On April 25, 1974, a military uprising ended nearly half a century dictatorship in Portugal. Shortly after midnight, tanks rolled the centre of Lisbon. Troops armed with machine-guns stormed the barracks where the Prime Minister, Marcello Caetano, and several of his ministers had taken refuge.
The former deputy armed forces minister, General António de Spinola, received the surrender of the prime minister, who fled into exile to the Portuguese island of Madeira. After flower vendors handed out seasonal blooms to the soldiers, it became known as the Carnation Revolution – an almost bloodless uprising that remains a source of immense pride in Portugal.
Yesterday, in Brussels, the lusophone community gather in order to celebrate friendship and fraternity among the Portuguese speaking countries. It was also the opportunity to present the book “Memories and speeches of President Luis Cabral” by Ângela Coutinho, a Cape Verdean historian.
Born in Bissau in 1931, of a Cape Verdean father and a Portuguese mother, Luís Cabral went to the Cape Verde Islands with his family when he was one year old, and there he made his primary studies and part of the high-school. When the terrible droughts and famines occurred in the archipelago in the 1940’s, killing about 40% of the population, he had to interrupt his studies, due to the financial difficulties his family was facing then.
With the death of their father in 1952, his older brother Amílcar took all the family to Bissau, where he was already working as an agronomist.
There, Luís worked as an accountant, for the most important entreprise in the colony, mainly dedicated to the exportation of ground-nuts, an obligatory culture for guinean farmers and land workers, then not yet considered legal citizens. In Portugal, a ‘far-right’ regime was in power since 1933, not allowing any free political activity in the colonies like in the metropole.
So, in the 1950’s, Luís became involved in the clandestine political activity; he also finished high-school and got married to Lucette Andrade, born in Dakar, Senegal, from Cape Verdean parents. Lucette would also become a militant of the liberation movement.
In 1960, the couple escaped from the terrible Portuguese political police, the PIDE, to Dakar, where they dedicated themselves entirely to the political activity.
From the 1950’s until 1975, when the Independence of Cape Verde was obtained, the PAIGC led a political struggle that took different forms; besides the guerrilla, there was an intense diplomatic activity and most of all, a long lasting action in clandestineness, still largely unknown.
Amongst the many responsibilities Luís Cabral has assumed during this period, one of the most importants was the coordination of the territories under PAIGC rule since 1963, when the war began against the Portuguese Armed Forces. In the so called “liberated areas” a new political and economical system was created, as well as a judiciary system, schools and even hospitals working under the napalm bombs used against the populations. The PAIGC had a strong support from the Swedish government to go ahead with its politics. In 1972, elections were organised in these territories to a National Assembly that would proclaim the Independence of Guinea-Bissau. The United Nations Organisation, having recognised the PAIGC as the only legitimate representative of the guinean people, sent an official mission to the territory during these elections.
In January 1973 Amílcar Cabral, the charismatic leader of the PAIGC was assassinated in Conakry, where this party had its headquarters, and in July of the same year, Luís Cabral was elected in the party Congress Assistant Secretary-General, directed by the Cape Verdean Aristides Pereira. They have together prepared the unilateral declaration of Independence of Guinea-Bissau, that took place the 24th of September and Luís Cabral was elected by the deputies of the National Assembly, the first President of the new state.
The 3rd November 1973, the General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation has approved a resolution with 93 votes for and 7 against, condemning the Portuguese government for the illegal occupation of a part of the territory of Guinea-Bissau and claiming that negotiations took place with the PAIGC. This was only possible after the ‘coup d’État’ of Portuguese military against the dictatorial regime in place in the country, and negotiations then began with democratic Portuguese politicians.
He was deposed by the “coup d’Etat” of November 1980 by the prime-minister and commander João Bernardo (Nino) Vieira and he was arrested for about a year. His wife and their first child accompanied him in jail for 3 and a half months.
From 1981 to 1983, the family was in exile in Cuba and in 1983 they lived in Cape Verde. Once his political rights were not recognised by the guinean authorities, the Cape Verdean ones gave him a diplomatic passport and a life pension that corresponded to the Prime-Minister’s salary.
In 1984, by an invitation of the Portuguese President, General Ramalho Eanes, Luís Cabral went to live in Portugal with his family, mostly with the financial support of Algeria.In the year 2000, after another successful “coup d’Etat” in Guinea-Bissau, his political rights were recognised by the new guinean politicians.
He died in Portugal in 2009.
This book includes an inedited narration of Luís Cabral, concerning the last year of the armed struggle, the year of 1973. It also contains some of his speeches pronounced between 1973 and 1980, and an interview on his childhood and youth in Cape Verde and in Guinea-Bissau, during the last decades of colonialism.
The publication of the last writings of Luís Cabral was an initiative of his family specially of his widow, Josefina Cabral.