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Cabo Verde / Cape Verde - Introduction

In a diplomatic note sent on November 27, 2013 the Embassy of Cape Verde requested that the United States Government change the name of the country from ‘Cape Verde’ to ‘Cabo Verde’. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved the change on December 9, 2013. The uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century; Cabo Verde subsequently became a trading center for African slaves and later an important coaling and resupply stop for whaling and transatlantic shipping. The fusing of European and various African cultural traditions is reflected in Cabo Verde’s Crioulo language, music, and pano textiles. Following independence in 1975, and a tentative interest in unification with Guinea-Bissau, a one-party system was established and maintained until multi-party elections were held in 1990.

Cabo Verde continues to exhibit one of Africa's most stable democratic governments. Repeated droughts during the second half of the 20th century caused significant hardship and prompted heavy emigration. As a result, Cabo Verde's expatriate population is greater than its domestic one. Most Cabo Verdeans have both African and Portuguese antecedents. Cabo Verde’s population descends from its first permanent inhabitants in the late 15th-century – a preponderance of West African slaves, a small share of Portuguese colonists, and even fewer Italians, Spaniards, and Portuguese Jews. The fusing of European and various African cultural traditions is reflected in Cabo Verde’s Crioulo language, music, and pano textiles.

Among the nine inhabited islands, population distribution is variable. Islands in the east are very dry and are only sparsely settled to exploit their extensive salt deposits. The more southerly islands receive more precipitation and support larger populations, but agriculture and livestock grazing have damaged their soil fertility and vegetation. For centuries, the country’s overall population size has fluctuated significantly, as recurring periods of famine and epidemics have caused high death tolls and emigration.

Cellphones are important in Cape Verde. Generally, long-distance communication via telephone is available, though expensive. International phone connections from the United States to Cape Verde are better and much cheaper than the other way around.

The variety of food in Cape Verde can be relatively limited depending on the site. Small restaurants can be found in most cities and towns. Dairy products are limited to imported powdered or pasteurized (boxed) milk and locally produced or imported yogurt and cheese. Butter, yogurt, and cheese are available. Gouda and Edam cheeses are available in larger towns. In the countryside, locally produced milk is available, but it is not pasteurized; it must, therefore, be boiled before consumption.

Due to the limited rainfall, the availability of fresh produce will vary depending on the time of year. The Cape Verdean diet is mostly based on fish and staple foods like corn and rice. Vegetables available during much of the year are potatoes, onions, tomatoes, manioc, cabbage, kale, collard greens and dried beans. Fruits like bananas and papayas are often available year-round, while others like mangoes and avocados are seasonal.

Fish is available at the markets most of the year. Locally produced canned tuna is also available. It is more difficult to find fish in the countryside in the interior of islands.

Cabo Verde has been a very stable democracy. The democratic system and processes are well-established and stable. Portuguese influence, legacy, and political/judicial framework is strong, and a stable system of government is in place. Political violence is virtually unknown. Civil unrest and civil disorder are not common. There are occasional demonstrations that take place as a result of economic issues, but all have been peaceful. In 2015, there was a slight increase in strikes and work stoppages, largely because of high unemployment numbers, but they still remain infrequent.

Given the proximity to continental West Africa, regional terrorism is of some concern. There are no known indigenous terrorist or dissident groups in Cabo Verde; however, the islands’ nautical location and small coast guard with limited resources does make terrorist transit a great risk. There have been no recorded or reported international terrorists incidents in Cabo Verde; however, the police have monitored groups they believe to have connections or influence with non-friendly organizations. There is a concern that extremism may be growing in the prison systems in Santiago and Sao Vicente islands.

This is a logistically challenging island nation. Most of the transportation between islands is done by plane but is costly. There are regular flights to and from the major islands (Santiago, Sal and São Vicente), with less frequent flights to most of the other islands.

Roads in Praia are typically in good condition. Half of the roads in Praia are paved and are between the cities or are in the more affluent areas; cobblestones pave most urban streets. Streets are narrow in downtown areas, and caution should be used while driving or crossing streets. Motorists are typically courteous, but caution should be exercised. Taxis, buses, and private vehicles will regularly stop in the middle of a road without warning. Traffic collisions also pose the greatest risk to residents and visitors.

In the outer areas, roads may not be as developed, and the ability to provide aid if broken down is diminished significantly. Excessive speeds on narrow, curving roads outside the cities pose a great danger to motorists. Most of the national highways are in good repair; however, other routes are cobblestone and can be extremely dangerous during rain. In rural areas, livestock have free rein, making driving hazardous.

The majority of crimes tends to be those for financial gain (pickpocketing, burglary, armed robbery) that are fueled in part by high unemployment and the growing drug trade throughout the islands. Most crimes are perpetrated by groups of youths, who by national law are immune from prosecution until they reach 16. In Praia, the Sucupira (outdoor market) and Fazenda areas are especially prone to pickpocketing, muggings, and purse snatchings. Both should be traversed with great care in daylight and avoided at night, especially by women alone.

Fogo, located in the Cape Verde Islands, is a major mid-Atlantic volcano which was last active in 1951. Fogo previously displayed a long period of semi-continuous eruptive activity between 1500 and 1761. Today, scientists are studying Fogo island with hopes of understanding the ongoing eruptive activity and the nature of any human hazards it might pose.

A volcano, located on Fogo erupted in 1995 and on November 23, 2014. Air traffic was diverted for international flights for two weeks. The government was not prepared for an evacuation if the volcano eruption had required a complete evacuation of the island. The Embassy provided aid via the Office of Foreign Assistance in the form of funding to assist families who were displaced.

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Page last modified: 22-11-2017 14:02:00 ZULU