Freedom in the World
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Faced with a growing hunger problem, Cape Verde in 2002 made its first request for emergency food aid in more than 20 years. International humanitarian organizations said 30,000 of the country's 500,000 people were threatened by hunger in 2002. The island nation has few exploitable natural resources and traditionally relies heavily on imported food; moreover, food production dropped by 23 percent in 2001 because of drought. The food crisis appeared to have no adverse effect on the new government of President Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires.
After achieving independence from Portugal in 1975, Cape Verde was governed for 16 years under Marxist, one-party rule by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, which is now the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). The Movement for Democracy (MPD) won a landslide 1991 victory in the first democratic elections when Cape Verde became the first former Portuguese colony in Africa to abandon Marxist political and economic systems. In 1995, the MPD was returned to power with 59 percent of the vote. Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro's mandate ended in 2001 after he had served two terms as president.
The country's stagnant economy has been bolstered somewhat by increased exports and tourism, but infrastructure improvements are still needed to assist in private sector development. Cape Verde is one of Africa's smallest and poorest lands. Foreign aid and remittances by Cape Verdean expatriates provide a large portion of national income.
The president and members of the National People's Assembly are elected through universal suffrage in free and fair elections. Since the country's 1991 transition to multiparty democracy, Cape Verdeans have changed their government three times by democratic means.
Cape Verde had a spectacularly close presidential election in 2001. In the second round of voting, opposition candidate Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires defeated ruling party contender Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, by only 12 votes, in an election that overturned a decade of rule by the Movement for Democracy (MPD). Both presidential candidates have served as prime ministers. It was a test for Cape Verde's democracy that despite the closeness of the election, trust remained in the country's institutions and the results were accepted. The PAICV also defeated the MPD in the 2001 legislative polls. The change in voting appeared to be a reflection of the popular attitude that the MPD had grown complacent. The PAICV won 40 seats compared with 30 for the MPD and 2 for the Democratic Alliance for Change. Disagreements within the MPD in 2000 resulted in a split and the formation of a new party, the Democratic Renewal Party, which won no assembly seats.
Reforms to strengthen an overburdened judiciary were implemented in 1998. The judiciary is independent, although cases are frequently delayed. Free legal counsel is provided to indigents. Judges must bring charges within 24 hours of arrest.
Human rights groups, including the National Commission on the Rights of Man and the Ze Moniz Association, operate freely. Prison conditions are poor and are characterized by overcrowding. Freedom of peaceful assembly and association is guaranteed and respected. The constitution requires the separation of church and state, and religious rights are respected in practice. The vast majority of Cape Verdeans belong to the Roman Catholic Church.
Freedom of expression and of the press is guaranteed and generally respected in practice. No authorization is needed to publish newspapers and other publications. Broadcasts are largely state controlled, but there is a growing independent press. There are six independent radio broadcasters and one state-run radio broadcaster, in addition to one state-run television station and two foreign-owned stations. Criticism of the government by state-run media is limited by self-censorship resulting from citizens' fear of demotion or dismissal.
Discrimination against women persists despite legal prohibitions against gender discrimination, as well as provisions for social and economic equality. Many women do not know their rights or do not possess the means to seek redress, especially in rural areas. They are also subject to allegedly common, but seldom reported, domestic violence. Serious concerns about child abuse and the prevalence of child labor persist. Domestic nongovernmental organizations have undertaken campaigns to promote the rights of women and children.
The constitution protects the right to unionize, and workers may form and join unions without restriction. Two confederations, the Council of Free Labor Unions and the National Union of Cape Verde Workers, include 25 unions with approximately 30,000 members. Collective bargaining is permitted, but it occurs rarely.