Early life and education
Afonso Salazar was born in 1949, the son of Portuguese prime minister António de Oliveira Salazar and homemaker Fernanda de Jesus. Pious and obedient, the boy had a religiousness and adoration for God that surprised even his own family. He begged to receive his first Holy Communion at the age of 6 (most received it at 7 or older), and never wanted any toys. When the other children played, the young Afonso Salazar would sit by a tree and immerse himself in prayers or the Bible. He had many arguments with his teacher during science class, because he insisted that evolution was false and that the Earth was in the center of the universe.
In 1963, Salazar quit school at the age of 14. He believed that secular knowledge was useless for someone like him, who wanted to devote his life to serving the Church and community. Salazar got his wish, when he was hired by his Catholic parish priest to teach Sunday school classes. Although he was a layman with no clerical or teaching qualifications, Afonso Salazar was perfect for the job because he knew the Scriptures like the back of his hand, and had a genuine passion to help Portuguese youths discover the Christian faith. In fact, some of his former disciples would later hold positions in Salazar's government.
Shortly after Afonso Salazar's 19th birthday in 1968, his father suffered a massive stroke. Although he partially recovered, António Salazar knew his days were numbered. In his testament written before death, he expressed his wish for his son to succeed him as Prime Minister. When António Salazar passed away in July 1970, Afonso was informed of his father's dying wish. With a heavy heart, Afonso Salazar left his church job and took up his new position of Prime Minister of Portugal, reluctantly at first.
A month of national mourning was declared for António Salazar. The state television broadcaster suspended all regular programming, replacing it with a monochrome eulogy of the late Prime Minister's life and achievements. An all-black dress code was imposed, and citizens were ordered not to do anything joyful in public like singing, dancing or games. Christmas festivities were prohibited (except for Mass) out of respect for the mourning period, and the 1970/71 soccer season was canceled before it started.
Consolidation of power
When his father passed away, Afonso Salazar was thrust into the helm of a troubled nation. Although the economy and living conditions were better than ever, revolutionary sentiments and bloody conflicts were brewing in Portugal's colonies. In addition, António Salazar's death left a power vacuum in the nation's leadership, and the government was on the brink of crumbling.
With the arrival of a new Prime Minister, people in Portugal hoped to see increased freedoms and a transition to democracy. But their hopes were dashed as Salazar doubled down on the authoritarian policies of his father. He outlawed all political parties except for his own National Catholic Party, and proclaimed himself the "Civil Director" (Diretor Civil) of Portugal—a title invented by himself to rival the likes of Germany's Führer, Italy's Duce and Spain's Caudillo. Gone was the Portuguese Republic, and in its place was the Holy Catholic Portuguese State.
After rising to power
What limited freedoms the people had under António Salazar, all but vanished during his son's leadership. In particular, Afonso Salazar was highly critical of his father's secularist approach to religion, and believed that the Church should hold a much greater influence in law and public life than it did at the time. To that end, he re-established Roman Catholicism as the state religion of Portugal, made religious education compulsory in schools, and banned the teaching of subjects which he thought were blasphemous, such as evolution and astronomy. He also established the Corpo d'Inquisidores, an all-pervasive and incredibly brutal secret police force that rounded up suspected heretics and political dissidents.
To increase Portugal's autonomy, Salazar withdrew the nation from NATO and expelled all stationed foreign forces. He also shut down all foreign embassies within Portugal, except those of Switzerland and Vatican City. When the global Internet was beginning to take shape in the 1990's, Salazar immediately rejected it and ordered a domestic equivalent, LusoNet, to be developed.
In 2001, Salazar passed a controversial new legislation called the "Citizen Safety Law". It imposed many restrictions on citizens' personal lives, and gave broad powers to law enforcement. In 2016, the Citizen Safety Law was updated to counter what Salazar saw as a threat from Islam and the migrant crisis. It now permits police to racially profile individuals, especially those of "non-European appearance", a policy that has been widely slammed as racist.
Detractors of Salazar have accused him of being a "kleptocrat", "robber baron" or "Mafia boss" for his alleged support of corruption, cronyism and intimidation. He has also been likened to fascist dictators for his support of theocracy and staunch anti-liberalism. But there is no denying that with Afonso Salazar at the wheel, Portugal has transformed into one of the wealthiest and safest nations in Europe.
Ideology and views
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