Portuguese Pride, American Partnership, and the Next Phase of the Crisis

As Portugal moves into the next phase of this crisis, the Portuguese people should take immense pride in how the country has confronted this pandemic. While it is always difficult to be far from home during times like these, my team and I feel immensely fortunate to be facing this crisis side-by-side with our Portuguese colleagues and friends. We are looking forward to taking steps to getting back to work, and to harnessing America’s continued global economic leadership to promote prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

The past two months have been filled with hardship and tragedy, but they have also showcased some of the best attributes that I have long admired about this country and its people.  Government leaders and politicians from across the spectrum have come together to present a unified response, emergency workers have acted heroically to serve those in need, and all citizens have made sacrifices to protect their families and communities. As impressively, Portugal has done this without undermining its hard-won democracy. The ending of the State of Emergency is essentially an act in which the government limits its own power, and as an American, I applaud those who embrace such democratic values.

This success has also been noticed abroad. Major international news outlets have noted Portugal’s early action and disciplined response may have contributed to a lower number of cases and mortality rate when compared to other Western European countries. In the context of the global pandemic, Portugal’s progress also serves as an important example of how a democratic society has successfully met the challenge posed by this imported disease.

While authoritarian regimes may use fear and disinformation to justify actions that protect their power and pride, democratic countries, are prioritizing the health and welfare of their people by taking decisive action and committing to transparency and accountability. Portuguese officials have provided timely and accurate information, so that citizens could make informed choices about how to protect their families. The media has worked to keep society informed, and in doings so, helped inoculate it against the barrage of disinformation that some states deploy to undermine our faith in democracy.  The Portuguese government and people have extended compassion, care, and support to many foreigners, including Americans, in Portugal and to those seeking to return home. For this, I am incredibly grateful. 

These acts of solidarity reflect Portuguese values. So does the fact that Portugal does them without an expectation of receiving international accolades or public displays of gratitude. Those who act differently, expose their fragility and appear to be primarily concerned about engaging in propaganda aimed at saving face.

As we enter the next phase of this crisis, it is clear that our countries still face significant health and economic challenges. Since I arrived in 2017, I have seen Portugal build exciting economic momentum in technology, agriculture, tourism, and many other sectors.  Regaining that momentum in the wake of this global crisis will be a challenge, but it is a one that Portugal and United States can confront together. 

I am confident that the United States will prove, once again, to be a key engine of the global economy, and continue to be a leader in innovation and productivity. In doing so, Portugal will have no greater partner than the United States as we navigate the future. I am committed to rolling up my sleeves and working to connect Portuguese and American businesses, finding new opportunities for increased trade, and welcoming back American tourists and students as soon as conditions allow.

Having spent these many weeks in a house named after former U.S. Ambassador Carlucci, I am reminded that this is not the first time the United States and Portugal have faced challenging times. We cannot forget that our relationship is based, not just on business deals, cultural familiarity, or even history, but also on a common commitment to democratic values.  So, as my Embassy takes its first initial steps back to work on Monday, I am encouraging my team to do so with a renewed appreciation for the strength of our democracies, confidence in the resilience of our people, and commitment to establishing new opportunities for both our countries.

I am  honored to be entrusted with strengthening  our great bilateral relationship and am optimistic that our best days are still to come.