HomeGlobal RegionsAmericasCaribbean Law's Big Impact on Tourism, Culture, and Drugs

Caribbean Law’s Big Impact on Tourism, Culture, and Drugs

Caribbean Law focuses on the Caribbean, a region that comprises of countries that generally surround the Caribbean Sea, a sea in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a diverse group of island nations with a culture rich in food, fun, and adventure.

How the Caribbean’s Endangered Species Laws protect Marine Life

The Caribbean Sea is a region that comprises countries that generally surround the Caribbean Sea. It has a very diverse ecosystem that is heavily protected by various local and international laws.

In the US, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects the vulnerable and endangered from extinction in island territories such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. In Belize, to protect the coral reefs, in 2009 the government passed a set of Fisheries Regulations to prevent the fishing of parrotfish, a type of fish that is vital to coral reefs. In Jamaica, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act provides the legal basis for protecting coral reefs and marine life.

These laws are necessary due to the damage and overfishing that has occurred to biodiversity. Conservation International considers the ecosystem of the Caribbean as a biodiversity hotspot.

Caribbean Law
The Caribbean has some of the best waters for snorkeling.

Why Caribbean Beach Law allows Private Beaches to Exist

Some of the best beaches in the world are in the Caribbean. By law, a beach is typically considered the space where the tide ebbs and flows. Most of the beaches in the Caribbean are public beaches that are open to the general public by law. However, there are private beaches as well, and many Caribbean countries consider a beach private when the only way to access a beach is by crossing private property.

The Caribbean Sea also offers beachfront property and many islands for sale. They are either sold by private owners or by the governments. It is important to understand that the person may be either buying the land either through freehold or leasehold. Freehold means the person legally owns the property in its entirety, while a leasehold means you control the island for a set time. 

Carnival Cruise has a long-term lease with Labadee, a port in Haiti, and CocoCay, an island in the Bahamas. Typically leasehold land ownership lasts anywhere from 50 – 99 years, then it will return to the original owner unless the land has an automatic renewal to allow the lease to be extended. Providing long-term leases to corporations allows the governments to collect revenue and bring economic opportunity to the areas, as many of these countries are impoverished due to the legacy of slavery.

Caribbean Slavery Shaped the World in More Ways than you Think

Most of the Caribbean Islands were originally inhabited by Indigenous Americans traveling from Asia. They established complex societies based on laws, traditions, and mutual respect. As Europeans came to the Caribbean, they colonized the islands and authorized legal slavery. Africans were enslaved, sold through legal contracts, transported from West Africa to the islands, and forced to work on sugar plantations. 

Sugar Cane on a plantation in the Caribbean

Slavery in the Caribbean was often worse and more brutal than slavery in Africa. For example, slaves in Haiti had a life expectancy of 5 years. In addition, children born to slaves in the Caribbean were legally considered slaves as well, unlike in Africa. Slavery in Africa tended not to apply to children of slaves, slavery often served as a form of punishment due to a lack of a formal prison system in some African communities, and many of the slaves in Africa were prisoners of war.

Biracial children were also born from enslaved African women and European men either through rape or concubinage. Some Caribbean colonial territories considered them slaves as well, but in French-controleld Haiti, mulatoos were a legitimate class and legal free, as well as often educated and wealthy.

The wealth from the Caribbean came largely from the sugar plantations. Sugar and its by-products such as molasses and rum were produced and exported back to Europe. Insurance contracts were issued for slaves and sugar byproducts goods, in case of death or loss.

The contracts were either based on Common or Civil Law.

Caribbean Laws is built on the foundation of Civil and Common Law

There are two types of legal systems in the Caribbean: Common Law and Civil Law. Common law is based on laws passed by the legislature and legal precedence. Legal precedence is where judges make court rulings that are based on prior court rulings. Civil law is a legal system that is based primarily on laws that are passed by the legislatures.

Many of the common law countries in the Caribbean include

Caribbean Law
Civil Law vs Common Law, a difference that has shaped the world
  • Jamaica
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Grenada
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis

Civil law Caribbean countries include:

  • Haiti based on Napoleonic French Civil Law
  • Suriname based on Dutch Civil Law

Cuba is based on Communist legal theory. However, starting in 2019, the country has begun to recognize private property rights and aspects of a free market economy where buyers and sellers determine the price of certain goods and services.

