Government left divided over racism protesters vandalizing statue of colonist priest António Vieira
The Lisbon City Council (CML) has already cleaned the statue of Father António Vieira, installed in Trindade Coelho Square, in the Portuguese capital, after it was vandalized on Thursday afternoon with the word “decolonize” painted in red on the pedestal, and graffiti of the same colour on the bronze characters that compose it.
The statue of the Portuguese Jesuit, whose life was marked by the defence of the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil in the 17th century, was installed in the Lisbon square in June 2017 – and has now been vandalized at a time when attacks on statues that evoke countries’ colonial past have been repeated in several countries following the anti-racism protests motivated by the death of George Floyd in the USA. The PSP police authorities are already looking for the perpetrators of the act, since the act of vandalism against monuments is a public crime.
The PCP, CDS and Chega political parties reacted to the vandalization of the monument, this Thursday, each in their own way.
The communists (PCP party) defended “the condemnation of the act itself”, adding that these conflicts “only serve reactionary objectives”.
The Christian centrists (CDS) compared the vandalism to an act of terrorism from the Taliban and Daesh. And the nationalist right-wing Chega party submitted an application asking the Government to create “a special deterrence police team” to prevent similar situations from arising over the next few days.
“It is important not to allow this act to animate and inculcate in Portuguese society a climate of senseless racial conflict, eluding what colonialism represented from an economic and class point of view in all dimensions”, writes the PCP in a statement. The party also adds that it is necessary to “combat racist and xenophobic phenomena” and that, for this, it is important to guarantee “economic and social rights for all, regardless of their ethnicity and nationality”.
The communists do not fail to add that “the vandalization of the monument to Father António Vieira requires the condemnation of the act itself, as well as its use to exacerbate feelings of conflict that only serve reactionary objectives”.
This Monday afternoon, Chega filed a request in the Assembly of the Republic asking PM António Costa about “what measures are being planned to suppress and prevent this type of action”. The party considers it of equal importance “to know if the Government is willing to create a special police team to deter this phenomenon, which would involve several policemen and which allows quick action and without giving rise to the possibility of aftershocks.”
André Ventura, head of Chega, affirms that those behind the vandalism are “marginal” and inspired by “international movements completely alien to the national reality” that insist on an attack on the collective memory, “perpetrating shameful actions” against the history of Portugal.
On the CDS side, Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos, president of the party, offered himself to clean the statue, which in the meantime was done by Lisbon Council and assumed that it is “urgent to respond to vandals and make law and order comply”.
“There is no difference between” the acts committed “by the Taliban, the destruction of the Mosul and Palmira museum by the Islamic State, and the wave of vandalism and cultural terrorism that now seems to have arrived in Portugal, by the cowardly hand of a certain extreme left that doesn’t show themselves”, he stated in a message sent out to media.
For the Christian democrat, “these destroyers of statues” are not moved by “any intention of debate”, but by a culture of hatred and ignorance. “Portuguese history must be defended, protecting it from manipulators and cultural terrorism.”
Regarding Father António Vieira, Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos claimed that he had been “the greatest Portuguese figure of the 17th century, the emperor of the Portuguese language and the apostle of Brazil, (…) Portuguese and mixed race”.