United States Foreign Policy Objectives and Grenada's Territorial Integrity

By Davis, Anne Marie | The Journal of Negro History, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview
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United States Foreign Policy Objectives and Grenada's Territorial Integrity


Davis, Anne Marie, The Journal of Negro History


The foreign policy of the United States in the Caribbean region is not merely based on the need to secure its borders but to also create an atmosphere where countries will not stray from the path of democracy. In the 1980s Grenada's revolution under Maurice Bishop came at a time when the U.S. was engaged in the war against the spread of communism. It was one thing to have Cuba as a communist country in the region, but the United States was determined not to have still another Cuba in the Western Hemisphere. According to Tony Thorndike, in an article titled "Intervention in the 1980s: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Third World," President Reagan's policy in the Caribbean after the U.S. humiliation in Iran and Vietnam made him "get-tough" with the Caribbean region. Furthermore, the Caribbean basin was no longer the "back yard" to America, because Reagan's policy in this area would treat the region as America's "frontyard" in the fight against communism.(1) Therefore, Grenada's territorial integrity was important in the context of United States foreign policy, particularly the need to stop the spread of communism.

The United States viewed the political situation in Grenada before the emergence of Maurice Bishop and the New Jewel Movement as one of authoritarianism. Despite the authoritarian nature of this government, its pro-Western outlook was in line with the United States foreign policy. Then Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy sought to hold on to his political powers at all cost rather than solve the socio-economic problems of Grenada. For instance, Christopher Hitchens, a reporter from Nation magazine, described Grenada as a country plagued with illiteracy, unemployment, emigration and disease.(2) In addition, Grenadians witnessed decades of corruption and bribery. Furthermore, Gairy terrorized the people through the use of his "Mongoose Gang" and "Night Ambush Squad" to suppress any internal dissent. One of the victims of this politics of terror was Rupert Bishop (father of Maurice Bishop), who was killed along with many others during a protest meeting. Several laws were also passed to suppress further opposition. Laws such as the Essential Services Act of 1978 prohibited workers from striking; the Public Order Act of 1978 prohibited opposite political parties from using loud speakers without police protection; and the Newspaper Act of 1975 made it illegal for material to be published contrary to Gairy's government.(3) In spite of the violations of the basic human rights of the people of Grenada, the United States never intervened because the Gairy government was more inclined to support the foreign policy objectives of the United States in the Caribbean. It is within this context that the New Jewel Movement emerged in the early 1970s.

The New Jewel Movement, one of the political parties which was suppressed in the early 1970s, came out of a coalition of political parties organized to oppose the Gairy government. Prior to the arrival of Maurice Bishop from London, the JEWEL (Joint Endeavor for Welfare Education and Liberation of the People) was led by Unison Whiteman. However, in 1973 Jewel formed an alliance with the Movement of Assemblies for the People (MAP) to form the New Jewel Movement, led by Maurice Bishop. Maurice Bishop came along when the people of Grenada were tired of the corruption in and terrorization of the Gairy government. Bishop and his followers tried to change these conditions by taking over the government in a bloodless coup. According to Jiri Valenta, Director of the Center for Soviet and East European Studies at the University of Miami, and Virginia Valenta, a specialist on the Soviet-Cuban involvement in the Third World, Grenada was "conditioned [in] an authoritarian political culture in which democratic traditions never became entrenched among the politically unaware, impoverished masses because of class rigidity, coupled with a Spanish, French, British colonial heritage and plantation economy.

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