sexta-feira, 30 de março de 2012

Documentary: Alberto João Cult

The TVI documentary (link below) looks at how Alberto João is perceived by the population after 36 years in power - it focusses on one of his fans, popularly known as 'laranjinha' = little orange. Laranjinha dresses in orange, her house is decorated in orange and is a shrine to Alberto João. In the annual PSD Festival, she often adds a crown of real oranges to her daily orange attire.

Jardim thinks 'personality cult' is an exageration to describe the blind devotion of some of his followers, but I think Laranjinha would disagree. Although she has no official status, she is present in nearly all official functions, particularly inaugurations - even those where elected oppositon members are barred from being present, hauled away by police or private security, or simply physically attacked by recruited thugs.

To Laranjinha, Jardim is just like Jesus Christ and she always 'senses' when he is away from Madeira and phones the Government headquarters to find out if he is OK. The video can be seen on:

Jardim's reaction to Albuquerque's challenge

Jardim has remained silent on the subject of Albuquerque’s candidature; his response, however, is given through the Jornal da Madeira, whose editorial line is closely controlled by Jardim and faithfully mirrors his party line and propaganda style:

Albuquerque’s candidature is seen as ‘a badly calculated maneuver’ to ‘strike a blow against the PSD’. Some say Albuquerque ‘is the freemason’s ideal instrument to rupture the PSD from within.’

Sectors close to the PSD leadership warned, ‘Albuquerque risks becoming isolated, as not only does the Party leader, Alberto João Jardim, not discuss questions relating to the party in public, but Albuquerque’s image has already become damaged due to his closeness to the Christian Democrat Party in the last elections. It is now likely to deteriorate further as he is seen to be taking personal advantage of the current difficulties. The worse that could happen to Albuquerque is for him to be seen to be the candidate of the Blandys and the opposition against the PSD’.

Allusions are being made within the Party (i.e. Jardim’s network is spreading the word) that the freemasons are behind Albuquerque’s candidature and that he is also being backed by Blandy through the Diário. ‘Aside from the fact that the Blandy Group has had ties to the Mayor’s family for some time, his brother is a winemaker employed by a firm [Madeira Wine] owned by the same owners of the Diário [i.e. in which the Blandy family are shareholders], which, in a way, contributes to a closer relationship’.

This is a typical Jardim propaganda-piece: An indirect and faceless attack, smearing his rival. Jardim now describes the Mayor resorting to the same terminology he has used for the last 36 years (42 years if you take into account Jardim’s pro-dictatorship propaganda) to discredit the opposition: puppets in the hands of a grand conspiracy of foreigners and secret societies.

quinta-feira, 29 de março de 2012

Mayor of Funchal challenges Jardim for party leadership

Earlier in the week, the Diário had reported Jardim was going to put forward Sergio Marques, the former MEP, as his candidate for Mayor of Funchal in the elections to be held next year. Bruno Pereira, the current Deputy Mayor, who was being groomed by the Mayor, Miguel Albuquerque, to lead the PSD candidature in the elections, immediately challenged Jardim's choice, saying he would present his own alternative candidature, if necessary as an independent. The majority of the Funchal PSD City Councillors agreed to be on Pereira's list.

Today's Diário announced Miguel Albuquerque would be presenting his candidature for the Madeira PSD party leadership at the forthcoming congress. This is the second time this week that Jardim is challenged from within his own party ranks, and the first time in all his years in power that someone challenges him for party leadership.

segunda-feira, 26 de março de 2012

Justice System Modernization

The Minister of Justice, Paula Teixiera da Cruz, is proposing new legislation to allow for witness and suspect statements to be videod. This is a welcome measure. Statements taken by the Public Prosecution during an investigation are often reduced to a minimum and are often vague; many are just going through the motions... The new procedure will also have the secondary effect of keeping the inquirers on their toes - particularly in Madeira.

Videoing the statements saves time and is more precise. She is also proposing that these videos could be played back in Court, to refresh memories and reveal contradictions.

