Rise of far right makes reparations debate tough, says Cape Verde president

Estimated read time 2 min read

Cape Verde’s president, José Maria Neves, said the rise of rightwing populism has made it difficult to hold a serious debate about colonial reparations but argued that should not stop governments from having those conversations behind closed doors.

In an interview with the news site Brasil Já, published on Wednesday, Neves said debating reparations in the “public arena” could lead to more political polarisation in countries such as Cape Verde’s former coloniser, Portugal, where the far right is on the rise.

Neves said: “We see extremist, xenophobic, anti-immigration groups growing in former colonising powers. There are no political conditions to publicly discuss these questions at the moment.

“But among governments it is necessary to discuss these matters.”

He said it was possible to “build solutions” for conversations to take place without contributing to the growth of such groups, adding there were “diplomatic corridors” that could be used instead.

In April, Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said his country was responsible for crimes committed during transatlantic slavery and the colonial era and suggested there was a need for reparations.

His comments sparked a national debate and strong criticism from rightwing parties.

For more than four centuries, nearly 6 million Africans were kidnapped and forcibly taken across the Atlantic by Portuguese vessels and sold into chattel slavery, primarily in Brazil.

During Portugal’s colonial era, countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Timor-Leste and some territories in Asia were subject to Portuguese rule.

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Opponents of reparations argue that contemporary states and institutions should not be held responsible for their past.

But advocates of reparations say action is needed to address the legacy of slavery and colonialism, such as systemic and structural racism, and contemporary states still benefit from the wealth generated by hundreds of years of exploitation.

The idea of paying reparations or making other amends for transatlantic slavery and colonialism has a long history and remains deeply disputed but has gained momentum worldwide.

Source: theguardian.com

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