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Portugal: Otelo's last hurrah!

Lieut. Col. Otelo de Carvalho was the chief strategist for the April 25, 1975, "carnation revolution," which toppled the dictatorial government that had ruled Portugal for more than forty years. Now he sits in prison, awaiting trial on charges of conspiring with the Popular Forces of 25th April (F.P.-25), a terrorist organization. Otelo was arrested last June with forty-one other suspects and held incommunicado for twenty days before formal charges were brought against him.

No date has been set for trial; nor has the government disclosed the nature of the evidence against Otelo. Carlos Picioto, director of the Judiciary Police, will only say, "All the people arrested currently have ties with the F.P.-25." The terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for a rash of bombings and machine-gun attacks directed at large landowners chiefly in southern Portugal. (Despite the arrests, more attacks took place in September.)

The charges against Otelo have been greeted with widespread skepticism. The architect of the revolution is still regarded warmly in many political circles, even though his 1980 bid for the presidency captured less than 8 percent of the vote. Writing in the Lisbon paper O Diabo, commentator Jose Miguel Judice argued that only the Portuguese Communist Party (P.C.P.) would benefit from Otelo's arrest.

It would be logical for the ultra-orthodox P.C.P. to help get rid of an independent radical like Otelo, for his romantic appeal to the left has drawn off much of the party's natural constituency. Some papers have alleged that the P.C.P. provided leads to the police that made the arrests possible.

Miguel concluded:

If Otelo is found guilty of involvement with F.P.-25, his capacity for political intervention is gone for good. [But] if Otelo cannot be so charged, the opprobrium for his then unjust and precipitous arrest will be turned on the government, especially by members of the Socialist electorate who are still moved by the old Otelo charisma.

Several dozen army officers have offered to testify in Otelo's behalf.

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Author:Holland, Max; Bird, Kai
Publication:The Nation
Date:Dec 8, 1984
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