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

Official Name: St. Vincent & the Grenadines

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 340 sq. km. (130 sq. mi.); slightly less than twice the size of 
Washington, DC. The Grenadines include 32 islands, the largest of which 
are Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, and Union. Some of the smaller islands 
are privately owned.
Cities: Capital--Kingstown.
Terrain: Volcanic and mountainous, with the highest peak, Soufriere, 
rising to 1,219 meters (4,000 ft.).
Climate: Tropical.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Vincentian.
Population: (1995) 110,600.
Annual growth rate: (1995) 0.65%.
Ethnic groups: African descent (66%), mixed (19%), West Indian (6%), 
Carib Indian (2%).
Religions: Anglican (47%), Methodist (28%), Roman Catholic (13%), other 
Protestant denominations, Seventh-day Adventist, Hindu. 
Language: English (official); some French Patois spoken.
Education: Literacy--98%. Compulsory--up to age 15.
Health (1995): Infant mortality rate--17/1,000. Life expectancy--females 
72 yrs; males--68 yrs.
Work force: About 40,000. Agriculture--60%.

Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the 
Commonwealth.
Independence: October 27, 1979.
Constitution: October 27, 1979.
Branches: Executive--governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, 
head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. 
Legislative--Unicameral legislature with 15-member elected house of 
assembly and six-member appointed senate. Judicial--district courts, 
Eastern Caribbean supreme court (high court and court of appeals), final 
appeal to the privy council in London.
Subdivisions: 6 parishes.
Political parties: New Democratic Party (NDP, incumbent; holds 12 of 15 
seats in parliament), Unity Labour Party (ULP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Economy (1995)
GDP: $262.6 million.
Per capita GDP: $2,400.
Natural resources: Timber, beaches.
Industry: Plastic products, food processing, cement, furniture, 
clothing, starch, and detergents.
Trade: Exports--$62 million (bananas, eddoes and dasheen, arrowroot 
starch). Major markets--U.K., CARICOM, U.S. Imports--$120 million 
(foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, chemicals and fertilizers). Major 
suppliers--U.S., CARICOM, U.K., Japan.
Official exchange rate: Eastern Caribbean dollars(EC) 2.70 = U.S. $1.

PEOPLE

Most Vincentians are the descendants of African slaves brought to the 
island to work on plantations. There are also a few white descendants of 
English colonists, as well as some East Indians, Carib Indians, and a 
sizable minority of mixed race. The country's official language is 
English, but a French patois may be heard on some of the Grenadine 
Islands. St. Vincent has a high rate of emigration. With extremely high 
unemployment and under-employment, population growth remains a major 
problem.

HISTORY

Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent 
until the 18th century. African slaves--whether shipwrecked or escaped 
from St. Lucia and Grenada and seeking refuge in St. Vincent--
intermarried with the Caribs and became known as "black Caribs." 

Beginning in 1719, French settlers cultivated coffee, tobacco, indigo, 
cotton, and sugar on plantations worked by African slaves. In 1763, St. 
Vincent was ceded to Britain. Restored to French rule in 1779, St. 
Vincent was regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles in 
1783. Conflict between the British and the black Caribs continued until 
1796, when General Abercrombie crushed a revolt fomented by the French 
radical Victor Hugues. Over 5,000 black Caribs were eventually deported 
to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras.

Slavery was abolished in 1834. The resulting labor shortages on the 
plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and east 
Indians in the 1860s. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves 
and immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar prices kept 
the economy stagnant until the turn of the century.

From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent passed through various stages 
of colonial status under the British. A representative assembly was 
authorized in 1776, Crown Colony government installed in 1877, a 
legislative council created in 1925, and universal adult suffrage 
granted in 1951.

During this period, the British made several unsuccessful attempts to 
affiliate St. Vincent with other Windward Islands in order to govern the 
region through a unified administration. The most notable was the West 
Indies Federation, which collapsed in 1962. St. Vincent was granted 
associate statehood status in 1969, giving it complete control over its 
internal affairs. Following a referendum in 1979, St. Vincent and the 
Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence.

Natural disasters have plagued the country throughout the 20th century. 
In 1902, La Soufriere volcano erupted, killing 2,000 people. Much 
farmland was damaged and the economy deteriorated. In April 1979, La 
Soufriere erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands had to be 
evacuated, and there was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and 1987 
hurricanes devastated banana and coconut plantations.

GOVERNMENT

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy within the 
Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state and is 
represented on the island by a governor general, an office with mostly 
ceremonial functions. Control of the government rests with the prime 
minister and the cabinet.

The parliament is a unicameral body with a 15-member elected house of 
assembly and a six-member appointed senate. The governor general 
appoints senators, four on the advice of the prime minister and two on 
the advice of the leader of the opposition. The parliamentary term of 
office is five years, although the prime minister may call elections at 
any time.

As in other English-speaking Caribbean countries, the judiciary in St. 
Vincent is rooted in British common law. There are 11 courts in three 
magisterial districts. The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, comprising a 
high court and a court of appeals, is known in St. Vincent as the St. 
Vincent and the Grenadines supreme court. The court of last resort is 
the judicial committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council in London.

