Tarrafal was a prison camp in Cabo Verde, then a Portuguese overseas territory, set up after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936), where the fiercest enemies of Estado Novo regime were sent. Such a decision was an emergency measure in conditions of bloody wave of violence overflowing Iberian peninsula. Salazar answering the question about his regime’s cruel treating its opponents, noticed that all of these men were “always or almost always terrorists and extremists, ones who constructed bombs or hid fire-arms”. “Whether, asked he, saving lives of helpless people is not worth rude treating of a dozen of rotten criminals?”
There was Decree-Law №26:539, April 23, 1936, which emerged in context of reorganization of penitentiary system and gave birth to “penal colony” constructed for keeping persons sentenced to “special penalties”, as read Decree-Law №26:643, May 28, 1936, on reorganization of prisons. Paragraphs 1 and 2 of article 2 of Decree-Law №26:539 say the colony serves for receiving political and social prisoners sentenced to exile and not fit for being jailed in other prisons being injurious for other prisoners. Besides, the list includes persons condemned to long terms of imprisonment for crimes committed for political goals and those imprisoned for crime of rebellion.
On October 29, 1936 the first prisoners arrived in Tarrafal camp. During 18 years of the first period of the camp’s functioning, a total of 340 political prisoners went through it, 32 of them died there. There were mutineers from army and navy, as well as members of the “international brigades” fighting in Spanish civil war, communists, anarchists, terrorists and other extremists.
The camp guards consisted of 25 members of the Portuguese Secret police PVDE (starting from 1945 – PIDE) as well as a battallion of over 75 Angolan Auxiliary guards and few Cabo Verdiem.
The camp was closed in 1954. But was re-opened in the 1960s to jail terrorists from Portuguese Africa – 236 terrorists went through it till Apr. 25, 1974.
Let us sum up: during almost 30 years of camp’s existing, there were 576 persons (340 during 1936-54 period plus 236 more during 60-70s) jailed in it in total. 32 prisoners died there. How many people were kept and killed in Stalin’s communistic camps – just because they were of “wrong” “social origin”, because they were laborious peasants and businessmen, former officers and civil officials of old Russian regime, clergymen, monks, or just educated persons, or because they just believed in God? Hundreds of thousands. And “fascist regime” of old Portugal is called fascist because there were several hundreds of criminals – extremists (just alike their brothers-in-mind from Spain where in 1930s they killed clergymen, monks and simple believers and profanated tombs and corpses) and later, communistic and tribalistic fanatic terrorists – in Tarrafal and a couple dozens of them died there. “Fascist regime” without death penalty, with exile (pena de desterro) as the capital punishment. “Fascist regime” with a “concentration camp” with 576 prisoners in it during 30 years of its existance. How then should be called Soviet regime, with its death penalty, Gulag and hundreds of thousands of its victims, – superfascist? ultrafascist? hyperfascist?
Nevertheless, in spite of these circumstances, scary-tales about exceptional sadism and cruelty of methods with which regime’s enemy were treated in Salazar’s Portugal, are being told till now.
“Tarrafal – never more”, says slogan at the demonstration of leftists, who usually hysterically equalize Tarrafal with… Dachau!