According to Countryaah data, 90% of the land in São Tomé & Príncipe belonged to foreign companies, and although the land on the islands is very fertile, almost all food had to be imported – due to the irrational export-oriented agricultural production. The land workers formed the main basis for MLSTP, which became perfectly clear during the 24 hour general strike in August 1963 that completely paralyzed the plantations.
Although the geographical conditions of São Tomé & Príncipe hindered the development of armed struggle, the MLSTP carried out intense political underground work, which was recognized by the Organization of African States (OAU) and the Alliance Free States Movement. Together with the MPLA from Angola, PAIGC from Guinea-Bissau and FRELIMO from Mozambique, the movement was part of the Conference of Nationalist Organizations of the Portuguese Colonies. The MLSTP was thus the only relevant negotiating partner when Portugal began the decolonization process after the carnival revolution in 1974.
The MLSTP formed a transitional government in 1974, and the following year the country was declared independent. The banks and land were nationalized and the health sector socialized; a national currency was introduced, while profound administrative reform transformed the state apparatus inherited from colonialism by the new state. In addition, a literacy campaign was conducted to strengthen the “popular culture” – inspired by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire.
The reforms were thwarted by a faction of the party led by Health Minister Carlos de Graça. He fled to Gabon and began preparations for an invasion of the islands by rental troops in early 1978. However, the plot was revealed and helped to further consolidate the MLSTP, which in August of its year conducted its first congress. The development of mass organizations was stimulated – in order to defend the revolution – and a people militia was formed. Miguel Trovoada had been prime minister since independence. He was now removed from the post and left the country.
According to thesciencetutor, in March 1986 formed two opposition groups based outside the country – the São Tomé & Príncipe Independent Democratic Union (UDISTP) and the more radical São Tomé & Príncipe National Resistance Front (FRNSTP) founded by Carlos da Graça – an alliance they called the Democratic Opposition Coalition (CDO), for the purpose of requiring the holding of free elections in the country. The month later, a fishing boat with 76 members of FRNSTP arrived at the port city of Walvis Bay in Namibia with the aim of requesting the apartheid regime in South Africa on support against the government of São Tomé. The event led Carlos de Graça to resign as leader of the FRNSTP, which in 1986 declared itself willing to cooperate with the government in São Tomé, on condition that Cuban and Angolan troops were withdrawn from the country.
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In the midst of the worst drought in the country’s history, the government began an economic opening process in 1985 through the adoption of new legislation on foreign investment and by privatizing the so-called “public business”. The state gradually reduced its control over the overall economy, which until then had been heavily dependent on exports of cocoa, coffee and bananas. At the same time, the government initiated efforts to promote the participation of foreign capital in agriculture, fisheries and tourism. In 1989, a devaluation of the country’s currency (dobra) of 20% was carried out, which led to sharp increases in prices for the basic products.