21 MarchInternational Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

It’s violence of a racist nature perpetrated into our prison system.’
– José Pureza, 
MP of the Left Bloc (BE)

‘Accusations of racism, xenophobia, and torture are a shame for our country.’
Carlos Peixoto, MP of the Social Democrats (PSD)

‘It’s a reality that exists, apartheid in our society.’
Isabel Moreira, MP of the Socialist Party (PS)

‘Police violence is serious but look, violence against the police also increased.’
Vânia da Silva, MP of the Christian Democrats (CDS)

Both left and right wing parties in Parliament are concerned about racism in the police force and violation of human rights in prisons. The reason is a recently published report of the European Committee against Torture, stating that police violence in Portugal – in particular against African descendants – is the highest in Western Europe.

The committee – that also visited the country in 2013 – emphasizes that the police violence at police stations has increased and that the situation in the overcrowded prisons of Caxias, Setubal, and Lisbon is ‘inhuman and degrading.’

Julia Kozma, lawyer and chairing the European delegation, points the finger towards the Ministry of Internal Affairs – responsible for the police and the security forces – and regrets its lack of ‘awareness’. The Ministry denies the accusations and declares that ‘all complaints about violent police conduct are investigated by the Internal General Inspectorate (IGAI) and immediately reported to the Public Prosecutor.’

The reality, however, is that only a very small number of the complaints are brought before court. ‘And that’s exactly the problem’, says Kozma. ‘There is a spirit of impunity and bureaucracy, whereby complaining doesn’t help. The inspection body (IGAI) needs more skills to conduct criminal investigations and more resources to act independently.’

Pedro Neto, the director of Amnesty International in Portugal, also believes that the IGAI – “the police of the police” – should become independent of the Ministry. ’One government department cannot control another state entity.’

In recent months the non-governmental organization SOS racism received an increasing number of grievances from inmates in the prison of Lisbon about racist provocations and intimidations. Peculiar was that all complaints came from African immigrants and that any registration on xenophobe or racist behavior from the guards and staff is lacking.

All hope is now pinned on the Minister of Justice, Francisca van Dunem. She announced recently not only to reduce the number of convicts in jail but also to improve the conditions in detention centers. Bias

Bom fim de semana            Have a nice weekend          [photo’s Público/Sapo]



The most common chronic disease in Portugal is called ‘waiting list’

Patients have to wait 3 years to see a urologist in Vila Real or an ENT specialist in Leiria and 2 years to obtain an appointment with a cardiologist in Guarda. These extremes not only occur in the countryside, as the waiting list for a neurological consultation at Amadora Sintra – one of the biggest state hospitals in the country – exceeds more than a year.

Is it a wonder, that citizens – especially the ones who can afford it – turn to the private sector, where waiting periods – due to more specialists – are half as long as in the National Health Service (SNS).

The average waiting period for (non-acute) specialist care in Portugal is 4 months, varying from 6 months for an ophthalmologist to 6 weeks for an obstetrician. Patients who have to wait for more than five months have – by law – the right to be treated in the private sector. A costly buffer as the SNS, respectively the taxpayer must pay the bill.

‘The SNS is overstretched, needs more specialists, family doctors and in particular more funding. Specialists are overworked and underpaid, 750.000 citizens still have no family doctor and the government spends less on ‘health’ than the average EU member state’, says Miguel Guimarães, president of the Medical Association. ‘Last year we received a red cart from the Euro Health Consumer Index for our poor accessibility to (non-acute) specialist care and the yellow card for our lack of general practitioners.’

The excessive waiting lists are – according to the independent trade union of doctors Sindicato Independente dos Médicos – mainly the result of the fact that specialists in state hospitals have to spend too much – almost half – of their time to emergencies. The majority of the specialists working in the SNS is therefore unsatisfied. Many want to abandon the service and either go into private practice or leave the country, where working conditions are better and the pay higher.

‘Wages are indeed low, excess hours abundant and career prospects nil’, explains Maria Ferreira of the Public Health Department of the University of Porto, who conducted an investigation under 15.000 doctors in northern Portugal. ‘Half of the recently qualified doctors is thinking of leaving the country after finishing their specialization and over 1200 doctors have already left in the past 3 years.’

Although the right to healthcare is enshrined in the constitution, lack of accessibility affects poor people most as the private sector is no alternative to them. The only they can do is hope for the best and wait.

Bom fim de semana               Have a great weekend                (photo’s Público)