Compared with much of Latin America and Africa, most Caribbeancountries have maintained stable democratic arrangements, despite racial,ethnic and social divisions. These divisions and the resulting tensionsand conﬂicts are rooted in the region’s colonial history, the existing in-stitutions and in political structures and processes. Governments, in thename of nation building, have used various strategies to deal with dif-ferences and tensions; they have also exploited conﬂicts and aggravatedinequalities. This paper uses country studies of Guyana, Trinidad andTobago, Jamaica, Cuba and the French Caribbean to study the politicsof race and ethnicity in the region, the conditions for accommodation,and the challenges of reform.
Arguably, the Caribbean region does not evoke the same level of anxiety as,for example, countries within sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Thereare perhaps two principal reasons for this. First, most countries have thewell-earned reputation of being relatively stable democracies. In the English-speaking Caribbean, British legacies of constitutionalism, belief in civiliansupremacy versus military control, respect for the electoral procedure and forbureaucratic and police neutrality sustain a certain democratic culture
, evenwhere these fundamental principles are contravened and where the inheritedinstitutions are inadequate and ineﬀective. A few countries, such as Guyana,the Dominican Republic and neighbouring Haiti, have had much more turbu-lent political histories. The Dominican Republic, like much of Latin America,has had its share of charismatic, autocratic and patron-clientelist political lead-ers, bolstered by fraudulent elections and corrupt institutions. Dictator RafaelTrujillo assumed government by coup in 1930 and was assassinated thirty-oneyears later. (His was a particularly bloody rule.) Trujillo’s successor, JuanBosch, was democratically elected but overthrown only a year thereafter. Bal-aguer, who had served as Trujillo’s advisor, was elected to replace Bosch andremained in power until 1978, when United States President Carter pressured
See A. Payne, ‘Westminster Adapted: The Political Order of the CommonwealthCaribbean in
Democracy in the Caribbean: Political, Economic and Social Perspectives
.Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993 and P. Sutton, ‘Constancy, Change and Accommo-dation: The Distinct Tradition of the Commonwealth Caribbean in
The Fallacies of Hope:The Post-Colonial Record of the Commonwealth Third World
, Manchester University Press,1991.