FROM INDENTURED LABOURERS UNDER BRITISH TO RULERS OF 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hindus 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
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
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the nation's first female prime minister
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.
coalition's victory sent the People's National movement into opposition
after more than four decades of almost unbroken rule.
prime minister Patrick Manning had called snap elections midway through
his five-year term to thwart an opposition motion of no confidence
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.
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.
TV6 dominates the ratings in Trinidad and Tobago. The state-owned
Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) operates a TV network and radio
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.
were more than 650,000 internet users by June 2012 (via
Internetworldstats.com). Facebook is the most popular social media
Labourers were brought in from Asia to work the sugar plantations when slavery was abolished
Christopher Columbus visits the islands, naming Trinidad after the
three peaks at its south-east corner and Tobago after a local type of
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Trinidad and Tobago becomes a republic with the former
governor-general, Ellis Clarke, as president and Eric Williams as prime
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 prime minister Basdeo Panday has faced the courts since leaving office
- 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.
- 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.`
- Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the security forces have
uncovered a plot by "criminal elements" to assassinate her and several
2013 March - Mr Justice Anthony Carmona is elected president.