The Minister is also proposing to alter the law so that cases cannot prescribe due to abusive use of appeals and clarification requests. The prescritpion time-frame is to be suspended once the lower Court reaches a decision to condemn.

quinta-feira, 22 de março de 2012

City Councilor target of new acts of vandalism

The car belonging to the brother of city councilor, Gil Canha, was set alight at 1.30 Monday morning. The car was parked in the yard of the residence and was totally destroyed by fire. Gil Canha’s wife’s car was also vandalized the same night, in the indoor parking lot of the block of flats where he resides.

The Madeira Socialist Party leader, Vitor Freitas has alerted President Cavaco to the climate of violence and fear in Madeira, asking him to condemn those who incite violence.

The Funchal City Council today expressed its solidarity with the Canha family and condemned these acts of vandalism and persecution

quarta-feira, 14 de março de 2012

Budget ‘Debate’: ‘Blessed is the Debt’

The Secretary of Finances, Ventura Garçês, during the budget ‘debate’ (the regiment allows for very little actual debate) quoted Einstein saying that the crisis is the greatest blessing since it brings progress. President Jardim has recently often stated that he only regretted not having made an even bigger debt while was still able to.
The 2011 budget estimated the region could raise 1.119 billion Euros in tax income; the final tax income only reached 667,000 Euros. The 2012 budget estimates a tax income of 792,000 Euros, but even the Secretary of Finances admits that, despite tax increases, they are likely to fall far short of this target.
The Regional Government has submitted a budget of 2.2 billion Euros, far higher than in previous years due to the 1 billion Euro loan from the Portuguese Government, which will go directly towards repaying accumulated debt. However, this sum will not reduce the Madeira debt, since it constitutes a debt transfer.
Although the Government has introduced some cutbacks, it is unclear how much of Madeira’s 6.3 billion debt, if any, will be reduced with this budget.  

Budget debate: Jornal 'helps' the Diário

The Secretary for Social Affairs, Jardim Ramos, explained, during the budget presentation, that the 3 million loan conceded to the government-owned newspaper the Jornal, helped to save the newspaper industry as a whole. The Jornal, he said, is printed in a company belonging to the Diário group. This company receives 1.5 million Euro per year to print the Jornal. If the Jornal closes, he said, the Diário would no longer be economically viable, he argued.

Bloomberg Businessweek on Madeira

Madeira’s Missing Yachts Turn Into Lesson on Europe Debt Crisis - January 18, 2012

By Henrique Almeida

On the western shores of Madeira, waves crash onto the walls of the Marina do Lugar de Baixo, sending white spray into the air above the dock built for 291 of the world’s finest yachts. All the berths are empty eight years after the boat landing opened.

The European Union, which gives Portugal more handouts for development than Greece, partly funded the 44 million-euro ($56.1 million) marina. The site is currently closed and under further construction as the Atlantic surf on the Portuguese island has proved to be too dangerous for the yachts.

“This marina is probably the single-biggest white elephant project on the island and a hallmark of the government’s overspending spree,” Edgar Silva, leader of Madeira’s Coligacao Democratica Unitaria opposition party, said in a Jan. 4 interview. “A complete waste of everyone’s money.”

For politicians, policy makers and investors looking for a place that encapsulates the European debt crisis, few do it better than Madeira, where loans and subsidies turned the island into one of Portugal’s richest regions from its poorest. The local government spent money it didn’t have to build the trappings of an economic boom that never was.

Madeira’s debt was 6.33 billion euros as of June 30, or 123 percent of the island’s economy in 2009, according to the Ministry of Finance in Lisbon. While that ratio was less than Greece’s 162 percent, it compared with Portugal’s nationwide figure of 100 percent.

Glut of Money

Madeira received 323 million euros of EU funds and money transfers from the government in 2010, said a report by the court of auditors. The amount was more than three times the average of the country’s municipalities on the mainland.

