Country Profiles: The Caribbean

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda flag.Antigua and Barbuda map.Antigua and Barbuda make up a small two-island country in the Caribbean Sea east-southeast of Puerto Rico. With a combined area of about 440 sq. km, it is about 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. Due to its location, it has a tropical marine climate with little seasonal temperature variation. This location also results in it being subject to hurricanes (tropical storms) as well as periodic droughts. It has a low-lying terrain made up of limestone and coral with some higher volcanic areas. Its highest point is Boggy Peak at 402 m elevation. One of its major environmental concerns is water management.

The people are called Antiguans or Barbudans and their ethnic background is mostly black, British, Portuguese, Lebanese, and Syrian. The population is estimated to be slightly more than 68,000 people. The predominant religions are Anglican (predominant), other Protestant sects, and some Roman Catholic. The official language is English, and there are some local dialects.

Antigua and Barbuda is a parliamentary democracy, although the chief of state is Queen Elizabeth II of England, who chooses the local prime minister. The capital city is Saint John's. The local legislative branch is a bicameral parliament with a Senate and House of Representatives. The judicial branch is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, based in Saint Lucia. One judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the Court of Summary Jurisdiction.

Tourism is the dominant activity in the economy, accounting directly or indirectly for more than half of GDP. Agricultural production is mainly directed to the domestic market; the sector is constrained by the limited water supply and labor shortages that reflect the pull of higher wages in tourism and construction. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $11,000 (2002 est.). The main exports are petroleum products, manufactures, and machinery and transport equipment. Principal imports are food and live animals, machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, and oil. The main export partners are other Caribbean states, while the main sources of imports are the United States, UK, Canada, and a broad range of smaller trading partners.


Bahamas

Bahamas map.Bahamas flag.Although grouped with the Caribbean states and territories, the Bahamas are a chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean southeast of Florida. With an area of approximately 14,000 sq. km, it is slightly smaller than Connecticut. Due to its location, it has a tropical marine climate that is moderated by the Gulf Stream. An extensive island chain strategically located adjacent to the United States and Cuba, its terrain is mostly long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills. The highest point is Mount Alvernia on Cat Island with an elevation of 63 m above sea level. Due to its location, it is subject to extensive flood and wind damage caused by hurricanes and other tropical storms.

The main language of the Bahamas is English with Creole spoken mainly among the Haitian immigrants. The population of about 300,000 is about 85% black and 12% white. The main religions are Christian, with Baptists, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics making up the largest groups.

The Bahamas are a commonwealth that received its independence from the UK in 1973. Its capital is Nassau and the chief of state is still the UK monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. A governor general, whom she appoints, represents the Queen locally. The local head of government is a prime minister appointed by the governor general. The legislative branch is made up of a bicameral parliament with a Senate and a House of Assembly. There is also a local supreme court.

The Bahamas is a stable, developing country with an economy heavily dependent on tourism (60% of GDP) and offshore banking. The main exports of the Bahamas are commodities consisting mostly of pharmaceuticals, cement, rum, crawfish, and refined petroleum products. The principal imports are foodstuffs, manufactured goods, crude oil, vehicles, and electronics. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $16,700 (2004 est.). The principal trading partners are the United States, the European Union (excluding the UK), the UK, and others.


Barbados

Barbados flag.Barbados map.Barbados is a Caribbean island northeast of Venezuela whose area is about 430 sq. km, making it about two and a half times the size of Washington, D.C. Like most islands of the region its climate is tropical. Relatively flat, there is a central highland region. The highest point on the island is Mount Hillaby with an elevation of 336 m above sea level. It is the easternmost Caribbean island and is subject to hurricanes infrequently.

The Barbadian population of nearly 280,000 people is mostly black (90%) with about a 4% white population as well as a mixture of others. The dominant religions are Protestant (67%), mostly Anglican, with some Roman Catholic and a approximately 17% claiming no religion. The main language of the island is English.

Barbados is a parliamentary democracy that received its independence from the UK in 1996, although the chief of state is still the UK monarch. Queen Elizabeth II appoints a local governor general who, in turn, designates a prime minister. There is a bicameral legislature consisting of a Senate and a House of Assembly, as well as a Supreme Court of Judicature. The capital is Bridgetown.

The principal natural resources are petroleum, fish, and natural gas and the main industries are tourism, sugar, light manufacturing, and component assembly for export. The principal exports are sugar and molasses, rum, other foods and beverages, chemicals, electrical components, and clothing. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $15,700 (2004 est.).The principal imports are consumer goods, machinery, foodstuffs, construction materials, chemicals, fuel, and electrical components. The main trading partners are CARICOM, the United States, the UK, and Canada.


Belize

Belize flag.Belize map.Belize is located at the southeastern tip of Mexico. Guatemala comprises its entire western border, with the Caribbean Sea to the east. Belize is a small country slightly larger than Massachusetts, with an area of 22,923 sq. km (8,867 sq. mi.).

Due to its location in the tropics, Belize is frequently subjected to hurricanes. A flat, swampy coastal plain characterizes its terrain, with some mountains in the south and interior. Because of its susceptibility to hurricanes, the capital was moved from Belize City to Belmopan, 80 miles inland.

Belize has a population slightly larger than 270,000 persons. The official language is English but Spanish, Mayan, and Garifuna (Carib) are also spoken. The predominant ethnic groups are mestizo and Creole, with Maya and other groups also represented. Roman Catholicism is the major religion, but there is also a significant Protestant population.

The leading econmic activity is the tourism industry, with principal exports made up of agricultural and marine products, such as cane sugar, fruit, and fish. Its main imports consist of food, consumer goods, and building materials. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $4,900 (2004 est.). Its main trading partners are the United States and the United Kingdom.

Formerly known as British Honduras, the head of state is still the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. The local government is a parliamentary democracy headed by a governor general appointed by the Queen. There is a local bicameral national legislature. The legal system is based on English law. Belize has on ongoing international dispute as Guatemalan squatters continue to settle along the border region; an OAS brokered Differendum in 2002 created a small adjustment to the land boundary, a large Guatemalan maritime corridor in Caribbean, a joint ecological park for disputed Sapodilla Cays, and a substantial US-UK financial package, but agreement was not brought to popular referendum leaving Guatemala to continue to claim the southern half of Belize


Cuba

Cuba map.The largest of the Greater Antilles, Cuba's area is slightly over 110,000 sq. km, making it slightly smaller than Pennsylvania. Cuba's terrain is mostly flat with rolling hills and rugged mountains in the southeast. Its climate is tropical, with a rainy season from May to October. The largest country in the Caribbean, it is subject to both hurricanes and drought. One of its major problems is deforestation. Strategically, Cuba is of interest because the U.S. leases the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station from Cuba, although they do not exchange diplomatic representation.

Cuba also has one of the largest populations in the Caribbean, comprising over 11.3 million people. They are mostly mulatto (51%), with large white (37%) and black (11%) ethnic groups. The island was principally Catholic prior to being taken over by Fidel Castro, with some representation of other religious groups. The principal language is Spanish.

Cuba is a communist state, headed by Fidel Castro who led a rebel army to victory in 1959. At home, Havana provided Cubans with high levels of health care, education, and social security while suppressing the Roman Catholic Church and arresting political dissidents. Cuba is slowly recovering from severe economic recession following the withdrawal of Soviet subsidies following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $2,900 (2004 est.).

Cuba's main exports include sugar, nickel, tobacco (Cuban cigars are considered the best), and shellfish while it imports petroleum, food, machinery, and chemicals. Its principal trading partners include Russia, Spain, and Canada.


Dominica

Dominica flag.Dominica map.Dominica is a small island (about 750 sq. km; four times the size of Washington, D.C.) in the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean. It has a tropical climate moderated by the trade winds, and its terrain consists of rugged mountains of volcanic origin. It suffers from flash flood problems and is subject to hurricanes.

Dominica's population of nearly 70,000 people is mostly black and Carib Amerindian. Over three quarters of the people are Roman Catholic, while most of the rest are of Protestant denominations. The official language is English, but French patois is also spoken.

Dominica is a parliamentary democracy with a president and a prime minister. There is a unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly. The Judicial branch is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (located in Saint Lucia), however, one of the six judges must reside in Dominica and preside over the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. The capital is Roseau.

The economy is based on agriculture, and the main export is bananas. Tourism has increased recently as the government has promoted Dominica as an "ecotourism" destination. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $5,400 (2003 est.). Dominica's main imports are machinery, manufactured goods, food, and chemicals. The main trading partners are the U.S, UK, and CARICOM countries.


Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic flag.Dominican Republic map.The Dominican Republic comprises the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, one of the Greater Antilles. Haiti covers the other third of the island. The Dominican Republic's area is over 48,000 sq. km; that is slightly larger than the area of New Hampshire and Vermont combined. It has mountainous terrain with some fertile valleys and a maritime tropical climate with little seasonal variation.

The people of the Dominican Republic are mostly mixed with about 16% white and about 11% black ethnic groups. The population is over 8.8 million. Most of the population is Roman Catholic. The main language is Spanish.

The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy. The capital is Santo Domingo. They have a president for a head of state, and there is a bicameral legislature as well as a supreme court of justice.

The Dominican Republic historically has been a rural agrarian economy, but services have recently become the economy's largest employer as a result from growth in tourism. The main exports are ferronickel, sugar, gold, and coffee. Its main imports are foodstuffs, petroleum, and cotton and fabrics. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $6,000 (2004 est.). Its main trading partners are the U.S. and the E.U.


French Guiana

French Guiana map.French Guiana flag.French Guiana is in the northern part of South America, between Suriname and Brazil. Its northern border is the North Atlantic Ocean. It has an area of about 91,000 sq. km, about the size of Indiana. Due to its location just north of the equator and its size, its climate is tropical (hot and humid) with little seasonal variation. Its terrain is mostly coastal plains and low mountains.

Mostly an unsettled wilderness, French Guiana has a population of only about 191,000 people. Most of the people are black or mulatto (66%) with about 12% whites and the remainder East Indian, Chinese, Amerindian, and other groups. The main religion is Roman Catholicism. The official language is French.

As an overseas department of France, French Guiana has a French legal system. A prefect appointed by the French president heads the local government. There is also a local regional council. The highest court in the region is in Martinique, with jurisdiction over Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana.

French Guiana's main trading partner is France, with some other trade to European Union members. The main exports are shrimp, timber, gold, and rum, and the main imports are food, machinery and transport equipment, and fuels and chemicals. Forestry is an important econmic activity and over 90 percent of the country is wooded. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $8,300 (2004 est.).


Grenada

Grenada flag.Grenada map.Grenada is a small island (about 340 sq. km) about twice the size of Washington, D.C., located in the Lesser Antilles north of Trinidad and Tobago. It is volcanic in origin with some central mountains. The highest peak is 840 m. Grenada has a tropical maritime climate and lies on the edge of the hurricane belt.

Grenada's population of approximately 90,000 people is predominantly black. Catholics make up slightly more than half of the population, while the rest are mostly Anglican and other Protestant denominations. The official language is English, but French patois is also spoken.

Grenada is a parliamentary democracy, they have maintained the British monarch as their head of state. A prime minister heads their local government, and there is a bicameral legislature. Judicial matters are handled by the West Indies Associate States Supreme Court (an associate judge resides in Grenada).

The economy is centered on tourismalthough tan offshore financial industry has emerged. Imports and exports are primarily foodstuffs. The main trading partners are CARICOM, the U.S., and the UK. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $5,000 (2002 est.).


Guyana

Guyana flag.Guyana map.Guyana is situated in the northern part of South America on the North Atlantic Ocean between Suriname and Venezuela. It has an area of about 215,000 sq. km, about the size of Idaho. It has mostly rolling highlands with a low coastal plain and savanna in the south. Its climate is tropical.

Guyana's population of about 706,000 is East Indian (50%), black (36%), mixed, and Amerindian. Approximately half the population is Christian with a large (33%) group of Hindu as well as a significant Muslim (9%) following. The principal languages are English, Guyanese Creole, and Indian dialects. The most populous area is the capital city of Georgetown (pop. 248,500).

Formerly British Guyana, its legal system is based on English common law. There are three branches of government: executive (headed by the president), legislative (unicameral legislature), and judicial.

Guyana's main exports are sugar, metals (gold and bauxite/alumina), rice, shrimp, and molasses. It imports manufactured goods, machinery, petroleum, and food. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $4,000 (2004 est.). Its main trading partners are the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, as well as nearby Caribbean islands.


Haiti

Haiti map.Haiti flag.Haiti comprises the western third of the island of Hispaniola, approximately 27,000 sq. km (slightly smaller than Maryland). The terrain is mostly rough and mountainous (highest point is 2,680 m). Although it is subject to hurricanes and has a tropical climate, some areas are semiarid where the mountains cut off the trade winds.

Although it has a population of 7.6 million people, the life expectancy at birth is one of the lowest in the region (approximately 51 years). Most of the population is black, with some mulatto and white. Most of the population (80%) is Catholic with most of the remainder Protestant denominations. However, over half of the population also practices voodoo. The official languages are French and Creole. Approximately 75% of the people live below the poverty level.

The Haitian government is a republic with a president, a bicameral legislature, and a supreme court (Cour de Cassation). The capital is Port au Prince.

Most of Haiti relies on subsistence agriculture and approximately 80 percent of the population lives in abject poverty. It does export some light manufactures and imports some machines as well as food and beverages. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $1,600 (2004 est.). Its principal trading partners are the U.S. and the E.U.


Jamaica

Jamaica flag.Jamaica map.This island south of Cuba is slightly smaller than Connecticut (approx. 11,000 sq. km). Blue Mountain Peak at 2,256 m is the highest point on the mountainous terrain. It has a tropical climate and is subject to hurricanes.

Jamaica has a population of about 2.7 million people. They are mostly black. The main languages are English and Creole. Most of the population is Christian, and there is a notable Rastafarian following.

