Richard Thomas, a dreadlocked Jamaican sound engineer and musician, is still livid over the last time he was arrested and briefly jailed for smoking marijuana. While his country is plagued by one of the world’s worst homicide rates, the “jailhouses are filled with people that have just smoked a spliff,” he fumes.

Thomas, who performs under the name of Jah Pinks, said he now prefers to drink marijuana tea; it’s better for his lungs and can be done discretely without the police hassling him over something many Jamaicans see as an integral part of their culture.

Paradoxically, while marijuana use is prevalent across the Caribbean the drug remains illegal in every single country – something that has often puzzled and frustrated both locals and visitors. That, however, may be about to change. Read more

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share a long and tumultuous history. The two countries are joined by geography but separated by language and scarred by reciprocal massacres. Yet after a brief thaw in the wake of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, relations between the two halves of the Hispaniola island are once again unravelling.

The latest contretemps was triggered by a far-reaching, controversial judgement by the Dominican Constitutional Court in September. The Dominican Republic has long held that anyone born in the country is automatically a national, but the judges ruled that those born while “in transit” do not qualify – including the children of Haitian migrants that have historically done most of the country’s menial labour. Read more

China, the US’s biggest geopolitical rival, is emerging as a new power in a region long considered America’s backyard. Robin Wigglesworth, capital markets correspondent, looks into why Caribbean nations find it hard to resist Beijing’s advances.

The snaking, sun-scorched streets of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, are dotted with thousands of signs advocating road safety. “Want to spend time with your family? DON’T SPEED, SPEED KILLS,” shouts one. “You may be dead wrong if you overtake carelessly,” warns another. Nary a stretch of asphalt is without some kind of cautionary signage. Read more

Judging by the amount of small nations that have been having trouble with paying their debts lately, it would seem reasonable to conclude that size does in fact matter.

Forget about Cyprus, in the Caribbean alone Grenada became the third country this year to embark on a debt restructuring, following the examples of Jamaica and Belize, with Keith Mitchell swiftly announcing less than a month after he was elected prime minister that Grenada needed “a fresh start”. Read more

Jamaica might be best known for its sunny beaches, reggae music and world class athletes such as Usain Bolt. But this Caribbean island nation of 2.9m is increasingly garnering international attention for something less boast-worthy : its crippling debt crisis.

In a television address late Monday, the country’s prime minister Portia Simpson Miller said the government will launch a restructuring of its local debt – its second in three years – as it looks to stave off a “serious economic crisis” and secure a credit line from the IMF. Read more

If only the economic performance of the Caribbean matched the sporting prowess of its athletes.

The Caribbean may be sunnier than Europe, but it shares many of the Old Continent’s problems – namely anaemic economic growth, uncompetitive economies and burgeoning debt burdens. Read more