Freitas do Amaral, a ‘father’ of Portuguese democracy, dies

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Diogo Freitas do Amaral, a conservative politician who played a leading role in cementing democracy after Portugal’s 1974 Carnation Revolution and later became president of the U.N. General Assembly, has died. He was 78.

The government announced his death Thursday without providing further details.

Freitas do Amaral was a co-founder and first leader of the Christian Democratic Party, formed barely three months after the army coup on April 25, 1974. The coup leaders ousted a four-decade dictatorship and promised to introduce parliamentary democracy, but their ambitions were slowed by political turmoil.

Freitas do Amaral’s party helped to balance out the far-left fervor, led by the Portuguese Communist Party, which surged after the ouster of the dictatorship set up in the 1930s by Antonio Salazar.

He played a central role in helping to steer Portugal away from its radical course in the post-revolution years, which coincided with the Cold War and triggered fears in Western Europe and the U.S. that the country, a NATO member, might align with Moscow.

Earlier this year, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa described Freitas do Amaral as “one of the fathers of Portuguese democracy.”

But 30 years later, Freitas do Amaral was shunned by the party he helped create after he accepted the post of foreign minister in a Socialist Party government in 2005. Christian Democrat officials took down his photograph from a wall in their Lisbon headquarters and mailed it across town to the Socialist Party. Freitas do Amaral said he was never again invited to a party event.

Freitas do Amaral was “one of the founders of our democratic system,” Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a statement announcing his death, adding that his countrymen should “bow in homage” to him.

Costa, a former colleague, said he was impressed by Freitas do Amaral’s “legal knowledge, political experience and clarity and his deeply felt sense of state and democratic culture.”

The government will declare a national day of mourning on the day of the funeral, which is still to be arranged.

After Portugal’s first parliamentary elections with universal suffrage in 1976, Freitas do Amaral served in a series of governments as deputy prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister.

He was a key member of the Democratic Alliance, which drew moderates from various parties to stand together in a 1979 election. It won a majority in parliament.

Freitas do Amaral, a professor of law, was one of the driving forces behind a new Constitution approved in 1982.

The initial post-revolution Constitution of 1976 was inspired by Marxism, calling for the nationalization of the means of production. It also provided for the coup’s military leaders to have an unelected power-sharing role in government.

The 1982 reform removed the ideological references, closed the military’s path to power, opened up the economy and created the Constitutional Court.

Freitas do Amaral narrowly lost the 1986 presidential election, capturing 49 percent of the vote, to Socialist Party candidate Mario Soares.

He served as President of the U.N. General Assembly between 1995 and 1996, where he pressed member nations _ especially the United States _ to pay their outstanding dues.

He also loudly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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