Doing business requires communication skills and understanding multiple languages is common in Caribbean countries.

What Languages do they Speak in the Caribbean?

Many languages that are spoken in the Caribbean including:

  • English,
  • Spanish,
  • French, and
  • Creole versions of English, Spanish, and French

It is important to note that the creole versions are not only spoken in the countries, but countries have passed laws to recognize them as official languages. This is shown in Haiti where Haitian Creole, a French-based dialect, and Aruba where Papiamentu, a Spanish-based dialect, are both official languages in their respective countries.

Knowing a variety of languages has also helped bolster the tourism industry.

Caribbean Tourism

One can make an argument that the Caribbean’s tourism industry is the best in the world. Some of the best resorts, restaurants, and adventure tours are done at the highest level possible in the Caribbean. But, for these world-class services to exist, laws must be in place. 

Zoning laws designating areas for resorts and commercial use are necessary for the Caribbean hospitality industry to thrive. In addition, liability waivers in contracts that exculpate hotels, resorts, and travel tours from legal liability are required to keep the hospitality industry functioning at a profit. Without the ability to project a profit, it fundamentally undercuts the incentive to go into business and therefore the tourism industry will likely cease to exist or maintain the quality it currently presents to millions of visitors per year.

Carnival combines tourism, religion, and excitement

How Carnival Law Keeps the Fun Going

Millions of individuals travel to the Caribbean for Carnival, a festival during the first quarter of every year based on the religion of Catholicism and ends before Lent. Carnival involves large parades, costumes, and contests that take place during both daytime and at night. Carnival takes place in most Caribbean countries, but countries such as Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival is more famously known.

Many tourists stay in hotels and Airbnbs, which take into account liability waivers discussed earlier in this section. There are laws for floats safety inspections, and Trinidad and Tobago even has a Festival Act specifically for its carnival that includes:

  • Times of the year to wear masks
  • Criminal actions during carnival
  • Authorities of the President to make determinations for Carnival

Tourism is a major export of the region. Even though no goods or services are leaving the countries, tourists bring foreign money into the countries making it a part of international trade. 

How Caribbean Trade Agreements impacts the World

Trading goods, services, and capital have been a part of humanity since ancient African Nile Valley civilization, and the Caribbean has been no different.

As discussed earlier the Transatlantic Triangle is based on international trade. Africans were enslaved and brought to the Caribbean Islands and forced to work on mostly sugar cane plantations. The plantations produced sugar, molasses, and rum which were exported to Europe. The Europeans sent ships full of guns, cloth, and other goods to West Africa to trade for human slaves, which continue the triangle of trade. Purchase agreements and insurance contracts were involved in the entire process.

Cuban Cigars are a major export of the Caribbean

Today, trade in the Caribbean region is largely different. Tourism plays a major role in international trade, but the country also exports products such as:

  • Coffee
  • Oil and Gas
  • Gold
  • Rum
  • Bananas 

Export-Import (EXIM) Banks provide credit insurance for companies that export products. This allows the companies to offer credit to their customers, and the company will not have to worry about payment before shipping the products. If the customer does not pay, the EXIM bank will repay the company up to 95% of the cost. EXIM Banks primarily offer this service for goods, but Caribbean music is also an important export.

Caribbean music is played all over the world, and the region’s most popular music includes genres such as reggae, soca, and kompa. These artists often sign exclusive recording agreements with record labels as well as music publishing agreements. The artists in turn are given advance money and then collect royalties when the music is sold or streamed.

Cuban Cigars are a major international export. While it is currently forbidden to bring Cuban cigars and alcohol from Cuba into the US, Cuban cigars and alcohol can be brought in from other third countries into the US. As the Caribbean countries legalize cannabis, the plant and its byproducts will be exported as well.

How Caribbean Herbs and spices go Beyond Cannabis 

The Caribbean is well renowned for its natural herbs and medicinal products. Historically many places did not have access to quality healthcare, so natural herbs and roots were studied and mastered, and used to create products. Roots tonics, soaps, and creams are developed and purchase agreements are signed and exported all over the world. While Cannabis is a plant that the Caribbean is more notoriously known for, other herbs and plants such as soursop, sarsaparilla, and raw moon root provide many medicinal benefits.

Cannabis is gradually becoming decriminalized in the Caribbean.

