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Two trains colliding head-on. André Ventura and Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos faced each other this Wednesday and, beyond all the screams, insults, accusations and insinuations, they disputed, centimeter by centimeter, the most conservative electorate.
André Ventura entered the debate willing to give the final blow to his dying opponent. “The CDS fall starts when the CDS forgets who it is. We don’t want to be the right sissy who is afraid to touch several points”, shot the leader of Chega. Wedged between a liberal party and an ultraconservative party, Ventura knew he had to prove the futility of a vote on the CDS to inflate his own vote.
Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos, in turn, knew something else: just by proving that Chega is an inconsequential right, devoid of ideology, incoherent and attempt democratic, conservative and Christian values, could prevent the traditional CDS electorate from looking at Chega as a worthy alternative.
And that’s what he did. Recovering the tone he used against Inês Sousa Real and João Cotrim Figueiredo, using the very same weapons that the opponent usually uses, Rodrigues dos Santos threw himself at Ventura’s jugular. “André Ventura is not on my right. Today I come to mark the space for the integrity of a Christian Democrat right. André Ventura presides over an interjection. It is a wind vane of the political system that allows it to make more noise. And the cartoon from the right that matters to the left. Any vote by Chega makes any solution for us to have a right-wing majority unfeasible.”
In a long intervention, from argument to argument, using photographs of Ventura alongside Bernardino Soares or Luís Filipe Vieira, Rodrigues dos Santos questioned his opponent’s true commitment to fighting the left, Ventura’s complacency with the crimes of which Vieira is suspected , the calls made by the president of Chega ao Vox – who even suggested the annexation of Portugal by Spain – and the persecution of minorities as a way of doing politics.
“We are the patriotic right. You are the leader of ‘Farewell, Fatherland and Family’. We are the right that does not accept ethical segregation, that is not racist, which does not accept the death penalty. I am the leader of the right of all Portuguese people”, strafed Rodrigues dos Santos.
In his response, Ventura insisted on attacking the alleged ideological ambiguity of Rodrigues dos Santos’ party, reaffirming Chega’s hard line. “It is a CDS that is neither meat nor fish, it is the same as the PS and the PSD. Humanist, nothing, they don’t want justice. We think that whoever violates and whoever kills deserves punishment and not hot towels like the CDS. There is no longer any right. The CDS is the cane rejected do PSD.”
Naturally, the dispute over who actually represents and interprets the Church’s values ended up dominating a part of a heated debate from start to finish. Beyond the personal provocation – “Ventura says that the Little Shepherd of Fátima and has no notion of the ridiculous” –, Rodrigues dos Santos recalled Ventura’s past positions on the need to welcome refugees (doctoral thesis published in 2013) and Ventura’s political positions as leader of Chega to accuse the opponent of renouncing Catholic values.
“Meta-os [aos refugiados] in your home. Catholicism lessons are taught at home, I keep them and throw them away”, suggested Ventura, at the same time he shot at Freitas do Amaral, Paulo Portas and corruption. “They are on the right more sissy that exists in Europe”, he kept repeating.
In a debate that at a certain point became more personal than political, Rodrigues dos Santos insisted on denouncing Ventura’s plasticity and Chega’s lack of substance. “The king of swagger is André Ventura. It is a one-person party. You are a fanatic. In the Azores, they treat you like a unimputable, nor hand in your party has. If you have a squadron of cavalry parading in your head, you don’t come across a single idea.”
Ventura, more used to shouting than hearing shouts, to interrupt and not be interrupted, kept repeating arguments, accusing Rodrigues dos Santos of having been “begging for coalitions with the PSD” and of having postponed the congress for “afraid to go to votes”.
“I do not accept lessons from you on internal democracy. In three years, it went three times to votes. I don’t do the scenes you do at congresses. He looks like the leader of a religious sect. Listen: in the legislatures, will not get ahead of the CDS”, continued to machine-gun Rodrigues dos Santos.
