Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Portugal marks the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution army coup that brought democracy

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LISBON – Military vehicles and red carnations return to the streets and squares of downtown Lisbon on Thursday as Portugal reenacts dramatic moments from the army coup that brought democracy 50 years ago.

Thousands of people are expected to attend celebrations of the so-called Carnation Revolution, which ended a stifling four-decade dictatorship established by Antonio Salazar. It also paved the way for Portugal’s 1986 entry into the European Union, then called the European Economic Community.

At the time, the turmoil and political uncertainty in Portugal, a NATO member, caused alarm in Western capitals as the Portuguese Communist Party appeared poised to take power. Moderate parties, however, won at the ballot box.

As a national holiday began Thursday in Lisbon, a column of troops and armored vehicles was due to arrive in a downtown square as part of a reenactment of one of the early stages of the uprising, when units took up planned positions at key places in the capital.

Soldiers were due later to depict the insurrectionists’ convergence on a paramilitary garrison in a jacaranda-dotted square called Largo do Carmo. That was where Marcelo Caetano, the Portuguese leader at the time, holed up and was surrounded by troops and jubilant civilians before surrendering.

Thousands of people were expected to take part in an annual afternoon march along the city’s main thoroughfare, the Avenida da Liberdade (Freedom Avenue).

People at the April 25 celebrations commonly carry red carnations, which were plentiful at Portuguese stores and in street stalls in the spring of 1974. People stuck them in the gun barrels of the insurrectionists.

Simmering frustration with prolonged colonial wars against independence movements in Africa spurred the junior officers’ revolt, which succeeded in toppling the dictatorship in around 24 hours with only five deaths.

Salazar, who died in 1970, clung to the African colonies long after other European powers had withdrawn from the continent and resisted modernizing his country amid Europe’s cultural changes of the 1960s.

Salazar’s rule ran through roughly the same period as Gen. Francisco Franco’s in neighboring Spain, though his time in power was far less bloody.

Current Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister Luis Montenegro were among the public figures scheduled to address a ceremony at the National Assembly, Portugal’s parliament.

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