I met Jorge Coelho in the early 90s, I was a journalist at Público and he was an unavoidable source. He knew a lot, he knew too much and he still knew how few manage the relationship with the newspapers.
I don’t remember ever feeling unavailable, I answered the phone in the middle of the councils of ministers without ever telling State secrets, I never saw him upset with the thousands of characters that the “swamp” of António Guterres minority governments would render , years later, to the texts that I was writing in Expresso. I remember how talking to him was playing a fun game always full of information.
I will never forget the day when, after having written about the Portugal que Futuro? Congress, which then President Mário Soares was preparing to demolish the cavaquismo, Jorge Coelho asked me to go to Largo do Rato to talk to him. “Come on, live!”. That was how he always greeted us and the half hour of conversation didn’t seem to have a script, but he did and he had plenty. Coelho smelled the danger to António Guterres, who as the opposition leader saw Soares competing for him, asked for nothing, waited to see if more details fell, did not fall, “Good job”.
Intuition, yes, everyone speaks of their political intuition as a luxury weapon. And he sensed the progressive absence of Guterres, suffered from it, became unnerved by the lack of installed fiber and kept pressing in the newspapers – “The Prime Minister will resume normal relations with the country next month”, he went on to say (ai) , if RAP had one of these). The spontaneous rabbit was a gift for the titles. And the titles were the toast he had planned. Jorge Coelho spoke to Portuguese to understand. And that was his great political weapon.
When the bridge fell, it was rare. He assumed public responsibility, left the Government and never disguised that Parliament did not fill his measures. The life of the political journalist has changed. One day, in the corridors of S. Bento, I insisted on talking to him, but he was no longer there. He explained that he wanted to become a senator. And turn to business. But we continued to talk, he continued to know too much and even warned me: “Don’t go there, you are wrong”. In one case, I went and made a mistake.
Precisely three years ago, I called him and the call was dropped. Once, twice, three times. Jorge Coelho was in Mangualde, in the cheese factory that was resurrected in honor of his grandfather, he still told me that he was involved in a Movement for the Interior but, six months after the fires, communications were still a pity and when we managed to recover the call, I only heard the outburst: “Life in the countryside is terrible”.
I went with António Pedro Ferreira to meet him in a report and as soon as we passed the door of the cheese shop, a strangely cosmopolitan sound came to us: “Business, local business”. A group of potential investors, Poles, Germans and Moroccans, discovered Mangualde on the map, by the hand of the man who never intended to be number one, but who knew he was an indispensable number two. And that managed to smoothly manage the transition from politics to business.