Freedom in the World
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Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In 2005, Cape Verde was preparing for presidential and legislative elections scheduled to be held in January 2006. The country enjoyed a boost in its international status during the year with the arrival of missions from NATO and further talk of the possibility of joining the European Union (EU). Hundreds of protesting West Africans clashed with security forces in the capital city of Praia in March following the killing of a fellow immigrant.
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, now the PAICV. In 1991, in the country's first democratic elections after becoming the first former Portuguese colony in Africa to abandon Marxist political and economic systems, the Movement for Democracy (MPD) won a landslide victory. 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.
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 12 votes in an election that overturned a decade of rule by the MPD; both presidential candidates had served as prime ministers. Despite the closeness of the election, trust remained in the country's institutions and the results were accepted. In the 2001 legislative polls, the PAICV captured 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 Renovation Party.
In local elections held in March 2004, the PAICV faced a serious challenge from the opposition MPD, which defeated the ruling party in several of its traditional strongholds. The MPD's president, Agostinho Lopes, claimed that there had been irregularities in the voters' rolls of some polling stations, though international observers concluded that the elections had been free and fair.
Observers are unsure of how the presidential election might play out in 2006. Although Pires won by only a slim margin in 2001, his approval rating is strong and his government has obtained considerable financial aid during his tenure. However, belt-tightening measures implemented as part of economic reforms have been unpopular.
In 2005, NATO missions arrived in Cape Verde in advance of month-long military maneuvers scheduled for mid-2006 as a final test of a new 20,000-strong rapid-reaction force that NATO hopes to send to trouble spots on short notice. The country has expressed interest in membership in the EU-an idea that has the backing of some leading politicians in Portugal. Officials have said that Cape Verde-which is located about 310 miles off Africa's west coast, lies near major north-south shipping routes, and is an important sea- and air-refueling site-could serve as a bridge between the United States, Europe, and Latin America.
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. Only 10 percent of the archipelago's land is arable. However, in 2005, the International Monetary Fund reported that economic growth levels were increasing as a result of higher foreign investment in infrastructure development and tourism, backed by greater external support. According to the World Bank, poverty has been reduced and the average income has increased slightly.
Citizens of Cape Verde can change their government democratically. The president and members of the 72-seat National Assembly are elected by universal suffrage for five-year terms. International observers considered the 2001 presidential and legislative elections to be free and fair, and those who were later found guilty of "election crimes" had apparently acted on a local level. Delegates of both candidates were found guilty of violations such as stuffing ballot boxes and were given light prison sentences.
Cape Verde has been making efforts to fight corruption and has acknowledged corruption in the customs department. The country has adopted laws and regulations to combat corruption, which is a criminally punishable offense. Cape Verde was not ranked by Transparency International in its 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Freedom of expression and of the press is guaranteed and generally respected in practice. No authorization is needed to publish newspapers and other publications. There is a growing independent press, with 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. The Cape Verdean Association of Journalists said in May 2005 that press freedom was improving in the country and noted the proliferation of private radio stations. However, the organization said journalists needed better training. Citizens enjoy liberal access to the internet.
The constitution requires the separation of church and state, and religious freedom is respected in practice. However, the vast majority of Cape Verdeans belong to the Roman Catholic Church, whose followers enjoy privileged status. Academic freedom is respected.
Freedom of assembly and association is guaranteed and respected in practice. Human rights groups, including the National Commission on the Rights of Man and the Ze Moniz Association for Solidarity and Development, operate freely. The constitution also protects the right to unionize, and workers may form and join unions without restriction. Although collective bargaining is permitted, it occurs rarely. The government sometimes limits the right to strike. Officials in 2004 made efforts to amend legislation to provide for an independent body to resolve disputes over minimum services to be provided during strikes.
The judiciary is independent, although it is understaffed and inefficient, and cases are frequently delayed. In recent years, attacks on members of the judiciary, including the attorney general, have been reported, and some magistrates have requested personal protection. Drug traffickers were suspected of being behind some of the attacks, in which prominent businessmen have also been targeted. There were some reports that police beat persons in custody or detention. Although the government investigated the allegations, no legal action was taken against the alleged perpetrators. Prison conditions are poor and are characterized by overcrowding.
Ethnic divisions are not a problem in Cape Verde, although tensions occasionally flare between the authorities and West African immigrants. Hundreds of protesting West Africans clashed with security forces in the capital city of Praia in March 2005 following the killing of a fellow immigrant. Demonstrators complained that authorities failed to pursue perpetrators of crimes against members of their community. Several people were arrested, and officials said that some demonstrators could face expulsion.
Discrimination against women persists despite legal prohibitions against gender discrimination, as well as provisions for social and economic equality. Many women, especially in rural areas, do not know their rights or do not possess the means to seek redress. Although women do not receive equal pay for equal work, they have made modest gains in various professions, especially in the private sector. At the encouragement of the government and civil society, more women are reporting criminal offenses such as spousal abuse or rape. The Women Jurists Association sought legislation in 2004 to establish a special family court to address crimes of domestic violence and abuse. The government amended the penal code in 2004 to include sex crimes and verbal and mental abuse against women and children as punishable acts. Violence against women has been the subject of an extensive public service media campaign.