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The nationalist movement in Cape Verde appeared less fervent than in Portugal's other African holdings. Therefore, when the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) was founded in 1956 by Amílcar Cabral and other pan-africanists, it would remain quiet for 3 years, organizing and gaining support under its nonviolent banner.

The PAIGC launched its first major activity by instigating a dock-workers strike for better salaries at the Pijiguiti Docks in the Port of Bissau, Guinea, on August 3, 1959. The political police (P.I.D.E.) suppressed the strike, opening fire on the striking workers, killing over 50 people. The authorities blamed the PAIGC of fomenting discontent among the workers, and the party's supporters had to rethink long range strategies for achieving their goals. In September 1959 Cabral and several PAIGC members met in Bissau and decided nonviolent protest in the city would not bring about change. They concluded that the only hope for achieving independence was through armed struggle. This was the initial point in a 13 year (1961-1974) armed struggle in Portuguese Guinea that pitted 10,000 Soviet bloc-supported PAIGC soldiers against 35,000 Portuguese and African troops, and would eventually lead to independence in Cape Verde and all of Portuguese Africa after the Carnation Revolution coup of 1974 in Lisbon.

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