Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Iberian Land of Portugal’

Eurovision winner greeted by ecstatic Portuguese nation

May 14, 2017

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Eurovision winner Salvador Sobral was greeted as a national hero upon his return home to Portugal on Sunday, a day after winning the song contest in Ukraine’s capital. The 27-year-old Sobral was a virtual unknown before his triumph in Kiev, but around 2,000 jubilant fans cheered his arrival at Lisbon’s airport.

“Without wanting to sound presumptuous, this win is very important for Portuguese culture,” Sobral said. “But I’m not a hero. That’s (local soccer star) Cristiano Ronaldo.” A visibly tired Sobral added: “I’m exhausted and just want to rest. I know this won’t last. I want to be known as a musician. Not as the Eurovision winner.”

His gentle romantic ballad Amar Pelos Dois (Love For Both) conquered all in Saturday night’s extravaganza, which was watched by millions of spectators around the world. “I’m happy my romantic song won, and I hope the gala stops being a popularity contest,” Sobral said at a news conference, while thanking Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso for his support.

The weekend was a busy one in Portugal, with Pope Francis’ visit to Fatima and Lisbon soccer team Benfica winning its fourth straight Portuguese league title, also on Saturday. But Sobral was the man of the hour on Sunday, after the Lisbon native with a heart condition put an end to the southern European country’s long misery in the famed Eurovision contest, which he took in a landslide.

Sobral won easily, giving Portugal its first Eurovision win since it started competing in the international competition in 1964, and prompting congratulatory messages from the country’s highest authorities.

“When we are very good, we’re the best of the best. Congratulations Salvador Sobral,” President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa wrote in a message Saturday night. Prime Minister Antonio Costa followed the lead with a tweet of his own.

“A page of history has been written in Portuguese this evening at Eurovision. Bravo Salvador! Bravo Portugal,” Costa said. The previous best Portuguese Eurovision ranking was 6th place, back in 1996. Unlike the 25 other competitors who performed on a wide stage backed by flashing lights, bursts of flames and other special effects, Sobral sang from a small elevated circle in the middle of the crowd, an intimate contrast to others’ bombast.

“Music is not fireworks, music is feeling,” he said while accepting the award. The feeling was never more mutual than Sunday afternoon, when Sobral was embraced by his countrymen and women upon arrival, as hundreds physically swarmed him at the airport concourse, chanting his name while being escorted by police.

Among them was Claudia Zellen, a 39-year-old social worker who, like many others across the country, praised the winning song, which Sobral performed in Portuguese next to his sister, Luisa, who wrote the tune and sat beside him at the welcoming news conference.

“It is a very emotional and different song, that sends a message of love and peace,” Zellen pointed out. “I think that Salvador is unique and that he is able to transmit beautiful things to all of us, even those that do not understand our language.”

Neighboring Spain, meanwhile, finished last after a poor performance by its representative, Manel Navarro. With Portugal rallying around its new national musical hero, even recently-crowned soccer champion Benfica took the time to congratulate Sobral.

“We aren’t the only winners this evening…! Well done Salvador Sobral!” the team posted on its official Twitter account. But one of the most surprising tweets came further north, from British novelist J.K. Rowling, author of the popular Harry Potter book series.

“Yay Portugal!” Rowling wrote. Sobral captured 758 points in the contest, 143 more than second-placed Kristian Kostov, from Bulgaria. His win ensured Portugal would host next year’s Eurovision contest.

“I hope to keep making music that means something and remain happy, playing it. Emotion always prevails,” Sobral said. “The song was meant to be sung in Portuguese, but we need to feel whatever we are singing, no matter the language.”

Mario Soares, Portugal’s former president and PM, dies at 92

January 07, 2017

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Mario Soares, a former prime minister and president of Portugal who helped steer his country toward democracy after a 1974 military coup and grew into a global statesman through his work with the Socialist International movement, has died. He was 92.

Lisbon’s Red Cross Hospital said in a statement he died there on Saturday afternoon with his son and his daughter at his bedside. The hospital did not provide a cause of death, but Soares had been a patient since Dec. 13 and in a coma for the past two weeks.

Soares, a moderate Socialist, returned from 12 years of political exile after the almost bloodless Carnation Revolution toppled Portugal’s four-decade dictatorship in 1974. As a lawyer, he had used peaceful means to fight the country’s regime, which eventually banished him.

Soares was elected Portugal’s first post-coup prime minister in 1976 and thwarted Portuguese Communist Party attempts to bring the NATO member under Soviet influence during the Cold War. He helped guide his country from dictatorship to parliamentary democracy and a place in the European Union.

