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Cablegate: Portuguese Prime Minister Announces New Cabinet

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O 231659Z OCT 09
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7936
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LISBON 000553

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PO
SUBJECT: PORTUGUESE PRIME MINISTER ANNOUNCES NEW CABINET

REF: A. 05 LISBON 322
B. 05 LISBON 314
C. LISBON 529

LISBON 00000553 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary: In the wake of September 27 Portuguese
elections, PM Socrates announced his new cabinet on October
22, naming seven new ministers, including five independents
and four women for a total of nine independents and five
women in his 16-member cabinet. The cabinet will take office
on October 26, and the new government will have until January
26 to present its 2010 budget to Parliament. Foreign
Minister Amado, Defense Minister Santos Silva, and Finance
Minister Teixeira dos Santos will provide continuity and
experience in key ministries; we do not foresee any
significant shift in policies or interests regarding the
U.S., EU, or NATO. End Summary.

2. On October 22, PM Socrates announced his new cabinet with
seven new ministers. Six ministers will continue in their
positions: Foreign Minister Luis Amado, Finance Minister
Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, Interior Minister Rui Pereira,
Science, Technology and Higher Education Minister Mariano
Gago, Health Minister Ana Jorge, and Minister of the
Ministerial Council Pedro Silva Pereira. Two ministers have
been assigned new portfolios: former Minister for
Parliamentary Affairs Augusto Santos Silva was appointed
Defense Minister, while former Labor Minister Jose Vieira da
Silva was appointed Minister of Economy. Lastly, former
State Secretary for the Presidency of the Council of
Ministers Jorge Lacao was named Minister of Parliamentary
Affairs. Below are the biographies of the seven new cabinet
members along with the challenges they face. (Biographies of
returning ministers were reported in refs A and B.)

3. Justice Minister (Socialist): Alberto Martins, 64, was
most recently head of the Socialist parliamentary caucus. He
was elected deputy in 1987 and shortly thereafter joined the
Socialist Party. He served as Minister of Public
Administration under PM Antonio Guterres. Part of the most
left-wing faction of the Socialist Party, Martins supported
Manuel Alegre for PS leadership against Socrates in September
2004. Martins was born on April 25, 1946 in Guimaraes. His
family was involved in the textile industry. He earned his
law degree from the University of Coimbra in 1969. The
greatest challenge facing Martins will be restoring
credibility to one of the most polemic ministries in the last
administration and re-visiting controversial reforms to the
Penal Code, which was revised in September 2007. A major
challenge for the next four years will be implementing the
reforms initiated by his predecessor Alberto Costa.

4. Public Works Minister (Independent): Antonio Mendonca,
55, has a strong business administration background, having
served two terms as Chairman of the Board of the School of
Economics and Management (ISEG) of the Technical University
of Lisbon. Following the end of his term two weeks ago,
Mendonca returned to his former position as professor of
international economics at ISEG. He recently signed a
petition in support of the controversial new Lisbon airport
project and the Lisbon-Madrid high-speed rail link. Like his
predecessor Mario Lino, Mendonca was a member of the
Communist Party in his youth. After abandoning the party in
the early 1990s, he began working independently with
successive Socialist governments. Mendonca has a Ph.D. in
economics from Paris. His primary challenge will be
gathering consensus among the opposition for public
infrastructure projects which may prove to be difficult given
the opposition Social Democratic Party's resistance to such
projects and concern over the public debt.

5. Environment Minister (Independent): Dulce Passaro, 56,
served as a technical expert in the Ministry of Environment
focusing primarily on waste management. Until 1997, she
worked in the Ministry's Waste Management and Recycling
Bureau. Among her areas of responsibility was closing down
landfills. When Socrates became Minister of the Environment
in 1999, he named Passaro chairman of the government's
Institute for Waste Management (2000 - 2003). From 2003 to
the present, she served as board member of the Water and
Waste Management Regulatory Agency. Passaro has a degree in
chemical engineering. In 1999, she participated in the
International Visitors Leadership Program on European
Environmental Protection in the U.S. The biggest challenge
for her will be continued implementation of Portugal's
climate change policy, which will require meeting
ever-demanding international commitments and balancing
environmental priorities with the competing interests of
other ministries.