Where is Weed Legal in the Caribbean?

Cannabis is becoming legalized in many Caribbean countries. Jamaica passed the Dangerous Drug Act in 2015 which legalized cannabis for religious purposes and decriminalized the possession of 55.6 grams or less to a fine of 500 Jamaican Dollars (approximately $4 USD).  Trinidad and Tabogo allows legal possession of up to 30 grams. While cannabis laws are changing, cocaine trafficking laws have not changed.

Columbian cocaine has often traveled through the Caribbean to reach the United States and Europe. But, both Caribbean government and international organizational efforts are made and funded to address the trafficking of illegal cocaine and other illicit drugs.

Why is CARICOM Important and the benefits of International Organizations

The Caribbean countries, similar to many regions, have come together to form international governmental organizations such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). CARICOM is composed of 15 Caribbean member states to increase economic relations and coordinate foreign policy. CARICOM organized events with high-ranking dignitaries, as well as funding opportunities through grants for events for the Caribbean. 

Other intergovernmental organizations that play an important role in the Caribbean include:

One of the major aspects of Caricom allows for a single regional market where goods and services can freely move across the 15 Caribbean countries. In addition, many Caribbean countries have trade agreements with other non-Caribbean countries such as the Caribbean Basin Initiative, a free trade preference with the US, and the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Similar to how trade agreements allow for the free movement of goods and services, immigration policy affects the movement of individuals. 

What is the Caribbean Diaspora and how do Laws help this Community?

The Caribbean Diaspora is individuals of Caribbean descent that are not currently living in the Caribbean. The movement of people has occurred since the dawn of man in the African safari, and immigration is a part of Caribbean history and is shown when:

Women from Guadalupe on Ellis Island immigrating to New York City
  • Indigenous natives migrated from Asia, 
  • Enslaved Africans were brought across the Atlantic Ocean, 
  • European entrepreneurs started plantations and profited off of slave-related industries, and 
  • Indians served as indentured servants in countries such as Guyana.

Individuals of Caribbean descent are now living all over the globe today. There are over a million people of both Jamaican and Haitian descent living in the US and almost 3 million total of the Caribbean diaspora, the UK has over 500,000 of the Caribbean diaspora, and there are over 750,000 Haitians in France.

These individuals are legal citizens of the countries or authorized to work through legal immigration visas such as the H-1B visa in the US. Many of the individuals have excelled in their fields such as military, law, health, and sports.

Many individuals are becoming citizens of Caribbean nations such as St. Lucia, St. Kitt, and Dominica. With these citizenship, many individuals can now have visa-free access to over 100 countries which may not be a possibility in their country of birth. The common requirement is to make approximately a $100,000 USD investment in the country in an area such as real estate.

How does the Law make Caribbean Sports a Million Dollar Business?

Sports are a major form of entertainment and football (soccer), the most popular sport in the world, reigns supreme in the Caribbean. Additional popular spectator sports include:

  • Baseball,
  • Cricket,
  • Track and field,
  • Water events such as yachting or sailing, and more.

When large numbers of people watch a sporting event, a business model is created and legal contracts are involved. There are advertising contracts, sponsorship agreements, player and coaches/trainers contracts, etc. Even ticket sales are a form of contract because people exchange money for the license to sit in a particular seat during a sporting event.

Caribbean Law Yatch
The future remains bright for the Caribbean

The Future of the Caribbean depends on Laws and Regulations.

The future is bright for the Caribbean. Within the next 50 years,  expect multiple Caribbean nations to be 100% run on renewable energy. Caribbean countries are situated perfectly to accomplish this because they have an abundance of water, wind, and sun.

As globalization continues to increase, Caribbean countries will participate, benefit and likely help their regional partners increase their per capita income. These countries will export finished products to the US and Europe, instead of mostly exporting raw materials. The tourism and hospitality industry will increase as the cannabis industry is legalized and matures in Caribbean nations.

Geremy Johnson
Geremy Johnsonhttps://www.geremyjohnson.com/
Geremy is a lawyer based in the United States focused on global development pertaining to privacy and compliance, capacity-building through partnerships and trainings, and supporting cultural development projects for increased tourism. He began his career as an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) for the City of Philadelphia, later moving on to help global startups and small and medium sized businesses with holistic legal strategies to launch and run operations.

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