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U.S. Department of State

Background Notes: St. Lucia, March 1998

Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.

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Official Name: Saint Lucia

PROFILE

Geography

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

People

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 0.8%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Church of England 3%, various Protestant denominations.
Languages: English (official); a French patois is common throughout the country.
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%. Services--18%.

Government

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., CARICOM 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.

PEOPLE

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.

HISTORY

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 A.D.

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).

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

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 government.

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 seats.

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 seats.

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, 1997.

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).

ECONOMY

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).

FOREIGN RELATIONS

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.

U.S.-ST. LUCIAN RELATIONS

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

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 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: 246-429-5246).

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

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://1997-2001.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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