The passage of Hurricane Irma has created dislocation and suffering for many Caribbean states. At the time of writing the estimated death toll was 23 with the possibility of rising. The United Kingdom has been criticised for the pace of its response to its territories in the Caribbean. The hurricane has therefore highlighted the fact that while Caribbean countries to a large extent share a common history and culture, the forms of government vary.
The major categories are:
Independent Republic - This includes Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Dominica. Being a republic means that the country's governance exists entirely within its own borders without any oversight from a former colonial power. Typically this means that there is a Prime Minister and a President. Republics are not common in the Caribbean.
Independent Parliamentary Democracy/Commonwealth Realm - This includes Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, among others. In fact most of the former British colonies have this form of government. With this category, the Queen of England, Elizabeth is recognised as the Monarch and she is represented in the island by a Governor General which she chooses based on the advice of the country's Prime Minister. This however is strictly ceremonial and the Queen does not interfere in the affairs of the islands. The Governor General's role is constitutionally dictated and s/he is generally considered a figurehead with powers to swear in Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister; sign into law bills that have been debated and passed by Parliament; dissolve Parliament once elections have been called; and others.
Dependencies - These include British Overseas Territories, and continued French, Dutch, and American colonies. Countries falling in this category include Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Aruba, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, among others. These countries usually have some local government however they have not gained independence or have chosen to remain a colony.
While there are close ties to the former and current colonial powers, Caribbean nations also have forged links with each other. There is a common market known as Caribbean Community (CARICOM) with several associated bodies such as the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Our histories are similar, our concerns are similar, our grit is similar.
Watch how we will rally after this heartbreak, regardless of whether we are independent or not, whether we speak Kreyol, Patois, Creole, French, Dutch, English, or Spanish. Watch how we will rally.