Basta!

We interrupt our regular blogging schedule today to bring you a protest.

The Portuguese people have been some of the quietest victims of the Crisis, but after Prime Minister Passos Coelho announced yet another round of devastating austerity measures — some of which even the Troika distanced itself from, saying it had not asked for such punitive measures — the anger could not be contained.

Today the Portuguese marched in protest in 40 cities across the nation, including Loulé. Though no official headcount was made, these were some of the largest, if not the largest, protests that the nation has seen since the 1974 Revolution.

Here in Loulé, a thousand people answered the Facebook invitation to join for a march, and that’s in a small city of less than 25,000. Our own informal head count estimated a larger number, possibly up to 1,500 by the time the march was underway.

protest 1

As people gathered, the ground in front of the Mercado was covered with signs, waiting for people to take them up. A common theme, here and everywhere else in Portugal, was this one: BASTA, meaning ENOUGH.

protest 5

As time passed, the crowd swelled. When we arrived, it was just a small knot of people in front of the Mercado. After 20 minutes it spilled out into the street. A bit later, the crowd filled the width of the street and all traffic was blocked.

Soon all of the signs were picked up, to be joined by many others that marchers had made before they arrived. A small hatchback car with giant speakers mounted in the back pulled out, leading the way up the city’s main avenue.

protest 16

As the protesters marched, they were joined by others, swelling the ranks until they filled the main avenue from one end to the other.

protest 19

Here was a poignant sign: “In place of 500 euros, you give 370…keep the change.” The most helpless victims of the austerity measures have been the pensioners, who paid into a social security system their whole lives and then, after retirement, found their pensions cut, and cut again.

It would be one thing to cut the pensions of the wealthy, or even the middle class. But these cuts impacted across the board, including the poor pensioners, the ones receiving 500 euros a month or less. With a tank of gasoline costing 80 euros now, a €500 pension was already poverty. A €370 pension is penury.

protest 21

The scene from inside the march. A common theme was “Até quando?” meaning, “Until when?” Another sign further up illustrates the Portuguese frustration with the Troika (the International Monetary Fund, European Commission, and European Central Bank), stating that the Troika does NOT equal dignity, equality or respect.

protest 26

One thing that struck me about this march was how representative it was of the entire spectrum of Portuguese people. It wasn’t a march of the young and politically motivated. It wasn’t a march of union workers. It was a march of students, workers, families, and many pensioners.

protest 27

One protester carried Article 1 of Portugal’s Constitution on her back, which declares:

Portugal is a republic based on the dignity of the human person and the will of the people, and dedicated to the construction of a free, just, and united society.

The Portuguese feel that their dignity has been lost, their will ignored; and that their society is no longer just.

But it is definitely united.

I can only hope that such vocal opposition on the part of the people will induce Parliament to vote against this latest round of austerity. It’s a punitive mistake, and will plunge this country into a hole so deep that it may take a generation to climb out.

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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29 Responses to Basta!

  1. syrin says:

    For the first time in 31 years, I too felt the need to join the protest. And it was amazing: the crowds in Lisbon were incredible, estimates say around 500 thousand people joined the march, whole families: from grandparents to children to grandchildren, even babies and toddlers were there because it’s their future too, it’s them we’re fighting for. It was amazing to finally see us fighting back. Here are the first estimates… I’d say we’re looking at 1 million people across the country, 10% of the population.
    http://expresso.sapo.pt/os-numeros-totais-disponiveis-de-norte-a-sul-em-atualizacao=f753598
    I just wish the protest had been a lot less violent. When I was walking by the IMF headquarters, two firecrackers exploded (firecrackers? is that the right translation for “petardo”?) right in from of the police officers. And the crowd who gathered in front of Assembleia da República has been attacking the police with very-lights, rocks, bottles and firecrackers… they’re just ruining everything. 😦

  2. xenatuba says:

    If I had been anywhere close, I would have marched, too. I stand with Portugal and say “Basta!”

