Sunday, March 26, 2006

"We are not afraid" !!!

The events in Belarus are surprising many people around the World and especially in Europe. For many Europeans getting into their houses images of strong repression over peaceful demonstrations still constitutes a surprise, particularly if they come together with news that there are still dictatorial regimes in Europe.

We addressed the situation in Belarus before in this blog (here, here or here). I have to confess that I am glad that finally this is getting into the news as it will promote awareness raising on what is happening there, which will then call for stronger action from World Leaders.

Images like the ones news' networks are broadcasting, of police forces moving in violently using stun grenades and batons to drive the marchers back will for sure have a huge impact on western public opinion.

It’s true that EU leaders, at the this week’s European Council, had already approved sanctions against Belarusian leaders. But much more is left to do, mainly taking into consideration that the Belarusian regime has the backing of Russia and that, according to some annalists, Lukashenko has in deed substantial support around the country.

Nevertheless, the strength of the popular rallies, later on enhanced by the involvement of opposition leaders like Alexander Milinkevich or Alexander Kozulin (the later reported to have been arrested), left the regime distressed, leading it to command the violent action by the police, in spite of pressure otherwise from Moscow, as it would be embarrassing for the Belarus regime and mostly to it’s main (if not only) ally, Russia.

Demonstrators concentrate in the October Square (named after the Red October), carrying flowers, like carnations (which also symbolized the Portuguese revolution in 1974) and the red and white flag (the same used in the first periods after liberation from USSR domination, later banned by the current regime) and shouting for freedom in their country, addressing to dictator Alexander Lukaschenko in front of police forces: “We are not afraid”.

As Milinkevich said:
"The people that have come out today, they have come out in the face of truncheons, in the face of arrests. The more the authorities conduct repression, the closer they bring themselves to their end. We can be proud of what we have already done: Fear is vanquished."

Shall the courage resist and spread! Shall our countries stand by them!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

ETA declares permanent ceasefire

«Euskadi Ta Askatasunak, 2006ko martxoaren 24ko 00:00-tik aurrera ekintza armatuen etenaldi iraunkorra abiatzea erabaki du.»
These were the first words of the message that ETA made public today: Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) has decided to declare a permanent ceasefire from 24 March 2006. After nearly 40 years fighting for independence, Basque separatist militants commit now to show their "desire and will for the process opened to reach its end, thereby achieving a truly democratic situation for Euskal Herria, ending the long years of conflict and building a peace based on justice."
The news of an ETA ceasefire had circulated since earlier in the day but it only started to hit many Spanish people at lunchtime, when they gathered in the cafes and restaurants. Hope and scepticism were the most common reactions. Scepticism due to the fact that the Basque separatist group ETA has announced numerous ceasefires before; hope because this time its statement explicitly mentions a "permanent ceasefire". That is a first.
Many believe this announcement is a turning point. Some say this was an historic day. I sincerely hope this can be the last chapter of the bloody history of nationalist armed groups in Europe.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Belarussian Spring

Following the "elections" held last Sunday, Belarus opposition activists continue to protest against the results announced by the authorities, which gave more than 80% of the vote for the dictator Lukashenko. As in many other historical moments all around the world, young people are in the front row of the fight for democracy and freedom. They know that this is the time and place, and maybe the last chance to change the situation and offer themselves a future.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

St. Patrick's Day

Millions of Irish, part-Irish and not-very-Irish-at-all people have been celebrating St Patrick's Day around the world. Green, white and orange were the colours of the day at the annual parade in the Irish capital, Dublin. In Sydney, Irish ex-pats were among the first to mark the day in brash style. Lubricated by pints of Guinness, punters at the Cheltenham horse racing festival in the UK cheered on their favourites. In the Danish capital, Copenhagen, lime green leprechauns drinking "green beer" were easy to spot. At the White House, Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern presented US President George W Bush with a bunch of shamrocks. In New York, which boasts a proud Irish-American heritage, traditional Irish pipers entertained the crowds. In Brussels, we gathered at Elizabeth's and got drunk.