Portugal is due to get 21.5 billion euros from the EU between 2007 and 2013, making it the biggest euro-region recipient after Germany and Italy, according to a list of pre- allocated EU Structural and Cohesion Funds compiled by Bruegel, a Brussels-based research company.

“It seemed there was no bottom to the EU funds coming in,” said Michael Blandy, chairman of the 200-year-old Blandy Group, a Madeira-based company with interests ranging from hotels to shipping and wine. “There was no plan in the work that was done to make the island sustainable.”

The Portuguese government said Sept. 30 that Madeira’s debt had ballooned to an unsustainable level and that the island’s semi-autonomous administration had hidden part of the debt from the government in Lisbon.

Deficit Revision

As a result, Portugal’s National Statistics Institute revised the country’s 2010 budget deficit to 9.8 percent of gross domestic product from 9.1 percent. Shut out by financial markets, Portugal, whose economy has grown by an average of less than 1 percent a year for the past decade, last year followed Greece and Ireland in asking for a bailout.

Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho is now cutting state salaries, increasing taxes and selling government-owned companies to comply with terms agreed in May of the 78 billion- euro rescue from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

The government is pushing for similar measures on Madeira. It has also signaled an end to a series of tax incentives for the island’s International Business Center, a kind of tax haven that has for decades attracted thousands of companies.

Hundreds of them left last year, according to Francisco Costa, president of Sociedade de Desenvolvimento da Madeira, the company that runs the business center. A subsidiary of Swatch Group was among the companies to leave the island, Beatrice Howald, a spokesman for the Swiss watchmaker said on Dec. 9.

Errant Behavior

In November, the IMF said in a report that the adjustment program for the “troubled autonomous region of Madeira will provide an opportunity to signal that errant fiscal behavior at the regional and local levels will no longer be tolerated.”

Madeira is run by Alberto Joao Jardim, the 68-year-old president of the semi-autonomous government since 1978, who said in an interview last month that hiding Madeira’s debt was necessary to develop the island.

“Madeira today is completely different,” said Jardim, speaking Dec. 6 on the sidelines of a parliamentary session in Madeira to discuss the region’s 2012 budget. “If I hadn’t done things during this period, they would never get done.”

Asked if he had any regrets about the state of Madeira’s finances, he said: “none.” Three weeks later, under threat from the government in Lisbon to come up with an austerity plan for Madeira or lose regional subsidies, Jardim announced a plan to cut public workers salaries and raise taxes in what he said was the only way “possible” to guarantee the future of the island’s autonomy from the mainland.

Madeira, known for its fortified wine and as the birth place for Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, runs an independent budget and has its own government and parliament, though the region cannot override the authority of the government in Lisbon.

Jardim, a populist who has often clashed with the government, has transformed Madeira into the second-wealthiest region after Lisbon in terms of GDP per capita from one of the poorest, according to the National Statistics Institute. He used the island’s ultra-peripheral status within the EU to tap into billions of euros in EU funds and subsidies from Lisbon.

Jardim’s Tenacity

“In some ways, one has to admire the tenacity of Alberto Joao Jardim in that he has known how to access those funds,” said Blandy, whose company was founded by his forebear John Blandy in 1811.

In addition to the marina, the so-called white elephants on Madeira include an abandoned heliport, deemed too dangerous for landings, shopping malls and industrial parks, according to Silva, 49, who wrote a report in 2011 on spending on the island. He estimates the Marina do Lugar de Baixo cost 100 million euros, more than twice the sum claimed by Jardim’s government.

While locals can see the fruits of Madeira’s development, they are also aware of the consequences as Portugal grapples with its part in Europe’s debt crisis.

“Austerity is a very risky recipe, but the alternative is not sustainable and puts the country’s credibility into question,” said Jose Berardo, 67, who left Madeira at the age of 18 to work in South Africa. He later set up an office in Lisbon to buy stakes in some of Portugal’s biggest publicly traded companies, including Banco Comercial Portugues.

