U.S. Department of State
Background Notes:  St. Lucia, March 1998
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs

Official Name:  Saint Lucia



Area: 619 sq. km. (238 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Castries (pop. est. 55,000); Micoud, Gros-Islet;
Vieux Fort; Soufriere.
Terrain: Mountainous.
Climate: Tropical.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--St. Lucian(s).
Population (1996): 147,000.
Annual growth rate (1996): 1.3%.
Ethnic groups: African descent 90%, mixed 6%, East Indian 3%, European 
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Church of England 3%, various Protestant 
Languages: English (official); a French patois is common throughout the 
Education: Literacy--85%. Years compulsory--ages 5-15.  Attendance--more 
than 80% urban, 75% rural.
Health (1995): Life expectancy--74 years female; 66 years male. Infant 
mortality rate--21/1,000. 
Work force (1994): Agriculture--37%. Industry and commerce--20%. 


Type: Westminster-style parliamentary democracy.
Independence: February 22, 1979.
Constitution: 1979.
Branches: Executive--governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, 
head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. 
Legislative--bicameral parliament. Judicial--district courts, Eastern 
Caribbean Supreme Court (High Court and Court of Appeals), final appeal 
to privy council in London.
Administrative subdivisions: 11 parishes.
Political parties: St. Lucia Labor Party (SLP, ruling); United Workers' 
Party (UWP, official opposition).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy (1996)

GDP: $569 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.9%.
Per capita GDP: $3,866.
Natural resources: Forests, beaches, minerals (pumice), mineral springs.
Agriculture (9.4% of GDP): Products-bananas, cocoa, coconut, citrus 
fruits, livestock.
Industry: Manufacturing-6.7% of GDP. Types-garments, electronic 
components, beverages, corrugated boxes. Tourism-12% of GDP.
Trade: Exports--$86.3 million: bananas, cocoa, vegetables, fruits, other 
agricultural products, oils and fats, manufactured goods. Major markets-
-U.K., U.S., CARI-COM countries. Imports--$267.4 million: food, fuel, 
manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment. Major suppliers--
U.S., CARICOM countries, U.K., Japan.
Exchange rate: Eastern Caribbean dollars 2.700=U.S. $1. 


St. Lucia's population is predominantly of African and mixed African-
European descent, with small East Indian and European minorities. 
English is the official language, although many St. Lucians speak a 
French patois. Ninety percent of the population is Roman Catholic, a 
further reflection of early French influence on the island. The 
population of just over 147,000 is evenly divided between urban and 
rural areas, although the capital, Castries, contains more than one-
third of the population. Despite a high emigration rate, the population 
is growing rapidly, about 1.6% per year.


St. Lucia's first known inhabitants were Arawaks, believed to have come 
from northern South America 200-400 A.D. Numerous archaeological sites 
on the island have produced specimens of the Arawaks' well-developed 
pottery. Caribs gradually replaced Arawaks during the period 800-1000 

Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during 
Spain's early exploration of the Caribbean. The Dutch, English, and 
French all tried to establish trading outposts on St. Lucia in the 17th 
century but faced opposition from hostile Caribs.

The English, with their headquarters in Barbados, and the French, 
centered on Martinique, found St. Lucia attractive after the sugar 
industry developed in 1765. Britain eventually triumphed, with France 
permanently ceding St. Lucia in 1815. In 1838, St. Lucia was 
incorporated into the British windward islands administration, 
headquartered in Barbados. This lasted until 1885, when the capital was 
moved to Grenada.

St. Lucia's 20th-century history has been marked by increasing self-
government. A 1924 constitution gave the island its first form of 
representative government, with a minority of elected members in the 
previously all-nominated legislative council. Universal adult suffrage 
was introduced in 1951, and elected members became a majority of the 
council. Ministerial government was introduced in 1956, and in 1958 St. 
Lucia joined the short-lived West Indies Federation, a semi-autonomous 
dependency of the United Kingdom. When the federation collapsed in 1962, 
following Jamaica's withdrawal, a smaller federation was briefly 
attempted. After the second failure, the United Kingdom and the six 
windward and leeward islands--Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, Antigua, 
St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, and St. Lucia--developed a novel form of 
cooperation called associated statehood.

As an associated state of the United Kingdom from 1967 to 1979, St. 
Lucia had full responsibility for internal self-government but left its 
external affairs and defense responsibilities to the United Kingdom. 
This interim arrangement ended on February 22, 1979, when St. Lucia 
achieved full independence. St. Lucia continues to recognize Queen 
Elizabeth II as titular head of state and is an active member of the 
Commonwealth. The island continues to cooperate with its neighbors 
through the Caribbean community and common market (CARICOM), the East 
Caribbean Common Market (ECCM), and the Organization of Eastern 
Caribbean States (OECS).