“The loss of Mario Soares is the loss of someone who was irreplaceable in our recent history. We owe him a lot,” Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in India, where he was on a state visit. Costa said three days of national mourning will begin Monday and that Soares would have a state funeral at an unspecified date.

“His cause was always the same: freedom,” President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said in a televised speech. “At decisive moments, he was always a winner.” Soares’ role as an international statesman was solidified through his work with the International Socialist movement. As a vice president from 1976, he led diplomatic missions that sought to help resolve conflicts in the Middle East and Latin and Central America.

Soares was visiting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the Gaza Strip when Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv in 1995. Both Arafat and Rabin were longtime friends of Soares.

In 1986, Soares became Portugal’s first civilian president in 60 years. His broad popularity brought him two consecutive five-year terms. During terms as prime minister and foreign minister, Soares helped rehabilitate Portugal on the international stage after decades of isolation under the dictatorship established by Antonio Salazar in the 1930s. Soares’ insistence on using the ballot box instead of weapons to end the dictatorship won him respect around the world.

Soares belonged to a generation of influential European Socialist leaders that also included his close friend Francois Mitterrand of France, Germany’s Willy Brandt, Olof Palme in Sweden, and Felipe Gonzalez in Spain.

The 1974 coup shot Lisbon to the center of Cold War attentions as Portugal lurched to the political left after the dictatorship’s fall. Days after the Carnation Revolution — so named because people stuck red carnations in soldiers’ rifle barrels — Soares returned home by train from Paris to a rapturous welcome from crowds that flocked to meet him at Lisbon’s Santa Apolonia train station.

The Communist Party’s influence surged following the coup, prompting fears in the West that Portugal — a founding member of the Atlantic military alliance — would come under the Soviet Union’s influence and encourage other radical leftist movements in western Europe.

Soares said that at an October 1974 meeting in Washington, then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told him he thought Portugal was doomed to communist rule. But Frank Carlucci, the new U.S. ambassador to Lisbon and later head of the CIA, argued that moderate democratic forces, especially Soares’ Socialists, would prevail. The 1976 election proved Carlucci right.

Soares, an affable figure and eloquent campaigner who led the Socialist Party, won the country’s first entirely free elections and became prime minister. Portugal had western Europe’s last colonial empire, and Soares was instrumental in quickly granting independence to Portugal’s five colonies in Africa. Protracted wars had sapped the Portuguese economy and soured its relations with other western nations that had turned away from colonial rule years earlier.

Soares later was criticized for cutting the colonies loose so abruptly. All of them — Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome and Principe — became single-party Marxist states supported by the Soviet Union and Cuba after their independence. Angola and Mozambique drifted into civil wars as proxies in the Cold War struggle for influence in Africa.

Soares held posts in a string of governments that lasted less than a year in the post-revolution political chaos. Banks were nationalized, spooking wealthy financiers who fled the country, and poor farmers seized the land they had long worked at large private estates.

Born in Lisbon in 1924, Soares started out as a radical student organizer and became a renowned defense lawyer. He was a relentless opponent of Salazar’s regime, which along with Franco’s roughly contemporary rule in neighboring Spain, shut off the Iberian peninsula to outside influences. Salazar’s secret police, known by its acronym PIDE, jailed Soares 12 times and exiled him twice, once to the island of Sao Tome off west Africa.

After democracy, Soares served four times as the country’s foreign minister and three times as prime minister. As prime minister in 1986 he ushered Portugal into the European Economic Community — later the European Union. That turned out to be a watershed year which placed the country on a fast-track modernization program.

Soares capped his political career that year by becoming head of state. He rapidly set about keeping his campaign pledge to serve as “President of all the Portuguese” after years of division and unrest which brought eight governments between 1978 and 1985.

He was a fierce critic of the economic liberalism embraced by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British leader Margaret Thatcher which was alien to his Socialist convictions about the benefits of welfare capitalism.

As president, Soares established a professional, if cool, relationship with center-right Social Democratic Prime Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva, who admired Thatcher. Though an unlikely team, Soares and Cavaco Silva together oversaw the shedding of many left-inspired economic structures, such as the nationalization of banks, adopted after the coup.

Opponents claimed Soares had abandoned his Socialist ideals, but Soares insisted his “cohabitation” with Cavaco Silva contributed to the country’s new-found stability. He won a thumping re-election victory to serve a second five-year term in 1991.

Soares then retired from politics to set up a cultural foundation. At the request of the United Nations, he became head of the Independent World Commission of the Oceans. He also led a U.N. fact-finding mission on human rights to Algeria in 1998.