  3. M. says:

    GO PORTUGAL!
    I hope you politicians are not too stupid and they will listen to people and you will reach your goal.

    BTW I’ve checked our main internet news sites to see if there was info about protests in Portugal. And there was, sometimes very detailed, on every site, but one. This one had info about protest in Moscow instead.

  4. Ana_ñ says:

    I am with you!
    In fact, yesterday I was busy marching in Madrid.
    This way doesn’t work — that has been proven; it’s a vicious circle. We need changes, but another way is possible.

  5. The problem with our country, is the same problem of the USA, we only have two main parties to rule us, the other political parties can’t be allowed to govern us.
    Thank god we don’t have a Koch Brothers type to create a movement like the Teabaggers, even tough we don’t have enough batshit people to fill one.

  6. MJ Valente says:

    I really don’t understand why people protest against the non-violent protesters (the violent ones… that’s another issue!). This has been an issue on some social networks and I really don’t get it.

    What we call the *civil society* (sociedade civil) has the right to express itself and be heard. I also went to the Loulé gathering and it had been years since I went to a “manifestação”. (The last one for Timor, remember? An humanitarian movement.) Yes, maybe my salary is a little better than the salaries of many people in Portugal. Yes, I don’t starve. But my current professional and financial situation is much worse than before. But, more than that, I’m not protesting just for myself — I’m protesting for my friends and colleagues that are out of work, I’m protesting for a educational system that seems to be worse and worse, I’m protesting for my child’s future.

    Portugal has a national debt to pay, yes. But the process to pay, the interest rates and the deadlines are… well, *deadly*. The measures that are being put into place by this government are asphyxiating the country. We are cutting public expenses (which is needed, of course), but we are in a big hole regarding revenue. The recession’s level is horrible, so is the unemployment rate.

    I wish I could protest also to a higher stand. That the Troika could see and feel these protests too. That the European Union was more aware of the social difficulties of Portugal and other countries.

    I remember being a big supporter of the European Union. But this was not the Union that I was foreseeing. Because, in truth, there’s no Union at all. Just a big market that is eating us alive.

    • Inge says:

      Economically speaking: if you get loans, you have to abide by the rules and regulations that come along with them. Your country could have refused the loans but then it would be worse of then today (and the politicians know that). So they took the loan and now have to pay their due. Honestly do you expect others to loan to your country for free and without any assurance they’ll pay back? Of course not. And there is only one part a gouvernement can control: their spending. The taxes are always unsure, especially in the middle of a crisis. So of course the regulations are mostly about the spending… and the people, you, feel that.

      Economically that makes sense. And it has been stated many times before this crisis (but no one paid attention) Europe has only bonded on an economical level. Not once has there been an effort to form a social Europe. (this is one of my major annoyances with it) And that is why we have, what we have now: an economical ruling of debts and loans without any regard for the social element. This has been a criticism for years, but no one was interested at the time. Now it is too late, because we have not bonded socially and thus don’t think about solidarity. The lines between us are only economical and so there is a price to be paid for the service rendered.

      However much i understand this economically, i hope in the future a more social Europe will arise. Sadly it will not be in time to aid the countries in trouble right now. And i do hope i’m wrong about this.

      Unfortuneltaly i completely understand it, how ever much i regret it

      • syrin says:

        Inge: I would take the cuts in my salaries, if it were for the greater good and if it meant everyone would be making sacrifices. The problem is: that is not the case. The only people losing are the ones who have less. The ones who have more are hardly being asked to pay their dues too. Our government is asking the people to make some sacrifices but, at the same time, is giving tax breaks to large companies. That is NOT how you fix what is wrong. The new taxes the government announced last week will mean a decrease in the minimum wage to 450€ a month (from 485€), and that is before the government announces the new IRS taxes. That’s almost 8% of the salary. On the other hand, public servants who earn between 3000€ and 5000€ a month (like politicians) will lose less that 0,5%. That is not fair. We cannot accept that. We will not accept that.
        (check out the numbers here) http://static.publico.pt/homepage/infografia/economia/TabelaIRSset2012/
        The protests yesterday were more against the government, who is doing things even the IMF hasn’t asked for. Yes, we need to pay what we were loaned. But no, we will not do it by letting them (and the THEM here is not only the government, but all those in theEY who want cheap labour in the southern countries) destroy our country.

