Aristides Maria Pereira ( November 17, 1923 – September 22, 2011) was a Cape Verdean politician. He was the first President of Cape Verde, serving from 1975 to 1991.
Pereira was born on the island of Boa Vista. His first major government job was chief of telecommunications in Guinea-Bissau.
From the late 1940s until Cape Verde’s independence, Pereira was heavily involved in the anti-colonial movement, organizing strikes and rising through the hierarchy of his party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde, known as PAIGC).
In clandestine activity he often used the pseudonym Alfredo Bangura.
Although Pereira initially promised to lead a democratic and socialist nation upon becoming president, he compounded the country’s chronic poverty by crushing dissent following the overthrow of Luís de Almeida Cabral.
Cabral was the president of Guinea-Bissau and Pereira’s ally in the drive to unite the two Lusophone states.
However, Cape Verde had a much better human rights record than most countries in Africa and was known as one of the most democratic (despite the restriction on party activity) because of the power delegated to local citizens’ committees. Cape Verde is one of the few African countries who never had the death penalty.
After the coup in Bissau, which overthrew President Luís Cabral and replaced him with Nino Vieira, in November 1980, any formal attempt to achieve unity with Guinea-Bissau was over. The political repression sharply decreased but the one-party PAICV state established at independence remained until 1990.
The country’s policies during Pereira’s rule tended toward Cold War nonalignment and economic reforms to help the peasantry. He controversially allied his country with the regimes in China and Libya. Pedro Pires served as prime minister for the duration of Pereira’s presidency.
After PAICV decided to introduce multiparty democracy in February 1990, Pereira stepped down as General Secretary of PAICV in July 1990 and was succeeded in that post by Pires. Pereira was the PAICV candidate in the February 1991 presidential election, but António Mascarenhas Monteiro defeated him by a large margin.
The Aristides Pereira International Airport previously, (Rabil Airport) on the Cape Verdean island of Boa Vista, was officially renamed after him on November 19, 2011.