As from today, Sunday 15th of May, Lisbon’s airport officially will have the name Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport in tribute to one of Portugal’s fearless, outspoken and brutally murdered politicians of the dark Salazar years.
The ceremony marking the name change was attended by the President of the Republic of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the Prime Minister António Costa, the mayor of Lisbon Fernando Medina, and members of Humberto Delgado’s family.
The Government’s Council of Ministers approved the airport's name change in February 2016 following a proposal from Lisbon council that its members had approved a year earlier when António Costa was mayor.
At the time, António Costa said that Humberto da Silva Delgado was a notable figure in the country’s politics as well as "leading figure in Portuguese commercial aviation," as Delgado had founded Portugal's State airline, TAP.
Humberto Delgado was born on May 15, 1906 in Boquilobo, Torres Novas, and was murdered on 13 February 1965 by members of Salazar’s Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado, the PIDE. He is buried at the National Pantheon in Lisbon.
Delgado was an aeronautics graduate, Portugal’s military attaché in Washington and a member of the Committee of Representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
In 1958, Humberto Delgado accepted the opposition's invitation to stand up to the Salazar regime as a presidential candidate against the Salazar puppet, Américo Tomás. Delgado received wide popular support which was stamped on by PIDE in a wave of repression.
Famously, when Delgado was asked what he would do with Salazar should he (Delgado) win the presidency, he replied “obviously, I will sack him!” (Obviamente, demito-o!) as the President was the only one who could dismiss a head of government.
The "General sem Medo" (Fearless General) Humberto Delgado got 23.5% of the votes, a figure which would have been significantly higher had PIDE not rigged the vote to ensure that Tomás won.
General Delgado then was expelled from the Portuguese military, and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy before going into exile in Brazil and later in Algeria.
In 1964, he founded the Portuguese National Liberation Front from a base in Rome, saying that the only solution to end Salazar’s Estado Novo would be through a military coup.
On 13 February 1965, the Delgado and his secretary Arajaryr Moreira de Campos were lured into an ambush by PIDE near the border town of Olivenza and were murdered by the PIDE thug Casimiro Monteiro.
The Salazar version was that Delgado was shot and killed by PIDE agents in self-defence, despite Delgado being unarmed. Salazar failed to explain the curcumstances surrounding the strangulation of Delgado's secretary who was strangled until dead.
Their bodies were found two months later near the Spanish village of Villanueva del Fresno.
In 1990, Humberto Delgado posthumously was promoted to Marshal of the Portuguese Air Force, the only person to hold this rank and the 2016 naming of Lisbon’s airport in his honour reinforces the important part Delgado played in showing Salazar to be the ruthless ruler that he was, despite many citizens looking back to the ‘good old Salazar days’ with a degree of fondness.
Costa's speech was a powerful one: "The name Humberto Delgado is a symbol of strength, courage, determination and sacrifice for freedom."
Costa hoped the new generation will become better acquainted with the name of the General who represents "the freedom which today is as natural as the air we breathe."
“Therefore, giving the name Humberto Delgado to this airport is in honour of a hero of freedom and also in remembrance of all those who fought for a democratic Portugal that was founded on April 25th 1974," said Costa.