U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Portugal, August 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs
Official Name: Republic of Portugal
Area: 94,276 sq. km. (36,390 sq. mi.), including the Azores and
Madeira Islands; about the size of Indiana.
Cities: Capital--Lisbon (pop. 1.9 million). Other major city--Oporto
Terrain: Mountainous in the north; rolling plains central south.
Climate: Maritime temperate.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Portuguese (sing. and pl.).
Population: 9.8 million.
Annual growth rate: 0.06%.
Ethnic groups: Homogeneous Mediterranean stock with small black
Religion: Roman Catholic 97%.
Education: Years compulsory--nine. Attendance--60%. Literacy--87%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--10/1,000. Life expectancy--75 yrs.
Work force (4.6 million): Government, commerce, and services--55%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy. Constitution: Effective April 25,
1976; revised October 30, 1982, and June 1, 1989.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state), Council of State
(presidential advisory body), prime minister (head of government),
Council of Ministers. Legislative--unicameral Assembly of the
Republic (between 230 and 235 deputies). Judicial--Supreme Court,
district courts, appeals courts, Constitutional Tribunal.
Major political parties: Social Democratic Party, Socialist Party,
Portuguese Communist Party, Popular Party (formerly Social Democratic
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.
Subdivisions: 18 districts, two autonomous regions, and 1 dependency.
GDP (1994): $88 billion.
Annual growth rate (1994): 1.1%.
Per capita GDP (1994): $8,925.
Natural resources: Fish, cork, tungsten, iron, copper, tin, and
Agriculture (5% of GDP): Forestry, fisheries.
Industry (34% of GDP): Types--textiles, clothing, footwear,
construction, food, beverages, tobacco.
Services (61% of GDP): Commerce, government, housing, banking, and
Trade (1994): Exports--$17.5 billion: clothing, footwear, electrical
machinery and appliances, automobiles. Imports--$24 billion:
electrical and non-electrical machinery, automobiles, fuel,
appliances. Major partners--European Union, U.S., European Free Trade
Official exchange rate (August 1995):
U.S. $1 = 150 escudos.
The United States encourages a stable and democratic Portugal that is
closely associated with the industrial democracies of Western Europe
and NATO; it has supported Portugal's successful entry into the West
European economic and defense mainstream. Portugal's commitment to
democratic values is demonstrated by the country's transition from
authoritarian rule to constitutional democracy following a nearly
bloodless 1974 coup and its excellent human rights record.
Bilateral ties date from the earliest years of the United States. On
February 21, 1791, President George Washington opened formal
diplomatic relations, naming Col. David Humphreys as U.S. minister.
Portugal's history of looking toward the Atlantic rather than
continental Europe and the U.S. position as an Atlantic power have
fostered close contact between the two nations. Emigration and
sizable Portuguese communities in the United States contribute to a
strong cultural bond.
The U.S. and Portugal share a mutually beneficial economic
relationship, with bilateral trade of $1.8 billion in 1994. While
total Portuguese trade has increased dramatically over the last 10
years, the U.S. percentage of it--both exports and imports--has
declined. The Portuguese Government is seeking to increase exports of
textiles and footwear to the United States and is encouraging greater
U.S.-Portuguese defense cooperation continues to be excellent. The
Agreement on Cooperation and Defense, signed June 1, 1995, provides
for continued U.S. access to the Lajes Air Base in the Azores as well
as cooperation in non-military endeavors. The air base provides
valuable service, as illustrated most recently by Operation Desert
Storm and by Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. The United States and
other NATO allies provide equipment and training to the Portuguese
From 1975 through 1992, U.S. economic assistance to Portugal managed
by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was $1.3
billion, including refugee and disaster assistance, agriculture,
schools and rural education, health, low-income housing and housing
guaranties, basic sanitation, consultants and training, balance-of-
payments loans, PL 480 loans, and Economic Support Funds (ESF) cash
transfers. The economically underdeveloped Azores Islands group was a
major recipient of targeted USAID assistance. All forms of economic
assistance ended by 1993; Portugal continues to participate in U.S.
