EAST PROVIDENCE — An eager and enthusiastic audience of some 100 area residents greeted Cape Verde Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves at the Cape Verdean Progressive Center on Grosvenor Avenue in city mid-day Saturday, March 30.
Prime Minister Neves spent a few hours in East Providence greeting and speaking with locals of Cape Verdean descent as part of a whirlwind tour of Southern New England Saturday, which was also scheduled to take him to Boston, Brockton, Pawtucket and New Bedford.
In city, the prime minister was presented with several gifts, including a citation from East Providence City Council President and Mayor James Briden. Progressive Center President George Barboza and the Center’s Cultural and Community Liaison Lucy Rose give Mr. Neves a lapel pin. Providence Mayor Angel Tavares gifted the prime minister a set of cufflinks. After a luncheon, he held a question and answer session with the attendees.
“It’s an honor to have the prime minister here once again in East Providence. He’s visited the city in the past, but it is always an honor to have him here,” Mr. Briden said. “The Cape Verdean residents of East Providence have played such an integral part in the rich cultural history of our city. It’s wonderful to have the prime minister here to be a part of that.”
Among the other local dignitaries on hand were East Providence Chief of Police Joseph Tavares, the city’s Affirmative Action Officer/Human Services Director Elmer Pina and former City Council President/Mayor Isadore Ramos, each of whom is of Cape Verdean descent. Chief Tavares escorted the prime minister into Saturday’s event, which also included an EPPD Color Guard.
“A women’s club created the Cape Verdean Progressive Center back in 1940 and in 2005 a museum of Cape Verdean history was opened here,” Mayor Briden added. “And the city also had the first mayor in the country of Cape Verdean descent in Dr. Ramos, Izzy. So we really have a deep connection with the Cape Verdean community here in the city and it’s always an honor to have someone from the country, like the prime minister, to visit East Providence.”
Prime Minister Neves was primarily in the United States to meet with President Barack Obama for the first time Thursday, March 28, in Washington D.C. The Cape Verdean leader was one of several heads of state from Africa to hold court with President Obama at the White House. Also in attendance were President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal and President Joyce Banda of Malawi.
According to the White House website, the meeting was held to bolster what are existing partnerships between the countries based on shared democratic values and shared interests. President Obama noted each of the leaders has undertaken significant efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, protect and expand human rights and civil liberties, and increase economic opportunities for the people across sub-Saharan Africa.
A particular focus of the conversation was on the importance of transparency and respect for human rights, and President Obama commended each leader for their work in these areas and their commitment to join the Open Government Partnership. President Obama also recognized their roles at the forefront on food security issues, a matter of particular import to the region.
While in Washington D.C., the heads of state participated in a number of other events, including a dinner hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa to discuss trade and investment opportunities with representatives from U.S. businesses; a public discussion on democratization in Africa at the United States Institute for Peace; an economic and development roundtable with U.S. government officials; and a meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to discuss cooperation on shared regional security and peacekeeping objectives in Africa.
Mr. Neves has been Prime Minister of Cape Verde since 2001. He was reelected to a third, five-year term in 2011. Rhode Island is a regular stop on any tour America by Cape Verdean dignitaries, the Ocean State having the second-highest total of descendants from the nation (17,685) in the U.S. Massachusetts is tops some 52,000 residents of Cape Verdean heritage. Connecticut has slightly over 4,000 and Florida about 3,500.