For a considerable slice of the Portuguese population, Camarate will say little or nothing. When much is identified with a zone of Greater Lisbonmore specifically in Louresoften in the news for the worst reasons.
However, for another segment of the population, the mere mention of the word Camarate transports them to December 4, 1980 and to the crash of a plane (a Cessna) carrying, among others, the then Prime Minister of Portugal, Francisco Sá Carneiro, and the Minister of Defence, Adelino Amaro da Costa.
Precisely 42 years ago, a long discussion began, which has reached our days, and which successive expert investigations have not been able to fully clarify.
Was Camarate an accident or was there a criminal hand in the crash of the aircraft that was transporting two of the most important Portuguese politicians at the time?
Camarate: the doubt that remains
Those who defend the thesis that it was in fact an accident criticize the quixotic chimera of those who still suggest that it was an attack. Those who swear up and down that it was a crime contest the passivity of those who, even in the face of some evidence, continue to think it was bad luck. Nobody understands each other.
That’s why Camarate is like our Dallas, the American city where it was assassinated JFK?? Even today Americans debate whether it was the work of a lone gunman or whether there was a conspiracy involving third parties. In the tiny Portugal of Camarate, there is also much opinion and little is known.
To contextualize the events in Camarate, it is necessary to realize that Portugal was still in the aftermath of the revolution of April 25, 1974. These were years of successive governments (provisional and constitutional) and of much political instability. In an attempt to put an end to the confusion, the PSD, led by Francisco Sá Carneiro, joined forces with the CDS, led by Diogo Freitas do Amaral, and the Popular Monarchist Party, led by Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles. Thus, in 1979, the Democratic Alliance was formed, a coalition that would win the legislative elections with an absolute majority.
However, for Sá Carneiro, the majority in Parliament was not enough. It was necessary to elect a President of the Republic who would not be an obstacle to government action. The choice fell on Soares Carneiro, a general, who would confront the then Head of State, Ramalho Eanes. This polarization of Portuguese political life was accentuated throughout 1980, with the presidential elections scheduled for December 7th.
Internationally, the situation was also volatile. The then Soviet Union had just invaded Afghanistan, Margaret Thatcher ascended to power in UK and initiates a set of reforms that will leave deep marks on the country and the Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Komeiny triumphs in the Iranleading to an attack on the American embassy in Tehran and the imprisonment of all personnel.
With Jimmy Carter on the verge of leaving the White House, to be succeeded by Ronald Reagan, the American hostage crisis dragged on throughout 1980. They ended up being released on January 20, 1981, precisely on the day of the inauguration of Reagan.
It is here that some clues of what may have happened in Camarate converge, namely the role that Portugal would have in this conflict with regard to arms trafficking. Nothing has ever been proven, but neither has anything been completely disproved.
Camarate: 26 seconds to crash
On the night of December 4, 1980, the plane would transport passengers to Porto, where the closing rally for the campaign for the presidential elections would take place.
On board were the Prime Minister, Francisco Sá Carneiro, his partner, Snu Abecassis, the Defense Minister, Adelino Amaro da Costa, his wife, Manuela Amaro da Costa, Sá Carneiro’s chief of staff, António Patrício Gouveia , and the two pilots of the aircraft.
The plane took to the runway in the early hours of the night, crashing, according to some calculations, 26 seconds after taking off. It landed in Bairro das Fontainhas, in Camarate, almost side by side with Portela Airport.
No one survived the tragedy, and an investigation began almost immediately (after all, the prime minister had died). Differing explanations quickly began to circulate.
commissions of inquiry
Over the years, several committees of inquiry were set up, dozens, if not hundreds, of experts and witnesses were heard. However, no one ever reached a solid enough consensus to present the Portuguese with an irrefutable truth.
The preliminary report of the X Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the Camarate Tragedy, the last to be constituted, reaffirms the thesis of an attack and points out “gaps” in the performance of the Judiciary Police and the Attorney General’s Office. ??The plane crash in Camarate, on the night of December 4, was due to an attack“, reads in the final conclusions of the text.
However, if it was an attack, no one was ever brought to justice to answer for the crime. If it was an accident, it is also still unclear what happened to cause the Cessna to crash in Camarate.
Thus, the only thing that is known with certainty is that on December 4, 1980, the Prime Minister of Portugal died in a plane crash. It had never happened before, and nothing like it would ever happen again.
Snu and private life with Sá Carneiro – Cândida Pinto, D. Quixote
The Crime of Camarate – Ricardo Sá Fernandes, Bertrand Editora