The historic leader of the Portuguese Socialist Party, widely regarded in Portugal as one of the Founding Fathers of the democratic era unleashed by the 1974 Revolution, died following respiratory complications that left him in a deep coma since late last year.
During his career Mário Soares served in the highest offices of the Portuguese political landscape: he was Prime Minister, President of the Republic, and Portuguese MP to the European Parliament.
Following news of his death the Portuguese Government declared three days of national mourning, starting Monday (9 January).
Flags throughout the country – including the UK and EU flags at the British Embassy in Lisbon – were flown at half-mast for the duration.
Soares’ State funeral ceremony and burial were held on Tuesday after his body lay in State at the Jerónimos Monastery.
It was the first State funeral held in Portugal since the Carnation Revolution in 1974.
Over 500 people from Portugal and abroad attended the funeral ceremony, among them King Felipe VI of Spain, the Presidents of Brazil, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, the President of the European Parliament, and the Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister.
The civil funeral ceremony started at 1pm and ended with the National Anthem.
Draped in the Portuguese flag, Soares’ coffin was then pulled by horse-drawn carriage along the crowd-lined streets of the city to the Prazeres cemetery, where he was laid to rest alongside his wife, actress Maria Barroso, who died in 2014 at the age of 90.
Speaking during the ceremony via video-link from New Delhi where he is on an official State visit, Prime Minister António Costa said: “The loss of Soares is the loss of someone who is irreplaceable in our recent history, we owe him a lot.”
Portugal’s current President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa recalled Soares as a “unique humanist and builder of Portugal” and said that, as “a man who made history”, the former Premier deserved to be honoured in a place like the Jerónimos Monastery.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, upon learning of the death of the former Portuguese President, said: “I was saddened to hear of the death of Mário Soares over the weekend. He was a major figure in modern Portuguese history and played a critical role in the establishment of democracy following the revolution in 1974.”
And on Wednesday Portugal's parliament unanimously approved a motion of condolence for the death of Mário Soares, a former prime minister and president, in a text that highlights his "legacy of political courage, democratic patriotism and openness to the world".
After the vote, all members of the assembly rose, and all applauded except for deputies for the Communist Party - whose influence Soares, as the founder of the Socialist Party, battled against for many years.
Afterwards, a minute's silence was held in memory of the late statesman.
"If today Portugal stands out in Europe and in the world for its degree of national cohesion, that owes much to the leadership contribution of Mário Soares," the text penned by Ferro Rodrigues says.
Born on 7 December 1924 in Lisbon, Mário Alberto Nobre Lopes Soares founded and was the first leader of the Socialist Party.
He was a constant figure in the country’s public life both prior to the 25 April 1974 revolution and in the subsequent 40 years of Portuguese democracy.
He was a political prisoner and later an exile in São Tomé and Príncipe and France during the dictatorship.
During one of his stints in prison, in 1949, he married Maria de Jesus Barroso, who was then an actress and with whom he had two children.
Soares returned “on the people’s shoulders” to his country in 1974 to hold the post of Foreign Minister in the first provisional governments.
As foreign minister he was involved in the processes to recognise the fledgling Portuguese democracy and the decolonisation of Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Angola, São Tomé and Príncipe and Mozambique and, on the domestic political stage, particularly in 1975, he was on the front line against the Communist-inspired PREC (Ongoing Revolutionary Process).
He went on to lead the 1st and 2nd constitutional governments (1976-78), a period during which he managed the return of thousands of citizens from the former colonies and the almost complete bankruptcy of the country, which involved Portugal turning to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) for the first time.
In 1977, it was by his hand that Portugal began the process to join what was then the European Economic Community (EEC), which was finalised on 12 June 1985.
Soares was again elected Prime Minister of the 9th constitutional government (1983-85) before being elected President of Portugal for two terms of office (1986-1996), becoming the first civilian president in democracy after a campaign that many people still remember because of the slogan: ‘Soares é fixe’ (Soares is cool).
Although formally distant from the front line of politics since 2006, Mário Soares still maintained regular public appearances, which were only interrupted for health reasons in the first two months of 2013.
In recent years, the former president was noted for his stinging criticisms of “neoliberalism”, the functioning of the European Union, the centre-right PSD/CDS government of Pedro Passos Coelho, but also the former socialist leader, António José Seguro.
After last May’s European elections, during the last internal crisis in the Socialist party, Mário Soares supported the victorious candidacy of the mayor of Lisbon and current general secretary, António Costa, from the outset.
More recently, he was the first Socialist personality to visit the former prime minister José Sócrates, on one occasion in Évora jail – when he made controversial declarations about the action of the judicial authorities in the case – and then later at home.
He is survived by his children, daughter Isabel, a psychologist who is also director of the Colégio Moderno, which was founded by Soares’ father, and João, who served as mayor of Lisbon from 1995 to 2002 and is currently a Socialist MP.