Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean, thanks to its large reserves of oil and gas, the exploitation of which dominates its economy.
Inhabited mostly by people of African and Indian descent, the two-island state enjoys a per capita income well above the average for Latin America. Natural gas - much of it exported to the US - is expected to overtake oil as its main source of revenue.
Dependence on oil has made the republic a hostage to world crude prices, whose fall during the 1980s and early 1990s led to the build-up of a large foreign debt, widespread unemployment and labour unrest.

At a glance

  • Politics: A four-party coalition, the People's Partnership, won snap elections in 2010. Kamla Persad-Bissessar is Trinidad and Tobago's first female PM. Politics mirrors the country's racial divide
  • Economy: Natural gas, oil and chemicals are key industrial sectors and export earners
As with other nations in the region, Trinidad and Tobago - a major trans-shipment point for cocaine - has become ridden with drug and gang-related violence. This has clogged up the courts and has fuelled a high murder rate and much of the corruption that is reputedly endemic in the police. It also threatens the tourism industry.
In response, the government reintroduced capital punishment in 1999, despite strong international pressure not to do so.
Trinidad and Tobago hosts the Caribbean Court of Justice, a regional supreme court which aims to replace Britain's Privy Council as a final court of appeal. The council had been seen as an obstacle to the speedy implementation of death sentences.
Sighted by the explorer Christopher Columbus in 1498, Trinidad was settled by the Spanish before being taken by Britain in 1797. A succession of European powers laid claim to Tobago.
Calypso music and steel drum bands feature in carnival celebrations on the larger island. Relaxed and peaceful in comparison to its densely-populated neighbour, Tobago attracts diving enthusiasts and nature lovers. The island is self-governing.
Hindu worshipper prays at a temple in Trinidad and TobagoHindus make up around a quarter of the population of Trinidad and Tobago

  • Full name: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Population: 1.3 million (UN, 2012)
  • Capital: Port of Spain
  • Area: 5,128 sq km (1,980 sq miles)
  • Major language: English
  • Major religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam
  • Life expectancy: 67 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Trinidad and Tobago dollar = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals
  • GNI per capita: US $15,840 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .tt
  • International dialling code: +1868

President: Anthony Carmona
President Carmona enjoyed a distinguished legal career before becoming president in March 2013. He served as a member of Trinidad and Tobago's Supreme Court and was a judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
He was nominated for the presidency by the government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and duly approved by parliament.
Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary republic, and the president's role is largely ceremonial.
Prime minister: Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Trinidad and Tobago's prime minister, Kamla Persad-BissessarKamla Persad-Bissessar, the nation's first female prime minister
Kamla Persad-Bissessar became Trinidad and Tobago's first female prime minister when her People's Partnership coalition won a landslide victory in elections in May 2010.
Her coalition's victory sent the People's National movement into opposition after more than four decades of almost unbroken rule.
Former prime minister Patrick Manning had called snap elections midway through his five-year term to thwart an opposition motion of no confidence against him.
Persad-Bissessar, a former attorney general, pledged to bring transparency and accountability to all areas of government, while maintaining critical policies to ensure economic stability in the energy-rich nation.
Observers said one of her challenges would be to hold together her coalition of diverse interests.
In November 2011, Ms Persad-Bissessar said the security forces had foiled a plot to assassinate her and members of her cabinet.
She blamed the alleged plot on criminals seeking revenge for her decision in August to impose a state of emergency in response to a surge in violent crime linked to drugs gangs.
Privately-run TV6 dominates the ratings in Trinidad and Tobago. The state-owned Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) operates a TV network and radio stations.
The government generally respects press freedom, which is enshrined in the constitution. There are three daily newspapers. The press scene is "vigorously pluralistic", says Freedom House.
BBC World Service radio is available on 98.7 FM.
There were more than 650,000 internet users by June 2012 (via Facebook is the most popular social media platform.

