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Portugal’s president suggested that the country should take responsibility for its role in the transatlantic slave trade, marking the first time a Portuguese leader has hinted at an apology for the nation’s colonial past, Reuters reported.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa made the historic statement during Portugal’s annual commemoration of the 1974 “Carnation” revolution, which toppled the country’s dictatorship.

While he did not offer any specifics, the leader said the country should go beyond an apology and “assume responsibility” for its past in order to build a better future.

Around six million Africans were abducted and forcibly transported by Portuguese ships across the Atlantic and sold into slavery, mainly to Brazil, between the 15th and 19th centuries.

But there is little discussion about slavery during Portugal’s colonial era when the country ruled over a number of African, American, and Asian countries. Instead, this period is often discussed as a source of pride.

Rebelo de Sousa’s comments came after Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva addressed the Portuguese parliament during a visit to the country earlier this week.

The Brazilian leader acknowledged that the Portuguese colonization of Brazil had positive aspects but also negative ones, such as slavery and the exploitation of Indigenous peoples.

Brazil gained independence from Portugal in 1822.

Advocate groups welcome the Portuguese president’s comments as “symbolic,” but added that reparations and public policies to fight inequalities caused by Portugal’s past are needed.

Elsewhere, French President Emmanuel Macron marked the 175th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in France by paying tribute to ex-slave Toussaint Louverture, who was a key figure in Haiti’s independence and a “tireless fighter” for freedom, according to France 24.

Louverture inspired millions to seek freedom after he and other Black leaders from the French-held territory of Saint-Domingue in present-day Haiti successfully defeated their colonial masters.

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