Portugal in paedophile 'hell'

Lisbon - One year into a paedophilia scandal which has shocked Portugal, the country is sinking ever deeper into what is seen as a far-reaching national identity crisis.

The implication of top political and social personalities in a huge paedophile network with the apparent complicity of the authorities has shaken the very foundations of Portuguese democracy.

Doubts are now being cast even on the impartiality of judges handling the case.

The credibility of decision-makers is being undermined just as they face the challenge of a deepening economic recession.

The discovery of a paedophile network in the Casa Pia care homes for children is regarded as Portugal's most-serious crisis in almost 30 years of democracy.

Former Casa Pia employee Carlos Silvino is believed to have procured boys for wealthy and influential paedophiles for two decades.

More than 100 children may have been raped or pressured into sexual activities with adults.

Charges have been formally raised against 10 suspects including former labour minister Paulo Pedroso, a Socialist whizz kid and close friend of party leader Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues.

Other suspects include two television personalities, one of the country's most prominent ambassadors, a high-society doctor and a well-known lawyer.

Orgies at a villa

Pedroso was released after being detained for four months.

He has resigned from most of his political posts to prepare his defence against what all of the accused describe as unfounded slander.

Portugal has been stunned by increasing evidence that members of the country's elite abused children staying at one of its oldest, most respected public institutions.

The paedophiles targeted the most defenceless children, such as orphans and deaf-and-dumb young boys.

Many of the orgies apparently took place at ambassador Jorge Ritto's villa near Lisbon.

Reports of the abuse surfaced in the 1980s, but investigations were dropped and documents disappeared in what appears to have been an orchestrated cover-up.

Former secretary of state for families, Teresa Costa Macedo, said she received death threats after telling police.

'Struck into the heart of our democracy'

In the most-recent development, investigating magistrates are suspected of leaking to the press anonymous letters seeking to implicate President Jorge Sampaio and European Commissioner Antonio Vitorino, who are both Socialists.

The public prosecutor's office said neither politician had links with the case.

"The scandal struck into the heart of our democracy," the daily Publico wrote, while columnist Edgar Correia called Portugal "a sick country".

If the paedophilia suspicions are confirmed, the self-esteem of a nation known for its melancholia - "saudade" in Portuguese - will sink to an all-time low, said Publico. - Sapa-DPA

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
The EFF has voted with the DA to ensure they now govern Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. Was this:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
A brilliant strategic move by the DA not to make formal coalition agreements
24% - 1670 votes
A brilliant strategic move by the EFF to force the DA to negotiate with them
16% - 1116 votes
A recipe for disaster and five more years of unstable local government
59% - 4076 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.