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DESCRIPTION: Hijacking of the Santa Maria
In the early hours of January 22, 1961, Henrique Galvão and Jorge Soutomayor commanded a group of 24 Portuguese and Spanish rebels on the hijack of the passenger liner Santa Maria to protest the dictatorships of Franco in Spain and Salazar in Portugal. Traveling amongst around 600 other passengers and 300 crew members, the armed band took control of the ship and ceased all communication. For a few days the whereabouts of the ship remained unknown. The “Dulcinea Operation” —evoking the idea of freedom (Liberdade)—had as a goal to weaken the dictatorship of Oliveira Salazar and fascism in Iberia.
Several incidents occurred during the night and a crew member was killed in an exchange of gunfire. The initial plan to reroute the ship to Africa had to be changed. Accused of piracy, Galvão decided to fight back and on the 24th declared on the radio the true reasons for the hijack: he publicly denounced Salazar’s regime as arbitrary and against human rights. He emphasized that the hijack of the Santa Maria was merely an act of protest—a demand for the freedom of Portugal from the New State’s dictatorship.
Galvão’s statements had a strong impact in the world media, and finally on the 25th, when the ship was located by the United States air force, the negotiations brought the ship safely to land. On February 3, the ship was turned in to the Brazilian Government. On the 16th it reentered the port of Lisbon.
— Ana Leticia Fauri-Gaspar