Location: Atlantic Ocean, 850 km from Portugal and 580 km from Morocco
% of population: 2.5% of Portuguese population
The Madeirans live on the two densely populated Madeira islands in the Atlantic ocean. They are Portuguese citizens and ethnically they are closely related to the population of the Iberian peninsula. As in the Azores, long-standing grievances against the Portuguese government during the period of dictatorship have led to a high rate of emigration — the majority going to Venezuela — and the island’s population declined by 6% in the 1960s.
The overthrow of dictatorship in Portugal in 1974 resulted in independence demands in the Madeiras. Members of the Madeira Archipelago Liberation Front (FLAMA) carried out bomb attacks and attempted to remove the civil governor, and several other separatist groups were also formed, but after the islands were granted local autonomy in 1976 the centralist Social Democratic Party under President Joao Haodim gained power and has won three successive elections. The party continues to press for greater autonomy however, especially in fiscal, tax and exchange controls.
Autonomy and political stability has brought economic growth and an improved standard of living to Madeira. Electricity and water have been brought to remote areas, the infant mortality rate has fallen by half, educational facilities have improved and emigration has dropped. Under an agreement with Lisbon, 6% of EC regional aid funds granted to Portugal go to Madeira. The economy remains largely dependent on tourism and agriculture but there are hopes for diversification.
(See also Azoreans)