim is that he will be the kingmaker in future electoral contests.

We thought the dictators had left the European stage. Just hope they don’t come back.

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Anonymous said...

A forlorn hope, Tim.

As of 1979 this is a nation promoting "No such thing as society", "Greed is good" and "Victorian values".

What followed was depressingly predictable. So is the post-covid era... for which, see the 1920s and 1930s.

We get the politicians and society we earn through apathetic neglect. I have seen the future and it doesn't work.

Derek said...

Dear Zelo ,
I still log onto Facebook & Twitter a certain amount and my ‘bubble’ seems to show a major change of tone in the USA , where the Trump era is finding it difficult to maintain it’s perverse grip on affairs . Once again in my ‘bubble’ in the UK I get the feeling that the whole alt-right MSM playbook is finding less traction , and suffering ridicule by association , with the discrediting of Trump . Like Anonymous at 17:30 I never believed in the shibboleths of neo-Liberalism , but they are finally being trashed before our eyes by their own champions , dictated to by events , in particular the C-19 death rate . The irony of the Tories’ last hope being our ‘Public Health Service’ , the NHS , coming good with a National public health program of vaccination to save their bacon .