Friday , 24 February 2017
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Adieu to Father of Portugal’s Democracy

FRANCISCO COLACO, MARGAO
While Goa is in a festive mood with the arrival of its son of soil, Dr António Costa, the Prime Minister of Portugal and the first person of Indian origin to lead a European country, a sad and tragic event has taken place in Portugal. Mário Soares, a former prime minister and president of Portugal, who helped steer his country toward democracy after a 1974 military coup, has died and entire Portugal is mourning. The 1974 coup shot Lisbon to the centre of Cold War. Days after the Carnation Revolution, Soares returned home by train from Paris to a rapturous welcome from crowds that flocked to meet him at Lisbon’s Santa Apolónia train station. Soares, an affable figure and eloquent campaigner, who led the Socialist Party, won the country’s first entirely free election and became the prime minister. He underwent many sacrifices to liberate Portugal from the clutches of dictatorship and spent long periods in jail. Soares was, however, in undue hurry to liberate Portuguese colonies from the Portuguese yoke. After Goa’s conquest in 1961 by the Indian Army, something more had to be done, legally speaking. Thus Soares, when he visited Goa, hurried himself to ratify the “anomaly” by swiftly legalising the transfer of Goa to India by a treaty – even without having cared to listen to the voice of Goans. Caught perhaps on the wrong foot, he allegedly went to the extent of saying that “to him, friendship with India was more important than all colonial possessions.” But let bygones be bygones! We are proud Indians. Like António Costa, now on a visit to India, we too wish to say, “The loss of Mário Soares, a real hero, is the loss of someone who was irreplaceable in Portugal’s recent history.” The Portuguese owe him a lot.

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