Anti CPE

Thousands of French students have joined protests across the country over new youth employment laws. The law will make it easier for employers to get rid of young people on the new contracts, without explanation. Students in Rennes briefly barricaded themselves into the town hall as part of their protests, calling on the government to repeal the law. Police moved in to clear the students from the town hall, but protests continued outside. Dozens of universities and secondary schools across France were disrupted by student action. In the Paris suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine, some protesters burned a car during a protest rally. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin proposed the idea after riots last year as a way to help disadvantaged young people find jobs...

Hands off Irak!

Today, thousands of demonstrators gathered in cities around the world to protest against the war in Iraq, on the third anniversary of the US-led invasion. Across time zones and cultures, their anti-war sentiments and their opposition to the US-led action in Iraq was the same. In London, crowds filled Trafalgar Square to demonstrate their opposition to the war. A sea of posters in the crowd denounced the war and labelled President Bush a terrorist. Some protesters used colour and costume to make their point, while others burned the US flag as they denounced the war. But the message across the globe was the same - to end the war in Iraq.


Coffee made by forcing steam through crushed coffee beans.
Thank you, João!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I was for the first time in Vilnius in 1998, but I have to confess that, as usual, I haven't had the opportunity to discover the city. This time, also because I was with local friends, I had the opportunity to find out its wonders.

Vilnius is a cosmopolitan city with diverse architecture. According to G., there are more than 40 churches in Vilnius to see. Restaurants, hotels and museums have sprouted since Lithuania declared independence in 1990, and young Vilnius residents are providing the city a reputation for being the most hospitable in the world.

Like most medieval towns, Vilnius has developed around its Town Hall. The main artery, Pilies Street, links the governor's palace and the Town Hall. Other streets meander through the palaces of feudal lords and landlords, churches, shops and craftsmen's workrooms. Narrow, curved streets and small cosy courtyards developed in the radial layout of the medieval Vilnius.

The Old Town, historical centre of Vilnius, is known as one of the largest in Europe. The most valuable historic and cultural sites are concentrated here. The buildings in the old town were built over several centuries, creating a splendid blend of many different architectural styles. Although Vilnius is often called a baroque city, here you can find some buildings of gothic, renaissance and other styles. The main sights of the city are the Gediminas Castle and the Cathedral Square, symbols of the capital. Their combination is also a gateway to the historic centre of the capital. Because of its uniqueness, the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994.

In 1995, one of the only two known casts of Frank Zappa was installed in the center of Vilnius with the permission of the government. This is enough to prove that Vilnius is a nice place!

Long week

It's been more than one week since my last post. Many things have hapenned and many miles were flown. I've been in Toledo (Spain) last weekend and in Vilnius (Lithuania) the last three days. Many hours of meetings, many hours in planes and, of course, I'm tired. Pedro is on holidays in Portugal, Benfica seems decided to live on the European glory and was eliminated of the Portuguese Cup and has almost no chances left of still winning the Portuguese League. Still, I'm happy. Have the feeling of mission accomplished and feel like the future weeks will be much more relaxed. Tomorrow will be my last day at work before some days of vacation and I feel happy for having survived these last hectic times. The dishes are all washed and even though the house needs a cleaning, I will be able to do it over the upcoming weekend, which will be the first one free since the beginning of February. Furthermore, the sun has been shining and I've learned to appreciate the fact! Spring is around the corner and I have the impression that the snow I've seen in Vilnius was the last of the season! Now, I feel like enjoying the company of good friends, resting a lot and charge the batteries for the months to come. And that's exactly what I'll do!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Benfica sent Liverpool crashing out!

Liverpool FC's reign as UEFA Champions League holders is over after SL Benfica added a brand new chapter to their European storybook as Simão's spectacular first-half strike and Fabrizio Miccoli's late volley earned the Portuguese champions a 2-0 win at Anfield and a 3-0 overall triumph.

