Ex-combatants announce hunger strike from August 17

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About half a hundred former combatants of the Colonial War protested today in Porto against the non-compliance with the Statute of the Former Combatant and announced a hunger strike from August 17 near the Palace of Belém, in Lisbon.

António Silva, from the Pro Dignity Commission of the Former Combatant Statute (EAC), told Lusa that 100 former combatants of the Colonial War (1961-1974) will go on “hunger strike at the gates of the Presidency of the Republic” from August 17.

The first day of the hunger strike is August 17, said the ex-combatant of the Colonial War, adding that the strikers will only leave the door of the Palace of Belém when the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, goes to the Ministry of National Defense and asks to repeal the Statute of the Former Combatant.

“We demand that the statute be repealed, because it is not being complied with. The Constitution [of the Republic] in Portugal is not being complied with,” António Silva said.

According to António Silva, the statute is not being fulfilled at various levels, whether in museums, transportation or difficulty in accessing the Former Combatant (AC) cards.

“Half of the ex-combatant cards have not yet been delivered,” he said, noting that many former combatants are passing away without access to the combatant card.”

Another example he listed was the case of former combatants from Bragança who are unable to ride public transport because the passes given are intermodal, but they should give passes on a “national basis”.

Museums, which should be free for former combatants, many former combatants are being forced to pay for tickets, as is happening at the Monument to the Overseas Combatant, in Belém (Lisbon), where they have to pay, exemplified António Silva, referring that there have been problems and even “the police have been called”.

Another example is that of the black combatants who fought alongside the Portuguese and who have “serious health problems and nobody cares about them”, he added, recognizing that if it were not for these black men from the former colonies who had “13 years of war”, the Portuguese when they got there “would all die there”.

The 100 former combatants who will go on hunger strike from August 17 are aged between 70 and 86, are residents of the whole country, 34 of them are living in Lisbon, 12 in Porto.

“The oldest is 86 years old,” said António Silva.

The strike will take place near the Palace of Belém “until the President of the Republic and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, takes a position on compliance with the combatant’s status”.

Today, in the afternoon, about 50 former combatants gathered in Carlos Alberto Square, next to the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, where they could read phrases on posters such as “Respect the Overseas Combatants. Do not despise them” or “Guardians of the Homeland. Combatants of the overseas wars, last heroes of the empire. We were fighters for the nation and we were sent to war. We deserve dignity and gratitude. Rights that are denied to us”.

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