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António Agostinho Neto (September 17, 1922 – September 10, 1979) served as the first President of Angola (1975–1979), leading the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the war for independence and the civil war. His birthday is celebrated as National Heroes Day, a public holiday in Angola.

Early life

Born in Catetemarker, Bengomarker in Angolamarker in 1922, Neto attended high school in Luandamarker while his father Agostinho Pedro Neto worked as a Methodist pastor. Neto left Angola for Portugal, studying medicine at the universities of Coimbra and Lisbonmarker. PIDE arrested him for his separatist activism in 1951. In 1958 the government released Neto and he finished his studies, marrying Maria Eugénia da Silva the same day he graduated. He returned to Angola in 1959.

Political career

In December 1956 the Angolan Communist Party (PCA) merged with the Party of the United Struggle for Africans in Angola (PLUA) to form the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola with Viriato da Cruz, the President of the PCA, as Secretary General and Neto as President.

The Portuguese colonial establishment arrested Neto on June 8, 1960. His patients and supporters marched for his release from Bengo to Catete, but were stopped when Portuguese soldiers shot at them, killing 30 and wounding 200 in the Massacre of Icolo e Bengo. The Portuguese government exiled Neto to Cape Verdemarker and then imprisoned him in Lisbonmarker. The government, facing international pressure, released him from prison and put him under house arrest. He escaped to Moroccomarker and then moved to Zairemarker.

In 1962 Neto visited Washington D.C.marker, United Statesmarker and asked the Kennedy administration for aid in his war with Portugal. The U.S. government turned him down, choosing to instead support Holden Roberto's anti-Communist FNLA.

Neto met Che Guevara in 1965 and began receiving support from Cubamarker. He visited Havana many times, and he and Fidel Castro shared similar ideological views.

He was one of the first members of the MPLA, one of three factions that vied for power after the Portuguese withdrawal from Angola (following the Carnation Revolution), and later led the country after independence on November 11, 1975. His government developed close links with the Soviet Unionmarker and other nations in the Eastern bloc and other Communist states, particularly Cuba, which aided the MPLA considerably in its war with the FNLA and UNITA. He was succeeded in his capacity as president of the state by Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Neto died in a hospital in Moscowmarker, in the Soviet Unionmarker, while undergoing surgery for cancer, and while the Angolan Civil War continued.

Tributes

The main university in Angola, the Agostinho Neto University, is named after him.

The Soviet Unionmarker awarded Neto the Lenin Peace Prize (1975-76).

A poem by Chinua Achebe entitled Agostinho Neto was written in his honor.

An airportmarker in Santo Antão, Cape Verdemarker, is named after him, due to the beloved work he performed there as a doctor. There is also a morna dedicated to him.

A street in New Belgrademarker in Serbiamarker is named after him, the Dr. Agostina Neta street.

References

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