Caribbean Military Guide
Trinidad & Tobago
Antigua and Barbuda|
Saint Kitts & Nevis
British Virgin Islands
Turks & Caicos
US Virgin Islands
In this “American Mediterranean,” the interests and authority of the United States are dominant. The commanding position of the United States began with the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine; it was completed through the liberation of Cuba, the acquisition of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the assumption of a protectorate over Haiti, and by digging the Panama Canal.
Once the Caribbean was the favorite haunt of buccaneers and pirates, who especially infested the waters north of Colombia and Venezuela, the “Spanish Main” of the old days. By the 20th Century, aside from the Panama traffic, it was traversed chiefly by fleets of leisurely ships that convey the sugar, coffee, cacao, and bananas of the tropics to the United States, and take back manufactures in exchange.
Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) launched in 1983 and renewed in 2000 through legislation enacted by Congress established trade programs to facilitate the economic development and export diversification of the Caribbean Basin economies.
|Trinidad and Tobago||1,364,973|
|St Vincent & Grenadines||109,644|
|US Virgin Islands||106,415|
|Antigua and Barbuda||92,738|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||56,183|
|Turks and Caicos||34,904|
|British Virgin Islands||30,659|
The Guianas, located on the north-central coast of South America, are culturally and politically part of the Caribbean, though on the mainland. They cover an area of about 181,000 square miles (468,800 square km), and include the independent states of Guyana and Suriname, and French Guiana, an overseas département of France. The region’s name derives from an Indian word for such lowlands: guiana (“land of water”).
A great arm of the Atlantic Ocean, 750,000 square miles in extent and inclosed by the eastern coast of Central America, the northern coast of South America, and the long sweeping crescent of the West Indies—such is the Caribbean Sea, so named from the Carib Indians who once inhabited its islands and shores. Here is the crossroads of the western world, for through it passes the trade of the Panama Canal and a great part of our commerce with Central and South America. The greatest width of the Caribbean, from Puerto Rico to Panama, is more than 700 miles; and its length, from Yucatan on the west to Trinidad on the east, is 1,700 miles.
The sea is comparatively free from rocks and reefs, except near the islands, but frequent hurricanes take a terrible toll of shipping. These storms are caused by the superheating of the warm waters of the equatorial current, which sweep across the Atlantic from Africa and remain pent up in the Caribbean, or slowly make their way through the narrow Yucatan Channel—120 miles wide—into the Gulf of Mexico, and thence through the Florida Strait and northward as the Gulf Stream. As the hot air above these waters rises, the cold northern and eastern trade winds rush in with terrific force, often laying low houses and plantations on the islands and sending staunch ships to the ocean bottom.
The bed of the Caribbean Sea is a vast submarine mountain system, with deep valleys and lofty peaks. The easternmost chain rises above the surface of the waters to form the West Indies archipelago. Nowhere else, scientists say, can there be found such contrasts of ocean depth within such short distances. Long ridges approach the surface in places and then fall away on both sides in submarine precipices three miles deep. In these abysses strange creatures are often brought up by dredging, quite unlike those found anywhere else. Some of them closely resemble fossil forms supposed to have been extinct for hundreds of thousands of years.
If South America, Central America, and the Caribbean had been geographically isolated, it is at least doubtful whether conditions would not there have been developed which would have changed the map in startling ways. But political developments in the New World have brought the American states into a position in which de facto the interests of none are isolated. In the past this has been due not to cooperation, but to the declared national policy of the most powerful of American nations. The Monroe Doctrine, championed at various times under various forms by the United States, has served as a barrier to the propaganda by which European political control could be further extended in the New World.
By the time of the Great War, counting its colonies and protectorates together, the USA had under its supervision in the Caribbean a population greater than that of the thirteen colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence. During the last five years the United States had been in active negotiation for the creation of pro tectorates over other territories with a population almost as great.
In sharp contrast to the conditions found in Africa and Asia, then, America has been kept free from the extension of political control by the powerful extracontinental powers. The struggles of the commercial diplomacy of European powers in the New World have not been accompanied by extension of territorial possessions. They have been confined to competition for economic advantage in countries under American flags. The only shifting of political control which has occurred in our day has resulted in the displacement of a European power from American territory already held, in the creation of new independent states, or in the shifting of control of American territory among American states.
Through the Caribbean, the traffic center of the American tropics, passed the trade routes developed by the Panama Canal. Both the competition for the control of the trade which lay within their borders, and the fact that before their ports passed the commerce of distant countries, gave to Caribbean communities an importance in international affairs they had not had since the days when the Spanish empire in America was at its height and the people of one of the great world powers depended for its prosperity on the arrival of the gold ships from its American colonies. The fortunes of the Caribbean were no matter of merely local interest. They involved the world at large and especially the American continents, both North and South.
The minor colonial possessions in the Caribbean region belonged to three powers: France, Holland and Denmark. France, Spain, and Portugal all once possessed great colonial empires in America which they have lost. The latter two have been entirely eliminated by the events of history; the first possesses only a shadow of her former possessions. With the exception of the two small islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon, the land basis of the French fishing fleet off Newfoundland, all that remained of the American colonies of France were found in the West Indian region.
According to the 2012 Caribbean Human Development Report, high levels of violent crime are hindering development in the region. According to the report, “Crime, particularly violent crime, tends to have a negative impact on vulnerable economies such as those of the Caribbean. It erodes confidence in the future development of countries, reduces competitiveness of existing industries and services …” While accurate indicators and complete data are lacking, and government leaders are reluctant to share crime data for fear of portraying a violent region, available information indicates an upward trend in crime and violence. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that the homicide rate in the region increased by an average of nearly 165 percent from 2000 to 2010.
Transnational organized crime networks are expanding and diversifying their activities, resulting in the convergence of risks and threats that are increasingly complex and destabilizing. The trafficking of illicit drugs and illegal guns is still the primary activity of transnational organized crime in the region. Levels of insecurity are rising along with increases in unemployment and income inequality and low levels of economic growth.
The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5C's) has identified climate change as the most serious threat to sustainable development in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region. Currently, economic growth in the Caribbean continues to be hindered and constrained by the effects of hurricanes and other extreme weather events. In the longer run, rising sea levels, and the concomitant rise in storm surge levels, will require huge investments in protection, relocation, and adaptation of economic infrastructure located on the coastlines.
Climate change induced droughts, floods, extreme weather events, sea level rise, storm surges, warming air and sea surface temperatures, and ocean acidification are predicted to worsen in the coming decades, contributing to food and water shortages, increases in diseases, damage to economic infrastructure, and degradation of natural resources upon which livelihoods depend. Adapting to the impacts of climate change is essential for national security, sustainable development and community well-being in the Caribbean.
In recent years, the region has experienced more severe drought conditions, reducing the amount of fresh water available for drinking and agriculture, and increasing the frequency and severity of bush fires. Sea level is predicted to rise by up to four feet this centuryxvi, increasing damage to coastal infrastructure and communities from flooding and storm surges.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|