Island Roads

When Portugal joined the European Community in 1986, a trip from Madeira’s airport to the island’s capital of Funchal took almost an hour through a narrow and winding road, said Tito Cantado, 62, a taxi driver for the past three decades. Drivers now cover the 12-kilometer stretch of modern highway that cuts through a handful of hills through an extensive network of tunnels in less than 15 minutes.

“The road was so narrow that traffic would come to a standstill if a truck happened to come in the opposite direction,” Cantado said. “We have lived above our means ever since we joined the EU. Now we must pay the price.”

Tourism accounts for about 30 percent of the island’s GDP, while the Madeira International Business Center makes up 20 percent, according to Miguel Albuquerque, the mayor of Funchal.

A few miles up the coast from the capital, a handful of poles in the water is all that remains of the docking system designed to accommodate yachts that stop in Madeira on their way from Europe to America, or vice versa. The regional government is planning to spend another 20 million euros on the failed marina, Diario de Noticias da Madeira, which is partly owned by the Blandy Group, reported on Dec. 30.

“Madeira clearly shows that despite the fact that Portugal is a unitary and small state, it still has a tough time controlling costs,” said Antonio Barroso, an analyst at New York-based Eurasia Group. “In the end, this is about regaining investor credibility.”

terça-feira, 13 de março de 2012

Madeira Civil Service Cuts

There are an estimated 30 to 35,000 civil servants in Madeira. The Madeira Government alone employs 24,000 civil servants. While employees of the Portuguese central administration represent 4,1% of the total population and 13,1% of the active population, in Madeira, in June 2011, civil servants represented 11,2% of Madeira residents and 23,4% of the active population.

According to the 2012 budget, Madeira will have to reduce 79 million Euros in staff costs, which in 2011 reached 372 million.

In order to reduce the civil service by 2%, as agreed with the Portuguese Government the Madeira Government will have to cut 600 to 700 civil service jobs per year.

Jardim made an election promise that he would not fire any civil servants and later stated that the 2% reduction could be reached through the retirement of existing staff.

The Publico newspaper writes that the figures do not add up. On Madeira, only 459 civil servants retired in 2011, 57 of them in December. The retirement numbers so far this year fall short of the Government’s target.

