Island country, east-central Atlantic Ocean.
Lying 385 mi (620 km) off the western coast of Senegal, it consists
of 10 islands and 5 islets. Area: 1,557 sq mi (4,033 sq km). Population
(2008 est.): 500,000. Capital: Praia. More than two-thirds of its
population are of mixed African and European origin (known as mestiço or
Crioulo); the remainder are African and European. Languages: Portuguese
(official), Crioulo (a Portuguese creole). Religions: Christianity
(predominantly Roman Catholic); also Islam. Currency: Cape Verde escudo.
The mountainous western islands are craggy and furrowed by erosion; the
flatter islands of the east are largely plains and lowlands. The
archipelago is volcanic in origin. Fogo Island has an active volcano; it
is also the location of the highest peak, which rises 9,281 ft (2,829
m). The largest islands are Santo Antão, Boa Vista, and São Tiago. Cape
Verde has a largely service-based economy, and tourism has been
promoted. It is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of
state is the president and its head of government the prime minister.
The islands were uninhabited when Diogo Gomes sighted and named Maio
and São Tiago in 1460; in 1462 the first settlers landed on São Tiago,
founding the city of Ribeira Grande. The city’s importance grew with the
development of the slave trade, and its wealth attracted attacks so
often that it was abandoned in 1712. The prosperity of the
Portuguese-controlled islands vanished with the decline of the slave
trade in the 19th century, when they were made a coaling and submarine
cable station. In 1951 the colony became an overseas province of
Portugal. Many islanders preferred outright independence, which was
granted in 1975. Once associated politically with Guinea-Bissau, Cape
Verde split from it in the wake of a 1980 coup there.
Official name República de Cabo Verde (Republic of Cape Verde)
Form of government multiparty republic with one legislative house
(National Assembly )
Chief of state President
Head of government Prime Minister
Official language Portuguese
Official religion none
Monetary unit escudo (C.V.Esc.)
Population estimate (2008) 500,000
Total area (sq mi) 1,557
Total area (sq km) 4,033
country comprising a group of islands that lie 385 miles (620 km) off
the west coast of Africa. Praia, on São Tiago, is the capital.
Cape Verde is named for the westernmost cape of Africa, which is
located in nearby Senegal and is the nearest point on the continent. The
largest port in the islands is located at Mindelo, on São Vicente. Its
deepwater harbour accommodates sizable vessels and has been used as a
fueling station since the 19th century.
Cape Verde consists of nine inhabited islands, one uninhabited
island, and various islets, located between 14°30′ and 17°30′ N and
between 22°30′ and 25°30′ W. The archipelago is divided into the
Barlavento (Windward) group to the north and the Sotavento (Leeward)
group to the south. The Barlavento Islands include Santo Antão, São
Vicente, Santa Luzia (which is uninhabited), São Nicolau, Sal, and Boa
Vista, together with the islets of Raso and Branco. The Sotavento
Islands include Maio, São Tiago (Santiago), Fogo, and Brava and the
three islets called the Rombos—Grande, Luís Carneiro, and Cima.
Relief, drainage, and soils
The terrain of the Cape Verde islands varies from the geologically
older, flatter islands in the east and the newer, more mountainous
islands in the west. The eastern islands of Boa Vista, Maio, and Sal,
for example, have been heavily eroded by the wind over time and are very
sandy and flat. The others are very rocky, jagged, and mountainous. Fogo
(“Fire”) Island’s active volcano, Pico, rises 9,281 feet (2,829 metres)
and is the highest point of the archipelago. On the northern island of
Santo Antão, Tope de Coroa reaches 6,493 feet (1,979 meters).
There are few permanent watercourses in the islands, which generally
suffer from seasonal rains, cyclical drought, and chronic water
shortages. When precipitation does occur, it is often in the form of
torrential downpours that cause significant damage through water
erosion, flooding, and the destruction of containment dams.
