Created: 4/26/1974

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible




SUBJECT: The Coup in Portugal






The Coup in Portugal* TABLE OF CONTENTS




Rationale 1


Pressures to Get Out 3

The Crisis 4


Military Divided 5

The Oligarchy

The 3

Other Groups in

Caetano's Past Role 10


' This mtnorandum vat praparad undttr tht autpiaaa of tha national Intalliganoa Offiaar for Uaatarn Europa. It was drafted by CIA fOCI).


SUBJECT: The Coup in Portugal


military to which they gave rise. Superbly organized and well-led, the insurrectionists took the government by surprise. Loyalist forces offered only token resistance, and after fleeing to theof the national guard, Thomaz, Caetano, and several other ministers agreedew hours of negotiation to go into exile in the Madeira Islands. Thus far the new governmentto be in complete control.

B. The leaders of the rebellion, who called themselves the armed forcesre virtually unknown, but they werecertainly middle-level officers devoted to General Antonio de Spinola. After broadcasting an initial proclamation that called foriberalization of Portugal's colonial policies andrestoration of domestic liberties, the rebel junta promptly called on General Spinola to head their movement. Spinola accepted the call, reportedly received an enthusiastic public welcome inand according to the Portuguese radio, he has been proclaimed "head of Portugal."

C. peech to the nation last nightromised to restore power to constitutional institutionsresident of the republic has been elected. Spinola could be expected to run for the post.

0, Spinola's accession to poweremarkable demonstration of the power of both pan and sword. Portugal's most decorated war hero, he is also the authorook that dared to sayilitary solution to the problem of insurgency in the Africanis impossible andolitical solution must be found. Although perhaps not wholly out of line with Caetano's own thinking,

the bookensation when it appeared last February, it ledmall but abortive "march on Lisbon" in March, and lert the country gripped in coup fever ever since. Despite Lisbon's nervous moves earlier this month to arrest variousthe government apparently was unaware of the magnitude of the coup threat it faced.

ofpinola appears to beauspicious start. His prestige is such that, despitewithin the armed forces, he may be able to keepunder control. The country, despite the influence ofoligarchs and the radicalism of some of the oppositionmay be ready for some modest movement toward changeand abroad. Spinola can probably expect betterthe rest of Europe, his NATO allies, and internationalPortugal's overseas policies. He mayess-demandingin the Azores base renewal talks.

it is also very possible that Spinola*sbe the beginning of his troubles. Having ridden intothe African issue, it is very doubtful that he has anyto it. The kind of commonwealth he has in mind isacceptable to the African insurgents, and it iscertain that he can carry Portugal with him in theof achieving an honorable escape for the army fromswamp.

paragraphs that follow provide additionalthe events that led to Spinola'a apparent triumph andlie in atore for him.





1. For moreecade Portugal has been fighting insurgencies in Angola. Portuguese Guinea, and Mozambique-Lisbon bases its commitment on its presence forears in the African territories and its treatment of them as integral parts of Portugal in the Portuguese constitution. Lisbon believes that it hasulti-racial society which is quite different from that of the former colonial powers and from the white minority governments of the Republic of South Africa and Rhodesia- The Portuguese stress that the overseas territoriesational heritage which they cannot honorably relinquish. The Portuguese also believe that they need the overseas provinces and their potential wealth and strategic location to maintain Portugal's international status and its economy. Advantages

2. Except for Portuguese Guinea, the African provinces do in fact offer significant immediate and long-term economic returns to certain economic groups in Portugal. Largein the metropole. ownedew powerful families, control virtually all aspects of the territories' modern economic sectors.





including local industry, commarce, banking, and plantation agriculture. The metropole receives preferential tradeand it controls the territories' sizeable foreign exchange receipts. Costs

Thus far, however, the overall returns have not been sufficient to offset the expense of economic development and of fighting the insurgents. Only Angola comes close to paying its own way and may now be contributing as much asercent to its development and war costs.

Military operations have been costly in manpower and in money. When the rebellion beganortugal's armed forces0 men of which less thanhousand were stationed in Africa. As the insurgencies spread, the total figure rose accordingly and leveled off3 with moreerving in Africa. Although someercent of theae forcea are from the territoriesmany of them blackmilitary service hasanpower shortage, aggravated by the emigration of young workers from the metropole to Western Europe. But the situation has been bearable because the number of soldiers killed in action has been relatively low in recent years, amounting ton

5. The military effort has alsoeavy financial burden. 0 Portuguese defense spending totaled5 million. he figure had increased almostamounting to more1 million. ercentage of the Portuguese national budget, these defense expenditures representedercent5 percent, andercent ercentage of GNP, defense costs have increasedercent0ighercenteveling off atercent This is almost twice the figure for the principal NATO countries. Pressures to Get Out

