Portugal far-right deputy calls for black MP to be "sent back"

Ventura's attack on Katar Moreira was denounced by several left-wing deputies and Publico, one of Portugal's leading newspapers (AFP Photo/PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA)

Lisbon (AFP) - Portugal's only far-right deputy sparked outrage Wednesday after saying a black member of parliament should be "sent back to her country of origin".

Daily newspaper Publico denounced Andre Ventura's comments as "abject" in its editorial, after his attack on Joacine Katar Moreira, of the left-wing Livre (Free) party. Left-wing deputies have condemned his comments.

Katar Moreira, who was born in Guinea Bissau, west Africa, had introduced a bill Tuesday calling for Lisbon to return works of art from Portugal's former colonies to their countries of origin.

She suggested the authorities draw up a list of works of art that Portugal should hand back.

Ventura, leader of the far-right party Chega (Enough), hit back on Facebook, writing: "I propose that the deputy Joacine is herself sent back to her country of origin. It would be a lot better for everyone -- including for her party. But above all for Portugal!"

Moreira is the Livre party's only deputy, and on Tuesday it denounced "constant personal attacks of a racist nature" against her.

Other parties, including deputies of the ruling Socialist Party and the far-left Left Bloc also attacked Ventura's comments as racist.

Ventura, 37, was elected to parliament last October, the first far-right deputy since the fall of the military regime in 1974 and the return of democracy. Since then, he has launched regular attacks on the black and Roma communities.

- 'Abject' -

He recently won approbrium after taking the side of the police and slamming the "paranoia of racism" when commenting on a case where a black woman said police officers had assaulted her.

Ventura has also earned renown by participating in television debates on football as well as controversial media contributions, notably one calling for sex offenders to be chemically castrated.

Katar Moreira's proposal is similar to an initiative by the French government, which has begun returning works of art pillaged from its former colonies.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called on other European countries to consider their position on the issue, including Belgium, Britain and Germany, as have a number of their former colonies.

In an editorial, Publico daily labelled Ventura's comments as "abject" as leftist deputies lined up to blast them as "racist."

One leftist lawmaker, Beatriz Gomes Dias, one of three black women in parliament, lauded Katar Moreira for having "broken through the glass ceiling".

The leader of the Socialist parliamentary group, Ana Catarina Mendes, said she would urge the assembly to issue a formal condemnation of Ventura's "insults and xenophobic affirmations."

For long a country of emigration, Portugal has over recent decades received thousands of immigrants from its former Africa colonies such as Angola, Cap Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.

But that trend has not been without social consequences with a 2014 "European Social Survey" showing Portugal as one of Europe's most racist societies ahead of Estonia and the Czech Republic.