The Politics of Memory: Transitional Justice in Democratizing Societies

By Alexandra Barahona de Brito; Carmen González Enríquez et al. | Go to book overview

2 Settling Accounts With the Past in a Troubled Transition to Democracy: The Portuguese Case

António Costa Pinto


Introduction

The military coup of 25 April 1974 in Portugal initiated the 'third wave' of democratic transitions in Southern Europe. The transition and subsequent process of democratic consolidation evolved in various stages, each with a corresponding phase of 'transitional truth and justice' initiatives and counter-initiatives.

The first, between 1974 and 1976, was the 'revolutionary' period, comprising the downfall of the regime and the crisis of the state that followed. The period was politically dominated by the left and extreme left, and, crucially, by middle ranking military officers, the 'captains of April', who had led the coup because of their hostility towards a dictatorial regime that would not cease fighting a losing war to retain power over the African colonies. During this period there was a process of 'revolutionary transitional justice', guided by powerful if incoherent notions of social justice. It consisted of a wave of expropriations of private enterprises and land, with agrarian reform, nationalizations, and a thorough, largely a-legal or illegal, purge process. The latter was directed against the former supporters of the regime within the military, the civil service, the courts, the media, universities, the former regime party and state and private business enterprises. Most notoriously, it also punished members of the political police of the old regime, the International Police for the Defence of the State (PIDE), which was later renamed General Security Directorate (DGS).

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