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Case of Manuel Barbosa casts shadow over State of the Nation debate 29 Julho 2009

The debate in the National Assembly on the State of the Nation degenerated into personal attacks today, which forced the president of the parliament to intervene and appeal for civility in the legislative house, “which is a civilized institution,” he reminded lawmakers. Aristides Lima went so far as to threaten to take the floor away from opposition leader Jorge Santos when he mentioned the arrest of lawyer Manuel Barbosa – who is a half-brother of Prime Minister José Maria Neves – to suggest that the Prime Minister’s family is involved in drug trafficking.

Jorge Santos’ statements left the National Assembly plenary session in a generalized state of disease, as his discourse not only violated the principle of presumption of innocence of the lawyer in question – who is in preventative detention but has yet to be tried – but also embarrassed MpD legislators who happen to be lawyers and who are currently providing legal assistance for Manuel Barbosa. Indeed, the displeasure of MpD parliamentary leader Fernando Elísio Freire was visible, as was that of MpD legislator Eurico Monteiro, who is Barbosa’s lawyer.

National Assembly president Aristides Lima immediately intervened and threatened to take the floor away from the opposition leader. On more than one occasion, Lima asked Jorge Santos, the second vice-president of the National Assembly, to respect the directorship to which he belongs, as he was, in Lima’s view, attempting to disrupt the parliamentary session.

Prime Minister José Maria Neves did not react to the episode, but both Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Janira Hopffer Almada and PAICV parliamentary leader Rui Semedo condemned Santos’ attitude.

Jorge Santos then affirmed that the individual who had hinted at connections between politics and the world of drug trafficking was José Maria Neves, who during the campaign for the last legislative elections spoke of the financing of political parties by drug traffickers. Santos also said that the Prime Minister had been the one to begin with the personal offenses today in parliament, “as he called legislator António Monteiro a bird of prey.”

The personal attacks cast a shadow over the arguments between the governing PAICV and opposition party MpD regarding the State of the Nation. Even so, the government, in general, expressed its sentiment that Cape Verde is managing to weather the international financial crisis thanks to its investments in infrastructures and the social area. The MpD parliamentary group, for its part, spoke of what it called a disaster in social indicators, foreign investment and the tourism and real-estate sectors.

The UCID, the smallest party represented in parliament with two seats, affirmed that the PAICV’s social policies were poor, but praised the government’s infrastructure programs.

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