Cape Verde’s soils, primarily volcanic or igneous in origin, are
generally shallow, coarse, and rocky. Almost a quarter of the land area
is rock of volcanic origin; basalt is a common type. More than
three-fifths of the land is arid and lacking in humus and thus is
suitable only for rough grazing; sand and limestone outcrops are common
in these areas. Only a fraction of the total area has proper humus and
sufficient water supplies for significant irrigation agriculture. Soil
loss through wind and water erosion is a serious challenge. Since
independence a nationwide campaign to prevent erosion—e.g., by promoting
reforestation—has been under way.
Generally moderate, the climate is characterized by stable
temperatures with extreme aridity. February is the coolest month, with
temperatures in the low 70s F (low 20s C); August and September are the
hottest and wettest months, with temperatures in the low 80s F (high 20s
C). The islands are profoundly affected by the two-season nature of the
intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), a belt of converging trade winds
and rising air that encircles Earth near the Equator. Winter winds from
Europe are cool and dry, but in the summer months, the ITCZ front moves
to the north and the Guinea current brings more heat and moisture, which
can result in increased precipitation, especially in the higher
elevations of the more mountainous islands. Precipitation levels are a
function of how far north the ITCZ progresses and how much tropical
moisture it carries and are, as a result, unpredictable: years may go by
with little or no precipitation. The clashing fronts near Cape Verde
generate hurricanes that travel westward across the Atlantic Ocean to
the Caribbean and the eastern coast of the United States.
Plant and animal life
On most of the larger islands, elevations are great enough to
generate precipitation on the windward slopes; grasses and some pine
plantations are found in these relatively moist locations. The leeward
slopes, however, exhibit a characteristic rain-shadow effect that
produces desert conditions, and the sparse shrub cover almost
disappears. The shrubs remaining in these areas are mostly thorny or
bitter; some are toxic. Agriculture is practiced either in a limited way
at high elevations or by intense terracing of the sharp-cut valleys.
Some xerophilous (desert-type) plants are found rooted in the brackish
subsoil of Maio, Sal, and Boa Vista.
The scarcity of water limits the number of land turtles in the
archipelago, but two species of sea turtles lay their eggs on the sandy
shores of the uninhabited islets. There are many geckos and lizards and
several species of skinks, including a rare and endangered giant skink.
There are a number of species of butterflies, but none is endemic, and
all the species are of African origin.
There are more than 100 known species of birds, of which only a
portion, including four species of petrels and two of shearwaters, breed
regularly. Other bird species include the greater flamingo, the frigate
bird and the buzzard (both nearly extinct), the Egyptian vulture, the
Cape Verde Islands kite, and the red-billed tropic bird. Several other
birds are represented by local species, of which the kingfisher is among
the most conspicuous. The only truly endemic species, however, are the
cane warbler and the Raso lark, which is restricted to Raso, one of the
smallest uninhabited islets. The rest of the birds are overseas
migrants. Remarkably, gulls and terns do not breed on the islands.
Mammals of Cape Verde include the feral goats found on Fogo, the
descendants of domestic goats that were taken to the islands. The
islands’ rodent population probably originated with rodents carried on
early ships. Monkeys, introduced from the African continent, are also
present on the islands. The long-eared bat is the only indigenous
The overwhelming majority of the population of Cape Verde is of
mixed European and African descent and is often referred to as mestiço
or Crioulo. There is also a sizable African minority, which includes the
Fulani (Fulbe), the Balante, and the Mandyako peoples. A small
population of European origin includes those of Portuguese descent
(especially from the Algarve, a historical province, and the Azores
islands), as well as those of Italian, French, and English descent.
There is also a substantial number that traces its roots to Sephardic
Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th and 16th
centuries during the Inquisition and were among the islands’ early
settlers, or to other groups of Jews—mainly tradesmen—who arrived in the
19th century from Morocco.
Although Portuguese is the official language and is used in formal
situations, Crioulo, one of the oldest of the Portuguese creole
languages, is by far the most widely spoken. The different dialects of
Crioulo that exist on the islands may be broadly divided into Sotavento
and Barlavento groups. There has been a struggle to legitimate and
regularize Crioulo orthography in a dictionary and in schools.