There would be more time to discuss ideas for the country – and CNN Portugal extended the debate time – and more time the two debaters would spend exchanging insults and accusations. While Ventura accused the CDS leader of being alone, Rodrigues dos Santos said goodbye:
“I’d rather walk alone than walk with a bad company. I don’t stand with Salvini, who doesn’t celebrate Liberation Day, and Le Pen, who denies the Holocaust. You are the leader of all those around the world who commit atrocities against the dignity of the human person.”
Andre Ventura (AV): Self-responsibility makes the separation from right to left. A true right, which is not afraid to say that it is right, is not afraid to say that there are a number of people and institutions living on our taxes and we should have the courage to do so. Today we are here with a party – by the way, for which I have immense respect – with a difference in positions, compared to the polls, which is significant because the CDS is no longer that right, because the CDS has forgotten to be that right. Is this the rainbow treadmill CDS or something it looked like; when Chega took the fight to gender ideology — and I saw Francisco talking about it so many times — and [propôs] the Citizenship discipline as optional, the CDS did not vote in favor. But today that I have the opportunity to be with the leader of the CDS I have to say this: I think that the fall of the CDS starts when the CDS forgets who it is.
João Póvoa Marinheiro: Let me back off. About who is “living at the expense of others”, who are you referring to, social support?
OF: Some social support. These are to keep, not to keep those who have an alternative.
João Póvoa Marinheiro: And how do you intend to carry out this inspection?
OF: Very simple. It is to inspect, inspect and inspect, with discretion. It’s doing what the CDS didn’t do. For example, preventing people with manifestations of fortune from having subsidies. This was an obvious thing that the CDS always said it did and didn’t do. I was a candidate for Loures by the PSD and the CDS broke up the coalition because I said that the gypsy community mostly lived on subsidies. The vast majority of the electorate asks if this is the right. Some call her fluffy right. It’s not that right we want to be, we don’t want to be that sissy right, who’s afraid to touch every point, who’s afraid to say things. (…) It is important that the CDS is not afraid of words and that if there is a part of the gypsy community that lives like this, the CDS should not be afraid to say it and it was afraid, so much so that it cut support for my candidacy. It’s the first time I’ve been with the leader of the CDS face to face and I think this shows the fear, the unclear and assertive way in which the CDS has made the right, a right subjugated to the PSD, the PS many times and it’s not the right that people wanted from the CDS.
João Póvoa Marinheiro: Comparing the two programs we find common points, the supervision of social support, the liberation of a paternalistic state kidnapped by the left, the commitment of health care to the private and social sector, the fight against what both consider to be gender ideology in education , the free investigation of the history of Portugal, the defense of the rural world, including hunting, bullfighting as relevant activities, the fight against corruption, the strengthening of the security forces and the armed forces and the reversal of the extinction of the SEF. Is what unites you more than what separates you?
Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos (FRS): I want to say something eye to eye with André Ventura: he is not at all on my right and it is important that this is clear.
FRS: And I’ll explain why: because today I come to mark a space for the integrity of a Christian-democracy right that is based on the values of the Church’s social doctrine and that is the party that I preside over, André Ventura presides over an interjection, he wants everything and its opposite; is Chega, who can defend both extreme left and extreme right positions. I want to remind you that André Ventura, one in three proposals from the extreme left presented in Parliament, André Ventura voted in favour. André Ventura is a weathervane of our political system…
OF: In favor of the people.
FRS: … which is always on the side that allows it to make the most noise, which is the thesis of shouting, scandal and exploitation of protest.
OF: Already you are always silent…
FRS: … completely incoherently. André Ventura is the caricature of the right that interests the left and a vote for André Ventura is a vote that makes any solution impossible for us to have a new right-wing majority in Parlamtento. I don’t accept lessons from your party about what it’s like to be right-wing. André Ventura was still from the PSD, for those who are anti-system he was from the PSD, see his consistency, and he was in Loures on the 25th of April alongside the communists, while the CDS defended the dignity of our security forces.