Portugal: Greek déjà-vu?

The call for a global day of action on October the 15th from the Occupy Wall Street movement is expected to get a loud response in Portugal where the prime minister has warned of more pay cuts and tax rises to tackle the country’s deficit.

­Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho says the country’s efforts to balance the books are well off-track and has warned of deepening hardship.

RT's Irina Galushko traveled to Lisbon to see for herself how people there are dealing with what is being called a national emergency.

“I am afraid. I’m afraid of the future. I’m afraid that things are going to be like things are in Greece right now,” Luis Alvares, graphic designer, told RT. “With these measures people aren’t going to be able to have a good, decent life.”  

Luis is an active member of the Portuguese “Indignados de Lisboa” movement united by a desire for economic change in the country. Its participants believe the government is hell-bent on pleasing the rich and powerful, and is ignoring the needs of the people.

“They have to realize we’re not going to take that any longer, and people are starting to wake up. It is happening everywhere – in Spain, here, in Greece, in England,” Luis Alvares believes.  

The worst rate of unemployment in 30 years at over 12 per cent, rising taxes and falling wages are the reality of Portugal’s bleak economic landscape.  

Things are so bad, people are now making comparisons with the most cataclysmic periods in their history – and looking to them for inspiration.

In the 18th century, Portugal was in a similar situation. The economy was lagging and the capital, Lisbon, had been all but destroyed by an earthquake. Yet the country’s prime minister, the Marquis of Pombal,  managed to pull Portugal out of the crisis. 300 years on, however, few believe there is anyone equal to performing such a monumental task.

The Portuguese Indignados say the solution is to create more jobs and cut unnecessary expenditure. But the government was forced into a 78-billion-euro IMF bailout earlier this year, following in the footsteps of Greece and Ireland. To pay it back, tough austerity cuts have been introduced, which will see longer working hours, fewer holidays, and even an end to the Christmas bonuses which most workers enjoyed.

“At the age when you’re meant to start your life, to have your own space, to have kids – you can’t do it, because you can’t afford to do it,” Lia Jorge, a member of the Indignados de Lisboa movement, told RT.  “And how obnoxious is that? The financial system and the political system intertwine in a way that is so completely twisted that it conditions and controls your life. This for me, personally, is the biggest thing.”

And as the crisis grows, so too do the outraged ranks of the Indignados.

“People in Europe unite in order to fulfill national ambitions and to build a new Europe, not the one that we have now,” Viktor, an economist and member of the Indignados de LIsboa movement, told RT. “Because this Europe is not democratic. National governments are not democratic. The problem is the system, not the crisis.”

The call for a global day of action on October 15 is expected to get an enthusiastic response here. But for many of those who will take to the streets, it is not so much about revolution, but a simple fight for survival.