Iberian Convulsions

The ‘White Tsunami’, Madrid November 18. Photo via @LibertadSigloXX

Lisbon, November 19

Dear people,

The day after the strike, everything was back to normal – or whatever can be considered normal these days. Only the dockworkers continue to strike. According to the newspapers the government is considering to deploy the army to make sure the Portuguese ports continue to operate. But there is a legal problem with this. The army only has authority within the borders of the country if there is a state of emergency. And for the moment the government still respects certain rules.

According to those rules the police wasn’t allowed to shoot footage during the riots, for privacy reasons. So to identify the people who were throwing stones, authorities are using television images and the footage that people posted on the Internet.

It’s a curious situation. In the weeks before I arrived, the police themselves had protested against cutbacks, and the army as well.

In 1974, left leaning officers from the lower echelons of the army staged a coup to put an end to 15 years of colonial war and over half a century of military dictatorship. Ever since, the army has been a counter force on the side of the people. In case things get out of hand, the government most probably won’t be able to count on them to restore order by force.

For the moment, it won’t be necessary. Poverty, misery and malnutrition are on the rise in Portugal, but there is no day-by-day organised resistance like in Spain. Neither is there a real squatter movement active here, even though you find abandoned property all around. In the centre of Porto they amount to roughly a third of all buildings.

Here in Lisbon, there exist two neighbourhood assemblies, one in Benfica and one in Graça, where I am staying at the moment. The rehabilitation of abandoned buildings is one of the local assemblies’ primary goals, but they prefer to go the legal way instead of occupying.

In Spain, yesterday there was a massive demonstration of medical personnel – the ‘White Tsunami’ – against the privatisation of health care. At the same time, much less publicised, there was a demonstration of police officers against the cutbacks. It was funny to see images of police vans being deployed to control a crowd of their colleagues. One of the banners they carried made it to the news. It said ‘Citizens, please excuse us for not being able to arrest those who are responsible for the crisis – politicians and bankers.’

Next Thursday the students go on strike in Lisbon and in about a week there will be more protests as the budget for next year will be discussed. There are too many things. We need a serious revolutionary newspaper, with online local editions. Sign up! Make it happen. I’ll lend a hand.

For now, I will soon be leaving Lisbon to follow the sun. This means I will reduce the frequency of my reports. But don’t worry, if anything big happens, I’ll be sure to let you know.


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