Jamaica maintains the British sovereign as the head of state, but its own prime minister and a bicameral legislature govern the island. There is also a supreme court.

Jamaica is hevily dependent on tourism and remittances, which not accounts for 70% of GDP. It is a world leader in the export of bauxite/alumina. Prior to discovery of these mineral resources, its economy was based on bananas and sugar. It imports machinery, transport equipment, and construction materials. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $3,900 (2004 est.). Jamaica's main trading partners are the U.S. and the E.U.


Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis flag.Saint Kitts and Nevis map.Saint Kitts and Nevis are located in the Caribbean Sea between Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago. The islands have a total area of 269 sq. km, which is approximately 1.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. The terrain is mountainous, reaching an elevation of 1,156 m. The climate of the islands is subtropical with little seasonal variation. The temperatures are modulated by the constant sea breezes. There is a rainy season from May to November. The hurricane season is from July to October.

Most of the population of 38,836 is black and predominantly Christian, including both Protestant sects and Roman Catholic. The main language is English.

The government of Saint Kitts and Nevis is a constitutional monarchy. Although independent since 1983, the chief of state is the British monarch. The head of government is the prime minister. The legislative branch consists of a unicameral legislature and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court handles judicial matters. The capital is Basseterre.

The economy has traditionally been based on the growing and processing of sugarcane. Tourism, manufacturing and offshore banking have become increasingly more important factors in the country's economy. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $8,800 (2004 est.).Most of the food is imported, along with machinery and fuel. The export commodities include machinery, food, electronics, beverages, and tobacco. Their main trading partners include the U.S., UK, and the CARICOM nations.


St. Lucia

St. Lucia map.St. Lucia flag.St. Lucia is a small island north of Trinidad and Tobago, approximately 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C (620 sq. km). It has mountainous terrain with some broad fertile valleys. It has a tropical climate and the main natural hazards are hurricanes and volcanic activity.

St. Lucia has a population of about 164,000, most of whom are black and practice Catholicism. English is the official language, but French patois is also spoken.

Although granted its independence from the United Kingdom in 1979, St. Lucia still considers the British monarch as the head of state. A prime minister and a bicameral legislature govern it. Judicial matters are handled by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (jurisdiction extends to Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines).

St. Lucia's primary exports are bananas and clothing but changes in the EU import preference regime have necessitated economic diversification St. Lucia now has the most diverse economy in the eastern Caribbean. It imports foodstuffs and machinery. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $5,400 (2002 est.). Its main trading partners are the U.S., UK, and CARICOM.


Suriname

Suriname flag.Suriname map.Suriname is a small country (163,270 sq. km; 63,037 sq. mi.) slightly larger than Georgia, on the northern coast of South America. Besides the North Atlantic Ocean, it borders on Guyana to the west, French Guiana to the east, and Brazil to the south. Suriname consists of mostly tropical rain forest, with most of its population living on the coast. Its terrain varies from coastal swamps to savanna to rolling hills. Its climate is tropical but tempered by trade winds.

Suriname's relatively small population of about 440,000 includes Hindustani, Javanese, Bush Negro, Amerindians, and Chinese ethnic groups. Predominant religious groups include Hindus, Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Protestants. The official language is Dutch, but English, Sranang Tongo (a Creole language), Hindustani, and Javanese are also spoken. It is a republic with three branches of government: executive (headed by the president), unicameral legislature, and judicial branch.

Suriname's economy is dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounts for more than fifteen percent of its GDP and 70 percent of its export earnings. It also relies on aid from the Netherlands. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $4,000 (2004 est.). It imports capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, and consumer goods. Most of its exports go to Norway and the Netherlands, while most of the imports come from the United States and the Netherlands. Other countries with which Suriname trades include Japan, Brazil, and Trinidad and Tobago.


Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago map.Trinidad and Tobago flag.This country at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles has an area of about 5,100 sq. km (slightly smaller than Delaware). It is mostly plains with some hills and low mountains. It has a tropical climate but is outside the usual path of hurricanes and other tropical storms.

The population of Trinidad and Tobago numbers about 1.1 million. They are mostly Indian--primarily immigrants from northern India (40.3%), black (40%), and mixed (18%). A variety of religions are practiced, with the largest groups being Catholic (29%) and Hindu (24%). The official language is English, but Hindi, French, and Spanish are also spoken.

Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy with a president (head of state) and a prime minister (head of government), a bicameral legislature, and judicial branch.

Trinidad and Tobago is the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas and tourism is a growing sector of the economy. Its main exports are petroleum and petroleum products. Its main imports are machinery, transportation equipment, and manufactured goods. Its GNI per capita, PPP is $9,500 (2004 est.). Its main trading partners are the U.S., UK, E.U., and CARICOM/Latin America.