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Not every island in and around the Caribbean Sea is independent. Sadly, many Caribbean islands are still aligned with former colonial empires, including France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Some that achieved independence from Britain are now commonwealth realm countries with King Charles III as their monarch and head of state.  Commonwealth realm countries in the Caribbean include Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent & The Grenadines.

The King is not involved in the day-to-day business of commonwealth realm countries, which also includes Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. However, he appoints a Governor-General in each commonwealth realm country who represents her and keeps her updated with any significant developments or news.

Caribbean political map with capitals, national borders, important cities rivers, and lakes.  Photo Credit: © Peter Hermes Furian via 123RF.com. Caribbean political map with capitals, national borders, important cities, rivers, and lakes.  Photo Credit: © Peter Hermes Furian via 123RF.com.

But can a nation truly be a sovereign country if its head of state is in a distant land? Many would argue no, which is why there are increasing calls for commonwealth realm countries in the Caribbean to become republics. Heeding the call is Barbados which became a republic on November 30th, 2021, the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain.  By becoming a republic, Barbados nicknamed “Little England,” ended its colonial ties nearly 400 years after the first British settlement was established in 1627 with the arrival of William and John ship.

Barbados, a Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles, becoming a republic in 2021 is the first time since 1992 that a commonwealth realm country has ditched its constitutional monarch, but others are sure to follow. Most likely after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving British monarch.  So, what is the government status for all islands/countries in the Caribbean? Below I provide insight into independent countries in the Caribbean and the dependent territories in the Caribbean.

Fountain Independence Square in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Byvalet via 123rf.com. Fountain Independence Square in Bridgetown, Barbados. Photo Credit: © Byvalet via 123rf.com.

Independent Countries in the Caribbean

There are a total of sixteen sovereign states / independent countries in the Caribbean region. Most of them are former British colonies. This includes Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Barbados, The Bahamas, Grenada, Suriname, Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent & The Grenadines, and St Kitts & Nevis. Belize, located in Central America, plus Guyana and Suriname, located in South America, are included as they are aligned with the Caribbean region culturally and politically.  

The table below includes the sixteen independent Caribbean countries. They are listed chronologically in the order they achieved independence from the British Empire and other European powers. Insight is also provided on their current form of government.

Caribbean CountriesCountry FlagDate of IndependenceFormer Colony OfCurrent Type of Government
Haiti

🇭🇹 

January 01, 1804FranceSemi-presidential republic
Dominican Republic

🇩🇴

February 27, 1844HaitiUnitary presidential republic
Cuba

🇨🇺

May 20, 1902SpainUnitary Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic
Jamaica

🇯🇲

August 6, 1962United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Trinidad & Tobago

🇹🇹

August 31, 1962United KingdomA unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
Guyana

🇬🇾

May 26, 1966United KingdomUnitary parliamentary republic with an executive presidency
Barbados

🇧🇧

November 30, 1966United KingdomA unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
The Bahamas

🇧🇸

July 10, 1973United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Grenada

🇬🇩

February 7, 1974United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Suriname 

🇸🇷 

November 25, 1975The NetherlandsUnitary assembly-independent republic
Dominica 

🇩🇲

November 3, 1978United KingdomUnitary assembly-independent republic
Saint Lucia

🇱🇨

February 22, 1979United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Saint Vincent & The Grenadines

🇻🇨

October 27, 1979United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Belize

🇧🇿

September 21, 1981United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Antigua & Barbuda

🇦🇬

November 1, 1981United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Saint Kitts & Nevis

🇰🇳

September 19, 1983United KingdomFederal parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Caribbean CountriesCountry FlagDate of IndependenceFormer Colony OfCurrent Type of Government

Of the sixteen independent countries in the Caribbean, only eight are republics. This includes Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago. The other eight have a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy government or federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy government and are members of the commonwealth realm with their monarch and head of state as King Charles III.  This includes Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines.

View of Havana on a sunny day with Revolution Square in the foreground. Photo Credit: © Karel Miragaya via 123RF.com. View of Havana on a sunny day with Revolution Square in the foreground. Photo Credit: © Karel Miragaya via 123rf.com.

Dependent Territories in the Caribbean

There are eighteen islands in the Caribbean that remain dependencies, in one form or another, to France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Specifically: 

  • France has four Overseas Departments and Regions in the Caribbean, including Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, and Saint Martin (St. Martin). Each of the governments in the French West Indies is a devolved parliamentary dependency.
  • The Netherlands has four Special Municipalities in the Caribbean, including Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten (St. Maarten).  Each of the governments in the Dutch Caribbean is a parliamentary representative democracy within a constitutional monarchy.
  • The United Kingdom has six British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, including Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks & Caicos Islands.  Each of the governments in the British West Indies is a parliamentary dependency under a constitutional monarchy.
  • The United States has two Territories in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. 

So, will any of these dependent territories in the Caribbean become independent island nations? There are varying degrees of political will on most of these Caribbean islands, but the economic situation for each, especially the smaller islands, will need to improve significantly. Colonialistic thinking will also have to decrease. Perhaps with each passing generation. Only then will the political leaders be able to turn the will of the people into a mandate?

Note: Originally published November 30th, 2021, this post was updated July 5th, 2023.

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Welcome to Caribbean & Co. founded by Ursula Petula Barzey who enjoys traveling the Caribbean in search of the best cultural and food adventures, places to stay and live/work opportunities. Launched in 2014, Caribbean & Co. has won five travel media awards.

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