sexta-feira, 29 de abril de 2011

Case Against the Jornal at the European Commission

On the 22nd of April the Diário de Notícias launched a case at the European Commission’s Competition Directorate against the illegal state aid provided by the Regional Government of Madeira to finance the government-owned newspaper, Jornal da Madeira. It claims the state aid violates competition rules and allows for the Government to finance a newspaper, which is distributed for free, with the intent of causing financial difficulties to rival newspapers.
The Jornal had already been admonished by the Portuguese Competition Authority, the Press Regulation Entity and the Portuguese Parliament’s Commission of Ethics, Culture and Society to adopt measures to safeguard fair and just competition and the freedom of information of the press, all to no avail.

Former PS leader absolved in Jardim Libel Case

João Carlos Gouveia, the former leader of the local Socialist Party has been absolved of libel in a case brought against him by the President of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, Jardim. Gouveia had accused Jardim of ‘using illicit means and fomenting corruption with the single objective of winning elections’. Jardim, who regularly makes far worse accusations against whoever he pleases and hides behind his political immunity, alleged that this statement caused him anguish and that it perturbed his personal and political life. The judge found there was no illicit behavior on the part of the accused.
Jardim said he would contest the judgement. ‘As you know’, he said ‘there exists some tensions between certain agents of justice in the region and the regional power. This is undeniable and its not worth being hypocritical and trying to hide this’.

segunda-feira, 18 de abril de 2011

Cement Sales

The sales of cement in Madeira have fallen drastically from a peak of 774.595 tons in 2004 to 251.745 tons in 2010 – more or less the same level as 1991.
2004 was an election year. The Portuguese Government had approved a law of zero tolerance with regard to increasing public debt, but Jardim’s Government in Madeira sidestepped the law by creating a number of state companies which then borrowed approximately €500 million to finance public works, to be inaugurated in the run up to the elections.
Madeira’s cement is supplied by two companies: Cimentos Madeira is part-owned by the Regional Government, Cimentos Europa is owned by a consortium of four of the largest building companies and Jaime Ramos, Jardim’s right-hand man and parliamentary leader.
In 2004, AFA, one of the shareholders of Cimentos Europa was one of the construction companies with the biggest turnovers in the whole of Portugal, based almost exclusively on the public works it carried out in Madeira. AFA SGPS was part-owned by a London-based company called ‘Vasia Investments’ (Vasia means ‘empty’). This company was in turn owned by ‘Corner Consultants, Ltd’, based in the Virgin Islands. The shareholders of the latter company are unknown…

sexta-feira, 15 de abril de 2011

25th of April Revolution Party Venue scuppered

The Socialist Party had reserved a hall at the Madeira University facilities, known as the Tecnopolo, to hold a lunch commemoration of the 25th of April Revolution (which toppled the dictatorship). The venue, which was reserved one year ago is now no longer available and the Socialists have had to find a new one.

The date of the Revolution is never commemorated in the Regional Parliament (President Jardim was a staunch supporter of the dictatorship) and the request by the left wing parties to hold a formal session is once more set to be turned down by the PSD majority.

Communist Party & Election Law

The Communist Party has proposed an addition to the Election Law to put a stop to the continued violations of the law. The party seeks to add a new article (78A) to the current law. This article would stipulate that, once the date for an election is set, the holding of public functions, financed directly or indirectly by the regional government, would be prohibited. Members of the regional government would not be allowed to participate in inaugurations and presentations of new projects during this period. This would effectively stop Jardim's practice of using official ceremonies as party-political rallies.

Jardim's Party, the PSD, has in turn drafted a resolution to shut down the National Commission of Elections as well as the Press Regulation Entity (ERC).

quarta-feira, 13 de abril de 2011

‘Hitlerian Apetite for Power’: Elections Violations denounced 27 years ago

The violation of election laws in Madeira has been denounced many times over the past four decades, by all parties. The following is an example of what was published in the CDS Party newspaper in 1984.
“Madeira is a unique case in Portuguese democracy. The PSD majority in power shows no shame, not only in its excesses, but also in publicly assuming this scandal.
A case in point is the President of the Regional Government using inauguration ceremonies for electoral purposes, in the midst of the election campaign, not knowing how to distinguish, in his mad rush to power, his function as head the Madeiran Executive from his other condition as PSD election candidate, under the same circumstances and enjoying exactly the same rights as all the candidates from all other parties.
In these official events, religiously reported by the press on a daily basis, and revealed in all their extent by the TV cameras, Alberto João Jardim carried on his lapel the emblem of his own party, which shone with an intensity equal to those of his eyes, devoured by Hitlerian appetites for total dictatorship.
This gesture, unusual in democracy, reveals a total disrespect for the rules of democracy and for his political adversaries – who do not enjoy the same means to carry out propaganda, resulting in an inequality in the election process. This proves what the CDS has always maintained: there is an absence of civility, ethics and responsibility, in the politics of those in power in Madeira…”
In three decades, nothing has changed, no state entity has intervened in the name of the law and Jardim continues exactly as the CDS described him …    

Threats to take National Election Commission to Court

After his bluff that he would take the Election Law to the European Court the President of Madeira yesterday threatened to install criminal proceedings against the National Election Commission if it offends citizens’ rights and freedoms. Jardim seeks to condition the intervention of the Commission in order to allow him to turn official tax-payer-paid state events into party-political rallies, in violation of the election law –as he has done in the past 33 years that he has been in power. The President of the Republic, Cavaco Silva, remains silent on the matter.

terça-feira, 12 de abril de 2011

How to ‘dupe’ the EU Solidarity Fund

Take Portugal’s example. The EU Commission establishes that Solidarity Funds will be attributed to disasters if direct damages are shown to have exceeded 0.6% of the country’s gross national income. An exception is made for regional disasters although it would be expected that similar criteria would be applied.
Following the storm-floods in Madeira on the 20th of February 2010, the Portuguese and Regional Governments whipped up a ‘paper-napkin’ report (Relatório Final da Comissão Paritária Mista - Intermpérie de 20 de Fevereiro na RAM), where on page five, under seven headings, they chalked up an alleged 1080 Million in damages - No specific information provided.
In a letter, dated 25th of March 2011, Commissioner Hahn’s office stated that the Commission’s assessment (presumably of the overall damages) was based on this report. The President of Madeira has since announced he will be building a new port and marina in the bay of Funchal, resorting to funding provided by the Portuguese Government as part of the 1080 Million reconstruction money the latter has approved for Madeira.
Regarding this, Commissioner Hahn’s office states ‘The building project on the site of the landfill on Funchal beach is not part of the Solidarity Fund Agreement nor would it qualify as an essential emergency operation’.
In other words, the EU Solidarity Fund accepts the ‘paper-napkin’ report figures even though it knows that part of the  1080 Million is not to going to be spent on reconstruction, but on entirely new projects.
Conclusion: the Portuguese Government has deliberately pumped up the estimated damages to be able to qualify for a larger slice of Solidarity Funding while the Commission obligingly turns blind eye. Well, no surprise there: Mr Barroso, President of the Commission, is a long-term pall and supporter of President Jardim.
The Commissioner’s letter further states that the Portuguese authorities are responsible to decide if details of their application would be made public. Not entirely so. National MPs have requested the Portuguese Government release detailed information on the estimated damages, which they are entitled to obtain under the Portuguese opposition law. The Portuguese Government has allowed the stipulated deadlines to slip by without supplying any answers.

Soft Dictatorship or Muscled Democracy?

Many dictatorships coexist with some form of formal democracy. The holding of elections alone is no guarantee of democracy, particularly when these are not free and fair elections, as is the case in Madeira.
There are no political prisoners and disappearances here, but there are many means at the disposal of the party in power to intimidate and persecute dissenters.
The Government controls the economy and in a country where there is a lot of red tape, any business can suffer interminable delays in getting things done, while rival companies can sort things out with a simple phone call.
‘Expropriation’ is a fearful word here. The Government takes over your land, offering a ridiculous compensation and challenges the owners to dispute the amount in Court. The Court-attributed compensations are invariably below market-price, but even so, the amounts attributed are sometimes over four times the amount the Government was initially willing to pay! It can take over ten years (sometimes over 20 years) for the court to reach a final decision.
The President of the Government often threatens to expropriate people and to use government power to exert other forms of reprisal.
The state apparatus is one of the biggest employers here and many people fear that they or their family members may lose their jobs if they speak out or support an opposition party. ‘Rome does not pay traitors’ was one of the President’s memorable remarks on this situation.
The Government also hires friendly lawyers to criminally prosecute those who criticize it. There are dozens of such cases every year.
In his official speech, at the inauguration ceremony of a medical unit, held yesterday, President Jardim instructed the Regional Health Services, run by his cousin, Almada Cardoso, to sue people who had claimed they were victims of negligence at the hospital as well as the newspaper (Diário) which reported the allegations. Almada Cardoso in turn claimed that the health service was being used as a political weapon.  
‘Muscled Democracy’ is the polite term that many people use to describe the regime here;’ Soft Dictatorship’ is perhaps a more appropriate term.

domingo, 10 de abril de 2011

No venues available for 'The Great Fraud' book launch

The launch of 'Jardim, the Great Fraud' due to take place next Tuesday has been postponed. Originally booked to take place at FNAC, it was suddenly cancelled due to 'agenda problems'. The Hotel CS then agreed to hire out a conference room only to cancel it the following day. A further six or seven venues were contacted, all with the same outcome. No one dares to take on the book launch in a land where all know that whoever dares to do so will be targeted with retaliation and persecution.

