Located on the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, Portugal was once a great sea-faring country with colonies spread across the globe, including Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Säo Tomé, Brazil and East Timor. But the 20th century brought a military government to power that turned Portugal into an authoritarian state under Dr. António Salazar. During the 1960s, various wars in Portuguese colonies drained much of the country’s wealth, and after the relatively bloodless Carnation Revolution of 1974, many of its colonies were granted independence. The exception was East Timor, which was invaded by Indonesia before it could be granted independence. Portugal continued to lobby on behalf of East Timor, which was finally granted independence in 2002. Portugal has enjoyed positive diplomatic relations with the US since just after the Revolutionary War, and the country continues to cooperate with the US on matters of counterterrorism and humanitarianism. In fact, the Portuguese government cooperated so readily with the government of George W. Bush that an investigation is looking into whether the CIA made secret stopovers in Portugal while ferrying terrorism suspects to hidden CIA prisons in other countries.
Lay of the Land: In Western Europe, forming the western strip of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is bounded on the north and east by Spain, and on the south and west by the Atlantic Ocean. The Tagus River bisects the country on a northeast-southwest slant, entering the Atlantic at Lisbon. The mountainous north enjoys considerable rainfall, while the drier south has a gentler terrain.
Portugal was originally settled in the 1st century BC by waves of invading Celts from Central Europe. Celts intermarried with members of other tribes and began to form settlements in the area that was to become Portugal.
A Bola (Portuguese)
Portuguese explorers may have preceded Columbus in the New World, and were the first to discover California when João Rodrigues Cabrillo arrived in San Diego Bay on September 9, 1542.
US exports to Portugal totaled $1.1 billion in 2009 while US imports from Portugal amounted to $1.6 billion.
Portugal Investigates CIA Stopovers
According to the State Department, “Police and prison guards occasionally beat or otherwise abused detainees and prisoners, incarcerated minors were not held separately from adults, prison conditions were poor, and persons detained by police did not have an effective right to an attorney.” Prison and prison conditions are cited as the main problems, but incidents of women trafficking and sexual exploitation are also documented.