        • syrin says:

          (In the EU, that’s what I was trying to say.)

        • Jorge says:

          Actually no, we don’t have to pay what we owe. Not just because we won’t be able to, not at these interest rates, even on the troika so-called “aid”. But also, and perhaps mostly, because there’s a little question of debt legitimacy here. Not all debt is legitimate, and only the one that is should be paid. If possible.

          The right likes to say that it can’t break contracts. And yet, in order not to break those contracts with international and national leeches, it tries to break every single contract the State has signed with the people, with its citizens. Which are arguably more legitimate than any other, so priority should be given to them.

          • Inge says:

            Wellll… Let’s pass the fact that your own country agreed to them (making them legitimate) and just look at the consequences of what you propose: Why would anyone else ever agree to loan to your country? Why would people still buy all those little loans a country puts on the market? In fact not paying back will decrease all value of the loans present active, hence the rate would sky-rocket. And still very few will buy. Net-result: your country would default. Do you truly want to live in a country that defaults? Believe me when i say economically this is the worst thing you could do as a country and its people.

            So really this is not an option, except if you want to be put back a couple of decades in term of development. What i said earlier is much more realistic: a social Europe. And if i understand syrin right, also a political leadership that spreads the burdens rightly over all its people in contrast to what it is doing now. I did not know that and this is a truly shame. How they ever convinced anyone to agree to that??? They do want to be re-elected, right?? It boggles the mind.

          • Jorge says:

            If I pointed a loaded gun to your head and demanded you to give me all your money, you’d also agree, I’m sure. Would that make the theft legitimate?

            No. And yes, the current situation we’re in is exactly like that. You are stealing from us. At gunpoint.

            And no, the country would not automatically default. There are things called debt restructurings, which is what Greece already did and will be forced to do again, and which is something lots of countries did over the centuries. Because unless they are completely nuts, creditors prefer to be paid in half than not at all. So they give the debtors some slack, allowing them to have enough of an economy to not go completely bust. That’s why the country that had the greatest debt default of all time, Germany, is not a third world country now. If creditors had collected all their money, the Germans would now be living as bangladeshis.

            And this is where this austerity is completely moronic. As Greece, we are now much less able to pay the debt than we were when the so-called “aid” begun. We are more indebted, not less. The true budgetary deficit widened because if you kill the economy you can’t collect taxes, even if you tax things 100%, and that’s exactly what this idiotic policy is doing.

  7. Jorge says:

    Well, I was in Portimão, and it was magnificent.

    It was, in fact, historical.

    And the whole of Europe should stop and think really, REALLY hard about what happened September 15th. The patient, peaceful and calm Portuguese people, who took a lot of crap without doing anything, finally lost its patience and calm due to this unbelievably idiotic austerity. Caused by a total lack of a minimum of competence, not only by our own governments, but also, and indeed mostly, by the European leaderships, by Merkel and her gang of morons, by the vultures at the IMF. This whole quagmire would have been averted if those idiots had put in place some mechanism of debt mutualization as soon as the Greek crisis started. Be it Eurobonds or something else. It didn’t. It went all “you misbehaved and now you must be punished” on us as if this was a kindergarden, and as if the people who are being punished, the ordinary people, who want nothing but to work, get decent wages for their work and be left alone, had anything to do with the banking sharks who were the ones who really misbehaved in all this.

    And now look at us. We still haven’t lost our peacefulness, a handful of hotheads notwithstanding. But DO NOT PUSH US ANY FURTHER. We’ve had more than enough already.

