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Brazil creates rights medal named after Black writer, replacing princess


Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a launching ceremony of National Program for Public Security with Citizenship (PRONASCI II) at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

Brazil’s leftist government on Monday abolished a human rights medal that former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro had named after the daughter of the country’s last monarch, replacing it with a prize named after a Black writer and abolitionist.

The medal will now be named after Luiz Gama, who was a leader of the movement to abolish slavery in Brazil in the 19th Century.

When slavery was finally abolished in 1888, Brazil was a monarchy ruled by the Braganca family of Portuguese origin, but the monarch was ill, so his daughter Isabel signed the abolition decree.

Bolsonaro established the Princess Isabel Order of Merit just days before he left office last year, naming it after a figure that Brazilian conservatives traditionally praise for ending slavery.

The government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva established a human rights ministry as soon as it took office in January and has now created the prize named after Gama.

“It is not that a white person cannot be part of the anti-racist struggle, but about recognizing an abolitionist Black man as a defender of human rights,” deputy minister Rita Oliveira said in a statement.

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