He returned to politics in 1999, winning a seat in the European parliament as the main candidate of the Socialist Party but then failing to be elected head of the assembly. He also ran again for Portugal’s presidency in 2006, at the age of 82. Younger voters had little grasp of his historic achievements and he finished third.

He is survived by two children and five grandchildren.

Fires ravage southern France, Portugal, 4 dead, 1,000s flee

August 11, 2016

MARSEILLES, France (AP) — Fires whipped by high winds ravaged swaths of southern France and Portugal on Wednesday, killing at least four people, burning scores of homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands, including tourists.

In France, multiple fires formed a column marching toward the Mediterranean port city of Marseille. Hundreds of miles away, a fire swept overnight into Funchal, the capital of Portugal’s Madeira Islands, killing three elderly people and leaving more than 300 with minor burns and smoke inhalation. A forest watchman was killed on the mainland during the night when one of more than 100 blazes engulfed the caravan he was sleeping in 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of Lisbon.

Two people were reported injured, one seriously, as the fire in southern France moved toward Marseille, firefighters said, and 20 to 25 homes were burned. At least 2,700 hectares (6,670 acres) of land were devastated. Four firefighters were injured, three seriously, battling a separate blaze in the nearby Herault region — brought under control like a fire in an industrial area outside Marseille that stocks oil and petrochemicals.

The Marseille airport rerouted incoming flights to make way for firefighting aircraft, while officials in Marseille, France’s second-largest city, were bracing for flames that risked lapping at its doors, and the airport warned flights risk delays or cancellations Thursday.

Thick layers of ochre-colored smoke dimmed the afternoon skies of sun-drenched Marseille, while black plumes rose above Vitrolles and Pennes-Mirabeau. “It was a scene really like the end of the world,” Caroline Vidal, a Vitrolles resident told iTele TV, describing the scene as she fled her home to her grandmother’s house and saw people running on the highway to escape.

Assistant Prefect Yves Rousset, asked at a pre-dawn meeting with reporters in Marseille, whether the fire might reach France’s second-largest city overnight, said, “We can never say there will be no risk, but we’re doing everything so it doesn’t.” Firefighting aircraft were restarting duty at daybreak, while the battle continued on the ground.

Firefighters in both countries battled multiple blazes fanned by high winds and fed by brush in a hot, dry summer, considered fire season in both countries. A full 186 wildfires were counted Wednesday on Portugal’s mainland.

But the blazes were exceptionally powerful in both countries, roaring through Madeira and southern France at the height of the tourist season — a mainstay of the economy of Madeira islands, off northwest Africa.

Portugal’s National Civil Protection Service reported 14 major wildfires burning out of control in mainland Portugal where almost 4,500 firefighters were in action in a massive operation, supported by 28 water-dumping aircraft and 1,300 vehicles. Desperate, the government requested help from other European Union countries.

The Madeira fire forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 residents and tourists in the islands. Residents described chaotic nighttime scenes, with people fleeing the flames by car at high speed on the wrong side of the road.

Miguel Albuquerque, head of Madeira’s regional government, told reporters the three local victims died in their burned homes early Wednesday as the wildfire hit the coastal city in the dark. He said two other people were seriously hurt and one person went missing. At least 37 houses and a five-star hotel had burned down.

In southern France, more than 1,000 people were evacuated in several towns, notably Vitrolles, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Marseille where some homes were burned down, and in nearby Pennes-Mirabeau.

“The fire is progressing. It’s progressing fast,” Deputy Marseille Mayor Julien Ruas said on BFM-TV. He said firewalls had been set up on the corridor leading toward the city, but if the fire passed those “it will move toward the northern neighborhoods of Marseille.”

“The fire is extremely powerful, fast, explosive, and continues burning everything in its path,” firefighters said in a statement from a temporary headquarters set up in Vitrolles. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, visiting firemen in several locations, said 1,800 firefighters were mobilized to fight the blazes. Some 400 police officers were helping towns secure homes and firefighting aircraft, from Canadairs to Trackers, were mobilized.

The origins of the French fires, which started in Rognac, north of Vitrolles, were unknown. The Madeira blaze broke out Monday and firefighters said the island’s steep hills and dense woodland made it hard to reach the flames. Albuquerque, the regional government chief, said officials suspect that fire was started deliberately and police have made two arrests.

Hatton reported from Lisbon, Portugal; Ganley reported from Paris.

