Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho

Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho

Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho (mural in Portugal)
Birth name Otelo Nuno Romão Saraiva de Carvalho
Nickname(s) Otelo
Born (1936-08-31) August 31, 1936
Lourenço Marques, Portuguese Mozambique
Allegiance  Portugal
Service/branch Portuguese Army
Years of service 1955–1984
Rank Brigadier

Portuguese Colonial War

Carnation Revolution
Awards Grand Cross of the Order of Liberty
Other work Candidate to President of Portugal

Otelo Nuno Romão Saraiva de Carvalho, GCL (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɔˈtɛlu sɐˈɾajvɐ dɨ kɐɾˈvaʎu]; born August 31, 1936), is a retired Portuguese military officer. He was the chief strategist of the 1974 Carnation Revolution in Lisbon.


Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho was born in Lourenço Marques, Portuguese Mozambique (now Maputo, Mozambique), of Luso-Goan (Portuguese India) ancestry. Named by his theater-minded parents after Shakespeare's Othello, he had his secondary education at a state school in Lourenço Marques. His father was a civil servant and his mother a railway clerk. He entered the Military Academy in Lisbon at the age of nineteen.

Carvalho spent many years in the colonial wars in Africa. He served in Portuguese Angola from 1961 to 1963 as a second lieutenant, and as a captain from 1965 to 1967. He was posted to Portuguese Guinea in 1970 as a captain, under General António de Spínola, in charge of civilian affairs and propaganda ('Hearts and Minds').

Portuguese overseas territories in Africa during the Estado Novo regime: Angola and Mozambique were by far the two largest of those territories.

He joined the underground Movement of Armed Forces (Movimento das Forças Armadas - MFA), which carried out a coup d'état in Lisbon on April 25, 1974, in which he played a directing role. The MFA started as a military professional class[1] protest of Portuguese Armed Forces captains against a decree law: the Dec. Lei nº 353/73 of 1973.[2][3] The rebellion were a way to work against laws that would reduce military costs and would reformulate the whole Portuguese military branch. Younger military academy graduates, with Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho at their head, resented a program introduced by Marcello Caetano whereby militias who completed a brief training program and had served in the overseas territories' campaigns, could be commissioned at the same rank as academy graduates.[4] Carvalho was part of MFA-led National Salvation Junta that governed the country after the Carnation Revolution, as the upheaval came to be called.

In July 1974 Carvalho was made a Brigadier and placed in command of the special military Command for the Continent COPCON, which was set up to secure order in the country and to promote the revolutionary process. In 1975, infighting in the MFA intensified with Carvalho representing the left-wing of the movement. A right-wing putsch attempt, led by Spinola, was thwarted by the timely intervention of COPCON in March 1975. He became part of the Council of the Revolution which was created On March 14, 1975. In May 1975, he was temporarily promoted to General and, together with Francisco da Costa Gomes and Vasco Gonçalves, formed the Directório (Directorate).

On November 25, 1975 some left-wing groups and their armed branches allegedly tried to seize control of the country. Otelo is said to have orchestrated this coup. Some of the military under Otelo's orders took control of three Air Force bases. The right-wing of the army used this as pretext to launch a counter-revolution, which brought António Ramalho Eanes to power. It is also implied that the coup did not work because Carvalho did not support the military.

In 1976 and 1980 Carvalho unsuccessfully stood as a candidate for president against Eanes. In 1982 he was recalled to the army, since it was shown that his discharge had been politically motivated. In 1984 he was arrested and accused of contact with or membership of the terrorist group Popular Forces 25 April (FP-25 Abril) (Portuguese:Forças Populares 25 de Abril), which claimed a number of robberies and murders in Portugal in the following years. His trial was controversial and his allies assumed it to be motivated by revenge. In 1989, he was amnestied and a resumption of the procedure was struck down because of a legal imbroglio. Since then, he has retired.


Carvalho is still an icon for activists of the left in Portugal, but is hated by many right-wingers who consider him a terrorist who tried to seize the country to become Portugal's Fidel Castro.[5]

In 2011 during the Portuguese financial crisis when the country had to request international financial assistance, Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho stated that he wouldn't have made the revolution if he had known what the country would become after it.[6] He also stated that the country would need a man as honest as Salazar to deal with the crisis, but from a non-fascist perspective.[7]

Presidential Elections of 27 June 1976

Summary of the 27 June 1976 Portuguese presidential election results

Candidates Supporting parties First round
Votes %
António Ramalho Eanes Independent 2,967,137 61.59
Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho Independent 792,760 16.46
José Pinheiro de Azevedo Independent 692,147 14.37
Octávio Rodrigues Pato Portuguese Communist Party 365,586 7.59
Total valid 4,817,630 100.00
Blank ballots 43,242 0.89
Invalid ballots 20,253 0.41
Total (turnout 75.47%) 4,881,125
Source: Comissão Nacional de Eleições

Presidential Elections of 7 December 1980

Summary of the 7 December 1980 Portuguese presidential election results

Candidates Supporting parties First round
Votes %
António Ramalho Eanes Independent 3,262,520 56.44
António Soares Carneiro Democratic Alliance 2,325,481 40.23
Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho Independent 85,896 1.49
Carlos Galvão de Melo Independent 48,468 0.84
António Pires Veloso Independent 45,132 0.78
António Aires Rodrigues Workers Party of Socialist Unity 12,745 0.22
Carlos Brito Portuguese Communist Party left the race
Total valid 5,780,242 100.00
Blank ballots 44,014 0.75
Invalid ballots 16,076 0.28
Total (turnout 84.39%) 5,840,332
Source: Comissão Nacional de Eleições


  1. (Portuguese) Cronologia: Movimento dos capitães, Centro de Documentação 25 de Abril, University of Coimbra
  2. (Portuguese) Arquivo Electrónico: Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, Centro de Documentação 25 de Abril, University of Coimbra
  3. (Portuguese) A Guerra Colonial na Guine/Bissau (07 de 07) on YouTube, Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho on the Decree Law, RTP 2 television.
  4. João Bravo da Matta, A Guerra do Ultramar, O Diabo, 14 October 2008, pp.22
  5. (Portuguese) O 'mistério' do 25 de Novembro de 1975, José Manuel Barroso, in Diário de Notícias (November 21, 2006)
  6. (Portuguese) «Se soubesse como o País ia ficar, não fazia a revolução», Destak.pt (April 13, 2011)
  7. (Portuguese) <<Otelo: precisamos de um homem honesto como Salazar>>, in Diário de Notícias (April 21, 2011)
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