Trinidad and Tobago

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, an oil-rich nation, is nearer to mainland South America than any of the other Commonwealth Caribbean island countries. It has had one of the highest per capita incomes in the Caribbean and is a producer of oil, steel, and petrochemicals. Most of its population is descended from African slaves and East Indian indentured laborers, and the two-island nation has a rich and varied culture within which different races have lived together in relative harmony.

Trinidad and Tobago became independent in 1962, one of the first states of the Commonwealth Caribbean to do so. Transition to independence was quite smooth. The People's National Movement (PNM), a mainly black, middle-class party with Eric Williams as its leader, came to power in 1956, led the country into independence, and remained in office for thirty years. Trinidad and Tobago's independent history has been a relatively peaceful continuum, broken only in 1970 by Black Power movement riots that threatened the government. There have been regular, free, contested elections every five years, and there have been no coups- -or attempted coups--since independence. After Williams's death in 1981, the PNM continued to rule until 1986. That year the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), a recently formed coalition party led by A.N.R. Robinson, won the election by a large majority. The NAR differed from the PNM in that it included many East Indians among both leaders and members. In 1987 the NAR's greatest challenge was the revitalization of an economy depressed by the fall in world oil prices.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress