Pereira, Aristides 1923–
Aristides Pereira 1923–
Aristides Pereira fought for Cape Verde’s independence and was the island nation’s president for 16 years. A founder of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), Pereira helped organize the movement that eventually secured independence for Cape Verde from Portugal. Pereira’s major challenge as president was economic survival of the country which, with its limited land area, cannot support population growth. Pereira retired from politics in 1991 after instituting a multi-party system for Cape Verde and losing his reelection bid.
Aristides Maria Pereira was born on November 17, 1923, in Boa Vista, Cape Verde to Porfirino Pereira Tavares and Maria das Neves Crus Silva. After secondary school, he trained as a radio-telegraph technician at Lyce du Cap-Vert. He married Carlina Fortes in 1959 and had one son and two daughters.
Cape Verde, the “green cape,” is made up of ten mountainous islands about 300 miles off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. The islands were one of several Portuguese colonies in Africa, including Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau. Constant vulnerability to drought and limited natural resources often result in famine in Cape Verde, and the nation has an historically weak economy. Sixty percent of Cape Verdean people are of mixed descent—mostly of African slaves and European settlers, mainly Portuguese. The language of the islands, Crioulo, is a hybrid of Portuguese and a number of African languages.
In 1952 Pereira and Amilcar Cabral began work to organize a resistance movement against Portuguese rule of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. Cabral and Pereira followed a Communist model to plan their resistance. “It’s difficult not to use Marxist language in a liberation war,” a Cape Verdean government official later told the Economist. Cabral was not “boxed into any social system, but pursued progress and social justice,” he added.
In 1956 Pereira and Cabral founded the PAIGC to liberate the two Portuguese colonies. Their vision was ultimately to unite Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau as one nation. In 1958, PAIGC leader Cabral traveled to newly independent Republic of Guinea, which offered PAIGC a safe haven to prepare to infiltrate neighboring Guinea-Bissau. Pereira remained in Cape Verde. In 1959, he helped organize a dock strike in Guinea-Bissau that resulted in the deaths of 50 dock workers by the Portuguese government. The massacre ignited the previously non-violent PAIGC and caused it to launch a war against the Portuguese for liberation.
Pereira worked in Guinea-Bissau as the head of the telecommunications department until 1960, when he left to join Cabral in Guinea to set up PAIGC exile headquarters and a guerrilla training program. In Guinea, Pereira instituted a radio-information program that broadcast to nations supportive of the PAIGC cause. As head of international affairs for the PAIGC, Pereira was able to secure aid from the Soviet Union,
At a Glance…
Born Aristides Maria Pereira on November 17, 1923, in Boa Vista, Cape Verde; son of Porffrino Pereira Tavares and Maria das Neves Crus Sila; married Carlina Fortes, 1959; children: one son, two daughters. Education: trained as a radio-telegraph technician at Lycee du Cap-Vert.
Career: Began as a radio-telegraph technician; head, Telecommunications Services, Bissau, Portugese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau); founded African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) with late Amilcar Cabral, 1956; fled to Republic of Guinea, 1960; Deputy secretary general, PAIGC, 1964-73; secretary general, PAIGC, 1973-81; secretary general, African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), 1981; president, Republic of Cape Verde, 1975-91; defeated in elections, retired from politics, 1991.
Memberships: Political Bureau, Central Committee, PAIGC, 1956-70; member, Permanent Commission of Executive Committee for Struggle in Charge of Security, Control, and Foreign Affairs, 1970; Orders of Santiago of the Sword and Infante Dom Henrique, Portugal.
Awards: Medaille, Ordre du Lyon, Senegal; Medaille Amilcar Cabral, Guinea-Bissau; Medaille de Fidelite au Peuple, Republic of Guinea; Grand Cordon of National Order of Southern Cross, Brazil; Agostinho Neto Medal, First Class, Angola; Amilcar Cabral Medal, First Class, Cape Verde. Honorary doctorate degrees from University of Rhode Island, Sacred Heart of Bridport, U.S.A.; Coimbra, Portugal; Usmane Danfodyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria.
Addresses: c/o Prainha, P.O. Box 172, Praia, Cape Verde.
Scandinavian nations, and the Organization of African Unity. The PAIGC’s guerrilla campaigns began in 1963 in Guinea-Bissau and were led mostly by Cabral. Pereira was involved in the struggle, mostly in organizing underground sabotage groups in Guinea-Bissau. In 1964, Pereira became assistant secretary general of the PAIGC. By 1969, PAIGC forces controlled over two-thirds of Guinea-Bissau.
In 1973 Amilcar Cabral was assassinated by the Portuguese secret police, and Pereira was kidnapped and put on a boat to Guinea-Bissau. Before he could be handed over to the Portuguese, he was rescued by the Guinean naval patrol. By this time, Pereira was deputy secretary general of the PAIGC, so he assumed party leadership after Cabral’s death. Cabral’s murder was a setback for the PAIGC, but Pereira took charge of the struggle and quickly brought it to a successful end. Amilcar Cabral’s brother, Luis Cabral, became president of newly independent Guinea-Bissau. Pereira returned to his homeland after almost 15 years and won an overwhelming election for president in 1975. However, Amilcar Cabral remained an “ideological hero” of Cape Verdeans, according to the Economist.
When Cape Verde became independent July 5, 1975, and PAIGC went from being a nationalist party to functioning as a state government, a challenging transition. What evolved was a one-party state with a president and prime minister. Pereira and Prime Minister Pedro Pires led Cape Verde together.
The Cape Verdean government, though friendly with the West, maintained connections to Communist states. Pereira’s government “might be described as leftist-pragmatist,” according to the Dictionary of African Historical Biography. His major challenge as president of Cape Verde was economic survival. The archipelago, with its limited land mass, cannot sustain a growing population, and many Cape Verdeans are forced to emigrate. Also, Cape Verde is limited in its natural resources. To his credit, Pereira was skillful in avoiding the nation’s economic downfall. His government instituted a number successful resource management and agrarian reforms to repair the weak economy. Cape Verde also depends heavily on foreign aid from a number of countries and support from expatriate citizens. The number of Cape Verdeans who live off the islands exceeds the number of those who remain in the country. In 1985, Pereira’s government made birth control advocacy a priority.
The Cape Verdean government worked under a temporary constitution from 1975 to 1980. Cabral and Pereira maintained their vision of one day uniting Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde as one nation, under the PAIGC. A new constitution written in 1980 reflected this long-term goal. But it was not to be: later that year, Luis Cabral was overthrown by Joao Vieira, who did not share this vision.
A new constitution was written for Cape Verde in 1981. The new document separated the nation from Guinea-Bissau, reflecting that unification was no longer a goal for the two nations. Cape Verde formed its own political party, African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). Tensions ran high between the two countries for a while, but in 1988, the two heads of state signed a mutual co-operation agreement. Pereira won reelection in Cape Verde in 1981 and 1986.
As African and Eastern European nations adapted multi-party political systems, Pereira did the same for Cape Verde. In September of 1990, legislation was passed to allow a multi-party system and popular presidential elections. No limit was placed on the number of parties that could be registered. In an election held in February of 1991, Pereira was defeated overwhelmingly by Antonio Monteiro.
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