6. These costs have been high enough to raise serious doubts about Lisbon's long-term chances of retaining the provinces. An upsurge of attacks by black insurgents in Mozambique last January and February caused concern in Lisbon that the internal security problem there might be getting out of hand. But the real concern is over the stalemate in Portuguese Guinea. There the Portuguese control the towns and principal roads, but the guerrillas control much of the hinterland with neither side able to oust the other. The situation is discouragi.-vj enough to have led some military leaders, such as General Spinola, to declareilitary victory is impossible and toolitical

solution, suchlan for federation. But such alternatives appeal neither to the far right, nor to the Insurgents who of course want immediate freedom. The Crisis

crisis that led to the coup dates from FebruaryGeneral Spinola, then vice chief of staff of theand former governor and commander in chief inpublished his book Portugal and the Future. ew Portuguese constitution to provideand democratic institutions in all areasPortugal and toederation of sovereignPortugal and its overseas possessions. Plebiscitec

to determine if the Africans want to remain with Portugal would be allowed. Spinola acknowledged that this policy would risk the eventual severance of all ties between Portugal and its overseas territories, but he accepted this risk in the belief that continuation of past policies would virtually guarantee such an outcome anyway.

were outraged by the public airing ofand demanded Spinola's removal along with that ofGeneral Costa Gomes, who supported Spinola. Primewho initially resisted this pressure, gave in and

removed Spinola and his chief. The very conservative General Luz Cunha, was appointed to Costa Gomes' post and some officers sympathetic to Spinola were reassigned. In response, some petitions were circulated in favor of Spinola, and onan army unit near Lisbon, led by young officersto Spinola and Costa Gomes, attempted to march on tho capital. However, they were intercepted and arrested by troops loyal to the government. CHANGING ATTITUDES

Military Divided

military was deeply divided by these events. the senior officers, led by the new chief of staff offorces, General Luz Cunha, are opposed to Generalwhich, in their opinion, would lead to the loss ofprovinces. These officers participatedublicloyalty to the government, and the refusal of Costa Gomes

and Spinola to participateon the grounds that the military were not supposed to be involved in politicswas the ostensible reason for -heir being sacked.

the other hand, some high ranking officersSpinola, especially his thesisilitary victory

mpossible. They do not want the army tocapegoat

- 5




for giving up in Africa and saw Spinola's proposals as an

honorable way out. Until the coup, however, it did not appear that

these moderates were interested in an attempt to overthrow

the government on African policy. Indeed it was not clear that

Spinola and Costa Gomes wanted to do that either. Neither

had any known contact with the military regimant that marched

on Lisbon, and Spinola said that he was awaiting another military


number of junior and middle grade officersSpinola's ideas. Some of these were angeredhis firing and the arrests and reassignments ofto circulate protest petitions, and somethe small scale march on Lisbon. There were also reports

in March and April of dissenthe military in the African provinces, that apparently aroused the concern of the Directorate General of Security. The Oligarchy

the context of the authoritarian system thatso long, these stirrings of dissent were, of Since Salaiar'sroup ofontrol most of the country's wealth have played ain the exercise of political power. Their position is


derived from their control of the economy, ownership of news media, representation in the legislative bodies, and their close connection with top government officials. Consequently,policy has reflected the conservative political, economic, and social views of this group. Their business interests in Portuguese Africa ate immensely profitable, and hence they have long opposed any loosening of Portugal's overseas ties even though this has meant the continuationarge and expensive military force to combat the African insurgents.

The Portuguese oligarchs are nevertheless astute businessmen, and probably would in time adjustew Portuguese relationship with the African provinces. Many of them favor more rapid economic growth and closer association with Europe, and most have already diversified their investments so that their wealth is not dependent on their African holdings.

Portugal's economic ties with Western Europe, which in recent years have developed more rapidly than its economic links with the African territories, provide an alternative to the African ties. This factor would make it easier than before for Portuguese commercial interests to consider alternatives in Africa if the cost of fighting the dissidents became too great. Thus



if the oligarchy came to feel that Portugal's cause in Africa were lost, its members probably would opt to get out and cut their losses, thereby protecting their larger interests in the metropole and worldwide. There have in fact been reports that some of the influential families were impressed by Spinola's thesis that the present overseas policy is unrealistic. The Church

church has been circumspect about criticizing

the Caetano government, but in recent years individual priestsspeaking against the lack of civil rightsave strained relations between church and state. eace vigil heldisbon church on New Year's Day last year inriesttrong statement condemning Portugal's wars in Africa led to the arrest of several priests and militant Catholics. The episode increased public awareness of internal opposition to the African wars, and the arrest of the priests almosthurch-state clash.

