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The multi-island country of St Vincent and the Grenadines is a land of contrasts. St Vincent - the main population centre - is mountainous and lush. Rainforests thrive in the interior and La Soufrie, an active volcano, dominates the north.
Of the many islands and cays that make up the Grenadines, Mustique, Palm Island and Union Island are haunts of the rich and famous - offering yachting, diving and fine beaches.
These playgrounds are worlds away from the many Vincentians who are without jobs. High unemployment has prompted many to leave the islands.
Like other countries in the Windwards chain, St Vincent and the Grenadines has tried to reduce its reliance on banana exports after the European Union phased out preferential treatment to producers from former colonies.
Efforts to diversify the economy have been partially successful. Tourism is said to have great potential and there are plans to build an international airport. But the banana crop remains vital, accounting for around a third of export earnings.
Like many other Caribbean countries, St Vincent and the Grenadines has fallen victim to drug-related crime. Efforts have been made to tackle marijuana cultivation.
The country has taken steps to curb money-laundering, and a Paris-based organisation dedicated to tackling the issue has removed St Vincent and the Grenadines from its list of non-cooperative countries.
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Frederick Ballantyne
Prime minister: Ralph Gonsalves
Known by many Vincentians as "Comrade Ralph", Mr Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) won a second straight term in December 2005, gaining 12 seats in the 15-seat parliament.
The opposition New Democratic Party won the rest of the seats.
The prime minister campaigned on his government's economic record, citing economic growth and the completion of dozens of major projects. Following his win he called for national reconciliation and an end to "perpetual warfare of a verbal kind".
Mr Gonsalves was born in 1945 and practised as a lawyer. He first came to office in 2001, ending 15 years of rule by the New Democrat Party.
The Vincentian press is privately-owned. The constitution guarantees a free press and publications openly criticise government policies. There are several private radio stations and a national radio service which is partly government-funded.