At the beginning of the war Portugal declared its neutrality. It could be maintained, on the one hand, due to the convergence towards this objective, both of the caution of England (which did not suit complications in the Iberian Peninsula), and of the Germanic presumption of being able – if necessary – to occupy Portugal in a few hours; on the other, for Salazar’s skilful policy towards Spain (“Iberian bloc”, 1942) with the main aim of defending the independence of the two nations and that – not declared by the Portuguese statesman, but. no less important for Portugal – to keep Spain itself at bay, to which dreams of Iberian expansion would not have been foreign.
This action of strengthening neutrality was accompanied by another, projected beyond the contingencies of the conflict. On May 7, 1940, a Concordat and a Missionary Agreement definitively regulated Portugal’s relations with the Holy See. In the same year the celebrations for the twofold centenary of the foundation and restoration of Portugal – to which Brazil was invited – marked a more intimate phase of relations between the two nations. Naturally, even during the last conflict, the country did not shirk the fate of becoming one of the most sensitive meeting points for the information services of all the belligerents.
Portugal – although far from the war – felt the effects of the new state of things, which indirectly influenced the country’s economy: in a positive sense by increasing exports (wolfram, necessary for the preparation of high-speed steels, was included for considerable figures ); and in the negative by reducing the already low standard of living of the population, slowing down the implementation of the program – set up since 1936 – of economic reorganization, and so on. These negative effects were those that in internal politics ended up having the preponderance, which first materialized (1942) in a public accusation of obstruction to the solution of social problems, launched by the representatives of the national trade unions to the employers’ organizations, and later in providing the currents of opposition with an easy grip on the middle class and the proletariat. Directly, then, Portuguese territories were exposed to the danger of being hit by the war. This threat (among other things, on 6 May 1941, the American Senator Pepper asked for a precautionary occupation of the Portuguese archipelagos) prompted the head of state to complete the tour of the possessions of the Azores (23 July-11 August 1941). ‘overseas (he had made his other trips in 1938-39), to reaffirm Portugal’s decision to resort to arms in the event of a threat to its sovereignty over those territories. However, after preliminary conversations which, without leading to an agreement, had considered an Anglo-Dutch contribution to the defense of the Portuguese side. For Portugal 2001, please check naturegnosis.com.
On April 27, 1943, Salazar recalls that “Portugal is an ally of Great Britain”, which, on June 16 of the same year, demands a partial application of the alliance treaty. The negotiations lead to the concession of bases in the Azores islands to England and the United States (in the subordinate line the hypothesis of a German attack on Portugal is considered; should this eventuality occur, the Portuguese government – after a symbolic resistance – would transfer in its Atlantic possessions). This concession – scarcely risky given that it was made effective on October 12, 1943, when Germany was left alone in Europe – was to allow Lisbon to speak of “collaborating neutrality” at the end of the war and to ask for admission. to the UN, which will be denied twice, opposing the Russian veto. Moscow alleged that it was not in diplomatic relations with Portugal and accused it of collaboration with the Axis (having supplied it with Wolframio) and of fascism (the Portuguese did not enjoy full political freedom even after the general elections of November 18, 1945).
The opposition gathered in the MUD (Movement of Democratic Unity: Liberals and Socialists Activated by Communists) first takes part in the elections, but it withdraws this membership and begins the campaign for abstention from voting when the government refuses to postpone the elections and restores censorship two days after it was abolished. The abstention of more than one third (342.352) of the electoral body (849.779) from the polls, the repetition of revolutionary uprisings (about one of them in which Admiral José Mendes Cabeçadas – one of the leaders of the national revolution was involved of 1926 – there was talk of a strong dissent between Salazar and Carmona, who would have promised his former colleague the application, instead rejected by the government, of the Habeas corpus against him and the other suspects), and the quarantine imposed on him in the international field somewhat shake the solidity of the government. But, when Portugal is admitted to the European Economic Conference (July 1947) and the storm can be considered over, Salazar has already abandoned the Foreign Ministry a few months ago to José Caeiro da Mata, one of his most prominent collaborators. In domestic politics, the new policy does something to alleviate the misery of the less well-off classes, which bear the brunt of the government’s anti-inflationary policy. Foreign policy is based more than ever on the old alliance treaty with London, despite the great impetus given to the development of relations with the United States. Following the new international commitments, Portugal finds it necessary to accelerate the industrial expansion program as much as possible. In the implementation of the program they will have a large part of foreign capital and labor.
In the elections of February 20, 1949, after the withdrawal of the opposition candidate, gen. Norton de Matos, Marshal Carmona was confirmed as president of the republic.