Portugal needs to ‘pay the costs’ of slavery and colonialism, says president

Last Updated: June 20, 2024By

Portugal’s Accountability: Facing the Legacy of Colonial Crimes


Portugal’s Acknowledgment

Portugal finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with the weight of its history, as President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa acknowledged the country’s deep involvement in slavery and other colonial atrocities. For centuries, Portuguese vessels ferried nearly 6 million Africans across the treacherous Atlantic, subjecting them to unspeakable horrors on distant plantations.


A Call for Accountability

Rebelo de Sousa, addressing international journalists, didn’t mince words. He admitted that Portugal bears full responsibility for its past wrongs, recognizing the devastating costs incurred by its actions. “We have to own up to it,” he declared passionately. He questioned if there were crimes left unpunished, goods unjustly taken, and lives irreparably damaged.


Beyond Words

However, mere words aren’t enough. Paula Cardoso, founder of Afrolink, voices the sentiments of many. She demands tangible reparations, insisting that Portugal must reckon with its role as the architect of the transatlantic slave trade. She emphasizes the urgent need to dismantle systemic racism, which still plagues the nation.


A Global Call to Action

The UN’s human rights chief, Volker Türk, echoes this sentiment, urging governments to move beyond rhetoric and take decisive action. The era of empty promises must end, he asserts, emphasizing the necessity for genuine commitments to right the wrongs of the past.


The Road Ahead

While some European nations, like the Netherlands, have taken steps towards reconciliation, Portugal stands at a pivotal moment. President Rebelo de Sousa emphasizes that actions speak louder than apologies. It’s time for Portugal to confront its history, make amends, and pave the way for a more just future.


In the end, acknowledging the past is just the beginning. Portugal must now demonstrate its commitment to accountability through meaningful reparations and concrete steps towards racial equality.


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