"With some 34 million people and 16 independent nations sharing an African ethnic heritage, the Caribbean is a diverse region that includes some of the hemispheres richest and poorest nations. The region consists of 13 island nations, from the Bahamas in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south; Belize, which is geographically located in Central America; and the two nations of Guyana and Suriname, located on the north central coast of South America. With the exception of Cuba and Haiti, Caribbean governments have generally respected the human rights of their citizens. Regular elections are the norm, and for the most part have been free and fair. Nevertheless, while many Caribbean nations have long democratic traditions, they are not immune to threats to their political stability, including terrorism. Many nations in the region experienced economic decline in 2001-2002 due to downturns in the tourism and agriculture sectors. The extensive damage resulting from several storms in 2004 caused an economic setback for several Caribbean nations. U.S. interests in the Caribbean are diverse, and include economic, political, and security concerns. The Bush Administration describes the Caribbean as Americas 'third border,' with events in the region having a direct impact on the homeland security of the United States. According to the Administration, the United States has an interest in bolstering political and economic stability in the region because instability would heighten the regions vulnerability to drug trafficking, financial crimes, and illegal immigration."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32160