Portugal | 05/17/2022

Portugal 2022 May

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Chega has limited itself significantly to silence. They condemned the invasion but said little more, primarily because of the close connections with Marine Le Pen, from the French Front National and Matteo Salvini, from the Italian Liga. The latter have both received money from Russia.

But the silence was broken. Chega came back, meanwhile, with a proposal (already rejected by the Parliament) to take the legalization of euthanasia to a national referendum (given that the majority of the parties approved, in the legislative branch, a bill that would legalize it) and with the desire of reintroducing the illegalization of abortion into the public debate. The far-right party brings attention to these themes because they’re the ones that make it stand out to the right-wing electorate.

A significant development on the right was the election of Luís Montenegro for president of PSD, the main party of the Portuguese right. His election is seen as yet another sign that PSD might come to ally with Chega, so it could eventually become government. Chega has stated they would accept a coalition with PSD.

Chega’s leader, André Ventura, has been having problems with the law. The parliament approved, on June 3rd, the removal of his parliamentary immunity so he can be judged for a dinner rally organized during the state of emergency put in effect during the covid-19 pandemic.  Ventura will be judged along with two of Chega’s leaders, Rui Paulo Sousa, national representative of his presidential candidacy, and Filipe Melo, president of the Braga regional branch, for the crime of disobedience. The second process comes after a defamation charge by Bloco de Esquerda parliamentarian Mariana Mortágua.

Despite Chega’s silence, the normalization of the far-right took new steps in Portuguese society in the last three months. Notorious neonazi Mário Machado was able to pierce the media isolation by announcing he would go to Ukraine in order to fight the Russians. A court lifted his probation measures, under which he was obliged to present himself at a police headquarters every two weeks as a result of a judicial process for racial discrimination so that he could travel to Ukraine. The neonazi returned a week later, but he reached his goal: to break with the medial isolation and try to regain his long-lost credibility among the far right.

Meanwhile, another neonazi, close to Mário Machado, Ana Cristina Cardoso, travelled to and remains in Ukraine, fighting among the nazi ranks. Machado has shared the photos she took in his Telegram channel, which he has been using to spread anticommunist propaganda and to encourage the destruction of Communist Party headquarters throughout the country (the PCP has been under heavy criticism for its positions concerning the war in Ukraine). The media, in this case, CNN Portugal, reported on Ana Cristina, calling her simply “a nurse”. No more known far-right Portuguese militants are fighting in Ukraine.

For the first time, the Annual Report on Internal Security (RASI) for 2021, made by the security forces and services, underlined the introduction of accelerationist movements in virtual spaces visited by Portuguese citizens. It wasn’t the first time official documents referred to accelerationism: the Council of Fiscalization of Information Services (CFSI) alerted in 2020 for the “entrance” of these ideas in far-right spaces. The recognition of such tendencies by Portuguese authorities follows a European tendency, as was apparent in Europol’s annual report, published in December 2021.

An example of that was the arrest of a 17-year-old boy for “zoombombing”. The Polícia Judiciária said the young man declared himself a neonazi and had contacts with the National Partisan Movement, an inorganic accelerationist neonazi network.

The Portuguese far-right has taken several stances on the war in Ukraine. Chega kept their silence, with one of their most well-known and cartoonish figures, Maria Vieira, siding with Vladimir Putin; a part of the identitarian sector, grounded on the Contra-Corrente published, supported the theses of Alexander Dugin; and a third stance was the case of Força Nova, who lamented the war, seeing it a fratricide between two white nations.

All of them tried to exploit the increasing anticommunist sentiment in Portuguese society, especially on social networks. For example, the neonazi Mário Machado instigated his followers to send him photos of vandalized communist headquarters. They did so, and it made the news, and Machado boasted about it on his Telegram channel.

In terms of international connection, Força Nova must be highlighted. Its leader, Alexandre Santos (a former member of Resistência Nacional), participated, on the 7th of May, in a nationalist conference called Forum de La Lation et de L’Europe, developing some previously established contacts – he has travelled to Italy (Rome) and Spain (Madrid) in the last few months.