Pereira, Aristides Maria
President of Cape Verde
Aristides Maria Pereira helped transform CAPE VERDE from an island colony into a modern nation. He fought for independence and then, as president, guided the new country through its first 15 years. Pereira was born in Boa Vista in the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa. The islands were then a colony of Portugal, and after he finished school, Pereira went to work for a Portuguese trading company. In 1956 Pereira and several others, led by Amilcar CABRAL, founded a secret movement aimed at freeing Cape Verde and the mainland colony of Guinea from Portuguese rule. Pereira played a leading role in the guerrilla war that led to independence for GUINEA-BISSAU in 1974 and for Cape Verde in 1975.
After independence, Pereira became Cape Verde's first president. He worked to modernize the country and to create democratic institutions, including a multiparty political system introduced in 1990. The following year, the people of Cape Verde voted Pereira and his party out of office. He accepted the defeat as an expression of the democratic principles for which he and his fellow party members had fought. (See also Colonialism in Africa.)