On Wednesday, Barbados, a landlocked nation in the Caribbean, elected its first president in its 237-year history. The winner, Mia Mottley, will be the woman whose head of state visit to the United States has become the focus of a diplomatic battle between the two countries. Barbados gained independence from Britain in 1966 and was declared a republic, but the Queen still automatically occupies the role of head of state. Barbados, a small country of 180,000 people, is a popular summer holiday destination for celebrities and other well-heeled tourists. Tourists are charged entrance fees.
Lurking around the edges of the vote for the new president is the long-running dispute between the United Kingdom and the Caribbean on the treatment of Barbados, a largely one-party democracy that has reigned for 72 years.
Barbados claims that its status as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations is an economic lifeline that allows it to attract thousands of tourists annually, and yet the Britons threaten to cut off Queen Elizabeth II’s access to the nation. Barbados won a rare victory in its campaign to have Queen Elizabeth removed from the citizenship list, when the high court ruled earlier this month that the union between the two countries was not legally binding. The Barbadian government’s plan was to sell off its stake in Royal Barbados Carnival, a beloved carnival-like affair featuring events that includes street dances and parades, just to make up the money it would have lost by losing the Queen. After trading barbs, United Kingdom and Barbados officials made a deal, with Barbados agreeing to retain the Queen as the head of state.
When the new president takes office in October, it may be an open question if Barbados will remain British.