Cape Verde was uninhabited when the Portuguese arrived in 1456 and made the islands part of the Portuguese empire. Due to its location off the coast of Africa, Cape Verde became an important watering station, then sugar cane plantation site, and later a major center of the slave trade.
In 1975, the islands achieved independence, partly due to the efforts of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC). After independence, the PAIGC attempted to unite Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau into one nation, the PAIGC controlling both governments, but a coup in the latter nation in 1980 ended these plans. In Cape Verde itself the PAICV (affiliated with the PAIGC) governed until democratic elections, held in 1991, resulted in a change of government. The Movimento para a Democracia (MPD) won that election. The MPD was re-elected in 1996. The PAICV returned to power in 2001, and were re-elected in 2006.