St. Lucia is a parliamentary democracy modeled on the Westminster 
system. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the 
governor general. The governor general exercises basically ceremonial 
functions, but residual powers, under the constitution, can be used at 
the governor general's discretion. The actual power in St. Lucia lies 
with the prime minister and the cabinet, usually representing the 
majority party in parliament.

The bicameral parliament consists of a 17-member House of Assembly 
elected by universal adult suffrage for five-year terms and an 11-member 
senate appointed by the governor general. The parliament may be 
dissolved by the governor general at any point during its five-year 
term, either at the request of the prime minister--in order to take the 
nation into early elections--or at the governor general's own 
discretion, if the house passes a vote of no-confidence in the 

St. Lucia has an independent judiciary composed of district courts and a 
high court. Cases may be appealed to the Eastern Caribbean Court of 
Appeals and, ultimately, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council 
in London. The island is divided into 10 administrative divisions, 
including the capital, Castries. Popularly elected local governments in 
most towns and villages perform such tasks as regulation of sanitation 
and markets and maintenance of cemeteries and secondary roads.

St. Lucia has no army but maintains a paramilitary special service unit 
within its police force and a coast guard.

Politics in St. Lucia has been dominated by the United Workers Party 
(UWP), which has governed the country for all but three years since 
independence. John Compton was premier of St. Lucia from 1964 until 
independence in February 1979 and remained prime minister until 
elections later that year.

The St. Lucia Labor Party (SLP) won the first post-independence 
elections in July 1979, taking 12 of 17 seats in parliament. A period of 
turbulence ensued, in which squabbling within the party led to several 
changes of prime minister. Pressure from the private sector and the 
unions forced the government to resign in 1982. New elections were then 
called and were won resoundingly by Compton's UWP, which took 14 of 17 

The UWP was elected for a second time in April 16, 1987, but with only 
nine of 17 seats. Seeking to increase his slim margin, Prime Minister 
Compton suspended parliament and called new elections on April 30. This 
unprecedented snap election, however, gave Compton the same results as 
before--the UWP retained nine seats and the SLP eight. In April 1992, 
Prime Minister Compton's government again defeated the SLP. In this 
election, the government increased its majority in parliament to 11 

In 1996, Compton announced his resignation as prime minister in favor of 
his chosen successor Dr. Vaughan Lewis, former director-general of the 
Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Dr. Lewis became prime 
minister and minister of finance, planning and development on April 2, 
1996. The SLP also had a change of leadership with former CARICOM 
official Dr. Kenny Anthony succeeding businessman Julien Hunte.

In elections held May 23, 1997, the St. Lucia Labor Party won all but 
one of the 17 seats in Parliament, and Dr. Kenny Anthony became Prime 
Minister and Minister of Finance, Planning and Development on May 24, 

Principal Government Officials 

Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II 
Governor General--Dr. Pearlette Louisy
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Planning and Development--Dr. 
Kenny Anthony
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade--George Odlum
Ambassador to the UN--Sonia Leonce-Carryl 
Ambassador to the U.S.--vacant
Charge d'Affaires--Juliet Mallet-Phillip
Ambassador to the OAS--Sonia M. Johnny

St. Lucia maintains an embassy at 3216 New Mexico Ave., NW, Washington, 
DC 20016 (tel. 202-364-6792).


St. Lucia's economy is based on banana production and tourism with some 
manufacturing. Agriculture now is dominated by banana cultivation. There 
are a large number of small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises. 
This sector has been largely responsible for the extensive socioeconomic 
changes that have taken place in St. Lucia since the 1960's. Eighty 
percent of merchandise trade earnings come from banana exports to the 
United Kingdom. This sector is highly vulnerable to weather conditions 
and to external events affecting commodity prices.

In view of the European Union's announced phase-out of preferred access 
to its markets by windward island bananas, agricultural diversification 
is a priority. An attempt is being made to diversify production by 
encouraging the establishment of tree crops such as mangos and avocados. 
A variety of vegetables are produced for local consumption.

Improvements in roads, communications, and port facilities have created 
a more suitable investment climate for manufacturing as well as tourism 
and agriculture. Foreign investors have also been lured by an educated 
and skilled work force and relatively stable political conditions. The 
largest investment is a petroleum storage and transshipment terminal 
built by Hess Oil. A Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)-funded airport 
expansion project has been completed.

