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Portuguese report Portuguese report
by Euro Reporter
2012-10-25 10:59:38
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In shadow of economic crisis, Portugal sees increase in sex trade

Portugal’s NGOs are reporting an increase in the number of women of all ages resorting to prostitution, desperate to make ends meet. Across Europe, agencies are bracing for more. When the telephone rang for the first time, Silvia wondered what to do. On the other end of the line was her first client: an older man who expected her at his hotel. She thought of calling it all off. But then again, she needed the money. She’d lost her job and the only work she could find paid her €485 a month (Portugal’s minimum wage)—not enough to cover her mortgage and her son’s medical-school fees. So at 37 years old, she put an ad in the newspaper offering her sexual services. “I had never thought about it. But after two or three badly paid jobs and sometimes not even getting paid at all, this was the only solution I found to make ends meet,” she says. She now earns on average €2,000 a month, receiving men in an apartment five days a week from 9 to 7.

Silvia belongs to what a number of Portuguese non-governmental organizations consider a new wave of sex workers: women in their mid-30s up to their 50s, who enter prostitution because of the economic crisis. Inês Fontinha, from the organization O Ninho (The Nest), says her group witnessed the same tendency in the 1980s, when the IMF also bailed out Portugal. It’s difficult to pin down numbers, she says, but this time around the increase in prostitution is far more than what was expected. “These are women who weren’t poor and have become poor now,” says Fontinha. “The social status they enjoyed three years ago has been reduced to nothing.” The Lisbon-based sociologist says it’s a mixed group, from school dropouts to university graduates, often those married and with children. Most keep their job a secret, claiming they’ve found work as cleaning ladies. “They tell me their biggest fear is when there’s a knock on the door,” says Fontinha. “Who is there? Will they recognize them?” That is why, she adds, most of these women choose to work in apartments or clubs far from their home address and social circles.

However, a study by the Portuguese Immigration Service reported another tendency: prostitution on the streets of Lisbon had decreased 11 percent in the past five years. According to Isabel Soares from the project PortoG, which advises and supports 768 indoor prostitutes in the country’s second biggest city of Porto that is because women are moving their work behind closed doors — representing 80 percent of the practice? “It’s safer,” explains Soares. “Most cases of rape and aggression take place on the streets. And clients also prefer more discreet places.” Soares is more cautious when talking about a possible increase of sex work because of the crisis. While she does not dismiss it, she says she hasn’t witnessed the phenomenon in her daily work, stating that only 10 percent of the prostitutes her group assists have been on the job for less than a year. In fact, the story she hears the most is just the opposite. “There are women opting for quitting the sex work because it’s not [financially] worth it.”


Small but mighty in the world of wine

For a relatively tiny country--smaller in area than the state of Kentucky--Portugal is a prodigious producer of wine. It has long been the source of some of the wine world's great fortified wines--Port from the Douro and vintage Madeira from the island of Madeira off the coast of North Africa. Since the country's entry into the European Union in 1986, Portugal has also increasingly become a source for great dry whites and reds, as well as some very good sparkling wines. Like Greece, Portugal is home to an incredible number of indigenous varieties--at least 250. The vast majority of Portugal's wines are still made from these native grapes, and they provide character and interest to the country's many very well made wines.

In the Douro alone, where Port and great dry reds are made, there are over 100 different red and white grapes planted. Traditionally vineyards here were planted to mixed varieties. In recent years, however, the various grapes of this area have been intensively studied, and five have been identified as of primary importance: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz (known as Tempranillo in the rest of the world) and Tinta Cão. All of these play a role in Port production and dry reds, but Touriga Nacional is widely considered to make the most complex and structured wines.

Other important red grapes include Baga, the source of dry, age worthy reds and sparkling wines from the Bairrada region; Castelão, the most widely planted red grape in southern Portugal; and Trincadeira, which is usually blended into complex dry reds in several Portuguese regions. Fernao Pires is the most widely planted white variety. Its floral, fragrant juice is used for everything from sparkling wine and dry whites to sweet wines. Other major white grapes include Alvarinho, the high acid grape that is often blended with Loureiro and Trajadura in the refreshing, crisp, low alcohol summer quaffers called Vinho Verde. Arinto is another high acid variety that is widely planted, and bottled either on its own or in blends. Encruzado is growing in plantings, and makes elegant, full bodied whites that benefit from oak aging.


Bailed-out Portugal raises $2.4 bln in debt auction despite economic crisis, political tension

Portugal managed to raise €1.85 billion ($2.4 billion) in a debt auction Wednesday despite the country’s bleak economic prospects and growing political tension over austerity policies. The Public Debt Agency said it sold 3-, 6- and 12-month Treasury bills, with interest rates on the shortest and longest bills sharply lower though the 6-month rate was up on the last auction. The coalition government forecasts a third straight year of recession next year, predicting a 1 percent economic contraction, but its draft budget for 2013 compounds the austerity program with steep tax increases that would cost many workers the equivalent of at least a month’s pay and likely further stifle consumption. The jobless rate, already at a record 15.9 percent, is seen rising to 16.4 percent next year. A broad outcry over the budget proposal has strained relations between the senior and junior parties in the centre-right coalition, respectively the Social Democratic Party and the Popular Party.

The Social Democrats insisted their governing partner endorsed the budget plan. But the Popular Party’s vice president, Jose Manuel Rodrigues, said his party’s members of government didn’t give their blessing to the tax hikes and would try to change them during discussions in Parliament ahead of a vote later this month. Without its partner, the Social Democratic Party doesn’t have enough votes to approve its proposal. Portugal was close to bankruptcy when it was engulfed by the eurozone’s financial crisis and asked for a €78 billion rescue last year following a decade of feeble growth and mounting debt. To get the bailout money, which is delivered in batches, Portugal must abide by promised deficit cuts and economic reforms.

Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar said earlier this week his budget proposal was necessary to cut the deficit to its 4.5 percent target in 2013. In 2010 the deficit was 10.1 percent. In the bond auction, the debt agency said there was demand for eight times the amount of 3-month bills offered. It sold €250 million of those bills at a rate of 1.366 percent — down from the 3.845 percent in a similar sale in February. The rate on the 12-month bills also fell, to 2.101 percent from 3.5 percent in July, and the agency sold €770 million of those bills. The 6-month bills sold at a rate of 1.839 percent for €830 million. That was up from the 1.7 percent Portugal paid last month.

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