'Blacks for sale' online ad sparks outrage in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - A shocking ad on one of Latin America's biggest online marketplaces, offering "blacks for sale for one real" (53 Singapore cents), has sparked outrage in Brazil and a police investigation.

The ad featured a photo of two black children, and suggested any blacks purchased could "serve as carpenters, masons, cooks, security guards, nightclub bouncers, janitors, garbage collectors, or housekeepers". Within a few hours, some 1,700 Brazilian responded with outraged comments.

Government officials also weighed in, with the agency in charge of racial equality urging online vendor MercadoLivre to turn over information on the author of the ad to bring charges against him.

The ad was "an offence to the entire society", rights official Carlos Alberto Silva Junior told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday.

"Incitement to discrimination or prejudice by race, color, ethnicity or religion" is punishable by two to five years in jail and by a fine, he added.

He emphasised that the Internet sites should assume their share of responsibility and put in place filters to block any racist content.

MercadoLivre, the biggest online buying and selling community in Latin America, said it has turned over account information for the person who posted the ad, which went up on Sunday, to Rio de Janeiro police and an investigation was planned.

Meanwhile, the site had pulled the ad and condemned it.

But Mr David Santos, the head of Educafro, a civil rights group championing the labour and educational rights of blacks and indigenous people, said the ad may have an unintended positive impact.

He told AFP "that unconsciously this person has helped us debate with Brazilian society to make it aware that blacks have the same rights as whites". More than half of Brazil's 200 million people are of African descent, the world's second largest black population after that of Nigeria.

The Latin American country was one of the last countries to abolish slavery, in 1888, and Afro-Brazilians complain of widespread racial inequality and disproportionate poverty.

After 13 years of debate, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff enacted in August 2012 a controversial law that reserves 50 per cent of university spots to students from public schools, with a priority given to blacks, mixed race, and indigenous people.

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