Controversy in Portugal: Costa gets involved in Benfica's elections

The prime minister stands out within the so-called "honor commission" of the candidacy, which shows the public figures who support a candidate.


The Prime Minister of Portugal, the socialist António Costa, has opened a strong controversy in the country by accepting to be part of the list of supporters for the new candidacy for the presidency of Luís Filipe Vieira's Benfica, involved in several legal cases.

The name of the prime minister is the most prominent in the so-called "commission of honor" of the pre-candidacy, a list that simply seeks to show the public figures that support a candidate, in this case Vieira, and which is made up of 500 personalities.

Among them the mayor of Lisbon, the also socialist Fernando Medina, and also deputies of the conservative parties PSD and CDS, in addition to the president of the Portuguese Business Confederation, António Saraiva.

Costa supports Vieira, who directs the club incarnate since 2003 and finalizes his candidacy for October, not yet officially presented, "not as prime minister or general secretary of the Socialist Party, but as a fan and partner of Benfica since 1988", defends his cabinet , who recalls that he already supported him in previous elections.

It was in 2012, when Costa was mayor of Lisbon, and in 2016, when he was already leading the Government, but then Vieira was not yet being investigated by the Justice, critics point to this support.

Vieira is formally accused in the process of the so-called Operation Lex, in which it is investigated whether a judge favored him by influencing him in a fiscal process with the promise of receiving a position in the Benfica Foundation in exchange.

In addition, at the end of last year it was learned that he appears in the files investigating the fall of Banco Espírito Santo (BES) as suspected of having benefited from a fraudulent scheme of the entity.

"Knowing today that the prime minister sees it as normal to be part of a commission of honor of someone who is one of the biggest debtors to Novo Banco and who is involved in the BES problem does not look good", said the coordinator of the Marxist Bloco from Esquerda, Catarina Martins.

The leader of the PSD, at the head of the opposition, has also attacked him saying that Costa's support "does not make sense."

"The mix between politics and professional football always seemed wrong to me. In the past I fought that and I walked away. Today there are even judicial order problems involved in this," he pointed out.

The animal party PAN, historical socialists, the Civic Association Integridad y Transparencia and another of the candidates for the presidency of Benfica, João Noronha Lopes, have also criticized Costa, who refuses to comment on his position because he understands it private.

"I am not going to make any comment on an issue that has nothing to do with political life or the functions that I carry out or performed," he told journalists.

Asked about the torrent of criticism received by the other politicians, the prime minister replied that "freedom of expression is, fortunately, something that exists in Portugal" .

More indignant has been Vieira, who considers that the comments are "going beyond all limits" and is the victim of a "shameful campaign" .

"I never saw, and I have been here for many years, such an offensive and slanderous campaign," he commented.

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