6. Education Minister (Independent): Isabel Alcada, 59,
developed the Socialist Party's education policy for the

LISBON 00000553 002.2 OF 002


recent legislative electoral campaign. Since 2006, she has
been the coordinator of the National Reading Plan, which has
been successful in raising the reading level of primary and
secondary school students throughout the country. Alcada, a
history and Portuguese language professor, earned a B.A. in
philosophy from Lisbon University and a M.A. in educational
sciences from Boston University (1982-83). She is co-author
of a popular series of adventure books for teenagers and a
well-known trainer of teachers throughout the country.
Alcada is married to Rui Vilar, president of the Gulbenkian
Foundation. Her biggest challenge will be making peace with
Portugal's 150,000 public school teachers who opposed
Socrates' educational sector reform (ref C). Her chances of
success will depend on the government's willingness to
re-visit sensitive issues such as performance evaluation and
promotion of teachers.

7. Agriculture Minister (Independent): Antonio Serrano, 44,
is one of the relative unknowns of the new cabinet. He
served as a member of the Alentejo Regional Operational
Program and as Chairman of the Board of Espirito Santo
Hospital in Evora. As Chairman, he launched the construction
of a new hospital center and inaugurated a radiology unit,
projects that had been stalled for decades. Serrano is a
professor at Evora University. He has a Ph.D. in business
administration, and no prior political experience. He served
only in a technical position in the Agro-Policy Planning
Office in the Ministry of Agriculture. Serrano has the
difficult job of pacifying a sector that has been rife with
workers' protests. He also faces the Herculean task in a
time of budget constraint of increasing the Ministry's budget
to enable the GOP to make its mandatory 25-percent
contribution to the EU agricultural program, or see Portugal
lose its EU agricultural funds in 2010. The influential
Portuguese Agricultural Confederation said it would be a
"test of fire" for the new minister and promised its support.


8. Labor and Social Security Minister (Socialist): Helena
Andre, 48, has long been active in the Portuguese labor
movement. Since 1981, Andre has been affiliated with the
Portuguese General Workers Union (UGT), first representing
the UGT in Brussels and later becoming Deputy Secretary
General of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). It
is widely believed that she would have been appointed ETUC
Secretary General in 2011. Together with her predecessor at
Labor, Vieira da Silva, she drew up the Socialist Party's
labor platform for the recent parliamentary elections.
Andre's primary challenge will be addressing the high rate of
unemployment and proving her negotiation skills with both
labor unions and employers to ensure mutually beneficial
results. Andre has a degree in modern languages and
literature from Lisbon University.

9. Culture Minister (Independent): Maria Gabriela
Canavilhas, 48, served as head of the Lisbon Metropolitan
Orchestra (2003 - 2008), where she carried out a major
restructuring program. Since November 2008, she has been the
Regional Director for Culture in the Azores. Her greatest
challenge, like all Culture Ministers before her, will be
attaining the mythical goal of one percent of the government
budget for her ministry. Historically the weakest and
poorest of the ministries, Culture has suffered from a very
tight budget. Canavilhas has a degree in musical sciences
from New Lisbon University and an extensive musical
background as a concert pianist who has recorded seven CDs
and performed around the world. She is a member of the Board
of Trustees of the Luso-American Development Foundation
(FLAD), and a close contact of the American Consulate in the
Azores. Born in Angola to Azorean parents, Canavilhas grew
up in the Azores and currently resides in Lisbon.

10. Comment: The new government faces numerous challenges as
a minority government. This new cabinet promises continuity
and experience, along with new energy, to overcome those
challenges and advance its agenda. With the continuation of
experienced politicians in key ministries, Portugal's
relations with the U.S., as well as its relations with the EU
and NATO, will not significantly change over the next four
years.

11. Post will report further on the new cabinet and the
upcoming budget debate.


For more reporting from Embassy Lisbon and information about Portugal,
please see our Intelink site:

http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/portal:port ugal
BALLARD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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