Spínola, Antônio de

(1910-1996)
   Senior army general, hero of Portugal's wars of African insurgency, and first president of the provisional government after the Revolution of 25 April 1974. A career army officer who became involved in politics after a long career of war service and administration overseas, Spinola had a role in the 1974 coup and revolution that was somewhat analogous to that of General Gomes da Costa in the 1926 coup.
   Spinola served in important posts as a volunteer in Portugal's intervention in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), a military observer on the Russian front with the Third Reich's armed forces in World War II, and a top officer in the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR). His chief significance in contemporary affairs, however, came following his military assignments and tours of duty in Portugal's colonial wars in Africa after 1961.
   Spinola fought first in Angola and later in Guinea- Bissau, where, during 1968-73, he was both commanding general of Portugal's forces and high commissioner (administrator of the territory). His Guinean service tour was significant for at least two reasons: Spinola's dynamic influence upon a circle of younger career officers on his staff in Guinea, men who later joined together in the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), and Spinola's experience of failure in winning the Guinea war militarily or finding a political means for compromise or negotiation with the Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), the African insurgent movement that had fought a war with Portugal since 1963, largely in the forested tropical interior of the territory. Spinola became discouraged after failure to win permission to negotiate secretly for a political solution to the war with the PAIGC and was reprimanded by Prime Minister Marcello Caetano.
   After his return—not in triumph—from Guinea in 1973, Spinola was appointed chief of staff of the armed forces, but he resigned in a dispute with the government. With the assistance of younger officers who also had African experience of costly but seemingly endless war, Spinola wrote a book, Portugal and the Future, which was published in February 1974, despite official censorship and red tape. Next to the Bible and editions of Luís de Camoes's The Lusi-ads, Spinola's controversial book was briefly the best-selling work in Portugal's modern age. While not intimately involved with the budding conspiracy among career army majors, captains, and others, Spinola was prepared to head such a movement, and the planners depended on his famous name and position as senior army officer with the right credentials to win over both military and civil opinion when and where it counted.
   When the Revolution of 25 April 1974 succeeded, Spinola was named head of the Junta of National Salvation and eventually provisional president of Portugal. Among the military revolutionaries, though, there was wide disagreement about the precise goals of the revolution and how to achieve them. Spinola's path-breaking book had subtly proposed three new goals: the democratization of authoritarian Portugal, a political solution to the African colonial wars, and liberalization of the economic system. The MFA immediately proclaimed, not coincidentally, the same goals, but without specifying the means to attain them.
   The officers who ran the newly emerging system fell out with Spinola over many issues, but especially over how to decolonize Portugal's besieged empire. Spinola proposed a gradualist policy that featured a free referendum by all colonial voters to decide between a loose federation with Portugal or complete independence. MFA leaders wanted more or less immediate decolonization, a transfer of power to leading African movements, and a pullout of Portugal's nearly 200,000 troops in three colonies. After a series of crises and arguments, Spinola resigned as president in September 1974. He conspired for a conservative coup to oust the leftists in power, but the effort failed in March 1975, and Spinola was forced to flee to Spain and then to Brazil. Some years later, he returned to Portugal, lived in quiet retirement, and could be seen enjoying horseback riding. In the early 1980s, he was promoted to the rank of marshal, in retirement.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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