There is no local government in St. Vincent, and all 6 parishes are 
administered by the central government.

Principal Government Officials

Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Charles Antrobus
Prime Minister--Sir James F. Mitchell
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism--Allan Cruickshank
Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS--Kingsley C. A. Layne
Ambassador to the UN--Herbert George Young

St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains an embassy at 3216 New Mexico 
Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202- 462-7806). St. Vincent also 
has a consul resident in New York.

Political Conditions

The People's Political Party (PPP), founded in 1952 by Ebenezer Joshua, 
was the first major political party in St. Vincent. The PPP had its 
roots in the labor movement and was in the forefront of national policy 
prior to independence, winning elections from 1957 through 1966. With 
the development of a more conservative black middle class, however, the 
party began to steadily lose support, until it collapsed after a rout in 
the 1979 elections. The party dissolved itself in 1984.

Founded in 1955, the St. Vincent Labor Party (SYLP), under R. Milton 
Cato, gained the support of the middle class. With a conservative law-
and-order message and a pro-Western foreign policy, the SYLP dominated 
politics from the mid-1960's until the mid-1980's. Following victories 
in the 1967 and 1974 elections, the SYLP led the island to independence, 
winning the first post-independence election in 1979. Expecting an easy 
victory for the SYLP in 1984, Cato called early elections. The results 
were surprising: with a record 89% voter turnout, James F. Mitchell's 
New Democratic Party (NDP) won nine seats in the house of assembly.

Since the 1984 election, politics in St. Vincent have been dominated by 
the NDP. Bolstered by a resurgent economy in the mid-1980's, Mitchell 
led his party to an unprecedented sweep of all 15 house of assembly 
seats in the 1989 elections. The opposition emerged from the election 
weakened and fragmented but was able to win three seats during the 
February 1994 elections under a "unity" coalition.

ECONOMY

The St. Vincent economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. Bananas 
alone account for upwards of 60% of the work force and 50% of 
merchandise exports. Such reliance on a single crop makes the economy 
vulnerable to external factors. St. Vincent's banana growers benefit 
from preferential access to the European market. In view of the European 
Union's announced phase-out of this preferred access, economic 
diversification is a priority.

Tourism has grown to become a very important part of the economy. In 
1993, tourism supplanted banana exports as the chief source of foreign 
exchange. The Grenadines have become a favorite of the up-market 
yachting crowd. The trend toward increasing tourism revenues will likely 
continue. In 1996, as new cruise ship and ferry berths came on line, 
more than 46,000 cruise ship passengers arrived, the majority of whom 
were U.S. citizens. More than 14,000 other U.S. citizens visited in 
1996. A relatively small number of Americans--under 1,000--reside on the 
islands.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean 
Basin Initiative. The country belongs to the Caribbean Community and 
Common Market (CARICOM), which has signed a framework agreement with the 
United States to promote trade and investment in the region.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains close ties to the U.S., Canada, 
and the U.K. and cooperates with regional political and economic 
organizations such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States 
(OECS) and CARICOM. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the 
United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of 
American States, and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).

As a member of CARICOM, St. Vincent and the Grenadines strongly backed 
efforts by the United States to implement UN Security Council Resolution 
940, designed to facilitate the departure of Haiti's de facto 
authorities from power. The country agreed to contribute personnel to 
the multinational force, which restored the democratically elected 
government of Haiti in October 1994.

In May 1997, Prime Minister Mitchell joined 14 other Caribbean leaders 
and President Clinton during the first-ever U.S.-regional summit in 
Bridgetown, Barbados. The summit strengthened the basis for regional 
cooperation on justice and counternarcotics issues, finance and 
development, and trade.

U.S.-St. Vincent Relations

The United States and St. Vincent have solid bilateral relations. Both 
governments are concerned with eradicating local marijuana cultivation 
and combating the transshipment of narcotics. The St. Vincentian 
Government has generally been cooperative and responsive to U.S. offers 
of assistance. In 1995, the U.S. and St. Vincent signed a maritime law 
enforcement agreement. In 1996, the Government of St. Vincent and the 
Grenadines signed an extradition treaty with the United States. In 1997, 
the two countries signed a mutual legal assistance treaty.

The United States supports the Government of St. Vincent and the 
Grenadines' efforts to expand its economic base and to provide a higher 
standard of living for its citizens. Following the closure in July 1996 
of USAID's Eastern Caribbean regional office, U.S. assistance is 
channeled primarily through multilateral agencies such as the World 
Bank. The United States has about 20 Peace Corps volunteers in St. 
Vincent working in education and health. The U.S. military also provides 
assistance through exercise-related construction and humanitarian civic 
action projects.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--vacant
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 official presence in St. Vincent. The 
ambassador and embassy officers are resident in Barbados and frequently 
travel to St. Vincent.

The U.S. embassy In Barbados is located in the Canadian Imperial Bank of 
Commerce Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 246-436-4950; fax: 
246-429-5246).

OTHER CONTACT INFORMATION:

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
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

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION 

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 
202-512-2250. 

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-
4000. 

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 
http://www.state.gov. 

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. 

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