TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY: INSIDE LISBON - 12 November, 2000

As the flower of Portuguese diplomacy leaves Lisbon for Moscow, Pravda.ru provides a summary of the latest events in their capital city, Lisbon. For once, the Portuguese capital’s press has good words to say about the rival in the north, Porto, defending them against Portugal’s only neighbour, Spain, which is generally regarded with extreme suspicion, having tried to occupy Portugal many times, in wars which Portugal always won, with the help of its oldest ally, England. “From Spain, neither good winds nor good marriages” is the Portuguese proverb which they love to proclaim whenever possible. It is reported that the Spanish have been polluting the river Douro, the heart of northern Portugal, so such an extent that its waters are unfit to drink or to use for agriculture. This could be catastrophic for Portugal’s main agricultural export – Port wine. In Lisbon, it is a prodigal son who makes the news, the film director Joao Cesar Monteiro, who received a subsidy of 31 million roubles to make a film. The result is a film with a black screen and sound only. What is more amazing is the fact that the director shot the film with actors and actresses for some months…and this is the result. The main actor in the film, Miguel Cintra, described the film a “ a crisis”. Portugal’s most famous film director, Manoel de Oliveira, said that this is Monteiro’s best film. The mind boggles when we imagine what the worst is like… The Portuguese Communist Party’s (PCP) headquarters in the centre of Lisbon are a hive of activity in the run-up to the Presidential election next January. The choice of candidate (Dr. Abreu, a historic figure from the orthodox faction of the party) created a schism in the party between orthodox Marxist-Leninists and Revisionists (one wonders what these are, if anything, because if they are not Communists or Socialists…, then… The Intellectual Sector of Lisbon, the capital’s Communist intelligentsia, declared themselves in favour of Revisionist policies yesterday after the Central Committee dismissed a revisionist member. The PCP has a steady 12 – 15% of the popular vote but much greater influence in local councils, in which its work is considered by sympathisers of all parties as being excellent. Lisbon is smarting after the European Union’s punishment for producing too much milk (a fine of 500 million roubles) and now, EU inspectors threaten Lisbon for not having applied anti-BSE (Mad Cow Disease) measures. Surely the Portuguese are capable of deciding for themselves whether or not they want to go mad! Now finally, Portugal stated it wanted to buy some submarines but NATO put the country firmly in its place : NO! was the answer. After NATO’s recent history with submarines, it is better not to have any.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Lisbon