quarta-feira, 7 de março de 2012

President Jardim insinuates Angela Merkel and Michael Blandy are Nazis

The opinion piece published in the government-owned newspaper, the Jornal , has motivated a protest from the German community. Read Jardim’s rant below:
‘Blandy, aber wer ist?’
Herr Blandy, an individual who inherited an English fortune made in other times when the Madeiran People were miserably exploited, has mobilized his “SS assault troops” – a mongrel corps that ranges from communists to the extreme right and which calls the daily edition of a political pamphlet  “journalism” – to once again attack me and [my] regional politics.
The devil could criticize Madeira and the now unmasked germanophile Blandy would immediately place his legions at the service of evil.
Whatever it costs him, however high the cost to the companies of his group, with his absurd objective of “total war” he finds a pretext even in the unhappy declarations of a German female politician, who we do not confuse with the German People. (…)
Wagnerianly imbued with the “mission” to destroy the PSD and myself, like an excursion of the Nibelungs, Blandy and his “SS assault troops” everyday produce a paper with a longing to destroy everything, to vilify everything, and even more so now that the Country and the Autonomous Region are living their most difficult moments.
Its exactly the practice of all totalitarian forces that, when they foresee difficulties in the areas that they illegitimately detest, to seek to destroy everything in order to conquer easily. Or reconquer. Because there are those who still dream of the power of the pre-autonomy groups.
Only that this tragic delirium, born of mad ambition and condemned to failure, limits itself to listening to a few profoundly stained minions, and forgets ALL those who are also Business people, whose concern is that the present situation be overcome with intelligence and a firm hand. Otherwise, EVERONE  loseS. It is a fantasy to think that an adult society such as the Madeiran one, would allow the “masters of the past” to immorally take advantage of this juncture to swallow up everything on the cheap.
What the media of the obliging Merkelian Blandy is doing with its campaigns of hate and lies against myself and the PSD, cowardly taking advantage of the present circumstances in an attempt to erase the merit of [my] transformation of the archipelago, is too awful and incompetent to succeed in the heart of a Madeiran People, which is used to confronting difficulties and which, despite these, never loses its reason. Much less being crazy enough to return to the Madeira of the old days. At best, the madness of Herr Blandy will entertain a tacky minority.
This time, the rag has resorted to people who it has forgotten warn not to talk rubbish and has produced a text as bad as “mein Kampf”.
For example, there appeared some guy, owner of a restaurant – wer ist?- who has here found the conditions afforded to him to earn a living, something which he does not seem to have enjoyed in his native Country. Another one who “bites the hand that feeds him”. Since he probably never managed to learn Portuguese, he speaks of a nonexistent – quite the contrary – “agressivity towards Germany” (as if Merkel was Germany), and do you know what he wants?... That money should be given to small enterprises – such as his own, of course… - and not for the benefit of the collectivity!...and he has  the ignorant arrogance of saying that “building in Machico was carried out with no planning”!...The effrontery!
Ah, but there follows the nonsense of people who we don’t confuse with the Values of the majority of the German People living on the island. Observe the model of development that those interviewed have destined for us: “take advantage of the natural resources (!?), and not build on them”; “the [old]roads which were hand built” and which should remain open in order that, if an accident happens, they can come and demand compensation.
More: “there is a lack of other interests besides the mountains”. Man, not even the museums, not even the sea and nautical activities, not even the food and the folklore, not even the night, nor the casino, nor the contrasting landscape or the sports infrastructures, including golf, not even the botanical species, nor the hospitality and the permanent relation with our People, not even commerce with competitive prices in relation to tourists’ country of origin, or is it in the places of “Mass tourism” that you find a greater choice?...
I begin to think that there are some naturists around, who steeped in the vegetation, do not know what’s going on around them, even talking about the “Rabaçal cable car” that was never built, since we dropped the project. Now you will find that the Blandy paper, which was always against its construction, will raise a stink because it was never built. (…)
Oh, and the Blandy “assault troops” recruitment did not even neglect the sylph, Herr Delinger, especially chosen for being announced a member of the future socialist government of Madeira, stillborn, given the electoral hiding they received. And I’d not be surprised if this was not also Herr Delinger’s fault.
More. I began to fear for an Austrian “anschluss”. Didn’t the Austrian consul, a coastal madeiran such as myself, also join the party of these Valkyries?!...
Alas, Von Blandy’s daily is always on the path of negativism and of the nihilism of historical sectors of German philosophy. Not that those people know what that is. But because they believe themselves to be the navel of the world, they are convinced that their campaigns to instill hatred will take them somewhere…except there. And Herr Blandy maybe dreams of a new British “reich” over the Madeiran People. But …”Blandy, aber wer ist?”

segunda-feira, 5 de março de 2012

Portuguese Parliament debate on Madeira’s Democratic Deficit, 1992

In May 1992, the Portuguese Parliament held a debate on the democratic deficit in Madeira. The speech of the Socialist MP, Jaime Gama, addressed the issues of the asphyxiating effect of party-political power on the administration, economy and society; the lack of control in the regional accounts; the government’s control over media; the climate of permanent intimidation; the disrespect for the opposition; the quest for constant conflicts with institutions; and the isolationist conception of autonomy:
4 – A climate of intimidation against those who disagree.
When, everywhere, democratic powers nurture criticism, independent judgment, analytic spirit, controversy, disagreement and the open confrontation of opinions, the Regional Government of Madeira systematically intimidates all those who dare to differ.

Government communiqués which, in principle, should be destined to clarify the population on matters of public interest are frequently used to insult the authors of any observation that does not conform to the official viewpoint.

The President of the Regional Government does not refrain from grossly insulting any citizen who exercises his right to air any heterodox view on the merits of the regional administration.

Civil servants are forbidden from airing their opinion (they are criminally sued) and their advisory statements (pareceres) are obliged to be free of any views that discord with the Regional Government.

