Courtesy Reuters

Thaw in Portugal

Despite the recent waves of tourists who have returned with tales of the beauties and comforts of Lisbon and Estoril, and despite new Luso-American cultural and commercial links, misunderstanding and ignorance characterize much American thought about Portugal. Some observers still believe that this small nation lives entirely in the past. But the fact is that significant changes are taking place there.

In September 1968, Dr. António de Oliveira Salazar, aged 79 and premier for more than 36 years, suffered a severe stroke. As Salazar hovered close to death, the President of the Republic, following the provisions of the Constitution, appointed as new premier, Dr. Marcello Caetano, aged 62, former Professor of Law and Political Science at Lisbon University. His rise to the highest political post in the Portuguese government provoked speculation that perhaps his appointment represented more than just a change in the authoritarian guard. Indeed, since taking office, Caetano has initiated more political reforms in the system than came during the previous decade under his predecessor.

The roots of the transition from the Salazar to the Caetano era go back well before the old premier's stroke.[i] Since 1945, when the authoritarian régime first allowed opposition groups to campaign-albeit under close control-in presidential and national assembly elections, pressures for change have become pronounced. But until the 1960s, troubles for the government were only sporadic. In the past decade, however, the international position of the régime both in Africa and in Europe has come under fire, and the stability of the régime and the cohesion of the leadership groups have been threatened by revived opposition movements.


The political history behind the longest surviving authoritarian government in Western Europe is perplexing. When Portugal adopted a constitutional monarchy and a variant of liberalism in the Constitution of 1822, the country was poor, backward and burdened with a pre-industrial economy. Derived largely from France and Spain, Portuguese liberalism was a concept understood by only a handful of people in Lisbon and Oporto. Until the first

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