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Portugal says no plans to pay colonial reparations

April 28, 2024

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa had called for Lisbon to find ways to compensate its former colonies, including canceling debt. The government says it has not initiated any process to that effect.

Monument to Portugese colonial explorers
The Portuguese government said it has no plans to pay reparations after President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called for Lisbon to compensate its former coloniesImage: Jürgen Wiesler/Shotshop/picture alliance

Lisbon is not planning to pay reparations for trans-Atlantic slavery and colonialism, Portugal's government said on Saturday.

The statement comes in response to remarks by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who said Portugal could find ways to compensate its former colonies.

What did Portugal's government say about reparations to its former colonies?

Portugal said in a statement that it seeks to "deepen mutual relations, respect for historical truth and increasingly intense and close cooperation, based on reconciliation of brotherly peoples."

It stressed that it had not launched any "process or program of specific actions" for paying reparations.

The statement said that current policies followed the same lines as those of previous governments.

It said Portugal maintained "truly excellent" relations with its former colonies, including financial and economic cooperation.

Portugal's colonial era lasted more than five centuries, with the decolonization of some African countries happening as late as 1974 after the fall of the authoritarian Estado Novo regime.

Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, 6 million Africans were forcibly transported across the Atlantic by Portuguese vessels and sold into slavery.

Emancipation statue on Goree Island in Dakar, Senegal
Portuguese colonial forces shipped 6 million Africans across the Atlantic and sold them into slavery, largely in BrazilImage: picture alliance / AA

De Sousa calls for reparations

Portugal's president called on Lisbon to initiate a reparations process in comments made to reporters on Saturday, saying that the issue could not be swept "under the carpet."

"We have an obligation … to lead this process (of reparations)," de Sousa argued.

He suggested that Portugal could pay reparations by canceling the debt of former colonies, developing special cooperation programs or providing financing.

He said the country must take "responsibility for the bad and good of what happened in the empire and draw consequences."

Portugal has been governed by the center-right Democratic Alliance (AD) since a snap election in March. The election was called after former Prime Minister Antonio Costa of the center-left Socialist Party stepped down over corruption allegations.

sdi/lo (Reuters, Lusa)

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