Portugal rises to No. 6 in FIFA rankings, Argentina leads

July 14, 2016

ZURICH (AP) — European champion Portugal has risen two places to No. 6 in the FIFA rankings, and Copa America winner Chile stays fifth. Argentina is still No. 1 despite losing to Chile in the final for the second straight year.

Belgium remains second after losing to Wales in the European Championship quarterfinals. Wales climbed 15 places to 11th. Colombia at No. 3 and Germany at No. 4 are in an unchanged top five, while Euro 2016 runner-up France is seventh, up 10 places. Iceland is at best-ever 22nd, up 12.

Mexico leads CONCACAF nations at No. 14, and Copa America semifinalist United States has risen six to 25th. Algeria is Africa’s best at No. 32; No. 39 Iran leads Asia; and Oceania champion New Zealand has risen 54 places to No. 93.

Portugal stuns France to lift 1st cup despite Ronaldo injury

July 10, 2016

SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — Portugal’s players frantically tended to Cristiano Ronaldo’s left knee but their tearful captain couldn’t withstand the pain any longer. The Portuguese had to win their first major trophy the hard way, stunning host France in the European Championship final after playing without Ronaldo from the 25th minute through extra time on Sunday.

Two hours after being carried off injured with the 1-0 victory secured by his battling teammates, the three-time world player of the year returned a champion for the first time with his country. “I had bad luck because I had a small injury in the beginning of the game, but my colleagues did their part — they run, they fight,” said Ronaldo, who has already won every major club honor. “Nobody believed in Portugal but we won”.

An unlikely scorer secured the pre-tournament outsiders a title at last. It could be an uncomfortable few months ahead for Eder, the unheralded striker who will return shortly to French club Lille after breaking French hearts with his 109th-minute goal.

“The ugly duckling became beautiful,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. A second-half substitute, Eder scored only his fourth goal in 29 appearances for Portugal with a low shot from 25 meters (yards) past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

“Cristiano told me I would be scoring the winning goal,” Eder said. “He gave me strength and positive energy.” In doing so, Portugal denied the French a third final victory on home soil to add to Euro ’84 and the 1998 World Cup.

“Football can be very cruel,” said Lloris, France’s captain. “The overriding emotion is a lot of sadness.” Twelve years after losing to Greece on home soil in their last appearance in the final, it was Portugal’s turn to spoil the host nation’s party. And they achieved it after winning only one of their seven games at Euro 2016 inside 90 minutes, and after losing the inspirational Ronaldo midway through the first half.

“It was tough because we lost our main man and we had all our hopes pinned on him because he’s a player who can score a goal at any minute,” Portugal defender Pepe said. “When he said he couldn’t go on, I tried to tell my teammates that we have to win it for him. That we were going to fight for him.”

It was a mostly dull and stodgy final but the record books will only show that Portugal went from third-place in its group to champion, and with little help from Ronaldo in its last match. The championship’s first 24-team tournament became a reality over the last month, but the quality of football deteriorated. Such a sterile showpiece — the first European Championship final to be scoreless after 90 minutes — seemed a fitting climax.

“We weren’t clinical enough,” said France coach Didier Deschamps who lifted the World Cup in the stadium as a player in 1998. “We weren’t cool-headed enough.” Even France forward Antoine Griezmann, the tournament’s leading scorer, couldn’t rise to the big occasion. There was no seventh goal of Euro 2016 from the Atletico Madrid forward, who also lost out in the Champions League final six weeks ago to Ronaldo’s Real Madrid.

Griezmann was the first player to find the target, but his header was tipped over by Rui Patricio, who was formidable in the Portugal goal. When an inviting cross from Kingsley Coman was delivered in the 66th, Griezmann missed with a free header.

Only once was Patricio beaten, when Andre-Pierre Gignac’s shot hit the inside of the post but it came back out. Luck was on Portugal’s side, and Eder was able to strike the decisive blow. It didn’t seem to be going Portugal’s way in the ninth minute when Dimitri Payet’s right knee clattered into Ronaldo’s standing left leg.

Ronaldo went down in agony — writhing, grimacing and screaming. He was able to return, but this was one injury he could not run off. Ronaldo fell to the turf again in the 17th. One of the moths infesting the national stadium fluttered over Ronaldo’s tearful right eye. Teammates tried to help in vain to help, with Nani tending to the knee.

Ronaldo watched the game forlornly on the touchline as strapping was attached before dragging himself back onto the field. But Ronaldo’s mobility was restricted. Battling through the pain, regularly reaching down to check on the injury, Ronaldo realized there would be no miracle recovery.

The clock hit 23 minutes and Ronaldo ripped off his captain’s armband and tossed it on the turf. Slumping to the ground again, Ronaldo was consoled by Nani, who embraced his former Manchester United teammate as the armband was transferred.