International Women's Day II

International Women's Day

Women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, will come together today to celebrate what comes most natural to them: being a woman. While doing it, they can look back to a tradition that represents centuries of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies. It was established in 1910 in Copenhagen, in a meeting of the Socialist International, to honour the movement of women's rights and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women. This establishment followed the observation, the previous year, of a National Women's Day across the United States, in accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America.
As a result of the decision taken at Copenhagen the previous year, International Women's Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job. Less than a week later, on 25 March, the tragic Triangle Fire in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working girls, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This event had a significant impact on labour legislation in the United States, and the working conditions leading up to the disaster were invoked during subsequent observances of International Women's Day.
Despite that, statistics show that women are still earning 25 to 50 per cent less than men, while unemployment remains higher for women than men in most countries. Women are also more likely to be victims of poor safety standards at work, yet are least likely to file complaints or take time off.
As part of the peace movement brewing on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with their sisters.
With 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war, Russian women again chose the last Sunday in February to strike for "bread and peace". Political leaders opposed the timing of the strike, but the women went on anyway. The rest is history: four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. That historic Sunday fell on 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia, but on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere. Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women's movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women's conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point for coordinated efforts to demand women's rights and participation in the political and economic process.
International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


A piece of jewellery worn on the ear.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


I'm back in Brussels. And, as I thought, I'm back to the winter... When I arrived, on Friday morning, it was snowing and the rain and snow showers have remained since then... I have the feeling that they will stay for some more days...

On Friday I went almost directly to the office and I've spent the weekend there, as I had a meeting over the last two days. This means that I've been quite busy since I came back and it prevented me from posting more often. I feel tired and sleepy and I'm a bit worried that it won't change soon, as this week my agenda will also be full and stressing... and on Friday I will travel again to Madrid, as I will have another meeting over the weekend, in Toledo.

Well, it only means that I'm back to my real life... Brussels and its unpleasant weather, but also the exciting job I have and the amazing people I work with! Don't get me wrong: I love it! It's true that I miss Portugal and my previous life a lot; but it is also true that I wouldn't change my present life for any other else! Therefore, I'm happy! And when you're happy you can handle the tiredness and the bad weather and all the other obstacles which you face!

Life is beautiful!

Thursday, March 02, 2006


According to the advertisement in front of me, I'm in the boarding zone of the best airport in South America: Ministro Pistarini, aka Ezeiza, Buenos Aires, Argentina. And I'll stay here for at least three hours more... waiting for the Iberia flight which will bring me back to Europe... and to the winter...

I left Montevideo earlier today. The morning broke sunny and warm, making it even more difficult to leave. The taxi took the way along the beach as if it was tempting me to stay. I have to say that knowing that the sky in Brussels is cloudy with rain and snow and the temperature is as low as -3°C, doesn't help a lot... the mild 24°C of Montevideo, the sunny sky and the nice beach seem much more appealing. But I have to confess that for some strange reason I don't even dare trying to identify, I'm happy to go back! In about three hours, I will board the 12-hours flight to Madrid and, then, another one - much shorter! - to Brussels.

It's not the first time that I am at this airport. Ten years ago I came to Buenos Aires and fell in love with it. I was therefore very happy to come today, but I found out that I am confined to a small area in which there is a duty-free shop that I cannot use (because I don't have my boarding pass yet...) and one bar which only take Pesos, but not the Uruguayan ones I carry... Still, I will keep my passion for Buenos Aires.

The capital of Argentina, and its largest city and port, is one of the largest cities in Latin America and the world. Located on the southern shore of the Rio de la Plata, opposite Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay), the city has a population of 2,700,000, while the Greater Buenos Aires conurbation has more than 12.4 million inhabitants. The people of Buenos Aires are known as Porteños - acknowledging the major historical importance of the port in the development of the city and the whole nation - and consist primarily of people of Spanish and Italian descent, but there are also sizable communities of Arab, Jewish, Armenian, British, Irish and Asian origin, as well as many South-American immigrants, especially from Bolivia and Paraguay.

The importance of the port must have contributed to create this melting-pot, but it also contributed to other very special characteristics of Buenos Aires: the dialects spoken (including the Rioplatense Spanish), the Tango, and many other cultural pearls. Buenos Aires was home for Jorge Luis Borges and refuge for many Europeans like Julio Cortázar, René Goscinny or José Ortega y Gasset. And, then, you cannot write about Buenos Aires without using the word football... the biggest Argentinian passion, which reaches its top in the rivalry between Boca Juniors and River Plate, and becomes sacred when Diego Armando Maradona is mentioned.

This time I won't see them, but my passion for Buenos Aires will be kept, due to places and sites like the Casa Rosada, Teatro Colón, Florida, La Boca, La Recoleta, Plaza de Mayo, Puerto Madero, San Telmo, etc.