The majority of the population is Roman Catholic, but a flourishing
Protestant mission is based in Praia with a publishing venture in Fogo.
In practice, Catholicism is often enriched with African elements. The
celebration of saints’ days, for example, may be accompanied by
drumming, processionals, masks, and dancing in African styles,
particularly on São Tiago. Although many Cape Verdeans can trace Jewish
ancestry, virtually none are practicing.
The proportion of Cape Verdeans living in rural areas has declined
consistently since the mid-20th century. By the early 2000s, the
majority of the population was urban and concentrated particularly in
the centres of Praia and Mindelo. Some two-fifths of the population
remained rural, living in small villages and individual households in
remote fertile valleys or in coastal towns and villages.
Cape Verde’s population-growth rate is below both the regional and
world averages. A steady emigration of young males seeking employment
abroad and one of the lowest birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa have been
responsible for dampening Cape Verde’s population growth. Life
expectancy on average exceeds the regional and global averages for both
genders. On the whole the Cape Verdean population is relatively young,
with some two-fifths of the population under 15 years of age.
The group of diasporic Cape Verdeans throughout the world exceeds the
national population. The pattern of out-migration is very old, with many
Cape Verdeans having left the islands as a result of the slave trade or
to work as seamen on whaling and sealing ships or serve as migrant
labourers in either New England (where many attracted by whaling would
settle) or the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. During the period of
Portuguese colonialism, many Cape Verdeans served throughout Lusophone
Africa as middle-level colonial officials and workers. Many Cape
Verdeans work as merchant mariners or longshoremen in the major
diasporic communities in Dakar, Seneg., southeastern New England,
Rotterdam, and Lisbon. Some Cape Verdean women have sought employment as
domestic workers in countries such as Italy, Portugal, and Spain.
After independence, the government played a central role in Cape
Verde’s economy and created several state-owned businesses, which
ultimately was a limiting factor in the country’s economic growth.
Dramatic changes to the Cape Verdean economic structure, especially from
the mid-1990s, have since guided the country toward a market economy. As
a result of these reforms, the number of state-owned businesses declined
significantly, with numerous interests such as utilities companies,
banks, tourism-sector entities, and other enterprises having been
privatized by the early 2000s.
Cape Verde’s service-oriented economy is centred on commerce, trade,
transport, and public services. The revenue from the country’s
international airports, emigrants’ remittances, and, increasingly,
tourism are all important and have enabled the balance of payments to
stay generally positive despite imports’ far exceeding exports.
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Agriculture in Cape Verde is limited by the severe and recurrent
droughts that affect the islands. The harsh conditions have long posed
serious challenges to agricultural pursuits, resulting in irregular crop
output and periodic bouts of large-scale famine. Poor grazing practices
for sheep and goats and little effort toward reforestation and water
conservation under the centuries of Portuguese colonialism only
aggravated this poor ecological condition. The postcolonial governments
have made a major effort to plant drought-resistant acacia trees and
build dikes, retaining dams, and terracing in order to curb intense
water erosion, improve water retention in the subsoil, and improve and
expand the limited areas available for subsistence and small-scale
Crops grown for local consumption include corn (maize), sugarcane,
castor beans, broad beans, potatoes, and peanuts (groundnuts). There is
a heavy reliance on imported foodstuffs, however, and the importation of
food has long been an absolute necessity. Although Cape Verde’s fishing
capabilities are not fully exploited, fish is important for both
domestic consumption and export, and both tuna and lobster are caught.
Use of firewood as a source of fuel has placed a strain on Cape
Verde’s woodland resources. While the use of wood fuel continued to
increase in the late 20th century, because of governmental reforestation
efforts, the level of forested area on the islands was simultaneously on
the increase. At the beginning of the 21st century, about one-fifth of
Cape Verde was forested.
