Europe’s leading human rights body has called on Portugal to do more to address its colonial past and its role in the transatlantic slave trade in order to help combat racism and discrimination in the country today.
The Council of Europe’s comments come amid a growing debate in Portugal about how to remember its history as the country prepares to unveil its first monument to the victims of slavery.
The monument, rows of sugar cane painted black, was designed by the Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda and financed by the Lisbon City Council. It will be in the center of the city.
From the 15th to the 19th centuries, Portuguese ships transported nearly 6 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic, more than any other nation, but so far Portugal has rarely commented on its past actions and little is taught about its role in the slave trade. In schools.
Rather, Portugal’s colonial era, which saw countries like Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, and parts of India under Portuguese rule, is often seen as a source of pride.
“More efforts are needed for Portugal to accept past human rights violations to address racist prejudices against Afro-descendants inherited from a colonial past and the historic slave trade,” the Council of Europe said in its annual report on Portugal, urging to Lisbon to rethink the way it teaches its colonial history.
Complaints of racial discrimination increased by 50% to 655 in 2020, but the number is likely to be well below the true rate of racist incidents, said Secretary of State for Equality Rosa Monteiro.
“Our historical narrative is like a very serious wound that has not been properly treated. And to cure it, we have to talk about what happened, “Monteiro told Reuters, adding that the government was preparing a national plan to combat racism.
Recent racially motivated crimes include a KKK-style torchlight demonstration, the fatal shooting of a black actor by a white man on the street, and e-mailed threats to black lawmakers.
Portugal is preparing its first official survey this year asking people about their ethnic origin. The border service said that in 2019 there were 103,346 Africans officially residing in Portugal, while the largest migrant community is from Brazil, with 151,304 people.
The Council of Europe also expressed concern about the rise of racist rhetoric in political discourse, pointing to the far-right Chega party.
Chega’s only lawmaker, Andre Ventura, has made public disparaging remarks against ethnic minorities, including prominent anti-racist activist Mamadou Ba, who last month was the subject of a petition requesting his deportation for claiming that the death of a colonial official did not should be commemorated.
“We are not trying to rewrite history. We are saying that the story we tell today is not enough, ”Ba said at a protest on Sunday. “We want a story that represents all the Portuguese.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism