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Antigua and Barbuda Modern History

In 1981, Antigua and Barbuda became an independent state within the Commonwealth, consisting of the United Kingdom and former British colonies. Antigua's workers' party (in English abbreviated to ALP), which despite its name is bourgeois, had, with the exception of the years 1971-176, held government power since 1951.

At independence, tourism had replaced sugar cultivation as Antigua and Barbuda's main source of income. The tourism industry and the construction sector continued to grow during the 1980s, while the sugar industry closed down. Antigua and Barbuda became one of the most prosperous countries in the region.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Antigua and Barbuda. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The Labor Party won the elections in 1984 and 1989, but there was internal wear within the party. Prime Minister Vere Bird was charged with corruption, and the son of Vere Bird Junior was suspected of arms smuggling to a drug cartel in Colombia. The scandals led to demonstrations demanding the departure of the Prime Minister.

In 1993, Vere Bird was succeeded as party leader by another of his sons, Lester Bird. The Labor Party won the 1994 election but lost some mandates to the newly formed Left-centered United Progressive Party (UPP), led by union leader Baldwin Spencer.

Contemporary History of Antigua and BarbudaPolitical turbulence

The scandals surrounding the government and the Bird family continued. Ivor Bird, one of the Prime Minister's brothers, was arrested after receiving a package of cocaine at the country's airport. He was released after paying a fine.

During the first half of the 1990s, the economy began to deteriorate and the situation deteriorated drastically in 1995, when Hurricane Luis damaged the tourism industry and left half the population homeless.

The protests against the government continued in 1996 and 1997. The opposition UP led the fight against a hotel building that threatened one of the few remaining refugees for a rare bird, the Caribbean whispering duck.

Despite all the turbulence, the Labor Party also won the 1999 elections.

Several ministers were forced to resign in 2001 and 2002 - at least two of them following scandals involving the social security system.

The Bird family loses power

The election in March 2004 led to a change of government. After half a century in power, the Labor Party was defeated by UPP, which received 55 percent of the vote, against just under 42 percent for the Labor Party. Lester Bird even lost his seat in Parliament.

UPP formed government with the Barbuda People's Movement (BPM) from Barbuda, and Baldwin Spencer became head of government.

After the change of power, a number of cuts were made in the public sector and in 2005 the income tax was increased for the fourth of the population that earns the most.

Ahead of the 2007 World Cup of Cricket, held at Antigua, among others, the country experienced a construction boom that contributed to significantly stronger economic growth. Once construction was over, growth again declined.

Action against crime

Increased crime was one of the most important issues for the UP government. The increase was assumed to be linked to the growing drug trade in the country.

The government tried to tackle the problem by replacing the leadership of the country's police force. It aroused opposition from the Labor Party, which had many loyal sympathizers within the police. In 2008, a retired Canadian police chief and his three assistants were asked to take over the leadership of the police corps. Within the police force, the new scheme was viewed with great distrust and the trial was interrupted after a couple of years. Spencer's government also tightened its anti-corruption laws, a crime that in practice was hardly punished by the previous government.

In early 2009, a financial hiatus had political consequences when Texas billionaire Allen Stanford was charged with fraud in the multi-billion class by US authorities. Stanford was also a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda. He had for many years been close to the Bird family and operated banking and several companies in Antigua. Stanford's company was the largest employer in the country alongside the public sector. The business was conducted in several Latin American countries and was designated by the US authorities as an advanced pyramid scheme. Stanford was later sentenced in the United States to 110 years in prison.

UP holds power

The Birds' connections to Stanford became a burden for the Labor Party in the March 2009 general election, UPP won by 51 percent of the vote against 47 percent for the ALP. This allowed the Spencer government to remain in office for another term. Through the election, Lester Bird regained his seat in Parliament.

However, it took six months for the election results to finally be determined. Following complaints from the Labor Party, the country's highest court annulled the election of Spencer and two ministers on the grounds that the polling stations had been opened too late in their constituencies. The government then turned to the Eastern Caribbean States' Court of Appeals in Saint Lucia, which found that the opening hours of the polling stations hardly affected the outcome of the election.

During the 2009–2014 term, the financial problems were high on the government's agenda. In the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008, the flow of tourism to the country decreased, as did the money emigrants send home. In 2010, Antigua and Barbuda were granted an emergency loan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the terms of their foreign debt were renegotiated.

Historic ALP leadership change

The aftermath of the Stanford deal also had a negative impact on the economy. Following the scandal, Antigua and Barbuda were boycotted as tourist destinations by those who fell victim to Stanford's shady business, and the victims claimed damages. The boycott was a protest against the Antigua government seizing some of Stanford's assets. The knot was resolved in March 2013 when an agreement between US and Antiguan authorities compensated the victims.

At the end of 2012, the government launched the idea of ​​selling citizenship to foreigners in exchange for investment. The opposition rejected the proposal, pointing out that similar programs in neighboring countries led to the establishment of criminals. However, the government argued that measures should be taken to avoid this. The proposal was adopted by Parliament in March 2013 and came into force in October of that year. Since then, hundreds of citizenship have been sold, mainly to the Chinese, and in 2015, passport sales accounted for about a quarter of the state's revenue.

At the end of 2012, a historic leadership change occurred in the Labor Party when Gaston Browne was elected new party leader after Lester Bird. It was the first time since the party was founded in 1943 that it got a leader with a last name other than Bird. However, Browne was a close friend of the family and engaged to a nephew of Lester Bird.

Browne led the Labor Party to victory in the parliamentary elections held in June 2014. The Labor Party then received a full 14 out of 17 seats, while the UPP collapsed to 3 seats. BPM from Barbuda lost the mandate won by the party in the 2009 elections.

The Labor Party formed a government with Gaston Browne as prime minister and finance minister. Lester Bird became senior minister.

The Labor Party also won the 2018 election.

In September 2017, Barbuda was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Irma. About half of the inhabitants became homeless and the island's reconstruction was estimated to cost 100 million US dollars.

 
 

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