  8. Alma says:

    Oh, so that’s where that word comes from! It’s been loaned into Swedish in the sentence “Och därmed basta!!” meaning “And thereby enough said!!” and is used when your word is final/you’re very decided on a specific matter. Parents say it to their kids when it’s bedtime…

  9. Inge says:

    @Jorge: I can not seem to reply to your answer so here goes.

    Now if you were to point a gun to my head, i’d give it (well..maybe.. because I don’t like people who argue by threatening). However I’d go to the police and get it back from assurance. So non-relevant to this.

    Greece.. ah yes the ones that don’t get any ‘free market’ loan any more because.. wait.. oh yes they restructured their debt.. hence no-one wants to loan to them. You’re proving my point. Thank you.

    If I loaned you money and you do not give it back, I’d go to the police and they take away your house or car (depending on the amount that was loaned) and I’ll get it back. Now if you came to me and you told me you had a problem paying, we could talk about it and maybe I’d give you some more time (if I trusted you were good for your word). However since you obviously failed in upholding it up to now, why would you in the future? So maybe I’ll still go for your house or car… and most importantly I’ll never give you any loans ever again.. See how that works?

    As stated before we (you and i) created only an economical bond through Europe and never once considered the social aspects. And now solidarity is something a lot have forgotten about. So yes, I do understand why your country has been dictated to pay out less to its people. If you consider it a gun by us, please be my guest. But if you can not understand the basic economical reasons behind it, you’ll never convince anyone to lessen the load of the loan. (and certainly not by threatening with a gun!)

    So tell me, why should we continue to loan you money? You don’t want to pay back at all.. if you can not find a middle ground, and continue to point guns, you’ll never get anywhere.

    • Jorge says:

      Funny how the bullshit goes.

      A week ago, Portugal was an example of success. Everything was going according to plan, thank you very much. Now, “we obviously failed in uphoding it up to now”. What changed? Nothing. Nothing except the simple fact that it’s now clear to everybody that this plan in a total idiocy. That the real problem is the Troika and its recipe. That without deep changes in how this is being run, you leeches will devour country after country until nobody remains standing.

      Or rather, to everybody except the Germans.

      Smart parasites leave their victims alive to go on feeding. The Germans aren’t even that. The Germans are dumb parasites, trying to suck their victims dry, not even realising that the consequence is that in the end THEY too will die out of hunger.

      What we need is a Marshall Plan. Remember the Marshall Plan? When Germany, instead of being forced to pay its monumental debts (including to countries such as Greece… millions still unpaid, much, much more than Greece owes now) received billions and billions and billions in order to get an economy going, thus benefitting everybody? That’s what we need right now. And if you don’t underatand the basic economical reasons behind it, you’re hopeless.

      But you’ll learn. Sooner or later, you’ll learn. Hopefully before you’re surrounded by a rioting Europe, and with half of your own population unemplpoyed because there’s nobody left to buy your products.

      • Inge says:

        I had to look it up but the Marshall plan (according to wiki) gave 1448 million to Germany (not billions and billions and..) but also to the other countries in Europe, including Portugal (though marginally). The big difference is that the USA had earned quite a lot out of the War (before they entered). And they had the money available to spend.

        Not a single country in Europe does today. Not one.. not even Germany (which seems to be your nemesis). So no, that is not an option however much you want it to be. USA is hugely in debt, China is really not better off with its declining economic growth. Russia? Nope… There is no-one. One can not get what isn’t there.

        As to my country.. you don’t really believe we have no consequences here? We had some major government savings as well. We’ve felt it. Granted not as severe as you and other countries but we’re also in a crisis and have diminishing government budget. People have been fired and yes we have a huge unemployment rate. For all that we have done, we are still very much on the verge of joining you. But having unrealistic ideas how to solve this will not solve it.

