Posted 10 months ago on Oct. 25, 2013, 8:37 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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US Invasion of Grenada: A 30-Year Retrospective
Friday, 25 October 2013 10:33 By Stephen Zunes, Truthout | News
It has been exactly 30 years since US forces invaded Grenada, ending that Caribbean island nation's four-year socialist experiment. The island nation no bigger than Martha's Vineyard, with a population that could barely fill the Rose Bowl, was defeated with relatively few American casualties. President Ronald Reagan's decision to occupy the country and replace the government with one more to his liking proved to be quite popular in the United States, with polls indicating that 63 percent of the public supported the invasion.
On this anniversary, it would be worth looking back at the Grenadian revolution, the U.S. invasion, its aftermath and the important precedent it set for "regime change" through U.S. military intervention.
One of the tiny island nations that grew out of the British colonies in the eastern Caribbean, Grenada - like its neighbors - was populated by descendants of black African slaves. The original inhabitants, the Carib Indians, were wiped out during the early stages of colonialism. Receiving independence in 1974, the island was ruled initially by the despotic and eccentric Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy, whose murderous secret police - known as the Mongoose Squad - and his passion for flying saucers, the occult and extra-terrestrial communication had brought him notoriety throughout the hemisphere. On March 13, 1979, in an almost bloodless coup, a young attorney named Maurice Bishop seized power with the backing of the New Jewel Movement. He and the movement proceeded to impose an ambitious socialist program on the island inspired at least as much by Bob Marley as Karl Marx. In the next four years, while most Caribbean nations suffered terribly from worldwide recession, Grenada achieved a 9 percent cumulative growth rate. Unemployment dropped from 49 percent to 14 percent. The government diversified agriculture, developed cooperatives and created an agri-industrial base that led to a reduction of the percentage of food and total imports from more than 40 percent to 28 percent at a time when market prices for agricultural products were collapsing worldwide.
The literacy rate, already at a respectable 85 percent, grew to about 98 percent, comparable to or higher than most industrialized countries. A free health care and secondary education system were established, the number of secondary schools tripled, and scores of Grenadians received scholarships for studies abroad. There were ambitious programs in the development of the fishing industry, handicrafts, housing, tourism, the expansion of roads and transport systems and the upgrading of public utilities.
What excited many in the American progressive community was the government's openness to decentralization and appropriate technology, which allowed small-scale American entrepreneurs access to development planning alongside those preferring a more traditional, centralized, capital-intensive model. It was an accessible revolution, close by and carried out by English-speaking people influenced more by Black Power and New Left politics than by Soviet-style communism.
although he likely would have won any popular vote, Bishop never held free elections as promised. The opposition newspaper was repressed, and there were some political prisoners, although the overall human rights record was not bad compared with most governments in the hemisphere during this period. On the international scene, Grenada largely supported Soviet policy, including the invasion of Afghanistan, although not to the degree of subservience as Eastern European countries. Relations were closest with Cuba, which brought in hundreds of skilled laborers, medical personnel, military advisers and development workers, even though there also were good relations with Western European nations, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela.
Ultimate control remained in the hands of the party, and the popularity of the regime was centered on the charismatic personality of Prime Minister Bishop. At the same time, the development of parish and zonal councils along with "mass organizations" insured a degree of grass-roots democracy and a reflection of the government's desire to create a "popular socialism." However, the New Jewel Movement also included a minority of hard core Marxist-Leninists like Bernard Coard and Hudson Austin, who were jealous of Bishop’s popularity and his predominant role. Coard and Austin led a military coup on October 19, 1983, and placed Bishop and his leading supporters under arrest. In response, there was a nationwide general strike and other protests. When a crowd of Bishop supporters liberated the ousted prime minister and his allies from prison, army troops massacred dozens of protesters and executed Bishop and other Cabinet members.
Reagan immediately implied that the Cubans were behind the coup and the killings. In reality, Cuban President Fidel Castro had condemned the coup and declared an official day of mourning for the late prime minister. Strongly worded cables from Havana underscored the Cuban government's concern, threatening a cessation of Cuban assistance and a declaration that Cuban forces on the island would fire only in self-defense.
On the morning of October 25, U.S. troops invaded the island, ousting the government and taking full control of the country within three days.