The tourism sector has made significant gains, experiencing a boom 
during the last few years despite some unfavorable external factors. The 
development of the tourism sector has been helped by the government's 
commitment to providing a favorable investment environment. Incentives 
are available for building and upgrading tourism facilities. There has 
been liberal use of public funds to improve the physical infrastructure 
of the island, and the government has made efforts to attract cultural 
and sporting events and develop historical sites.

St. Lucia is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, which 
issues a common currency. It is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean 
Basin Initiative and is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common 
Market (CARICOM).


The major thrust of foreign affairs for St. Lucia is economic 
development. The government is seeking balanced international relations 
with emphasis on mutual economic cooperation and trade and investment. 
It seeks to conduct its foreign policy chiefly through its membership in 
the OECS. St. Lucia participated in the 1983 Grenada mission, sending 
members of its special services unit into active duty. St. Lucia is a 
member of the Commonwealth, the Organization of American States, and the 
United Nations. It seeks pragmatic solutions to major international 
issues and maintains friendly relations with the major powers active in 
the Caribbean, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, 
and France. St. Lucia has been active in eastern Caribbean regional 
affairs through the OECS and CARICOM.

As a member of CARICOM, St. Lucia strongly backed efforts by the United 
States to implement UN Security Council Resolution 940, designed to 
restore democracy to Haiti. The country agreed to contribute personnel 
to the multinational force, which restored the democratically elected 
government of Haiti in October 1994. 

In May 1997, St. Lucia participated, along with 14 other Caribbean 
nations, in a summit with President Clinton in Bridgetown, Barbados. The 
summit, which was the first-ever meeting in the region between the U.S. 
and Caribbean heads of government, strengthened the basis for regional 
cooperation on justice and counternarcotics, finance and development, 
and trade issues.

There are currently four diplomatic missions in St. Lucia--People's 
Republic of China, France, Venezuela, and an office of the Barbados-
based British High Commission. Some countries with which St. Lucia has 
diplomatic relations have representatives resident in Barbados, Jamaica, 
Trinidad, and Guyana.


The United States and St. Lucia have a cooperative relationship. The 
United States supports the St. Lucian Government's efforts to expand its 
economic base and improve the lives of its citizens.

Following the closure in July 1996 of the USAID regional mission for the 
Eastern Caribbean, U.S. assistance is channeled primarily through 
multilateral agencies such as the World Bank. The Peace Corps, whose 
Eastern Caribbean regional headquarters is in Castries, has 25-30 
volunteers in St. Lucia, working primarily in education, agriculture, 
and health. U.S. security assistance programs provide limited training 
to the paramilitary special services unit and the coast guard. In 
addition, St. Lucia receives U.S. counternarcotics assistance and 
benefits from U.S. military exercise-related and humanitarian civic 
action construction projects.

Countering the narcotics trafficking has been an area of mutual interest 
between St. Lucia and the United States. Because of St. Lucia's 
geographical location, it is an appealing transit point for traffickers. 
In response to this threat, the Government of St. Lucia has concluded 
various bilateral treaties with the United States, including a maritime 
law enforcement agreement (subsequently amended to include overflight 
and order-to-land provisions), a mutual legal assistance treaty, and an 
extradition treaty.

In 1996, the majority of the 412,000 cruise ship passengers arriving on 
St. Lucia were U.S. citizens. Nearly 76,000 other Americans visited the 
island that year, in addition to the relatively small number of American 
citizens--fewer than 1,000--who reside there.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials 

Charge d'Affaires--Donald K. Holm 
Political/Economic Counselor--Stephen R. Snow 
Consul General--Philip M. Jones 
Defense Attache--Lt. Col. Donald Robinson
Regional Labor Attache--Peggy Zabriskie 
Economic-Commercial Officer--Leo Gallagher 
Public Affairs Officer--Jennifer Clark 
Peace Corps Director--David Styles (resident in St. Lucia)

The United States maintains no diplomatic presence in St. Lucia. The 
ambassador and embassy officers are resident in Barbados and frequently 
travel to St. Lucia.

The U.S. embassy in Barbados is located  in the Canadian Imperial Bank 
of Commerce Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 246-436-4950; fax: 

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 2230
Tel: 1-800-USA-TRADE

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-7464
Fax: (202) 822-0075


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate 
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: 
http://travel.state.gov and the 

Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem 
number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set 
terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop 
bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the 
password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries 
international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory 
Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs 
Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on 
obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased 
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648) 

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is 
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800. 

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (For this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication.)

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas 
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country 
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). 
This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency. 

Further Electronic Information: 

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by 
the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250. 

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is 
available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the 
NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information. 

[end of document]
Return to Western Hemisphere Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage