Cape Verde

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República de Cabo Verde
Cape verde rel 2004.jpg
Flag of Cape Verde.png
Arms of Cape Verde.png
Flag Coat of Arms
Capital Praia
Government Republic
Language Portuguese (official)
President Jorge Carlos Fonseca
Prime minister José Maria Neves
Area 1,557 sq mi
Population 560,000 (2020)
GDP 2005 $3.055 billion
GDP per capita $6,418
Currency Cape Verdean escudo

The Republic of Cape Verde is an island-nation located off the western coast of Africa, in the North Atlantic Ocean.


The Cape Verde Islands are located in the mid-Atlantic Ocean some 450 kilometers (about 300 mi.) off the west coast of Africa. The archipelago includes 10 islands and 5 islets, divided into the windward (Barlavento) and leeward (Sotavento) groups. The main islands in the Barlavento group are Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, and Boa Vista; those of the Sotavento group include Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava. All larger islands but Santa Luzia are inhabited.

Three islands—Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio—generally are level and very dry. Mountains higher than 1,280 meters (4,200 ft.) are found on Santiago, Fogo, Santo Antão, and São Nicolau.

Sand carried by high winds has created spectacular rock formations on all islands, especially the windward ones. Sheer, jagged cliffs rise from the sea on several of the mountainous islands. Natural vegetation is sparse in the uplands and coast, but interior valleys support denser growth.

Rainfall is irregular, and the archipelago suffers periodic droughts and consequent food shortages. The average precipitation per year in Praia is 24 centimeters (9.5 in.). During the winter, storms blowing from the Sahara sometimes cloud the sky, but sunny days are the norm year round.


The Cape Verde archipelago was uninhabited until the Portuguese discovered the islands in 1456. African slaves were brought to the islands to work on Portuguese plantations. As a result, Cape Verdeans are of mixed African and European origin. The influence of African culture is most pronounced on the island of Santiago, where half the population resides. Sparse rain and few natural resources historically have induced Cape Verdeans to emigrate. It is believed that of the more than 1 million individuals of Cape Verdean ancestry, fewer than half actually live on the islands. Some 500,000 people of Cape Verdean ancestry live in the United States, mainly in New England. Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, France, and Senegal also have large communities.

The official language is Portuguese, but most Cape Verdeans also speak a Creole dialect—Crioulo—which is based on archaic Portuguese but influenced by African and European languages. Cape Verde has a rich tradition of Crioulo literature and music.

  • Population (2005): 507,000.
  • Annual growth rate (2001): 2.9%.
  • Ethnic groups: Creole (mixed African and Portuguese), African, European.
  • Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant.
  • Languages: Portuguese (official); Crioulo (national).
  • Education: Literacy (2004)--76%.
  • Health: Infant mortality rate (2001)--37/1,000. Life expectancy (2004)--70 yrs.

Government and Political Conditions

The Cape Verde constitution—adopted in 1980 and revised in 1992, 1995, and 1999—forms the basis of government. The president is head of state and is elected by popular vote for a 5-year term. The prime minister is head of government and proposes other ministers and secretaries of state. The prime minister is nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the president. Members of the National Assembly are elected by popular vote for 5-year terms.

Cape Verde enjoys a stable democratic system. The Movement for Democracy (MpD) captured a governing majority in the National Assembly in the country's first multi-party general elections in 1991. The MpD was returned to power with a larger majority in the general elections held in December 1995. In 2001, the PAICV regained power, with four parties holding seats in the National Assembly—PAICV 40, MPD 30, PCD 1, and PTS 1. Nationwide municipal elections were held March 21, 2004.

In January 2006, Cape Verde held a successful round of parliamentary elections, followed by successful presidential elections on February 12, 2006. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) judged both elections free and fair. However, the leading parliamentary opposition party has filed a court case in an attempt to overrule the NEC on the grounds of alleged fraud.

The judicial system is comprised of a Supreme Court of Justice—whose members are appointed by the president, the National Assembly, and the Board of the Judiciary—and regional courts. Separate courts hear civil, constitutional and criminal cases. Appeal is to the Supreme Court.

Principal Government Officials

  • President—Jorge Carlos Fonseca
  • Prime Minister and Defense Minister—Jose Maria Neves
  • President of the National Assembly—Aristides Lima
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs—Victor Borges
  • Ambassador to the United States—vacant
  • Ambassador to the United Nations—Fatima Lima Veiga

Foreign Relations

Cape Verde pursues a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks cooperative relations with all states. Angola, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Portugal, Senegal, Russia, and the United States maintain embassies in Praia. Several others, mostly European countries, maintain honorary consulates. In addition, Cape Verde maintains multilateral relations with other Lusophone nations and holds membership in many international organizations. It currently is working to accede to the World Trade Organization.


Cape Verde has few natural resources and suffers from poor rainfall and limited fresh water. Only 4 of the 10 main islands (Santiago, Santo Antão, Fogo, and Brava) normally support significant agricultural production. Mineral resources include salt, pozzolana (a volcanic rock used in cement production), and limestone.

The economy of Cape Verde is service-oriented, with commerce, transport, and public services accounting for more than 70% of GDP. Although nearly 70% of the population lives in rural areas, agriculture and fishing contribute only about 10% of GDP. Light manufacturing accounts for most of the remainder. An amount estimated at about 20% of GDP is contributed to the domestic economy through remittances from expatriate Cape Verdeans.

Since 1991, the government has pursued market-oriented economic policies, including an open welcome to foreign investors and a far-reaching privatization program. It established as top development priorities the promotion of market economy and of the private sector; the development of tourism, light manufacturing industries, and fisheries; and the development of transport, communications, and energy facilities. From 1994 to 2000 there was a total of about $407 million in foreign investments made or planned, of which 58% were in tourism, 17% in industry, 4% in infrastructure, and 21% in fisheries and services.

