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Portugal buries ‘father of democracy’ Soares

Published on 10/01/2017

Portugal on Tuesday paid its final respects to Mario Soares, hailed as the father of the country's modern-day democracy, as the former Socialist president was buried in Lisbon.

Soares, who was due to be buried in the late afternoon after a ceremony in the capital, died Saturday aged 92.

“This is the man who gave us democracy and liberty,” said 57-year-old Maria Albergaria, one of thousands of Lisbon residents who came out to bid farewell to the statesman.

“This country will never again know a politician like him. He played a decisive role in our history and he is part of every Portuguese family, in a little way,” added Rosa Pereira, a 44-year-old medical assistant.

Soares’ body has been lying in state since Monday, draped in the Portuguese flag, at the Jeronimos Monastery — the symbolic site where, as prime minister, Soares signed the 1985 treaty that saw his country join the European Economic Community, forerunner of the European Union.

He is set to be buried at Lisbon’s Prazeres cemetery, the final resting place of many Portuguese luminaries, after a funeral procession taking his body past parliament and the headquarters of the Socialist party he founded.

His son Joao Soares said he had inherited his “optimism, moral fibre, courage, determination and audacity” from his father as he addressed a ceremony at the monastery attended by Spain’s King Felipe VI, Brazilian President Michel Temer and outgoing EU parliament chief Martin Schulz.

An anti-fascist activist who was prime minister twice before serving as president for a decade from 1986, Soares won Portugal’s first free elections after the 1974 Carnation Revolution, a military coup that ended 48 years of dictatorship and 13 years of colonial war.