The Carny Nation (II)

In the beginning of the 1970s, the authoritarian regime of the Estado Novo continued to weigh heavily on the country, after a half-century of rule under President of the Council of Ministers António de Oliveira Salazar. After the military coup of May 28, 1926, Portugal implemented an authoritarian regime of social-Catholic and Integralist inspiration. In 1933, the regime was recast and renamed Estado Novo ("New State"), and Salazar was named as President of the Council of Ministers until 1968, when he suffered a stroke following a domestic accident. He was replaced by Marcelo Caetano in September who served as President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) until he was deposed on April 25, 1974.

Under the Estado Novo, Portugal was not considered a democracy, whether by the opposition, by foreign observers, or even by the regime leaders themselves. There were formal elections but they were rarely contested - with the opposition using the limited political freedoms allowed during the brief election period to openly protest against the regime, before withdrawing theircandidates before the election so as not to provide the regime with any legitimacy. In 1958, General Humberto Delgado - a former member of the regime - stood against the regime's presidential candidate, Americo Tomaz, and refused to allow his name to be withdrawn from the competition. Tomaz won the election, but only amidst claims of widespread electoral fraud that denied Delgado of his 'legitimate' victory. Immediately after this election, Salazar's government abandoned the practice of popularly electing the president, with that task being given thereafter to the regime-loyal National Assembly. During Caetano's time in office, his attempts at minor political reform were obstructed by the important Salazarist elements within the regime (known as the Bunker). The Estado Novo's political police — the PIDE (Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado), later to become DGS (Direcção Geral de Segurança), and originally the PVDE (Polícia de Vigilância e Defesa do Estado) — persecuted opponents of the regime.

The International context was not favourable to the Portuguese regime. The Cold War was near its peak, and both Capitalist and Communist-bloc nations were supporting the guerrillas in the Portuguese colonies, attempting to bring these under, respectively, American and Soviet influence (see Portuguese Colonial War). The intransigence of the regime and the desire of many colonial residents to remain under Portuguese rule led to a delayed decolonisation process, in the case of Angola and Mozambique, nearly 20 years.

Unlike other European colonial powers, Portugal had long-standing and close ties to its African colonies. In the view of many Portuguese, a colonial empire was necessary to continued national power and influence. In contrast to Britain and France, Portuguese colonial settlers had extensively inter-married and assimilated within the colony over a period of 400 years. Despite objections in world forums such as the United Nations, Portugal had long maintained that its African colonies were an integral part of Portugal, and felt obliged to militarily defend them against Communist-inspired armed groups, particularly after India's unilateral and forcible annexation of Portuguese enclaves Goa, Daman and Diu, in 1961.

Independence movements in the African colonies — Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Cape Verde — all eventually manifested some form of armed guerilla resistance. Except in Portuguese Guinea, these armed guerilla forces were easily contained by Portuguese counterinsurgency forces and home defense militia, despite various arms embargoes against Portugal. Nevertheless, the various conflicts forced the Salazar and subsequent Caetano regimes to spend more of the country's budget on colonial administration and military expenditures, and Portugal soon found itself increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. After Caetano succeeded to the presidency, colonial troubles became a major cause of dissent and a focus for anti-government forces in Portuguese society.

Economically, the regime maintained a policy of corporatism that resulted in the placement of a big part of the Portuguese economy in the hands of a few industrial groups. However, the economy was growing strongly, especially after the late 1950s, and Portugal co-founded EFTA, the OECD and NATO. The administration of its African colonies was costing the Portuguese state an increasing percentage of its annual budget, and this contributed to the impoverishment of the Portuguese economy, as money was diverted from infrastructural investments in the home country. Until the 1960s the country remained relatively poor, which stimulated emigration after WWII to fast-growing, labour scarce west European countries. To many outsiders, the Portuguese government was ageing, seemingly unresponsive to a world that was undergoing great cultural and intellectual change.


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