Not every island/country in the Caribbean is independent. Sadly, many 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 Queen Elizabeth II 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 Queen is not involved in the day-to-day business of commonwealth realm countries which also includes Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. However, she 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 country truly be a sovereign/independent state 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 to become republics. Heeding the call is Barbados which became a republic on November 30th, 2021, the 55th anniversary of their 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 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 on 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 there is a total of sixteen sovereign states / independent countries in the Caribbean. They are listed chronologically below in the order they achieved independence.  They include: 

CountryDate of IndependenceFormer Colony OfCurrent Government
HaitiJanuary 01, 1804FranceSemi-presidential republic
Dominican RepublicFebruary 27, 1844HaitiUnitary presidential republic
CubaMay 20, 1902SpainUnitary Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic
JamaicaAugust 6, 1962United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Trinidad & TobagoAugust 31, 1962United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional republic
GuyanaMay 26, 1966United KingdomUnitary parliamentary republic with an executive presidency
BarbadosNovember 30, 1966United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional republic
The BahamasJuly 10, 1973United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
GrenadaFebruary 7, 1974United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
SurinameNovember 25, 1975The NetherlandsUnitary assembly-independent republic
DominicaNovember 3, 1978United KingdomUnitary assembly-independent republic
Saint LuciaFebruary 22, 1979United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Saint Vincent & The GrenadinesOctober 27, 1979United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
BelizeSeptember 21, 1981United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Antigua & BarbudaNovember 1, 1981United KingdomUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Saint Kitts & NevisSeptember 19, 1983United KingdomFederal parliamentary constitutional monarchy
CountryDate of IndependenceFormer Colony OfType 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 Queen Elizabeth II.  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.  Each of their governments is a devolved parliamentary dependency.
  • The Netherlands has three Special Municipalities in the Caribbean including Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius.  Each of their governments 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 their governments is a parliamentary dependency under a constitutional monarchy.
  • The United States has two Territories in the Caribbean including Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. 

So will any of these dependent territories in the Caribbean soon become independent? There are varying degrees of political will on most of these islands, but the economic situation for each will need to improve significantly. Only then will the political will turn into a mandate.

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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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