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Portugal minister condemns far-right MP's attack on black colleague

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal’s justice minister condemned parliament’s sole far-right lawmaker on Wednesday for a social media post in which he called for a black fellow MP with dual Portuguese-Guinean citizenship to be “returned to her own country”.

FILE PHOTO: Portugal's Justice Minister Francisca Van Dunem attends a swearing-in ceremony at the Belem palace in Lisbon, Portugal October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Portugal’s Angolan-born Justice Minister Francisca Van Dunem said in a speech that lawmaker Andre Ventura’s comments were “an example of the xenophobic discourse which has begun to invade our institutional spaces and now arrived in parliament.”

Ventura, the head of small populist party Chega (Enough) who was elected for the first time in October, posted the statement on Facebook on Tuesday in response to a policy proposal by Joacine Katar Moreira from the eco-Socialist party Livre.

She had proposed that items in Portuguese museums obtained from former colonies should be returned to their countries of origin.

“I propose that the lawmaker herself be returned to her own country. ... It would be calmer for everyone, including her own party, and especially Portugal!” wrote Ventura.

Moreira is one of three black members of parliament, and has presented various policy proposals on tackling racism and colonial legacies in Portugal.

Moreira’s Livre decried Ventura’s statement as “deplorable and racist”, while the ruling Socialists said the party deemed his actions “inadmissible” and was considering a vote of condemnation in parliament.

An unrepentant Ventura told TSF radio: “She is constantly attacking our history and defending foreign interests. If she acts like that she may as well leave.” Still, he said his comment was “obviously ironic” as he was not referring to physical deportation.

Chega was not immediately available for comment.

At a time when far-right populist movements are on the rise in most of Europe, their peers in Portugal still enjoy relatively weak support because of the country’s attachment to a young democracy that began in 1974 after four decades of Antonio Salazar’s fascist dictatorship.

Ventura was elected with just 1.3% of the vote for his party, but rights groups have voiced concerns that his populist rhetoric often broadcast from parliament is whipping up anti-foreigner and homophobic sentiments and nostalgia for Salazar.

Reporting by Victoria Waldersee, editing by Andrei Khalip and Jonathan Oatis