Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean, thanks to its large reserves of oil and gas, the exploitation of which dominates its economy.
Inhabited mostly by people of African and Indian descent, the two-island state enjoys a per capita income well above the average for Latin America. Natural gas - much of it exported to the US - is expected to overtake oil as its main source of revenue.
Dependence on oil has made the republic a hostage to world crude prices, whose fall during the 1980s and early 1990s led to the build-up of a large foreign debt, widespread unemployment and labour unrest.
As with other nations in the region, Trinidad and Tobago - a major trans-shipment point for cocaine - has become ridden with drug and gang-related violence. This has clogged up the courts and has fuelled a high murder rate and much of the corruption that is reputedly endemic in the police. It also threatens the tourism industry.
In response, the government reintroduced capital punishment in 1999, despite strong international pressure not to do so.
Trinidad and Tobago hosts the Caribbean Court of Justice, a regional supreme court which aims to replace Britain's Privy Council as a final court of appeal. The council had been seen as an obstacle to the speedy implementation of death sentences.
Sighted by the explorer Christopher Columbus in 1498, Trinidad was settled by the Spanish before being taken by Britain in 1797. A succession of European powers laid claim to Tobago.
Calypso music and steel drum bands feature in carnival celebrations on the larger island. Relaxed and peaceful in comparison to its densely-populated neighbour, Tobago attracts diving enthusiasts and nature lovers. The island is self-governing.
- Full name: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
- Population: 1.3 million (UN, 2011)
- Capital: Port of Spain
- Area: 5,128 sq km (1,980 sq miles)
- Major language: English
- Major religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam
- Life expectancy: 67 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Trinidad and Tobago dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals
- GNI per capita: US $15,040 (World Bank, 2011)
- Internet domain: .tt
- International dialling code: +1868
President: Maxwell Richards
The president is elected by parliament for a term of five years. Maxwell Richards was elected president in 2003 and won a second term in February 2008.
Prime minister: Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Kamla Persad-Bissessar became Trinidad and Tobago's first female prime minister when her People's Partnership coalition won a landslide victory in elections in May 2010.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, island nation's first female prime minister
Her coalition's victory sent the People's National movement into opposition after more than four decades of almost unbroken rule.
Former prime minister Patrick Manning had called snap elections midway through his five-year term to thwart an opposition motion of no confidence against him.
Persad-Bissessar, a former attorney general, pledged to bring transparency and accountability to all areas of government, while maintaining critical policies to ensure economic stability in the energy-rich nation.
Observers said one of her challenges would be to hold together her coalition of diverse interests.
In November 2011, Ms Persad-Bissessar said the security forces had foiled a plot to assassinate her and members of her cabinet.
She blamed the alleged plot on criminals seeking revenge for her decision in August to impose a state of emergency in response to a surge in violent crime linked to drugs gangs.
Privately-run TV6 dominates the ratings in Trinidad and Tobago. The state-owned Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) operates a TV network and radio stations.
The government generally respects press freedom, which is enshrined in the constitution.
BBC World Service radio is available on 98.7 FM.
There were 593,000 internet users by March 2011 (via Internetworldstats.com).
- TV6 - private, owned by Caribbean Communications Network (CCN)
- C TV - state-owned, run by Caribbean New Media Group
- Trinidad Broadcasting Company - operates Inspirational Radio 730 AM, The Best Mix 95.1, Vibe CT 105 and Sangeet 106.1
- Talk City 91.1 - state-owned, run by Caribbean New Media Group
- Radio 90.5 - Indian music
- Ebony 104 - Creole music and culture
- WeFM - soca, hip-hop, R&B
- i95.5 FM - news, talk