Portugal: unrest spreads to armed forces and police

The anger of the workers against the latest cuts proposed by the right wing Portuguese government has also reached different layers of the armed forces and police officers. For the last 2 years different soldiers' and military officers' unions had already expressed their opposition to austerity cuts which affect them directly as state employees and had organised several protests. Now, a strongly worded statement of the National Association of Armed Forces Officers (AOFA) expressed its support for the September 15 demonstrations and warned that "if it depends on us, the army will never, ever ... be a tool of repression of their own citizens."

The statement, signed by colonel Manuel Martins Pereira Cracel, expresses AOFA's "warm solidarity with all of the Portuguese which suffer the weight of the enormous sacrifices which are imposed on them, as we already did in 2011." The declaration openly supports the September 15 demonstration against the government saying that: "before anything else, we are citizens, subject to the same unfair and vicious measures taken by those who are constitutionally obliged to look after the common well being" ... "because being citizens ... means also to participate in some way in the transformation of society, we express our solidarity with all the initiatives which ... reject these unfair measures." Reflecting the deep current of anger in Portuguese society and using what cannot be described in any other way than class language, the officers add that the austerity measures proposed "always fall on the same, while others, here or abroad, accumulate wealth without limits, even if its by taking it from those who have nothing else but the remuneration of their labour."

The officers are not the only section of the Armed Forces to have joined the protests. The National Association of Sergeants also issued a statement in support, under the title of "Through Struggle, We Will Resist". They explain the impact of the increased social security contributions for workers and other cuts on the Armed Forces personnel which they describe as "a brutal attack to the workers in the name of equity." They conclude by announcing that "we will do everything in our power, together with all those who do not accept this brutal and shameless theft with crossed arms, to implement the necessary measures to stop them."

Police officers have also expressed their opposition through their trade union organisations. Peixoto Rodrigues, from the United Union of the Police (Sindicato Unificado da PSP) explained that they are preparing different "forms of struggle" against the latest cuts and that “if the problems are not solved we will come out on the streets. We are clearly on the side of the citizens as I am a citizen before a police officer." Armando Ferreira, of the National Police Union (Sindicato Nacional da Polícia) explains how the recent measures will mean a loss of between 120 and 200 euros per month for police officers and warns that if these measures go ahead there will be "a generalised revolt in the security forces." “The minister does not want to meet with us, so, going out on the streets, like the population at large, is the only way we have of making our voice heard", said César Nogueira from the Professional Association of the National Republican Guard.

All of these statements were made prior to the unprecedented demonstrations on September 15, but the size of the protests has further encouraged military and security forces personel to radicalise their stance and has brought other sections to the movement. Even more surprisingly, the revolt of the armed and security forces has reached the elite Commando units of the Army. The Association of Commandos organised a working lunch of its members to discuss how to join the broader movement against cuts. Amongst the proposals, it was agreed to promote a series of meetings with the other associations of military personnel in order to coordinate their protest actions.