        • Jorge says:

          You should inform yourself better on the American economical situation around the time of the Marshall Plan. They did not have anything close to a surplus back then. Wartime US was ran on a huge deficit, partly paid for by higher taxes, and partly by war bonds. I.e.: Borrowed money. The Marshall Plan, and indeed everything the Americans did economically back then, also domestically, was pretty much keynesian, based on the premise that if you spend enough public money to get the economy going, to get the economy GROWING by generating demand, it’d pay in the long run. And it did.

          And that’s what would work now. Not this neoliberal Merkel-driven austeritary nonsense.

          • Inge says:

            The same wiki and i quote:
            “The only major powers whose infrastructure had not been significantly harmed in World War II were the United States and Canada. They were much more prosperous than before the war but exports were a small factor in the American economy. ”

            So yes they did have the money and obviously the will. While Keynes has had some value, the money does have to come from somewhere. And creating money just to have more has been proven again and again is a lousy way of doing business in long term.

            There is no simple solution to this crises.

          • Jorge says:

            Amazing.

            So you’re trying to say that, since the US had infrastructure, it had money? Do you know WHY it had infrastructure? Do you have any clue on the scale of federal spending that went into the construction of that infrastructure, during and after the war — and even before; one of the ways the US got out of the Great Recession was by federal spending. Since you like wikis so much, find Hoover dam in wikipedia — ? Thus generating almost full employment? Thus generating a vast mass of people with purchasing power? Thus generating demand, and thus boosting production and economic growth?

            Don’t you realise you just proved my point?

  10. Inge says:

    You should read what it says in the second sentence as well: They were much more prosperous than before the war but exports were a small factor in the American economy.
    This does not correlate the wealth with the infrastructure, does it?

    The same wiki says clearly that it can not be sure that the spending did any good for the Great Depression. The recession continued until the war. (quote: In the U.S., recovery began in early 1933, but the U.S. did not return to 1929 GNP for over a decade and still had an unemployment rate of about 15% in 1940, albeit down from the high of 25% in 1933. )
    So no i’m not utterly convinced that anything but the war really did help. Keynes his theory is not as widely accepted as you propose.

    Anyway, even if it were to work, it still gives no solution to where you have to get the money from. Someone has to loan your country the money.

    In total i don’t see your idea functioning for this cisis. But since i’m not going to convince you that your solution is too simple and you’re not going to convince me it is even a solution.. let’s agree to disagree.

    • Jorge says:

      Inge, you can’t be serious. You don’t even seem to know what a recession is and yet you’re insisting? Give me a break!

      Quoting your quote: “In the U.S., recovery began in early 1933, but the U.S. did not return to 1929 GNP for over a decade and still had an unemployment rate of about 15% in 1940”. Fine. Let’s say this is right. It means the recession ended in 1933, since a recession is defined as two consecutive trimesters of negative growth. The war, for the US, started in 1941. That’s 8 years of economic recovery. How the hell did, as you say, “the recession continue until the war”?!

      Please, learn something. Look at this graph about US Federal Debt Since 1900 here: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/federal_debt_chart.html Look at how US debt went ballistic mostly in the second half of the 1940s. See what followed, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_GDP_per_capita_change.PNG See that 1950 record of almost 7% increase in GDP per capita?

      Yeah. Exactly.

      You’re welcome.

      • Inge says:

        Seriously i’m not going to continue. You don’t see what i see and i don’t see what you think i should see. We don’t agree. We will not agree. This does not convince me but i’m not going to continue debating over this when the one thing it is about, you won’t discuss, namely the loans.

        So no, it stop here for me.

        • Jorge says:

          Now that I was showing you actual, hard data instead of aetereal fantasies and fancies, you bail out (pun definitely intended)?

          Tsc tsc tsc.

          And I still haven’t stopped discussing the loans. This has been all about the loans. If you know anything about economy you’d know that, but you really don’t, do you? So fine. Return to your comfortable certainties, keep contributing to the destruction of Europe. Bye.

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