Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Portugal rejects suggestion to pay reparations for slavery after comments from president

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Portugal’s government has said it refuses to initiate any process to pay reparations for atrocities committed during transatlantic slavery and the colonial era, contrary to earlier comments from President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

From the 15th to the 19th century, 6 million Africans were kidnapped and forcibly transported across the Atlantic by Portuguese vessels and sold into slavery, primarily in Brazil.

Rebelo de Sousa had said on Saturday that Portugal could use several methods to pay reparations, such as cancelling the debt of former colonies and providing financing.

The government said in a statement sent to the Portuguese news agency Lusa it wanted to “deepen mutual relations, respect for historical truth and increasingly intense and close cooperation, based on the reconciliation of brotherly peoples”.

But it added it had “no process or programme of specific actions” for paying reparations, noting this line was followed by previous governments.

It called relations with former colonies “truly excellent” and cited cooperation in areas such as education, language, culture and health, in addition to financial, budgetary and economic cooperation.

On Tuesday, the president suggested a need for reparations, sparking strong criticism from rightwing parties, including the junior partner of the Democratic Alliance government coalition, CDS-Popular party, and the far-right Chega.

“We cannot put this under the carpet or in a drawer,” the president said on Saturday. “We have an obligation to pilot, to lead this process [of reparations].”

Portugal’s colonial era lasted more than five centuries, with Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, East Timor and some territories in Asia subject to Portuguese rule.

Decolonisation of the African countries and the end of empire in Africa only happened months after Portugal’s “Carnation Revolution” on 25 April 1974 toppled the longest fascist dictatorship in Europe and ushered in democracy.

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