military training programs.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Elizabeth Frawley Bagley
Deputy Chief of Mission--Sharon Wilkinson
Political Affairs--Julien LeBourgeois
Economic Affairs--Donald Cooke
Consular Affairs--David Bocskor
Administrative Affairs--Raymond Boneski
Public Affairs--Kathleen Brion
Commercial Affairs--Daniel Thompson
Agricultural Affairs--Franklin Lee
Defense and Air Attache--Col. David Bell
Army Attache--Lt. Col. Rudolph Garcia
Navy Attache--Capt. James Ponzo
Office of Defense Cooperation--Col. Jesse Perez
Consul, Ponta Delgada--Luis Espada-Platet
The U.S. embassy is at Avenida Forcas Armadas, Lisbon 1600 (tel.
7266600). The Ponta Delgada consulate is at Avenida Infante D.
Henrique, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores 9502 (tel. 22216). The
consular agent in Funchal, Madeira is Antonio Drummond Borges (tel.
Portugal's economy is based on traditional industries such as
textiles, clothing, footwear, cork and wood products, beverages
(wine), porcelain and earthenware, and glass and glassware. Portugal
will strengthen its position in the automobile industry in 1995 when
the multibillion-dollar AutoEuropa project begins producing the Ford
"Galaxy" and Volkswagen "Sharan" vans at a state-of-the-art plant in
Setubal for export to European markets. The country is also a major
European tourist destination: In 1994, more than 21 million tourists
arrived in Portugal from Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, France,
and the United States.
Portugal traditionally runs a merchandise trade deficit, which it
finances through net receipts from tourism, remittances from
Portuguese workers abroad, and net transfers from the European Union
(EU). Net EU transfers in 1995 are expected to be $2.8 billion, or 3%
of GDP. During 1989-93, its current account was broadly in balance
and foreign direct investment averaged close to $2 billion per year.
The country's entry into the EC--now the EU--in 1986 and the
accompanying obligations to open its markets and compete freely with
its EU partners stimulated economic reforms and continue to influence
economic policy and business strategy.
Portugal's privatization program has reduced the state presence in
the economy and yielded substantial revenues to the government. It is
the third-largest privatizer in the OECD, after the United Kingdom
and New Zealand. The first phase of privatization--"de-
nationalization" of the banking and insurance sector--is virtually
complete. The state presence is now concentrated in oil refining,
shipbuilding, steel, cement, basic chemical products, and public
utilities such as telecommunications and energy. The second phase of
privatization will focus on parastatals in many of these areas.
Unemployment has become a greater problem in recent years. The 1993
recession and deepening structural change in agriculture and industry
caused unemployment to increase from 4.1% in 1992 to 6.8% in 1994.
This is still low compared to the EU average of 10.8% and is expected
to come down as the economy strengthens in 1995. Nevertheless, the
concern remains that unemployment may settle at a higher rate in the
coming years as economic change and international competition
eliminate lower-skilled jobs.
Real wages are flexible--contractual wages have declined in recent
years in both nominal and real terms--but high social costs and
severance make labor resemble a fixed rather than a variable cost in
many instances, slowing the recovery in employment.
Portugal's April 25, 1976, constitution reflected the country's 1974-
76 move from authoritarian rule to provisional military government to
a parliamentary democracy with some initial communist and left-wing
influence. The 1976 constitution, which defined Portugal as a
"Republic . . . engaged in the formation of a classless society," was
revised in 1982 and in 1989.
The 1982 revision placed the military under strict civilian control,
trimmed the powers of the president, and abolished the Revolutionary
Council (a non-elected committee with legislative veto powers). The
1989 revision eliminated much of the remaining Marxist rhetoric of
the original document, abolished the communist-inspired "agrarian
reform," and laid the groundwork for further privatization of
nationalized firms and the government-owned communications media.
The constitution provides for progressive administrative
decentralization and calls for future reorganization on a regional
basis. The Azores and Madeira Islands have constitutionally mandated
autonomous status: A regional autonomy statute promulgated in 1980
established the Government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores,
and the Government of the Autonomous Region of Madeira operates under
a provisional autonomy statute in effect since 1976. Apart from the
Azores and Madeira, the country is divided into 18 districts, each
headed by a governor appointed by the Minister of Internal
Administration. Macau--a dependency which will revert to Chinese
sovereignty in 1999--is headed by a presidentially nominated governor
The four main organs of the national government are the presidency,
the prime minister and Council of Ministers (the government), the
Assembly of the Republic (parliament), and the courts.
