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Right-wing candidate rejects Brazil’s guilt over slavery

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A Brazilian presidential frontrunner, former army captain Jair Bolsonaro, says the country should not feel guilty about having been the world's biggest slave importer.

The right-winger, a surprise leader in opinion polls after the imprisoned former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said Brazil "owes no debt" to blacks.

"What historic debt are you talking about? I didn't send anyone into slavery," he said late Monday in an interview with TV Cultura.

Brazil, a former Portuguese colony, only abolished slavery in 1888, two decades after the United States and last of all western countries.

A decade of leftist rule under presidents Lula and Dilma Rousseff, ending in 2016, saw Brazil introduce widespread quotas for blacks in higher education and public sector jobs -- part of historic measures to reduce inequality in Latin America's biggest country.

Bolsonaro said he would push to roll back that policy.

"The blacks are not better than me and I'm not better than them," he said. While the quotas can only be voted in or out by Congress, Bolsonaro said he would "propose to reduce them."

According to Bolsonaro, Portuguese traders were not to blame for the huge influx of slaves across the Atlantic, insisting that "blacks themselves handed over the slaves."

Despite limited national airtime, the longtime congressman has launched an impressively effective presidential campaign using social media and capitalizing on his image as someone ready to respond to widespread disenchantment with the elite.

As a former military officer, Bolsonaro is also casting himself as the candidate who would bring a tough response to crime and corruption.

In the television interview he yet again defended the record of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, which started with a coup against the leftwing president, amid fears of rising communist influence.

"There was no military coup," he said. "A coup d'etat is when you kick in a door to take out the president. But the Congress declared the presidency void -- that was the law at the time."

He also returned to his controversial previous support for an army colonel who oversaw torture of leftist guerrillas and dissidents.

According to Bolsonaro, people reporting having been tortured under the regime sometimes "say they were torture victims to get compensation, or votes or pity or power."

"We always only hear one side of history. If we'd lost, today Brazil would be Cuba," he said.

A Brazilian presidential frontrunner, former army captain Jair Bolsonaro, says the country should not feel guilty about having been the world’s biggest slave importer.

The right-winger, a surprise leader in opinion polls after the imprisoned former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said Brazil “owes no debt” to blacks.

“What historic debt are you talking about? I didn’t send anyone into slavery,” he said late Monday in an interview with TV Cultura.

Brazil, a former Portuguese colony, only abolished slavery in 1888, two decades after the United States and last of all western countries.

A decade of leftist rule under presidents Lula and Dilma Rousseff, ending in 2016, saw Brazil introduce widespread quotas for blacks in higher education and public sector jobs — part of historic measures to reduce inequality in Latin America’s biggest country.

Bolsonaro said he would push to roll back that policy.

“The blacks are not better than me and I’m not better than them,” he said. While the quotas can only be voted in or out by Congress, Bolsonaro said he would “propose to reduce them.”

According to Bolsonaro, Portuguese traders were not to blame for the huge influx of slaves across the Atlantic, insisting that “blacks themselves handed over the slaves.”

Despite limited national airtime, the longtime congressman has launched an impressively effective presidential campaign using social media and capitalizing on his image as someone ready to respond to widespread disenchantment with the elite.

As a former military officer, Bolsonaro is also casting himself as the candidate who would bring a tough response to crime and corruption.

In the television interview he yet again defended the record of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, which started with a coup against the leftwing president, amid fears of rising communist influence.

“There was no military coup,” he said. “A coup d’etat is when you kick in a door to take out the president. But the Congress declared the presidency void — that was the law at the time.”

He also returned to his controversial previous support for an army colonel who oversaw torture of leftist guerrillas and dissidents.

According to Bolsonaro, people reporting having been tortured under the regime sometimes “say they were torture victims to get compensation, or votes or pity or power.”

“We always only hear one side of history. If we’d lost, today Brazil would be Cuba,” he said.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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