Ninety-eight percent of Cape Verdeans are Roman Catholic. The Nazarene church is also represented as are Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and Evangelical Christians. There is a history of several Jewish settlements that dates back to the inquisition, but they are now extinct.
Agriculture and fishing are the main productive sectors, with fish and salt dominating exports. The domestic economy relies heavily on remittances from Cape Verdeans working overseas.
Cape Verde is used as a transshipment point for Latin American cocaine destined for Western Europe, particularly because of Lusophone links to Brazil, Portugal, and Guinea-Bissau. Cape Verde has taken steps to deter drug money laundering, including a 2002 anti-money laundering reform that criminalizes laundering the proceeds of narcotics trafficking and other crimes and the establishment in 2008 of a Financial Intelligence Unit (2008).
Independence from Portugal was granted to Cape Verde in 1975, Aristides Pereira of the Partido Africano da Independência do Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC) becoming the country's first President. In 1981 the Cape Verdean wing of the PAIGC was renamed the Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde (PAICV) and abandoned the pursuit of unification with Guinea-Bissau. At multi-party elections in 1991 the Movimento para a Democracia secured victory.
The current account balance will remain substantially in deficit, despite increases in tourism revenues, FDI, and expatriate worker remittances representing 10% of GDP. Manufacturing exports (primarily fish, textiles, shoes) will grow but still remain marginal. Food needs and infrastructure spending always generate massive inflows of imports.
Generally moderate, the climate is characterized by stable temperatures with extreme aridity. February is the coolest month, with temperatures in the low 70s F (low 20s C); August and September are the hottest and wettest months, with temperatures in the low 80s F (high 20s C). The islands are profoundly affected by the two-season nature of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), a belt of converging trade winds and rising air that encircles Earth near the Equator.
The majority of the people are of mixed African and European descent and are known as Creoles, or mestiços. Nearly all the rest are of pure African stock. The total population (2008) of Cape Verde was 427,000. The overall density was about 106 persons per sq km (274 per sq mi).
The official language is Portuguese; the national language, however, is Crioulo, a Creole dialect of Portuguese incorporating many African elements. Roman Catholicism, often infused with indigenous beliefs, is the dominant religion.
The United States provided emergency humanitarian aid and economic assistance to Cape Verde in the period immediately following Cape Verde's independence, as well as after natural disasters, including a hurricane that struck the island of Brava in 1982, after a severe volcanic eruption on Fogo in 1995, after deadly flooding in Sao Nicolau in 2009, and in the wake of a dengue fever epidemic in 2009. Cape Verde also is eligible for trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and has signed an Open Skies agreement to facilitate air travel safety and expansion. On October 15, 2010, Cape Verde became the first sub-Saharan African country to successfully complete a U.S. Government-funded Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact.
There was an estimated birth rate of 27.8 per 1000 people in 2002 and average life expectancy was 69.5 years. Malnutrition, influenza, and malaria are the major health problems in Cape Verde.
Housing on the islands varies greatly, from the elegant, Mediterranean-style homes of Europeans and middle-class Cape Verdeans to the simple timber and mud-block houses of peasants. At last estimate, approximately 95% of all housing units were one-floor dwellings. External walls were mostly of stone and clay, stone and cement, or all stone.