South America- 1989 AD

Guarulhos metal

In the beginning of 1989 I engaged myself in recruiting new contributors to the International fund (Ifonden). This fund was administered by the AIC – International Labour Movement Centre. Later this Centre would be renamed after party leader Olof Palme who was gunned down in Stockholm in 1986.

I was so successful in recruiting new contributors to the fund that I was invited to accompany a delegation from the member organizations of the Centre, to visit projects in South America that were financed and supported by the fund. Fortunately for me this was a special time in South America as dictatorships were giving way to democratic governments. We would be there in the middle of it all, culminating as it were, with the presidential election that would replace Augusto Pinochet’s 16 years in power.

We departed on the 2nd December and our first stop would be São Paulo in Brazil. As most people know this huge city is heavily industrialized so it was natural that the trade Unions of Sweden helped their Brazilian counterparts and I remember visiting the Metal Union in Guarulhos.

There was a lot of excitement and sober optimism as the ex-metal worker Luiz Inácio (Lula) da Silva was a presidential candidate. The first round had been on the 15 th November and Lula would contest the second round on the 17 th December against conservative candidate Collor de Mello. De Mello did win but Lula would also become president of Brazil in 2003. Brazil was not ready then for a president that had always fought from the bottom of society starting to work at 12 as a shoeshiner, before getting employment in the São Paulo industry.

The AIC member organizations are connected with Swedish Labour movement. These include more than Trade Unions. On the South American trip Trade Unions were well represented. For the record here they are:  Tuve Bergman from the Commerce Workers Union (Handels), Stig Söderling from the Central Trade Union (LO), Ronny Olsson-Municipal Workers (Kommunal), Yngve Vikström-Construction Workers (Byggnads) and Birgitta Johansson from Transport Union.

The immense city of São Paulo, larger than many countries found me waking up on the very early hours of the morning to discover enormous traffic jams outside the hotel. That is also a memory I keep.

On the picture above we can see Edmilsson Nery and Chicão from Steel Workers Union in Guarulhos. On the background Gunnar Falk.

Prisoner 885/63

CIMG0279

I remember how excited we were when asked to host a comrade from the ANC in Sundsvall. It was in autumn of 1987. I had been involved in international work for the Social democratic party for some time. It was now just about one year since our Prime Minister Olof Palme had been murdered. What better way to honour his memory but to work politically and internationally.

It turned out that it was Indres Naidoo exiled ANC member that would come to stay with us in Sundsvall for a few weeks where he would participate and study different activities connected with our political life at the local and regional levels. Indres was a prisoner at the renown Robben Island  between the years of 1963 and 1973. There was a book published by Penguin in 1982 “Island in chains”. In it Indres describes to Albie Sachs what life was like when chained down by a rasist regime .

A flat was rented for him in Skönsberg and I followed him whenever I had the opportunity. Indres was here as part of a program of solidarity where Sweden stood firm when many other countries ignored the struggle against the system of apartheid.

This is how Indres described his sortie from Lusaka, Zambia where he was working at the time.” I got to Zambia and while I was there, I was appointed to go to Sweden. It was chaotic. Only two of us were on the plane instead of nine. There was chaos between ANC and the Swedish embassy in Lusaka. The two of us landed in Stockholm and a week later the others joined us. The Social Democratic Party was having a congress in Stockholm and Prime Minister Carlsson invited us to have lunch with him, all of us. But, unfortunately, because only two of us had arrived they had to cancel that. However, there was a big welcome for us. We also went to attend the Social Democratic Party congress. I looked around and the first thing that struck me was all the red banners and the letters SAP. I started to laugh and said: ‘Oh God, SAP—South African Police— everywhere’. But I realized that SAP was short for the Swedish Social Democratic Party.”

Indres and I in 1987.

indres

O 25 de abril de1974

cravo

Todos guardamos memórias daquelas em que se pergunta: O que estavas a fazer quando aconteceu tal e tal?

Essas memórias costumam ser negativas, associadas a alguma calamidade ou a algum atentado que nos marcou por tambem nos afetar direta ou indiretamente. O primeiro evento de que me recordo foi no dia 22 de novembro de 1963. Tinha 11 anos e vivia na Politécnica em Lisboa. Recordo-me dessa noticia e exactamente onde estava, que era no apartamento na Eng. Miguel Pais. Senti a apreensão e preocupação dos adultos à minha volta.Havia uma insegurança em fazer grandes alaridos pois o assassinato do presidente Kennedy era do foro das politicas.

Do mesmo tipo foi o assassinato a Olof Palme, primeiro ministro em exercicio, no dia 28 de fevereiro de 1986. Vivia já na Suécia e foi um amigo chileno que me acordou ao telefone na manhã seguinte para informar do sucedido. Pensei que fosse uma brincadeira de mau gosto, mas nesse mesmo dia organizaram-se e participámos numa manifestação de solidariedade e pesar no centro de Sundsvall.

No dia 11 de setembro de 2003 estava com a Mona em Oslo para ver a seleção nacional de futebol jogar um amigável com a Noruega. Por telemóvel chegou-nos a noticia que a nossa ministra de Negócios Estrangeiros Anna Lindh havia sido vitimada em atentado com faca numa loja de Estocolmo. Ficámos apreensivos e só no dia seguinte depois de muitas notícias contraditórias ficámos a saber que Anna não tinha podido sobreviver aos ataques  do dia anterior.

A informação que recebi dos ataques ao World Trade Centre de Nova Iorque no dia 11 de setembro de 2001 foram dados numa reunião de pais duma nova classe na escola de Katrinelund onde trabalhava na altura. Recordo-me de ter comentado se não teria sido um filme ou piada de mau gosto o que me estavam a contar.

Estas noticias, todas de cariz negativo e calamitoso só podem ser acompanhadas de uma noticia positiva. Foi de manhã no dia 25 de abril de 1974 que a minha sogra informou que estavam a correr algumas noticias sobre acontecimentos em Lisboa. Terei encolhido os ombros e recordo-me ter pensado que não devia ter sido nada de mais. Mas foi ,e terei ocasião em futuros textos de repartir convosco como os eventos foram seguidos por uma pessoa, das muitas, que não estando lá, muito gostariam de ter estado. Nascia um novo Portugal!

Highly confidential police matters!

passport

To me it was all pretty straight forward. We had got married; I had my job at the Sheraton and in order to keep it, I needed to show them a permit. If memory does not fail me we went to the police station that same day, the 17th November 1972. There we were told that it was necessary to present ourselves for an interview. Swedish authorities were instructed to make sure that no marriages of convenience with the purpose of staying in the country were accepted. I learnt later that Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme had in 1949 married to help a Czechoslovakian girl escape dictatorship in her country. It wasn’t our case, but still…

We were summoned for an interview on upcoming Tuesday the 21th November. We were asked separately a number of questions, some of more intimate character. When did we meet, how, where and had we slept with each other.

My interview was held in English and I wasn’t a bit nervous, but instead rather amused at the whole procedure. For Mona it was different. She was rather upset that her country acted suspiciously and I think she took it rather personally. Eventually the whole thing was over, we were reunited and they chatted something that I didn’t understand. Suddenly I found us out in the street, facing the cold and dark Stockholm afternoon. I was not only curious but decided to claim my right. Where was the stamp I needed? We went back in again and after some more talk I was given a stamp on my passport. It’s validity was for four days when the decision was supposed to come from the authority in charge! That did me fine! I had my stamp, so I was happy! I had also for the first time encountered Swedish bureaucracy.