The president, elected to a five-year term by direct, universal
suffrage, is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Presidential powers include appointing the prime minister and Council
of Ministers (in which the president must be guided by the assembly
election results), dismissing the prime minister, dissolving the
assembly to call early elections, vetoing legislation (which may be
overridden by the assembly), and declaring states of war or siege.
The Council of State, an advisory body to the president, is composed
of the incumbents of six senior civilian offices, any former
presidents elected under the 1976 constitution, five members chosen
by the assembly, and five chosen by the president himself.
The government is headed by the presidentially appointed prime
minister, who names the Council of Ministers. A new government is
required to define the broad outline of its policy in a program and
present it to the assembly for a mandatory period of debate. Failure
of the assembly to reject the program by a majority of deputies
confirms the government in office.
The Assembly of the Republic is a unicameral body composed of up to
235 deputies. Elected by universal suffrage according to a system of
proportional representation, deputies serve terms of office of four
years, unless the president dissolves the assembly and calls for new
The national Supreme Court is the court of last appeal. Military,
administrative, and fiscal courts are designated as separate court
categories. A nine-member Constitutional Tribunal reviews the
constitutionality of legislation.
The most recent presidential elections were held in January 1991.
Mario Soares of the Socialist Party--first elected President in 1986-
-was re-elected in a landslide victory, garnering a full 70% of the
popular vote. The October 1991 general election produced a victory
for Anibal Cavaco Silva's Social Democratic Party, which received
just over 50% of the popular vote.
Prime Minister Cavaco Silva--now in his second four-year term--has
been committed to privatizing and modernizing the economy. His
government and the Socialist Party have cooperated over the years to
encourage privatization of public sector enterprise. The Cavaco Silva
government has implemented economic and social reforms designed to
help Portugal compete with other European nations.
General elections are scheduled for October 1995 and presidential
elections for February 1996.
Principal Government Officials
President of the Portuguese Republic--Mario Soares
Prime Minister--Anibal Cavaco Silva
Ambassador to the United States--Fernando Antonio Andresen Guimares
Portugal maintains an embassy in the United States at 2125 Kalorama
Road NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-328-8610); consulates general
in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco; consulates in
Providence, RI; Newark, NJ; and New Bedford, MA; and honorary
consulates in Honolulu, Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago,
Philadelphia, Miami, Puerto Rico, and Waterbury, CT. The Portuguese
National Tourist Office in the United States is located at 548 Fifth
Avenue, New York, NY 10036 (tel: 212-354-4403).
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are
issued when the Department of State recommends that Americans avoid
travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for
all countries and include information on immigration practices,
currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime
and security information, political disturbances, and the addresses
of the U.S. embassies and consulates in the subject country. They can
be obtained by telephone at (202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-
3000. To access the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial
(202) 647-9225, via a modem with standard settings. Bureau of
Consular Affairs' publications on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad are available from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 (202) 783-
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
While planning a trip, travelers can check the latest information on
health requirements and conditions with the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-
4559 provides telephonic or fax information on the most recent health
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice
on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS
publication number CDC-94-8280, price $7.00) is available from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see
"Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).
Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to
register with the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy
Officials" listing in this publication). Such information might
assist family members in making contact en route in case of an
Further Electronic Information:
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful
information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge
to anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications
software, and telephone line.
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S.
foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background
Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy;
daily press briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service
posts; etc. DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the Internet:
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly
basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on
the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an
array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the
present. Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include
four discs (MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are available from
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-
1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S.
Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For
general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information,
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet
(gopher. stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at
(202) 482-1986 for more information.
Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau of
Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- Washington,
DC -- August 1995 -- Managing Editor: Peter A. Knecht --
Editor: Marilyn J. Bremner
Department of State Publication 8074 -- Background Notes series --
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without
permission; citation of this source is appreciated.
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20402.
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