Resources and power
Cape Verde has few natural resources. Supplies of sand, limestone,
puzzolane (a cement or plaster additive), and salt are of some
commercial and utilitarian value. Its very limited water supply is a
grave liability, and there are no domestic sources of energy except
firewood, wind, and sunlight. The country on the whole relies on
imported petroleum fuel; on the local level, most domestic energy needs
are met by the use of firewood, although the resulting demand placed
upon these resources poses an environmental threat. Experimental
approaches toward energy supply are under investigation, and the
potential of Cape Verde’s renewable energy resources has been
Only a few small-scale industries exist in Cape Verde. These include
sewing, textiles, ceramics, mining, timber, beverages, and
pharmaceuticals. Tuna fish canning takes place in some areas, and the
processing of frozen seafood such as lobster has been profitable.
Banco de Cabo Verde is the central bank and issues the Cape Verdean
currency, the escudo. There are several foreign banks and a stock
exchange. The privatization in the late 1990s of a number of financial
enterprises, such as banking and insurance institutions, accompanied a
broader initiative to privatize state holdings in other economic sectors
that was already under way.
Fish, salt, puzzolane, rum, animal hides, bananas, and coffee are
exported, but none in very large quantities. As Cape Verde is heavily
dependent on imported food, its principal imports include cereals,
fruits and vegetables, beverages, and other foodstuffs. Fuel and
building materials are also important. Portugal and Spain are the
country’s most important trade partners, although it also maintains
significant trade linkages with other countries, such as The
Netherlands, Belgium, and the United States.
Services account for a substantial proportion of the gross domestic
product. The draw of nautical sports such as sailing and fishing and the
attraction of the islands’ biodiversity have contributed to an increase
in tourism to the islands, particularly by European visitors.
Labour and taxation
Industrial activity, including construction, employs a significant
proportion of the labour force. In spite of the fact that Cape Verde is
not self-sufficient in food production, more than one-fifth of the
labour force is devoted to agricultural pursuits. High unemployment is
one of the major factors driving the country’s emigration pattern.
The constitution guarantees workers the right of association, and the
country’s unions are grouped under two umbrella organizations, the
Council of Free Labor Unions and the National Union of Cape Verde
Workers. Although labourers are also nominally guaranteed the right to
strike, government interference has been noted. Unions are also
permitted to forge international connections, and some are affiliated
with organizations abroad.
Tax revenues account for a significant proportion of the Cape Verdean
budget. Of these, consumption taxes and taxes on income and profits
provide the most sizable contributions.
Transportation and telecommunications
The majority of roads in Cape Verde are paved, and there are no
railways. All the inhabited islands have airports. There is
international air service to destinations such as Lisbon, Boston, Rome,
Paris, Brazil, and points in western Africa. Within the islands, regular
ferries and planes provide local service. There is a small national
shipping line and a national airline, Transportes Aéreos de Cabo Verde.
Porto Grande, the country’s primary port, is located at Mindelo, on São
Vicente; other ports include those located at Praia, on São Tiago, and
Palmeira, on Sal.
Telephone service in Cape Verde is generally good, and cellular
telephone use is expanding. Compared with the regional average, the
proportion of available personal computers relative to the population is
quite high, and cybercafes can be found in larger towns and cities.
Government and society
A constitution, promulgated in 1992 and subsequently revised,
established the president as head of state. The president is elected by
popular vote for a five-year term, renewable once. The president, in
consultation with the popularly elected National Assembly, appoints the
prime minister. The prime minister then recommends members of the
National Assembly to the president for appointment to the Council of
On the local level, Cape Verde is divided into concelhos
(municipalities). While some islands constitute their own municipality,
others, such as São Vicente, Fogo, and Santo Antão, are divided into
several. Local administration takes place under an assembly, which is
elected to proportionally represent the residents of the administrative
unit, and a collegial executive body.
The Supreme Court of Justice is the highest court and oversees a
network of courts at the local level. It consists of a minimum of five
judges—one appointed by the president, one elected by the National
Assembly, and the remainder appointed by the Supreme Council of
Magistrates. Other courts include a Court of Audit, which monitors the
legality of public expenditure, military courts, and fiscal and customs
courts. The independence of the judiciary is guaranteed by the
The president and the National Assembly—and at the local level of
government, councils—are all elected by universal adult suffrage. The
constitution does not limit eligibility to civil service positions or
elected office, and a number of women have held posts in the National
Assembly and cabinet.