The stretcher came on and in the 25th minute Ronaldo became a spectator. But thanks to Patricio’s array of saves and dogged defending, Ronaldo left a champion. Unlike his great rival Lionel Messi, the Argentina and Barcelona forward, the 31-year-old Ronaldo has now filled the medal void on the major international stage. It’s a rapid turnaround for a national team that exited the 2014 World Cup in the group stage.

“It’s something unbelievable in my career,” Ronaldo said. “Something I deserve.”

France, Portugal fans mingle amid tight security for final

July 10, 2016

SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — France and Portugal fans from as far afield as Switzerland and the South Pacific gathered Sunday at the Stade de France stadium or took in the sights in Paris as they prepared to watch their teams meet in the European Championship final.

Fans mingled peacefully outside the stadium amid tight security in a city still on high terror alert in the aftermath of Nov. 13 attacks by Islamic extremists that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. That night of bloodshed started when three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Stade de France.

Hours before kickoff, a long line of police vans was parked alongside the main road near a metro station and officers in body armor stood outside a high fence ringing the stadium. Mathias Vicherat, the Paris mayor’s chief of staff, said some 1,900 police and other security officers would patrol the 92,000-capacity fan zone in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. The city’s police chief, Michel Cadot, said 3,400 officers would patrol the Champs-Elysees, where fans are expected to mass after the match.

Jean-Paul Ausu left the palm-fringed beaches of New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific, and flew 22,000 kilometers (13,670 miles) to be in France for the tournament. He still wasn’t sure he’d make it into the game.

“We tried to find tickets but haven’t been able to find any,” Ausu said. “We’re trying now to see what we can do at the (French Football) Federation’s sales point, but we’re still waiting.” Portugal fans Mickael and Anna Polo-Carvalho, had a much shorter trip to get to the match – driving a few hundred kilometers (miles) from their home in Switzerland – and were planning to motor back again after the match.

“We found tickets at the very last minute. We thought, let’s drop off the kids at their grandparents and we hit the road. It all went fine,” Anna Polo-Carvalho said. “When we got here, we visited the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees and we started preparing ourselves psychologically for this match. We’ll see who wins but we hope it’s Portugal. Tonight, it’s straight to the car and back at work tomorrow morning at nine.”

Patrick Baeurer looked slightly out of place in his Germany shirt as he entered the Stade de France. Baeurer, 22, won two tickets in a competition for videos showing football freestyle skills. “I had thought Germany would make it to the final, but unfortunately they lost last week to France,” he said.

He was tipping France to win 2-1, thanks to its home advantage. Long before the final, Laura Bounineau knew she would be a winner come the final whistle. “My dad is French, my mother Portuguese, so I’m supporting both nations and proud of it,” she said. “There’s no problem: I will be happy tonight no matter what.”

Portugal’s new president demands financial discipline

January 25, 2016

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A center-right candidate scored a resounding victory in Portugal’s presidential election Sunday, warning he would use the largely ceremonial post to prevent the center-left anti-austerity government from worsening the debt-heavy country’s financial health.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a veteran moderate politician and law professor, collected more than half the votes against nine rivals. With 99 percent of the votes counted, Rebelo de Sousa won 52 percent while his nearest rival came in with less than half of that.

Rebelo de Sousa will move into the head of state’s riverside pink palace in Lisbon in March, replacing Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has served the maximum of two five-year terms. The president has no executive power, and is largely a figurehead, but can be an influential voice and in a crisis has the power to dissolve Parliament if he feels the country is going off track.

A Socialist minority government runs Portugal with the backing of the Communist Party and the radical Left Bloc. The government is trying to pull off a balancing act by ending austerity measures while pledging to continue the financial prudence adopted after Portugal’s 78 billion-euro ($84 billion) bailout in 2011 amid a eurozone financial crisis.

The government’s critics say that is a risky policy in Portugal whose economy is struggling to gain momentum and where the jobless rate is over 11 percent. Rebelo de Sousa said in his victory speech he expected the government to generate more economic growth “without compromising financial stability.”

At the same time he promised to be impartial and encourage consensus between political parties, “healing the wounds” of the recent crisis. Prime Minister Antonio Costa vowed his “full cooperation” with the president.

Rebelo de Sousa, 67, has had a long career in the public eye, working as a newspaper editor, a popular media pundit, a junior member of governments since the 1970s, and a former member of the European Parliament.

Turnout was low Sunday at 52 percent after a dull two-week campaign.

Tag Cloud