President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa did his best on Saturday when he was received by various groups of protestors in Faro campaigning to ‘save’ the Algarve from the effects of gas and oil exploration and save islanders’ homes from demolition in Ria Formosa.
But what he showed to everyone who knows about any of the subjects, was that at best he does not understand the oil and gas issue (and is therefore being badly advised), or at worst “he is playing silly buggers with people”.
This is the view of activists who heard him repeating his oblique message of last year: that there is more likelihood of us all flying to the moon than of finding oil in the Algarve.
As the Resident explained in a previous story, President Marcelo was careful not to mention the word ‘gas’ (which is what at least one of the offshore concessions along the south coast is about).
As he talked (or at least tried to) to protestors blowing horns and waving banners, he was flanked by extremely serious members of his entourage who tried occasionally to quieten the crowd that actually ended up chanting: “The contracts are in place, the contracts are in place!” as it clearly could not understand why President Marcelo kept trying to tell them that of “five contacts” that had been issued, only one was current - and that has only another nine months to run.
“The president of Portugal shows that he is either very badly informed, or he is lying intentionally”, said ASMAA CEO Laurinda Seabra, adding that Marcelo’s reassurance that he was ready to meet protestors in Belém also meant “very little”.
“In my opinion, he would just give a bunch of empty promises”, she told us.
“Meetings, in this case, would achieve very little. I prefer to put all our points in writing, backed by video evidence, because legally ‘if it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen’.
“My instant advice would be to fire his advisors, because the president’s words on Saturday left a great deal to be desired”.
Highlighting some of the inaccuracies in Marcelo’s message to the crowd on Saturday, Seabra posted online:
“We want to believe” that the president is simply misinformed, not that he is “lying openly to the Portuguese people. If this is the real situation, we have to ask who does the president represent? The Portuguese people or the oil lobbies?”
What Saturday’s demonstration also showed clearly was the number of Portuguese people now supporting the fight against hydrocarbon exploration.
When President Marcelo justified the fact that five contracts “have fallen” (which they haven’t) and “only one” remains in place, voices insisted: “But we don’t want that one, either!”
It was another clear indication to ‘powers that override local councils’ that pushing an agenda which has no regional support may not be as simple standing by contracts which campaigners are already challenging through the courts (click here).
Islanders told they have an audience in Belém
Protestors who did do ‘well’ out of the presidential visit to the 1st Congress of AlgFuturo at the Escola de Hotelaria, in Faro were those fighting against the demolition of homes on Ria Formosa islands.
Marcelo was yet again given the islanders’ manifesto for the future - the same documents they sent to him two weeks ago in an open letter - and promised to meet them “very soon” in Belém.
Said SOS Ria Formosa: “After delivering a dossier with a lot of information and documentation on this issue of demolitions and much more, the president confirmed personally that he will be calling us to Belém for an audience very soon. Thank you very much, Sr Presidente, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts”.
Islanders are living under the shadow of looming demolition of homes daubed with blue numbers recently - and the plight of residents on nearby Armona island is now in the public eye, after exclusive revelations from the Resident (click here).
According to our sources, ‘things are happening’, but for now it is “all in the background” as different authorities battle to promote the islanders’ cause.