After independence in 1975, the African Party for the Independence of
Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e
Cabo Verde; PAIGC) was the ruling party of both Cape Verde and
Guinea-Bissau. Following a political split between the two countries in
1980, the Cape Verdean branch of the party, the African Party for the
Independence of Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo
Verde; PAICV), was the sole legal political party in the country until
dissent within the PAICV led to the formation of the Movement for
Democracy (Movimento para a Democracia; MpD), which won the democratic
elections of 1990.
Cape Verde’s security apparatus includes an army, which is by far
its largest division, as well a coast guard and an air force. Service in
the armed forces is determined by selective conscription. General law
enforcement falls under the domain of the Public Order Police.
Health and welfare
Major health problems include infant diarrhea and upper respiratory
infection caused by poor hygiene, particularly the lack of piped and
treated water. Maternal and child health programs have been instituted
and include widespread campaigns of inoculation against childhood
diseases. As a result, infant mortality in Cape Verde is among the very
lowest in the region. Cape Verde has a relatively low prevalence of
HIV/AIDS. Cholera has been known to occur periodically; limited cases of
malaria have been noted in São Tiago; and leprosy appears from time to
time. Dressing stations with a rotating circuit doctor operate in remote
areas. Clinics and health posts are operated at the local level with
regional hospitals. There are central hospitals in the towns of Mindelo
Water for public consumption is supplied either by precipitation,
from storage cisterns or deep wells, or, in the larger towns, by
desalinization facilities. Some groundwater sources are sulfurous;
others, mainly on São Vicente and Boa Vista, are slightly salty because
of the low water tables.
According to official policy, compulsory primary education begins at
age six or seven and lasts for six years. It is followed by secondary
schooling, which is divided into two phases of three and two years,
respectively. Universities located in Cape Verde include the Jean Piaget
University of Cape Verde (2001) and the University of Cape Verde (2006).
There are also institutes for teaching and nurse training and for
engineering and maritime technology.
Although approximately two-thirds of Cape Verdeans were illiterate at
independence, literacy was greatly improved in the decades that
followed. By the early 2000s, almost four-fifths of the population was
literate, although there was an appreciable a disparity between male and
female literacy levels.
Although five centuries of Portuguese colonial culture have
dominated the islands, traditions from Africa are also present. The two
are much blended in the cultural life of Cape Verde, evidence of which
is apparent in the country’s literary, musical, and artistic production.
A number of the holidays celebrated in Cape Verde—including Easter,
the Feast of the Assumption, All Saints’ Day, and Christmas—reflect the
country’s majority Roman Catholic tradition. Other holidays include
National Heroes’ Day, Children’s Day, and Independence Day, which are
observed on January 20, June 1, and July 5, respectively.
The cultural synthesis that forms Cape Verdean artistic tradition is
notable in the rich body of oral narratives known as Nho Lobo tales, for
example, which include the characters of Ti Lobo and Chibinho, both of
whom have their counterparts in western African folklore. Musical
traditions from Africa are reborn in Cape Verde as batuko (derived from
the Portuguese verb meaning “to beat”), a genre that features polyrhythm
and call and response performed by a group of women. European traditions
are revealed in the morna, a lament comparable to the Portuguese fado,
and the mazurka. Other styles include the funana, a fast-paced genre
that features the gaita, an accordion-like instrument, and the finaçon,
often performed by women in conjunction with a batuko session. Cesaria
Evora, one of Cape Verde’s most popular musicians, is famous both within
the islands and abroad for her mornas and coladeras (mornas with a
Since the late 19th century, Cape Verde has produced some outstanding
writers and poets. Between 1936 and 1960 the cultural magazine Claridade
(“Clarity”) was the centre of an artistic movement that marked a break
with Portuguese literary traditions and established a Cape Verdean
identity. Baltasar Lopes da Silva, who used the pseudonym Osvaldo
Alcântara for his poetry, and Eugénio Tavares are key figures from this
period. Subsequent writers have extended the movement’s interest in the
Crioulo culture to use that language as well as Portuguese.
