The achievements of the Carnation Revolution

Image: Lisa Photoios


May our Portuguese brothers and sisters send “a taste of rosemary” to Brazil on this April 25th.

Spring was passing in Portugal, and an unusual scene lit up Chiado. A soldier had asked Celeste Martins Caeiro, a “waitress” at a restaurant in the iconic Edificio Franjinhas, for a cigarette. Coup d'état in the country. Since Celeste wasn't a smoker, he offered her one of the cloves and placed it at the end of his rifle. And so Celeste got rid of all the nails, distributing them to the soldiers on their way to the Carmo Barracks. The romantic image was born, which lends meaning to democracy and freedom in Portugal, and which embodies the famous Carnation Revolution.

But revolutionary romanticism does not end here. The circumstances in which the captains' conspiratorial movement took place are deeply inspiring. At 22:55 pm on the night of April 24, 1974, a military survey was carried out, meticulously constructed by the Movimento das Forças Armadas (MFA), which began with the transmission of the song “E tarde do Adeus”, by Paulo de Carvalho, through Lisbon Associated Issuers; the first sign of progress in operations. At 00:20 on the 25th, the military occupying Radio Renascença gave the second signal, with the transmission of “Grândola Vila Morena”, by José Afonso, and on Rádio Clube Português, at 4:00, the First Communiqué from the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), advising the population not to occupy the streets.

At that moment, the Captains publicized their objectives consistent with the fall of the dictatorship and the end of the colonial war, with the consequent implementation of democracy. And then the unexpected occurred. Prepared for a bloody battle, the captains were surprised by the immense support of the population that massively occupied the streets on that April 25th. Worn out by years of democratic resistance and by a deep economic crisis accentuated by the colonial war that began in the 1960s, the regime could not resist the association of the military uprising with popular mobilization, which formed the driving force of the peaceful revolution.

It was the last hours of the 48 years of dictatorship established by the Military Coup of May 28, 1926, consolidated by a Constitution of fascist nature in 1933. Censorship, political police, repression and torture, propaganda, repressive laws, imperialism and economic isolation marked Antonio de Oliveira Salazar's years at the head of the country, until he was removed from office due to his fragile health in 1968. In his place, Professor Marcello Caetano took over, who would lead the regime until the historic morning of 1974, when surrounded by Salgueiro Maia in the Carmo Barracks, was deposed and sent into exile in Brazil.

Of course, the process in which the Carnation Revolution resulted is complex, as were the months that followed, marked by the intense ideological polarization present in the European and world scenario of that period. But the program of the MFA – Movimento das Forças Armadas, consisting of the 3 “Ds”, democratize, decolonize and develop, was successfully implemented. In short, the Militares de Abril seized power and returned it to its rightful owner, the Portuguese people. Free elections were called and on April 25, 1976, the Portuguese Republic instituted its Democratic Constitution, still in force, and which was one of the inspirations for the weakened Brazilian Constitution of 1988.

The Carnation Revolution broke out beyond Portuguese borders, serving as an inspiration for democratic movements around the world, including resistance to the military dictatorship in Brazil, a fact immortalized in the song “Tanto Mar”, by Chico Buarque de Holanda, one of the greatest geniuses of Brazilian popular music.

After living 48 years in the midst of a fascist dictatorship, Portugal celebrates its 48 years of democratic life by celebrating the Carnation Revolution and preparing the celebrations for its fiftieth anniversary in 2024. The Carnation Revolution built “common ground” in Portuguese politics, a deeply committed society with democracy and the Welfare State, and a country fully inserted in the international political and economic context.

The way Portugal faced COVID-19 without politicizing the pandemic is a fact to be well observed and one of the reasons for the Portuguese success in this matter. After the budgetary crisis at the end of 2021, which overthrew the government of António Costa, the Portuguese, far from any institutional crisis, went to the polls and gave the prime minister four more years in office with an absolute majority, scaring away the European extreme right that threatened to place the "claws out". With a popular center-right President, the great jurist and constitutionalist Marcelo Rebelo de Souza; and with a center-left Prime Minister, the socialist António Costa, Portugal demonstrates a profound political and institutional balance, which provides the necessary stability for the consolidation of the promising economic and social scenario that is projected for the country.

If the Portuguese celebrate the conquests of April, yesterday and today, we, on this side of the Atlantic, have a decisive year for democracy and for the economic, institutional and social future of Brazil. After facing the negationist mismanagement of the pandemic and the military dictatorship, we find ourselves mired in a deep ethical, economic and social crisis. We have in our hands a lethal weapon against setbacks and barbarism, and which, if well used, can redeem everything we have achieved with the democratization of Brazil. It is with the democratic vote that we can turn this dark page of our history and reconcile ourselves with the constitutionally established values ​​and rights, conquered with a lot of democratic struggle.

May our Portuguese brothers and sisters send to Brazil on this 25th of April “a smell of rosemary”, and that with this “smell” we may have the wisdom to turn the votes in the ballot boxes into the “carnations” that one day forever rescued hope, freedom and democracy in Portugal.

May the year 2022 be the beginning of a new era in which the Brazilian people will never flirt with authoritarianism. May 2022 be marked in Brazil as the year of the peaceful revolution that promoted the definitive reunion of our country with what is most precious to it, citizen democracy.

That in this year 2022, Brazilians can see “equality on every face” and that, at the end of the electoral process, the ballot boxes point to a “land of fraternity”, where “the people are the ones who command the most”. So, who knows, “this land will still fulfill its ideal/It will still become an immense Portugal”. “April 25: Always!”

*Marco Aurélio de Carvalho is a lawyer specializing in public law. Prerogatives Group Coordinator.

*Renato Afonso Goncalves, lawyer, is a professor at IDP-SP. Member of the Prerogativas Group and vice-president of Casa de Portugal in São Paulo.


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