The press


  • CCN TV6 - private, owned by Caribbean Communications Network (CCN)
  • C TV - state-owned, run by Caribbean New Media Group
  • CNC3 - private, operated by Guardian Media


A chronology of key events:
Artist's impression of a sugar plantation circa 1897 Labourers were brought in from Asia to work the sugar plantations when slavery was abolished
1498 - Christopher Columbus visits the islands, naming Trinidad after the three peaks at its south-east corner and Tobago after a local type of tobacco pipe.
1597: Spanish rename original settlement "Puerto de Espana"
1958-62: Capital of West Indies Federation
1532 - Spain colonises Trinidad, appointing a governor to rule it.
1630s - The Dutch settle on Tobago and plant sugar-cane.
1781 - The French capture Tobago from the Spanish, transforming it into a sugar-producing colony.
British rule
1797 - A British naval expedition captures Trinidad from Spain.
1802 - Spain cedes Trinidad to Britain under the Treaty of Amiens.
1814 - France cedes Tobago to Britain.
1834 - Slavery abolished; indentured workers brought in from India to work on sugar plantations.
1889 - Trinidad and Tobago administratively combined as a single British colony.
1945 - Universal suffrage instituted.
1956 - Eric Williams, a moderate nationalist, founds the People's National Movement (PNM).
View of Maracas Bay in Trinidad and Tobago The islands were originally occupied by Amerindians
1958 - Trinidad and Tobago joins the British-sponsored West Indies Federation.
1959 - Britain gives Trinidad and Tobago internal self-government with Williams as prime minister.
1962 - Trinidad and Tobago leaves the West Indies Federation; becomes independent with Williams as prime minister.
1967 - Trinidad and Tobago joins the Organisation of American States.
1968 - Trinidad and Tobago and other English-speaking Caribbean states form the Caribbean Free Trade Area, which was replaced in 1973 by the Caribbean Common Market.
Domestic unrest
1970 - Government declares a state of emergency after violent protests by "Black Power" supporters who demand a solution to unemployment and an end to foreign influence over the economy. Hundreds of army soldiers mutiny in support, but their rebellion collapses within days.
1972 - State of emergency lifted.
1975 - Strikes by workers in the oil, sugar, transport and electricity sectors paralyse the economy.
1976 - Trinidad and Tobago becomes a republic with the former governor-general, Ellis Clarke, as president and Eric Williams as prime minister.
1980 - A rash of firebombings, arsons and political shootings afflict the country.
1981 - Agriculture Minister George Chambers becomes prime minister following Williams' death.
1986 - Tobago-based National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) headed by Arthur Robinson wins the general election.
1987 - Noor Hassanali becomes president.
1990 - More than 100 Islamist radicals blow up the police headquarters, seize the parliament building and hold Robinson and other officials hostage for several days in an abortive coup attempt.
1991 - Patrick Manning becomes prime minister after his PNM party wins general election.
1995 - Indian-based United National Congress (UNC) and NAR form coalition with Basdeo Panday as prime minister.
1999 - Capital punishment restored.
2000 - Basdeo Panday wins another term in general elections.
Political deadlock
2001 December - General election yields an unprecedented tie, with the governing party and main opposition winning 18 seats each.
2002 April - Prime Minister Patrick Manning requests parliament be suspended amid continuing deadlock over tied elections.
2002 October - Third general election in three years ends months of political deadlock. Prime Minister Patrick Manning's ruling People's National Movement declares victory.
2003 March - President Maxwell Richards is sworn in after being elected by MPs in February.
2003 August - State-owned sugar company Caroni shuts down with the loss of more than 8,000 jobs.
2005 April - Regional leaders gather to inaugurate the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice, a final court of appeal intended to replace Britain's Privy Council. The court hears its first case in November.
2005 October - At least 10,000 people take part in a protest - named the Death March - against a soaring rate of violent crime.
Former premier Basdeo PandayFormer prime minister Basdeo Panday has faced the courts since leaving office
2006 April - Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday is sentenced to two years in prison for failing to declare an overseas bank account while he was in office. The conviction is quashed on appeal.
2007 January - Plans are announced to close the centuries-old sugar industry. Production had been hit by cuts in European subsidies.
2007 November - The governing People's National Movement is re-elected.
2007 December - Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday is committed to stand trial over corruption charges relating to a construction project at Trinidad and Tobago's main airport.
2008 April - Mr Panday is ordered to face a retrial regarding false financial declarations made between 1997 and 1999.
2010 May - People's Partnership coalition wins snap elections. Kamla Persad-Bissessar becomes country's first female prime minister.
2011 August - State of emergency imposed, with an overnight curfew in six crime "hotspots", following a spike in violent crime.`
2011 November - Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the security forces have uncovered a plot by "criminal elements" to assassinate her and several government ministers.
2013 March - Mr Justice Anthony Carmona is elected president.

Promenade at Port of Spain The islands are a major tourist attraction

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