There is an ethnographic museum of culture and history in Praia. The
National Historic Archive, which contains important documents, including
some that relate to the history of the slave trade, is located in Praia.
Cultural influences from the colonial era are evident in the town of
Cidade Velha, located on the island of São Tiago. Initially founded as
Ribeira Grande by Portuguese settlers in the 15th century, the town is
noted for the many examples of colonial architecture found in its
historic centre, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in
Sports and recreation
Although Cape Verdeans enjoy a variety of sports, football (soccer)
is perhaps the most popular. Matches are played at all levels of
society, from pickup street games with improvised balls, fields, and
nets to interscholastic rivalries and competitions between the Sotavento
and Barlavento islands. Interest in basketball is growing. Long-distance
running, swimming, and the traditional African board game of ouri are
popular pastimes. Windsurfing, fishing, cycling, golfing, hiking,
mountain climbing, horseback riding, and scuba diving are common resort
activities. In their various diaspora communities, many Cape Verdeans
have distinguished themselves in sports and athletic achievements,
especially in football, boxing, and baseball.
Cape Verde’s Olympic committee was formed in 1989 and recognized by
the International Olympic Committee in 1993. The team subsequently made
its Olympic debut at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
Media and publishing
Television and radio stations offer programming in both Portuguese
and Crioulo. Print media such as A Semana, Terra Nova, and Voz di
Povo—all issued in Portuguese—are published. Freedom of the press,
guaranteed by the constitution, is generally honoured. The Cape Verdean
Institute of Books and Records is a publishing house that specializes in
works on Cape Verdean history and culture. Portuguese and
foreign-language books have a small but established market.
Early and colonial history
Although there is no conclusive evidence that the islands were
inhabited before the arrival of the Portuguese, cases may be made for
visits by Phoenicians, Moors, and Africans in previous centuries. It was
Portuguese navigators such as Diogo Gomes and Diogo Afonso, Venetian
explorer Alvise Ca’ da Mosto, and Genoese navigators such as António and
Bartólomeu da Noli, however, who began to report on the islands in the
mid-15th century, shortly before a plan of active colonization and
settlement was launched.
In 1462 the first settlers from Portugal landed on São Tiago,
subsequently founding there the oldest European city in the
tropics—Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha). Sugar was planted in an
attempt to emulate the success of the earlier settlement of Madeira.
Cape Verde’s dry climate was less favourable, but, with the development
of transatlantic slave trade, the importance and the wealth of the
Cape Verde served an increasingly important role as an offshore
entrepôt with the development of the triangular trade, by which
manufactured goods from Europe were traded for slaves, who were sold in
turn to plantations in the New World in exchange for the raw materials
produced there; with these, the ships returned home. Cape Verde was thus
a centre for the trade of cheap manufactured items, firearms, rum,
cloth, and the like in exchange for slaves, ivory, and gold. Cape Verde
was especially known for its pano cloths, usually constructed of six
strips of fabric made from cotton that was grown, dyed dark indigo, and
woven on narrow looms by slaves in Cape Verde; the cloths were a
valuable form of currency for the slave trade on the mainland. Tens of
thousands of slaves were exported from the coast to the islands and then
on to the New World, especially to northern Brazil.
Portuguese efforts to monopolize exploration and trade along the
western African coast were disrupted by those who saw the potential of
the wealth of Africa for their own interests, and smuggling was rife.
Although the slave trade was controlled through the crown-issued
monopoly contracts, in the late 16th century the English and Spanish
began to wear away the Portuguese monopoly. In addition, the prosperity
of Ribeira Grande attracted pirates, who attacked the city in 1541. The
English later attacked it twice—in 1585 and 1592—the first time under
the command of Sir Francis Drake. After a French attack in 1712, it was
decided to move the capital to Praia. With the transfer officially
complete in 1770, Ribeira Grande began its long slow decline.