In a traditional society, where nobody welcomes to see their name attacked or insulted, the intimidating weight of  verbal terrorism – to which the principal leader of the Government and the PSD leader of the regional parliament systematically resort to – is a powerful inhibiting factor and apolitical obstacle.

The reinforcement of autonomy in Madeira absolutely requires an end to this sort of practice. Democracy is not the tyranny of the majority.

5. The disrespect for the opposition – for all and any opposition -, namely in the Regional Parliament.
For the power installed in Madeira, the opposition is not another form of serving the interests of the archipelago, a possible alternative to the regional government or a healthy and necessary supervisor of acts of government. No! The opposition are purely and simply a band of criminals, who are treated like animals rather than decent citizens.

Whether a Communist or a Christian Democrat, an independant or a Socialist, anyone who opposes the PSD/Madeira has no reason whatsoever to exist. They are reduced to nothing, to a species of the most abject and despicable beings, their harassment as turncoats, delinquents or traitors, is one of the most perturbing aspects of the philosophy and practice of the regional PSD.

It is this totalitarian slide – which only does not reach a higher level of final implementation due to the national context – that leads to the level at which the Regional Parliament function:, a parliament where it is extremely difficult and indeed rare to be able to challenge the Government, to hold question and answer sessions, to obtain answers to requests or to constitute Commissions of Inquiry…

6 The search for a systematic confrontation with institutions
The logic of the behavior of the PSD Madeira has for long been that of de facto power, above all institutions and against them all.

For 16 years, the region has lived without a defined statute, a whim long tolerated and systematically used in a blind paranoia of confrontation from which no one escapes.

A trade union, an association or a party disagree – they are summarily tried, condemned and politically executed.

A businessman does not walk along the right corridors to win good grace – he is a vulgar capitalist.

A journalist, or a newspaper, does not obey – it will receive no subsidies, its (government) publicity will be cut, an edition or even the company will be bought, they are insulted and slandered.

A Bishop dares to refer to conditions of extreme poverty and promiscuity – there is an official communiqué against him.
The police or the courts want to exercise their functions in an independent manner – they must be regionalized.

The Armed Forces are not consistent with the whims of the regional authorities – they are a band of effeminate cowards.

The Minister of the Republic dares to veto a bill – he’s  ‘cuban’.

The Prime Minister and the Government will not pay off the [region’s] debt – ‘we don’t need the national PSD for anything and if need be we can always resort to those arguments that everyone knows’ [i.e. the independence of Madeira]

The Portuguese Parliament wants to discuss Madeira – it is not competent and its members, beginning with those of the PSD, belong to a base political class.

The President of the Republic says there is a democratic deficit in the Region – he does not deserve that people get out of bed to reelect him.

This activism, which feeds itself on the still unrelenting conspiracy against Madeira, devastates all and leaves no one standing…

Nothing has changed since 1992 and all these traits have only become exacerbated with time.

quinta-feira, 1 de março de 2012

Secretary of Finances denies debt may reach 8 billion Euros

The Secretary of Finances has refuted the news published in the Publico (below) saying that the 2 billion in commercial debt was included in the 6328 million Euros.

Source: Publico newspaper, 1-3-2012
With the reevaluation of the commercial debt to 2 billion Euro, the region’s overall public debt reaches 8 billion Euros, as the Público had predicted back in August. According to the General Inspectorate of Finance’s September 2011 diagnosis of the region’s debt, Madeira’s debt at the end of July 2011 reached 6328 million Euros without including the regional government’s indirect debt to various entities, to the value of 1255 million Euros.
These 6328 million Euros included 1031 million of direct public debt; 2719 of financial debt; 2058 million of administrative debt and 520 million of commercial debt. Since this last value is now held to be 2000 million, as the Secretary of Finances revealed to the Publico, the global debt may now reach 8 billion Euros, or may even far exceed this number if the concession of guarantees and the contracting of loans by various public entities are taken into account.