East Timor Country Guide

In 1520, the Portuguese established commercial warehouses in Timor. It remained a Portuguese colony until 1975. With the withdrawal of Portugal, Indonesia invaded Timor. With the armed resistance of the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor (Fretilin), of Marxist line, the troops of Indonesia unleashed a brutal repression, prohibiting the language and religion of Timor.

Today, 90% of the population under 30 speak Indonesian, which is mandatory in schools after the invasion. The occupation of Indonesia lasted until 1999 and also gave rise to a dialect, which mixes the two languages, called Tetum.

International pressure to end the occupation of Timor grew in 1996, when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two defenders of independence: Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo and Fretilin activist, José Ramos Horta.

In August 1999, the UN organized a referendum and 78.5% of people opted for independence. A violent reprisal began in East Timor, which destroyed most of the territory and killed more than a thousand people.

A transitional administration was then organized to prepare Timor for elections and for complete independence.

The vote, which ended up being won by Gusmao, took place in April 2002. On May 20, East Timor became an independent nation (the youngest in the world).

Hero of East Timor’s independence, José Alexandre Xanana Gusmão obtained almost 83% of the vote in the country’s first presidential election, coordinated and supervised by the UN. The victory was overwhelming, but that does not mean that Xanana can count on unrestricted support to govern, as the prime minister chosen in last year’s legislative elections, Mari Alkatiri, is his longtime opponent. As the country’s newly drafted Constitution allows the elected president to resign the prime minister, there is a risk of turmoil, Xanana, who is far from having a majority in the legislature, became a symbol of the struggle for independence after being captured by forces from Indonesia, which dominated the small territory since eviction by Portugal in 1975. He remained in prison for seven years, until 1998.

According to relationshipsplus, the Brazilian government has taken students from the University of São Paulo (USP) to teach Portuguese in East Timor. Itamaraty’s idea is to rescue the language in this Asian country – spoken by only 20% of the population.

The challenge now is to reduce poverty: about 40% of the population lives on less than $ 2 a day and 20% on less than $ 1.

The infrastructure, which was already precarious, had 70% of its capacity destroyed by the Indonesian militias.
The only agricultural export product is coffee. The country has offshore oil and gas reserves, explored by international companies, mainly from Australia. But aid from world organizations will continue for many years to come.

East Timor Country Guide