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The island - discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1494 - was settled by the Spanish early in the 16th century. The native Taino Indians, who had inhabited Jamaica for centuries, were gradually exterminated and replaced by African slaves. England seized the island in 1655 and established a plantation economy based on sugar, cocoa, and coffee. The abolition of slavery in 1834 freed a quarter million slaves, many of whom became small farmers. Jamaica gradually increased its independence from Britain. In 1958 it joined other British Caribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica gained full independence when it withdrew from the Federation in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence as rival gangs affiliated with the major political parties evolved into powerful organized crime networks involved in international drug smuggling and money laundering. Violent crime, drug trafficking, and poverty pose significant challenges to the government today. Nonetheless, many rural and resort areas remain relatively safe and contribute substantially to the economy.


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Geography

Location
Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba

Geographic coordinates
18 15 N, 77 30 W

Map references
Central America and the Caribbean

Area World Ranking: 168
Total 10,991 sq km
Land 10,831 sq km
Water 160 sq km

Area - comparative
Slightly smaller than Connecticut

Land boundaries
0 km

Coastline
1,022 km

Maritime claims
Measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
Territorial sea 12 nm
Contiguous zone 24 nm
Exclusive economic zone 200 nm
Continental shelf
200 nm or to edge of the continental margin

Climate
Tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior

Terrain
Mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain

Elevation extremes
Lowest point Caribbean Sea 0 m
Highest point Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m

Natural resources
Bauxite, gypsum, limestone

Land use
Arable land 15.83%
Permanent crops 10.01%
Other 74.16% (2005)

Irrigated land
250 sq km (2002)

Total renewable water resources
9.4 cu km (2000)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Total 0.41 cu km/yr (34%/17%/49%)
Per capita 155 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural hazards
Hurricanes (especially July to November)

Environment - current issues
Heavy rates of deforestation; coastal waters polluted by industrial waste, sewage, and oil spills; damage to coral reefs; air pollution in Kingston from vehicle emissions

Environment - international agreements
Party to
Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
Signed, but not ratified
None of the selected agreements

Geography - note
Strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for the Panama Canal


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  Jamaica (Kingston):


  GPS points from Jamaica (Kingston)

Hinds Town Parish Of Saint Ann

Bluefields Parish Of Westmoreland

George North River Parish Of Clarendon

Chovey Parish Of Saint Mary

Enchanted River Parish Of Saint Mary

Paul Mountain Parish Of Saint Catherine

Kings Valley Parish Of Westmoreland

Goshen Parish Of Saint Catherine




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