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Fascist lackeys? Dealing with the police's past during Portugal's transition to democracy (19741980)

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When a dictatorship is overthrown and a transition to democracy begins, the police force's place in the new regime becomes a contested issue. Can they be trusted? Are they to be held responsible for having enforced the dictatorship's rules? The April 1974 Carnation Revolution put an end to Europe's longest right-wing dictatorship. The Armed Forces Movement, in order to consolidate its power after the revolution, dismantled the political police (PIDE) and imprisoned its officers. Other police forces were ordered to remain in their headquarters and wait for democratic reorganisation. During the two revolutionary years that followed, the provisional governments could not count on the police and did not exercise effective authority: workers occupied factories, shanty town dwellers occupied empty houses and angry mobs destroyed the headquarters of political parties. How could the new authorities deal with the people's disruptive mobilisations if repression was the mark that stigmatised the overthrown fascist dictatorship? The post-revolutionary governments had to devise a new interpretation of the police's repressive practices, learning to distinguish which were a mark of fascism, and which could simply be understood as the exercise of ordinary public order duties.
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Keywords: military; police; regime change; revolution; social upheaval; transition to democracy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: UCM.

Publication date: 2008-05-17

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