Death of João Semedo, former co-leader of Bloco de Esquerda (Portugal)

He has been a communist militant against fascist dictatorship, he defended the renovation of PCP and he found in Left Bloc the space for intervention able to change Portuguese politics. " I had the life I have chosen, the life I wanted to live, nothing to regret on things that really matter", said João Semedo

He has been a communist militant against fascist dictatorship, he defended the renovation of PCP and he found in Left Bloc the space for intervention able to change Portuguese politics.

" I had the life I have chosen, the life I wanted to live, nothing to regret on things that really matter", said João Semedo in his last great interview.

 An active student on social and political fields, namely against Vietnam war, he joined the ranks of PCP in 1972, in the Communist Students Union, becoming later a member of its Central Committee, participating in agit-prop actions and in the support to clandestine cadres of the party.

He was elected to the board of his Students Association and has been arrested in 1973 when distributing flyers demanding free elections. He spent two weeks in the prison of Caxias, refusing to sign a document, drafted by the political police PIDE, confessing his subversive activities and committing to abandon them.

 After the 25th of April 1974 revolution, he participated in the creation and promotion of ALFA Movement for adult literacy and became a professional staff member of PCP. He moved from Lisbon to Porto in 1978, where he was in charge of organizing the intellectual sector of the party, of health policies and of relations with the press, and later responsible for the city’s party organization.

He resigned his post as professional staff of the party in 1991, as well as of member of Central Committee, the day after a meeting where he voted against the expulsion of several members, defending that political differences should be addressed politically and not using administrative sanctions.

 In the decade of 1990 he goes back to his medical professional activity, collaborates with a shelter center for drug addicts, in permanent medical care services, and completes a post-graduation in drug addictions in the University of Porto.

Appointed as director of Joaquim Urbano Hospital, in Porto, from 2000 to 2006 he led the process of reorganization of this hospital specialized in the treatment of respiratory and infectious diseases, innovating in the field of HIV, AIDS and hepatitis. Later, he considered these years as the period when he felt greater professional satisfaction.

 Beyond his activities in politics and medicine, João Semedo lifetime in Porto was also dedicated to cultural intervention in Árvore, an artistic cooperative, to the board of FITEI – International Festival of Iberian Expression Theatre, to the Popular University and to the creation of the North branch of medical doctors trade union.

 In the end of the 90’s, he returns to a more active militant participation in preparing the PCP congress, then chaired by Carlos Carvalhas. He supports attempts of renovation of the party. This line being defeated in the XVI Congress, many cadres left the party, including João Semedo.

 In 2003, together with other former leading personalities of PCP, he creates the Movement for Communist Renovation, with the aim of continuing the debates e reflection started years before inside the party.

Next year, he accepts the invitation of Miguel Portas to integrate, as independent, the list of Bloco for the European Parliament elections.

More and more close to Bloco de Esquerda, João Semedo is again candidate in the legislative elections for the Bloco in Porto and he becomes an MP, replacing João Teixeira Lopes in March of 2006.

He finnally joined Bloco as a member in 2007. He led the party’s candidatures for municipal elections in Gondomar (2005, still as independent), in Gaia (2009) and in Lisbon (2013).

 He has been a MP for Bloco along three legislatures, leaving the parliament in 2015 due to health problems. During his nine years of parliamentary activity, coordinating Bloco’s health policy, namely as vice-president of the Standing Committee for Health, he was very active and presented several key proposals, some of them being today important Portuguese laws in this field. He was also active in the Committee of Inquiry on the bankruptcy of BPN, which he labeled as "the crime of the century", fiercely confronting corrupt bankers who were also former members of government and leaders of the main right wing party.

 In 2012, Bloco de Esquerda experienced its first moment of transition in its leadership, with the replacement of

Francisco Louçã as coordinator of the party. The solution adopted by the National Convention was the implementation of a leadership in parity, something never seen in Portuguese parties, with João Semedo and Catarina Martins sharing the coordination. This solution lasted until the following Convention, in 2014.

 The year of 2015 would bring the best ever electoral result for Bloco in legislative elections, allowing the formation of the present parliamentary majority supporting the government, able to block the right wing policies impoverishing working people and the country as a whole.

For João this was also a year of fight against the cancer disease. His vocal chords having to be removed, he did not loose his passion for political intervention, relearnt how to speak without vocal chords, and kept an active role in society.

 He was presented as head of list of Bloco in the 2017 local elections in Porto, but the sudden aggravation of his health conditions obliged him to resign.

 Anyway, his fight went on. In 2018, he assumed a leading role in the combat for the right to die with dignity, in line with many of his former concerns as a legislator. After a successful popular petition he started, and a powerful and plural campaign bringing side-by-side personalities of many parties, the project of law on euthanasia was voted in Parliament, but rejected by a low margin. "Now is just a question of time, it will be approved during the next legislature", João said in an interview.

 His last campaign was for a new law for the National Health Service, one of the main conquests of our democracy, now under stress and erosion by private sector interests. João Semedo has just published a book, together with António Arnaut, a former Minister for Social Affairs (including health) in 1978, and honorary president of the Socialist party, praised by everyone for being the father of Portuguese NHS. In this book they present a concrete proposal for the new law. The authors just died. Arnaut died last May, Semedo died in July. But their legacy may live on, because their project of law was brought to parliament by Bloco MPs and is now under parliamentary debate. It will be one of the most important legislative decisions of next parliamentary year.


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