His theatrical vocation was written in his name: Othello. Until his last days, he assured that since he was a child he wanted to be an actor and that his was the theater. He applied it to everything he did. It is not surprising that in a 2008 interview he proclaimed himself “the author of the script, of the set, the protagonist and the director“From a function for which” no pointer was needed. ” He was referring to the revolution of April 25, 1974, which ended 48 years of the Salazar regime, the longest dictatorship of the 20th century in Western Europe.
The boy Othello could not fulfill his dream of being an actor because his grandfather had another destiny in store for him: the military. He first made his career in the then colony of Angola and then in Guinea Bissau, from where he returned to the metropolis in 1973 with the idea of the blow stuck in the head.
At only 38 years old, he managed to revolt his country. He planned the action for just three weeks, just enough to calculate the movements of the military loyal to the regime. On the night of April 24, 1974, he locked himself up with six officers and a rudimentary radio station in a clandestine command post in the city of Lisbon. They drew the curtains so as not to be discovered by the neighbors and started the revolution. He himself chose the agreed signal for the uprising, the forbidden song of José Alfonso Grândola Vila Morena. Saraiva liked it for the verse “The people are the ones who order the most”. The journalist friend Carlos Albino made it sound on Radio Renascença at the right time.
“The revolution is in the street”
At five in the morning, a phone call from the director of the secret police alerted the dictator Marcelo Caetano: “President, the revolution is in the street. Only 12 hours later, Caetano agreed to hand over power to General Spínola, the rebels’ trusted command. At 1:30 p.m. on April 26, Hail of Oak He was able to leave the clandestine command post with his companions and walk freely, amid cheers and applause, through the streets of Lisbon. The revolution had triumphed without firing a single shot, and the barrels of the rifles and tanks were filled with carnations. There was no room for more romanticism.
“On April 25 – he would confess years later – I was the happiest man in the world. I fulfilled a dream of youth that was beyond a dream. I am proud of having participated in the collapse of fascist power and proud of not having been contaminated by power. Because I didn’t want power for myself, I wanted it for the people. “
He was part of the National Salvation Board, which ruled the country on its way to democracy. But after the initial enthusiasm, the disputes between the victors would soon begin: the socialists of Mario Soares, the communists of Alvaro Cunhal, the Maoists, the conservatives, … Until the confrontations reached the street during the so-called hot summer 1975.
Construction strikers, supported by the communists, besieged Parliament and cut off all supplies to the constituent deputies. Saraiva de Carvalho, always on the left and in favor of taking the revolution to the extreme, expressed her support for the strikers, she was in favor of a model of “Direct and participatory democracy and that power fell on the popular assemblies under the vanguard of the workers and peasants ”. A program that was described by historians as “anarcho-populist.”
The revolutionary prestige spread throughout the world. Own Fidel Castro paid homage to him in that summer of 1975. The Cuban leader described him as “Hero of the Portuguese revolution against fascism, imperialism and reaction”, while those attending the event chanted “Cuba, Portugal, united will win.” In the revolutionary delusions – we are still in the middle of the cold war -, a communist bastion like Cuba was already imagined on the side of the Iberian Peninsula, at the very western gate of Europe.
Saraiva had been named, for his merits in the fight against the dictatorship, head of the Continental Operations Command (COPCON), a special army corps created specifically to combat counterrevolutionary attempts. He had to abort in March 1976 the attempted coup of António de Spinola, a right-wing reformist alarmed by the left-wing drift that had taken the country. Saraiva’s halo, as the guardian of revolutionary essences, was only growing.
A few months later, the government of Sorrel pine, supported by the Soares socialists, disarmed COPCON, leaving the Communist Party without any control over the armed forces. Saraiva, always on her own, did nothing to prevent it, which caused the final break with the communists.
It was time to try the political route. He managed to bring together dispersed parties of the extreme left, fishing in the fishing grounds of the armed opposition to the dictatorship and in the various movements against the country’s entry into NATO. In 1976, he ran in the presidential elections, but it only got 16% of the votes. He tried again four years later, at the helm of an alternative platform, but did not get more than a meager endorsement that did not reach one and a half percent. It was clear that the electoral route was not his thing or that the country was not yet prepared for his risky postulates.
In the 1980s, he was linked to the robberies and murders of the terrorist group called Popular Forces April 25 (FP-25), armed wing of a Maoist organization led by the revolutionary hero. Although he always denied his participation and attributed his accusation to a maneuver of the communist party, was convicted in 1984 as a moral author. A broad movement unsuccessfully asked for his pardon. His sentence was reduced by his status as a hero of the carnation revolution after having spent five years in prison.
Regarding his private life, the writer and journalist Paulo Moura revealed in his biography Othello, the revolutionary (2012) that the Portuguese military man was bigamist, which caused not a little scandal in the country. He had married very young, without ever being separated. And later, in the 80s when he was in jail, he had a second wife: “From Monday to Thursday he lives in a house; Friday, Saturday and Sunday are spent in the others ”, you can read in the book.
Saraiva has always maintained its character as an emblem of the revolution. He gave lectures and explained his ideas actively and passively, amid cheers and cheers, becoming a very influential character, even outside his country where he is a benchmark for the new left-wing parties. He never regretted the revolution even though he believed it was incomplete. The boy who wanted to emulate Robin Hood -His favorite character-, he continued to pursue the utopia of direct democracy, without parties. “Men,” he said, “have to fight for utopias because any social advance has been achieved by great historical struggles since man was a man, and they have allowed us to get to where we are.”
Othello Nuno Romão Saraiva de Carvalho He was born in Lourenço Marques, Mozambique, on August 31, 1936 and died in Lisbon on July 25, 2021, at the age of 84.
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