In the Caribbean islands there are several territories that have not achieved full independence. In the entire region, there are 19 dependent territories: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barts, St. Martin, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Bermuda, Montserrat, the Venezuela Federal Dependencies and New Sparta.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are unincorporated territories of the United States. Unincorporated territories are not considered part of the country. Although residents of these territories cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections, they are U.S. citizens. Additionally, the U.S. federal government retains control of defense, trade and international relations for the territories. In 1952, Puerto Rico adopted the status of Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, acquiring a degree of autonomy and self-governance greater than that of most unincorporated territories. That removed the island from the United Nations Decolonization Committee’s list of non-autonomous territories. The U.S. Virgin Islands, however, remain on the list.

Meanwhile, Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat are part of the British Overseas Territories (BOT). These territories are not administered directly by the United Kingdom, as they have their own governments, but the U.K. is in charge of their defense and foreign relations. The U.K. monarch also appoints a governor to each territory who plays a largely symbolic role, although the governors have extraordinary powers in issues of security and international trade. None of the BOTs have representation in the British Parliament. All of the BOTs in the Caribbean, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands, are among the 16 territories (as of 2011) on the United Nations Decolonization Committee’s list of non-autonomous territories.

The territories of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten (collectively known as the Dutch or Netherlands Antilles) were, until October 10, 2010, an administrative unit of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (which in turn is part of the European Union). Since 1954, they enjoyed autonomy in their internal affairs, with the government of Holland being responsible for defense and foreign relations. But that administrative unit was dissolved through the Treaty of Lisbon in 2010. At that time, the island of Curaçao and the zone of St. Maarten (the Dutch part of the island of St. Martin) became “constituent countries” within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while the islands of Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire became special municipalities within the Netherlands.

Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barts and St. Martin were the first Caribbean territories to choose full integration into the empire of which they were colonies (France), in the form of “overseas departments” (départements d’outre-mer, in French, commonly called DOMs). The DOMs are territories that are integrated into the French Republic (which in turn is a member of the European Union) and receive the same treatment as other “metropolitan departments” on the continent. On February 22, 2007, however, the islands of St. Barts and St. Martin, which were part of the DOM of Guadeloupe, separated and became independent DOMs. Later, on January 1, 2012, St. Barts ceased to be a DOM and an outlying region of the European Union to become a country or overseas territory associated with it. This supposedly means it is no longer part of the European Union, although it continues to use the euro as its currency and has a monetary agreement with the European Union.

Finally, New Sparta and the Venezuela Federal Dependencies are a collection of islands that are part of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Author: Luis Galanes
Published: May 09, 2012.

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