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Portugal must openly acknowledge its role in transatlantic slave trade – President Mercelo Rebelo

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During Portugal’s yearly commemoration of the “Carnation” revolution of 1974, which toppled the country’s dictatorship, President Mercelo Rebelo de Sousa said that the country should do more than just apologize, though he did not elaborate.According to him, his country must apologize and take ownership of its role in the transatlantic slave trade. This is the first time the leader of the southern European nation has suggested a formal national apology.

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Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, six million Africans were kidnapped and forcibly transported by Portuguese ships across the Atlantic, where the majority of them were sold into slavery in Brazil.

However, Portugal hasn’t discussed its past all that much, and schools don’t teach much about its role in the slave trade. Rather, the country’s colonial era, which subjugated countries including Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, Cape Verde and East Timor as well as Ghana, parts of India and West Africa is often perceived as a source of pride by most Portuguese.

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The president said that the nation should “assume responsibility” for its history in order to create a better future. “Sometimes, apologising is the easiest thing to do. “You apologise, turn your back, and the job is done,” he said.

Europe’s top human rights group previously said Portugal had to do more to confront its colonial past and role in the transatlantic slave trade in order to help fight racism and discrimination today.

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Immediately following Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s speech to the Portuguese parliament, Rebelo de Sousa made the statements. Lula da Silva was in Portugal for the first time since taking office. In 1822, Portugal was forced to cede control of Brazil.


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