Portugal must ‘pay costs’ of slavery and colonial crimes, president says

Portugal must ‘pay costs’ of slavery and colonial crimes, president says
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa attends the swearing in ceremony of the Secretaries of State of the XXIV Constitutional Government at Ajuda Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, 05 April 2024. EPA-EFE/JOSE SENA GOULAO

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said late on Tuesday that Portugal was responsible for crimes committed during transatlantic slavery and the colonial era, and suggested there was a need for reparations.

For over four centuries, at least 12.5 million Africans were kidnapped, forcibly transported long distances by mainly European ships and merchants, and sold into slavery.

Those who survived the voyage ended up toiling on plantations in the Americas, mostly in Brazil and the Caribbean, while others profited from their labour.

Portugal trafficked nearly 6 million Africans, more than any other European nation, but has failed so far to confront its past and little is taught about its role in transatlantic slavery in schools.

Instead, Portugal’s colonial era, during which countries including Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, Cape Verde and East Timor as well as parts of India were subjected to Portuguese rule, is often perceived as a source of pride.

Speaking at an event with foreign correspondents late on Tuesday, Rebelo de Sousa said Portugal “takes full responsibility” for the wrongs of the past and that those crimes, including colonial massacres, had “costs”.

“We have to pay the costs,” he said. “Are there actions that were not punished and those responsible were not arrested? Are there goods that were looted and not returned? Let’s see how we can repair this.”

The idea of paying reparations or making other amends for transatlantic slavery has been gaining momentum worldwide, including efforts to establish a special tribunal on the issue.

Activists have said that reparations and public policies to fight inequalities caused by Portugal’s past, including systemic racism, are essential.

Rebelo de Sousa said last year that Portugal should apologise for transatlantic slavery and colonialism but stopped short of a full apology. He said on Tuesday that acknowledging the past and taking responsibility for it was more important than apologising.

“Apologising is the easy part,” he said.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Timothy Heritage)


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Pathetic to say the least! Do you think the other great slave traders on the East coast of Africa, the Arabs etc. harbour any guilt and will apologize and pay reparations well? It was wrong and should never have happened. It was the way of the world, it is history, it happened and the world has to move on. How far back does one go? The Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Hittites, Carthaginians etc. The Barbary pirates of Algeria and Tunisia who seized hundreds of thousands of Europeans in the white slave trade from coastal towns in Southern Europe. MOVE ON!!!

    • ancient child says:

      Honestly, your comment is pathetic and very empathetic, image we told all the Jewish people who were put in concentration camps that reperations were never meant to take place. Or better yet all the white people who experienced land evictions in Zim that they must MOVE On, or bet yet all the polish that had their land taken by the Germans MOVE ON and never had their lands restored after world war 2. Sometimes put on your thinking cap as this insults your level of intelligence as a human being.

      • Jucy Malema says:

        What are you saying? White zims were compensated for their stolen land? Polish were given some land back direct after the war, not hundreds of years later when we cant even agree about what really happened. Maybe you should check your facts before you attack others

  • Agf Agf says:

    How absolutely ridiculous. This obsession with the “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade”. Why single out something which occurred hundreds of years ago when there are more slaves in the world right now than all the slaves transported. The Arab and Africans all had slaves and were largely responsible for the proliferation of the practice. The English were the first to scrap it very nearly 200 years ago. Every single society going back thousands of years practiced trading of slaves and even the Old Testament speaks of it. This is just more left wing woke nonsense.

  • Norman Sander says:

    Portugal will end up bankrupt.

  • Steve Nicol says:

    And so,this money will go to African countries (goverments) who will spend it faster than quicksilver. Then demand more. Where will that money go? To the rich. Where will it come from? Taxpayers.
    Boiled down, your tax will end up in the very wealthy peoples pockets. You will be poor. Africans will be poor. And the rich will dictate. Complain and your water / electricity / bank cards / medical aids will be throttled. Even your electric car won’t start. Passport people. It is happening.

  • EK SÊ says:

    The Arab world would never do the same for the 1 300 years they enslaved Africans and Europeans.
    A practice stopped by the blood and sweat of ‘wicked’ West.

  • Martin Weightman says:

    Yes seperation are not a bad idea , however when you open the door the floodgates open ,as well the slave who were transported are long dead , thier poor descendant are the perhaps benefactor of the generosity . Don’t pay money to the regemes , build something useful , i.e a hospital a bridge give the slave descendant some the Thay will feel the benefit , and it can’t be stolen into a crooked politians pocket

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Great idea but reparation to whom? The countries from which the slaves were taken or to the descendants of the slaves? Alternatively, reparation and repatriation makes a lot of sense – 1/2 the population of Brazil back to the African countries. At the same time the Dutch could do their share and ensure that the descendants of those sent to Africa were invested with full citizenship rights and benefits. Absolutely a Win/Win solution. 🙂 🙂

  • Jucy Malema says:

    Get your facts straight. Slaves were sold into slavery, not kidnaped.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Yes ancient child, MOVE ON as you are opening a Pandora’s box that will have no end. What precisely do you propose as restoration and how far back do you go instead of letting rip without any meaningful contribution to this issue. Where do you begin and where does it stop? Perhaps put your thinking cap on and come up with the solution if mine offends you.

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