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Caribbean Military Guide

Mainland Guyana
French Guiana

Dominican Rep.
Trinidad & Tobago


Antigua & Barbuda
Bahamas, The
Saint Kitts & Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent

Isla de Aves
Isla Bermeja
Puerto Rico
British Virgin Is.
Cayman Islands
Flower Garden Banks
Navassa Island
Turks & Caicos
US Virgin Islands

Bajo Nuevo
Neth. Antilles
Petrel I.
Serranilla Bank
Saint Barthelemy
Sint Martin

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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.

Throughout President Jimmy Carter’s term in office, regional policy toward the Caribbean centered upon the smaller states of the Eastern Caribbean, such as Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, along with newly independent Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Nations like the Dominican Republic and Haiti were bigger than and linguistically distinct from the English-speaking states of the Eastern Caribbean and were dealt with separately. Cuba was considered a special case.

Overall, the Carter administration’s regional approach was defined by the problems of the Eastern Caribbean, but there was significant disagreement about the size of those problems and the proper scope of the U.S. response. The goals of Carter officials were defined by two, often contradictory impulses 1) have the Eastern Caribbean states (many of which had populations of fewer than 100,000 people) work together as a group, and develop a regional identity, so they could attract more foreign investment and act as a stable, financially-secure bloc that would resist Cuban influence, and 2) do so without a major investment of foreign aid from the United States; many Carter officials did not want to take on old British obligations and make an expensive commitment to a region which was not a priority for many U.S. policymakers. The conflict between these two impulses emerged almost immediately.

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.

Country Population 2016
Cuba 11,392,889
Haiti 10,848,175
Dominican Republic 10,648,613
Puerto Rico 3,680,772
Jamaica 2,803,362
Trinidad and Tobago 1,364,973
Guyana770 929
Guadeloupe 470,547
Martinique 396,364
Bahamas 392,718
Barbados 285,006
French Guiana 259,000
Saint Lucia 186,383
Curaçao 158,635
St Vincent & Grenadines 109,644
Grenada 107,327
US Virgin Islands 106,415
Aruba 104,263
Antigua and Barbuda 92,738
Dominica 73,016
Bermuda 61,662
Saint Kitts and Nevis 56,183
Sint Maarten 39,538
Turks and Caicos 34,904
Cayman Islands 30,659
Caribbean Netherlands 25,328
Anguilla 14,763
Montserrat 5,154
Navassa Island0
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.

Most people tend to associate the Caribbean with stunning beaches and refreshing oceans. Some insist it is as close to paradise as one can find. Indeed, the Caribbean islands have plentiful resources and boast a soil structure that is perfect for growing a wide array of crops. Despite these riches, many Caribbean residents equate their alleged Eden more closely with Hades, as they struggle to feed their families. Some Caribbean islands are among the most underprivileged in the world, with an increasing disparity between the rich and poor. Though the per capita GDP of most of the islands is increasing, they are still far behind that of the developed nations.

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.

The British islands of the Caribbees have been arbitrarily divided into the "Leeward" and "Windward" groups, the former lying to the north and the latter to the south of north latitude fifteen from the equator.

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Page last modified: 31-10-2019 16:46:01 ZULU