The waning of the slave trade—the Portuguese rulers and merchants
reluctantly abandoned the industry in 1876—coupled with increasing
drought slowly sapped the islands’ prosperity. In the early 1800s Cape
Verde experienced not only recurrent drought and famine but government
corruption and maladministration as well. In the mid-1850s, the islands
enjoyed a period of economic optimism as the age of steam replaced the
age of sail, and large long-distance oceanic vessels needed strategic
coaling stations such as Mindelo could provide. As a result, Cape Verde
was briefly the site of great port activity, before the opening of the
Suez Canal in 1869 cut severely into this business. For the wider
population there was little relief or improvement, and emigration from
the islands became the norm: faced with the prospect of drought and
starvation at home, the poorest Cape Verdeans commonly traveled south to
work as agricultural labourers picking bananas and cocoa beans in São
Tomé and Príncipe; others found maritime work on whaling ships.
Struggle for independence
The long-standing joint colonial administration of Cape Verde and
Guinea-Bissau was terminated in 1879, when both became separate
Portuguese territories. Amid the contemporary African decolonization
movement, their status was modified in 1951 to “overseas provinces,” and
their inhabitants were officially granted full Portuguese citizenship in
1961. Not perceiving these changes as meaningful, however, some members
of the colonial population began to agitate for complete independence
from Portugal for both Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. One such group, the
African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido
Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde; PAIGC) was founded in
Bissau in 1956 and headed by Amílcar Cabral, a gifted revolutionary
leader and theoretician. Its goal was to achieve independence by using
peaceful means of protest; in 1959, however, the Portuguese responded
with violence and arrests, which convinced the PAIGC that only a path of
armed struggle would be sufficient to end the colonial and fascist
regime. After a period of military training and political preparation,
the PAIGC launched its armed campaign in January 1963 and showed steady
military progress thereafter. On Jan. 20, 1973, Cabral was assassinated;
later that year, on September 24, Guinea-Bissau declared independence.
This event—compounded by the other lengthy wars in Portuguese
colonies—precipitated a crisis in Portugal that resulted in a successful
coup there on April 25, 1974. Portugal’s new government soon began
negotiating with African nationalist movements.
Full independence was achieved in Cape Verde on July 5, 1975.
Aristides Pereira, the PAIGC secretary-general, and Pedro Pires, a
military commander, became the first president and prime minister,
respectively. A military coup in Guinea-Bissau in 1980, deeply resented
in Cape Verde, broke the political unity between the two countries. The
PAIGC subsequently split, with the Cape Verdean branch thereafter known
as the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (Partido
Africano para a Independência de Cabo Verde; PAICV). Pereira and Pires
remained in power in the one-party state until PAICV dissidents were
permitted to form a second party, the Movement for Democracy (Movimento
para a Democracia; MpD), which was organized from as early as March 1990
and emerged victorious in the two-party elections of January 1991. In
the presidential election held the following month, Antonio Mascarenhas
Monteiro, backed by the MpD, won a decisive victory; he was reelected in
February 1996 in an election marked by a low turnout and in which he was
the only candidate.
During Monteiro’s tenure, the country continued to experience
economic struggles, and both the MpD and the PAICV held the troubled
economy to be their primary concern. During the legislative and
presidential elections of 2001, the PAICV was returned to power, with
Pires winning the second round of balloting to secure the presidency
despite allegations of irregularities by his opponent, former prime
minister Carlos Alberto Wahnon Carvalho Veiga. That same year, food
shortages—a common predicament for the country—worsened considerably,
and the government relied heavily on foreign aid and food imports to
feed the country. Veiga and Pires faced each other once again in the
presidential election of 2006, in which Pires—with diasporic
support—very narrowly secured reelection.
The poverty and high rates of unemployment that plagued Cape Verde in
the 1990s continued into the 2000s, even as the government made strides
in reaching economic goals. In the 21st century, the country continued
to successfully pursue political and economic relationships around the
globe, courting foreign investors and creating and maintaining
diplomatic ties in the international community.
W. Mary Bannerman
Caroline Sarah Shaw
Richard Andrew Lobban