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Cape Verde, History

The islands were used by Senegalese fishers before the first Europeans arrived, about 1456. They were claimed by Portugal in 1460; Portuguese settlers began to land shortly afterward. In 1495 the archipelago was declared a crown possession of Portugal, and slaves were subsequently imported from the African continent to cultivate the land. After gaining prosperity, the islands became attractive to pirates and foreign raiders—English, Dutch, and French—who repeatedly attacked during the following centuries. When the slave trade (for which the islands had served as a port of call) was abolished in 1876, their importance dwindled, although a coaling station and a submarine cable station at Mindelo still attracted many ships until World War I. Trade increased again toward the middle of the 20th century.

In an attempt to avert growing nationalism, Portugal in 1951 designated its African colonies, including Cape Verde, as overseas provinces. The provincial status gave Cape Verdeans access to higher education, but lack of job opportunities and poverty in the islands forced many of the educated to take administrative jobs on the African mainland. There they began to participate in growing nationalist movements. Amilcar Cabral, a Cape Verdean, cofounded the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (known by its Portuguese acronym PAIGC) in 1956 in Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau). The party initiated an armed rebellion against Portugal in the early 1960s. For logistical reasons, the rebels did not attempt to disrupt Portugal's control of Cape Verde, which was used as a garrison for Portuguese troops fighting on the mainland. However, desire for independence among Cape Verdeans remained strong and many residents of the islands went to the mainland to join the rebellion.

A revolution in Portugal in 1974 sparked mass mobilizations in Cape Verde, which prompted the new Portuguese government to negotiate with the PAIGC. Talks culminated in independence for Cape Verde on July 5, 1975, ending five centuries of Portuguese rule. Although the original constitution envisioned eventual unification with Guinea-Bissau, a coup in that country in 1980 resulted in strained relations and the dropping of plans for unity.

In 1981 the PAIGC was dissolved and replaced by the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). A 1981 constitution made the PAICV the country's sole political party. Under its first president, Aristides Pereira, Cape Verde was nonaligned in foreign policy but heavily dependent on Western aid. Under pressure from church and academic circles, reforms enacted in 1990 provided for the country's first free presidential election, won by Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro in 1991. A new constitution enshrining the new multiparty system was adopted in 1992. Mascarenhas, running uncontested, was reelected in February 1996 and his party, Movement for Democracy (MPD), won a landslide victory in legislative elections.

In 2001 elections, the PAICV retook the majority of seats in the National Assembly, and PAICV candidate Pedro Pires was elected president. Pires appointed Jose Maria Neves prime minister.

 
 

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