Cardoso Ribeiro's book is in fact a case study of such persecutions, with particularly illuminating chapters on persecutions within the church and the civil service. It candidly explores Jardim's relation to the justice system, to state entities and the media. Its an extremely good read and a damning testimony on our 33-year long regime. 

It is no wonder that people know this book will touch a raw nerve. It provides the most senstitive analysis yet on Jardim's intimate relation to the Dictatorship and the Church on the one hand, and his shady links to the FLAMA terrorists on the other. It has a wonderful interview with the General Azeredo, who was posted to Madeira as military governor following the revolution, which explains how and why the  authorities turned a blind eye to terrorism. It has a wealth of documents from well-known politicians and analysts condemning the situation on Madeira, although the most influential of these are the very same people who also publicly extol him as a 'great democrat'.

Jardim at Party Conference: 'strapped for cash'

I'm desperate for cash and having difficulty finding money to finish what's under way', said Jardim during a two hour speech delivered at his party conference yesterday. Earlier in the week the national union of pharmaceutical suppliers had announced they would refuse to continue supplying the Government if it did not pay off its €80 million debt. The President of the Government reacted angrily saying that he would not put up with blackmail. The Secretary of Finances quickly sallied to the rescue with a €5 million cheque.

During his conference speech Jardim also accused the Minister of Finance of being a criminal and declared that Madeira still lived under the yoke of Portuguese colonialism. The opposition parties in Madeira are getting nowhere, he claimed, because they only worried about playing the game of the colonialists and being 'Lisbon's lackeys'! 

quinta-feira, 7 de abril de 2011

Jardim takes Election Law to European Court

At an official opening on Tuesday, the President of the Regional Government announced he was taking Portugal's election law to the European Court of Human Rights.

Jardim is the lead candidate for the PSD-Madeira in the June national elections, but since the election date has not yet been published, he claimed to be allowed to use official state functions for party-propaganda purposes. 

The Portuguese election law, which forbids him promoting his own Party's candidature and slating the other Parties while acting in his official capacity as head of government, is a 'fascist law', he said. It is a fascist law because it violates his right to freedom of expression and he will therefore contest it in the European Court of Human Rights.

He then proceeded with his official speech, likening the outgoing Prime Minister, Socrates, to the Portuguese dictator Salazar.

terça-feira, 5 de abril de 2011

The Competition Authority and the Jornal da Madeira

In 2009, the Diário and the Garajau put a complaint to the Portuguese Competition Authority regarding the Jornal da Madeira with three main points: that the huge amounts of state aid channeled to the Jornal are a form of discrimination; that the Jornal practices dumping prices for advertising; that the fake cover price is a measure to get round the law to receive municipal publicity that is vetoed to freebie newspapers.
On the first point, the Competition Authority argued that according to EU Treaties, the European Commission was exclusively responsible for determining what constitutes state aid. The Commissioner’s Office stated that for the Commission to pursue the case the plaintiffs had to prove that the state aid affected trade between EU Member States, however, it also replied to the Garajau saying that this not being the case, it is up to the national authorities to deliberate on the matter by applying national laws. This information was remitted to the Competition Authority who stuck by their original decision refusing to apply the law.
In the Spring of 2010, the Competition Authorities contacted the regional newspapers to gather information on advertising prices and numbers, to further pursue the allegations of price-dumping. Nothing more was heard on the matter until the Competition Authority was called to testify before the Portuguese Parliament’s Commission on Ethics, Culture and Society at the end of the year. Asked what the findings of this initiative were, the President answered that they had not bothered to conclude the study because it all came back to the first issue: the question of state aid.
Again, at the same hearing, the CDS MP José Manuel Rodrigues remembered, a little late in the day, to raise the question of the Jornal’s fake cover price. The Commission’s Chairperson quickly stepped in stating that they were now on their closing statements and that the Authority’s President therefore need not answer the question - which he did not…

segunda-feira, 4 de abril de 2011

Intimidation Tactics

President Jardim, at a meeting of the PSD Youth, warned that that ‘offices of the Republic would try to interfere’ with the forthcoming elections. This is a clear message directed to the National Commission of Elections (CNE).
Over the last thirty years, Jardim has repeated this message to intimidate the National Commission and ensure its passivity. He has repeatedly stated that he does not recognize the authority of CNE and has more than once promised to install criminal proceedings against it. Those who denounce violation of election laws are likened to agents of the secret police from the time of the dictatorship and threatened with being taken to court.
In one of the rare occasions when the CNE did make a stand on the breach of election laws, Jardim challenged it to arrest his whole party. The result is that, other than the occasional wrist-slap, the CNE has largely avoided taking any stand on the gross violations of election laws in Madeira.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office is the other target of Jardim’s statement. In previous occasions, it has simply let the election crimes prescribe. The election violations denounced to the Public Prosecutor’s office relating to the two elections held in 2009 are also due to prescribe soon…
Jardim continues to turn official state-financed functions into party-political rallies…