Fish and shellfish are plentiful, and small quantities are exported. Cape Verde has cold storage and freezing facilities and fish processing plants in Mindelo, Praia, and on Sal.

Cape Verde's strategic location at the crossroads of mid-Atlantic air and sea lanes has been enhanced by significant improvements at Mindelo's harbor (Porto Grande) and at Sal's international airport. Ship repair facilities at Mindelo were opened in 1983, and the harbors at Mindelo and Praia were recently renovated. The major ports are Mindelo and Praia, but all other islands have smaller port facilities. In addition to the international airport on Sal, airports have been built on all of the inhabited islands. All but the airport on Brava enjoy scheduled air service. The archipelago has 3,050 kilometers (1,830 mi.) of roads, of which 1,010 kilometers (606 mi.) are paved.

  • GDP (2004): $983 million.
  • GDP per capita (2004): $2,091.
  • Annual real GDP growth rate (2005): 6.6%.
  • Inflation (2005): 0.4%.
  • Natural resources: Salt, pozzolana, limestone.
  • Agriculture: Products—bananas, corn, beans, sugarcane, coffee, fruits, vegetables, livestock products.
  • Industry: Types—fish and fish products, clothing, shoes, beverages, salt, construction, building materials, ship repair, furniture, metal products, tourism.
  • Trade (2004): Exports--$55 million: fuel, clothing, shoes and shoe parts, fish and crustaceans. Imports--$350.7 million: consumer goods, intermediary goods, capital goods, petroleum. Major trading partners, exports—Portugal 60.2%, U.S. 17.5%, U.K. 11.5%, Denmark 2.1%, Germany 1.7%. Major trading partners, imports—Portugal 40.7%, U.S. 12%, Netherlands 8.1%, Spain 5.1%, Italy 4.1%.
  • Fiscal year: Calendar year.
  • Currency: Escudo (CVEsc 91.03 = $1), which is pegged to the Euro.
  • Economic aid received: $92 million (2002). Largest donors: Portugal ($11 million); Luxembourg; Japan; and the United States ($5.9 million).


In 1462, Portuguese settlers arrived at Santiago and founded Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha)--the first permanent European settlement city in the tropics. In the 16th century, the archipelago prospered from the transatlantic slave trade. Pirates occasionally attacked the Portuguese settlements. Sir Francis Drake sacked Ribeira Grande in 1585. After a French attack in 1712, the city declined in importance relative to Praia, which became the capital in 1770.

With the decline in the slave trade, Cape Verde's early prosperity slowly vanished. However, the islands' position astride mid-Atlantic shipping lanes made Cape Verde an ideal location for resupplying ships. Because of its excellent harbor, Mindelo (on the island of São Vicente) became an important commercial center during the 19th century.

Portugal changed Cape Verde's status from a colony to an overseas province in 1951 in an attempt to blunt growing nationalism. Nevertheless, in 1956, Amilcar Cabral, a Cape Verdean, and a group of Cape Verdeans and Guinea-Bissauans organized (in Guinea-Bissau) the clandestine African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which demanded improvement in economic, social, and political conditions in Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea and formed the basis of the two nations' independence movement. Moving its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea in 1960, the PAIGC began an armed rebellion against Portugal in 1961. Acts of sabotage eventually grew into a war in Portuguese Guinea that pitted 10,000 Soviet bloc-supported PAIGC soldiers against 35,000 Portuguese and African troops.

By 1972, the PAIGC controlled much of Portuguese Guinea despite the presence of the Portuguese troops, but the organization did not attempt to disrupt Portuguese control in Cape Verde. Portuguese Guinea declared independence in 1973 and was granted de jure independence in 1974. Following the April 1974 revolution in Portugal, the PAIGC became an active political movement in Cape Verde. In December 1974, the PAIGC and Portugal signed an agreement providing for a transitional government composed of Portuguese and Cape Verdeans. On June 30, 1975, Cape Verdeans elected a National Assembly, which received the instruments of independence from Portugal on July 5, 1975.

Immediately following the November 1980 coup in Guinea-Bissau, relations between Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau became strained. Cape Verde abandoned its hope for unity with Guinea-Bissau and formed the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). Problems have since been resolved, and relations between the countries are good. The PAICV and its predecessor established a one-party system and ruled Cape Verde from independence until 1990.

Responding to growing pressure for pluralistic democracy, the PAICV called an emergency congress in February 1990 to discuss proposed constitutional changes to end one-party rule. Opposition groups came together to form the Movement for Democracy (MpD) in Praia in April 1990. Together, they campaigned for the right to contest the presidential election scheduled for December 1990. The one-party state was abolished September 28, 1990, and the first multi-party elections were held in January 1991. The MpD won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, and the MpD presidential candidate Mascarenhas Monteiro defeated the PAICV's candidate with 73.5% of the votes. Legislative elections in December 1995 increased the MpD majority in the National Assembly. The party won 50 of the National Assembly's 72 seats. A February 1996 presidential election returned President Mascarenhas Monteiro to office. Legislative elections in January 2001 returned power to the PAICV, with the PAICV holding 40 of the National Assembly seats, MpD 30, and Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD) and Party for Labor and Solidarity (PTS) 1 each. In February 2001, the PAICV-supported presidential candidate Pedro Pires defeated former MpD leader Carlos Veiga by only 13 votes.

Copyright Details
License: This work is in the Public Domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the U.S. Code
Source: File available from the United States Federal Government [1].