July the Portuguese bishops issued awhich called for greater personal freedom andparticipation by the laity. Although they avoidedof the war in Africa, the Conference of Bishops inin October expressed solidarity with the bishops of


no foreign dissem

Mozambiquean action indirectly critical of the government's restriction of civil rights there. Lastetition circulated in Nampula diocese in Mozambique that was critical of the church hierarchy for collaborating with Lisbon inepressive system in Mozambique. The government responded by ousting the bishop and six of the priests who signed the petition. Prospects, therefore, are that should yesterday's insurrection leadore liberal-mindedit wouldubstantial number of allies in the church. Other Groups in Society

17. Labor, intellectuals, students, and illegal opposition groups have had little or no voice in Portuguese policy for years. Some small terrorists groups have set off occasional protest bombs, but these have been of no consequence to the government. Nevertheless, the unrest in the military that surfaced after the firing of Spinola and Costa Gomes last month apparently worried the government that dissident groups would use the resulting situation to demonstrate. Premier Caetano warnedpeech that any such demonstrations would only le; 'Irackdown, and in early April the police arrested someppositionists, most of whom wereeeting toonsumer cooperative.




NOISSEM Caetano's Paat Role

sparked by the Spinola book, theof crisis were therefore building for some time. past four or five years Caetano had exploredor attoialogue onthe possibility of aPortugal's tight grip on its African territories. 9 legislative elections, Caetanoebate onpolicy, when the opposition candidatesthe military took alarm andan on theconstitutional amendments approvedor local autonomy in domestic affairswereafter he gave assurances to the ultras that he hadof weakening Lisbon's control.

strength heretofore had been his abilitypressures from ultra rightists and moderates, andwhen to draw back. As the rebellion dragged on within sight, Caetano continued to make cautious moves tosubject of more local autonomy for the Africans. reportedlyight wing group to make anDecember to pressure President Thomas to replace thewith an ultra conaervative. But their plan wassome high military officers who supported Caetano, brought

counter pressure to save him. When Spinola's book was publishedevidently with Caetano's approvalthis was too much for the ultras, however. Caetano was unable to resist their demands that the general be fired, and in doing so the Prime Minister made his survival more dependent on the ultra right than before. This upset the political balance Caetano had tried to maintain, and since mid-March Caetano had seemed at pains to try to redress it.

his speech to the nation on Marchftermilitary revolt, Caetano reassured thepledging that Portugal would naver abandon the But he also sought to reassure the moderatesgently with the rebels who marched in Lisbon, andfrom criticizing Spinola and his federalSpinola book continued to be sold in Lisbon.

The New Questions

Caetano's intentions, his failure tohas in any eventreat many unansweredamong them is of course the further evolution ofsituation in Portugal itself. The coup has thus

far come remarkably close toeaceful change of government. The rebel forcea appear to have been exceedingly well-organized and competently led, while the forcea loyal to


the government have chosenso far at leastnot to resist. General Spinola, having accepted the call to leadership,espect that might be sufficient to keep the situation within the armed forces fully under control. In due course they could possibly begin to put into effect the domestic and overseas policy reforms that they and the insurrectionists espouse.

against this scenario of essentiallyhowever, willumber of hazards. Thehad developed within the armed forces are real andthe new regime will thus have to move with somethe Portuguese oligarchy has been looking morefuture, they remain for the most part rigidlytheir views of society. Some of the oppositionhave been operating more or less sub rosa in Portugalwilling to operateiberalizedbut some of the more radical ones may not. Thomaz apparently exiled by force, some question

of the government's legitimacy will linger.

far the greater hazard to the newwill be what now happens in the overseasbasic insurgency problem remains, thethat civilian and military elements in the territories

-/ secret

no foreign dissem



have taken may be short-lived, and the insurgents may take heart from Lisbon's disarray. General Spinola's ideas of increased autonomyusitanian commonwealth does not meet the insurgents' requirements, and any movement in that direction will perforce require time and the continued Portuguese military presence. The colonial forces might be willing toairly prolonged period of transition ifolicy seems to have some chance of extricating the army with its self-image intact. But if the policy falters, Spinola will be in trouble. Meanwhile, Rhodesia and South Africanever sure of Portugal's staying powerwill likely feel they have no choice but to increase their military establishment.

o far as Portugal's external relations are otherwise concerned, there is good reason to believeew and more reformist regime in Lisbon would in several ways be helpful. Portugal's African policies have madeariah among its European alliesarget of anti-colcnialisi criticism in the international community at large. Its prospects for closer relations with the European Communities would be considerably improved if its overseas policies seemed to be movingew directionand, looking much farther to the future, the colonies themselves mightloser association with the EC an advantageous prospect. The Portuguese


events will of course be watched with intense interest in Spain, but Madrid is not likely to take any actionaitparticularly one perpetrated by the essentiallyelements of the establishment associated with Spinola; only in the remote event that the ousted leadersounter-coup or civil hostilities otherwise broke out might the Spanish consider the possibility of some kind of intervention. Finally, since the modern weapons that Portugal has been seeking from the US in the Azores base negotiations have been largely tied to the insurgency problem, it is quite probable that the new government will moderate its demands.



Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic: