Discovered and claimed by Portugal
in the late 15th century, the
islands' sugar-based economy gave way to coffee and cocoa in the 19th
century - all grown with plantation slave labor, a form of which
lingered into the 20th century. While independence was achieved in
1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. The
country held its first free elections in 1991, but frequent internal
wrangling between the various political parties precipitated repeated
changes in leadership and two failed coup attempts in 1995 and 2003.
The recent discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea promises to attract
increased attention to the small island nation. Portuguese
is the official language.