Portuguese Dictatorship

March 8, 1961

Report Outline
Opposition to the Salazar Dictatorship
Portugal: Foreign and Domestic Changes
Colonial Policies of the Portuguese

Opposition to the Salazar Dictatorship

Acis of Defiance and Petitions for Liberty

Anti-Colonialist Riots in Portugal's African territory of Angola, inspired by hijacking of the cruise ship Santa Maria, were followed within a few weeks by the presentation in Lisbon of a manifesto calling for orderly dismantling of the dictatorial regime that has ruled Portugal for more than three decades. The manifesto, signed by 160 leading citizens, asked “restoration to the Portuguese of fundamental liberties,” release of all political prisoners, “immediate abolition of censorship,” and permission for opposition political parties to enter candidates in next November's elections for the National Assembly.

Seizure of the Santa Maria in West Indian waters on Jan. 22 by a band of armed dissidents set in motion the chain of events that has directed world-wide attention to the opposition among Portuguese to the authoritarian government of Premier Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Capt. Henrique M. Galvao, leader of the men who took the ship in charge, declared just before the vessel was finally turned over to the Brazilian navy: “We …prove[d] that Dictator Salazar is not invulnerable. …We ridiculed him and his navy before the entire free and Christian world.”

Galvao surrendered the Santa Maria at Recife, Brazil, on Feb. 3. The following day, rioting broke out in Angola's capital of Luanda and continued until Feb. 10, taking the lives of about half a hundred Portuguese and African natives. The situation there was brought before the United Nations, Feb. 21, when Liberia asked action by the Security Council “to prevent further deterioration and abuse of human rights and privileges” in that part of Africa. While the rioting in Angola was in progress, a group of professional men led by Arlindo Vicente, Acacio Gouveia, and Azevedo Gomes obtained publicity in the Lisbon press for a long bill of particulars in support of charges that the Salazar government was repressive and that “fear governs social relations within the nation.” The group asserted, Feb. 8, that the Santa Maria episode “reinforced the need” to make democratic changes in the government. The subsequent manifesto of Feb. 27 gave full support to the charges and demands that had been put forward earlier in the month.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
Regional Political Affairs: Europe