2003-10-30 / Caribbean Corner

caribbean roundup

Grenada Marks 20th Anniversary Of U.S. Invasion
caribbean roundup

Grenada Marks 20th Anniversary Of U.S. Invasion

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) – Grenada marked the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion recently, which plunged the Caribbean island nation into the Cold War.

Fearing that Grenada was flirting with communism and securing ties with Cuba, then-President Reagan ordered U.S. forces to invade the island on Oct. 25, 1983.

He told them American interests – particularly the lives of 650 medical students at St. George’s University – had to be protected. However, the students radioed to say they felt safe.

Reagan also ordered the invasion because his administration suspected Grenada’s airport was going to become a joint Cuban-Soviet base. Cuba insisted it was helping build the airport for civilian use only.

Nearly 2,000 U.S. troops stormed the airport, whose runway lies 100 feet from the university campus. Over the course of the five-day invasion, the num-ber of U.S. soldiers swelled to 5,000 in addition to 300 troops from neighboring islands.

The battle never reached the university but students heard gunfire.

Some details remain unclear about the invasion, dubbed "Operation Ur-gent Fury,’’ including the number of Grenadians killed.

The U.S. government says 45 Gre-nadians, 24 Cubans and 19 U.S. troops were killed. Nearly 600 Americans were evacuated. No students were in-jured.

The campus was closed for about 10 weeks and students were transferred to medical schools in New York and New Jersey.

Today, few reminders of the battle remain at the campus and its pastel-tinted buildings. The school, which opened in 1977 with a handful of students, has been transformed from a Cold War icon to a leading medical institution in the eastern Caribbean.

"I liked the location and I heard some good things about the veterinarian school,’’ said Marcus Unis, a student from Colorado. "1983 was a long time ago and I did not even take that into consideration when I decided to come here.’’

To mark the invasion’s anniversary, islanders attended a memorial service at St. George’s Baptist Church where they prayed for the victims and their families. A wreath-laying ceremony al-so was planned at the university.

Grenada became a point of content-ion in the Cold War after Maurice Bishop led a bloodless coup and in-stalled a Marxist government in 1979 – five years after independence from Britain.

In October 1983, a radical faction of the government staged a palace coup, and on Oct. 19 a firing squad killed Bishop and 10 of his supporters.

Six days later, Reagan defied U.N. and British criticism and ordered the invasion.

Bishop’s body remains missing, as do those of more than a dozen other Grenadian victims of the coup.

In the two decades since the invasion, Cuban influence has returned to the island of 100,000 people.

The countries renewed diplomatic ties in 1992 and Cuba has helped build an international airport, funded scholarships for Grenadians and helped with construction projects including a 270-bed hospital opened this year.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Criticizes New Amnesty Report On Trial In 1983 coup killings

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) – The prime minister criticized a new report by Amnesty International recent-ly, which concluded that international standards were violated in the trial of 17 people convicted of killings in Gre-nada’s 1983 coup.

In its 32-page report, Amnesty urged Grenada’s government to carry out an independent judicial review of the convictions. The report was released two days before the 20th anniversary of a U.S. invasion on Oct. 25, 1983, that was prompted by the coup.

"They were not thorough in their assessment," Prime Minister Keith Mitchell said. "It’s a sloppy piece of work. I do not feel that they spoke to enough people."

The report listed allegations including irregularities in jury selection, a denial of a competent and independent tribunal, lack of legal representation and allowing questionable evidence. It also questioned whether some defendants’ confessions may have been ob-tained using torture.

The government has insisted the 17 were justly convicted for the killings of Marxist leader Maurice Bishop and 10 others days before the U.S. invasion.

U.S. troops stormed the island in a mission the U.S. government said was aimed at restoring order, protecting hundreds of American medical students and preventing a buildup of Cuban military advisers and weapons. The invasion was criticized by the United Nations and Britain.

Thousands Riot Near Resort Town’s Airport

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (AP) – Riots erupted in this tranquil resort town when crowds, angry over the po-lice killing of two elderly men, spilled into the streets and blocked an airport road with flaming barricades.

Flights were not affected and most resorts were far from where thousands had massed to protest the police killing of taxi driver David Bacchas, 63, and newspaper vendor Cecil Brown, 66.

The protesters said police shot and killed the two men in cold blood. Po-lice initially said the men fired on them and two weapons were recovered from the taxi, but later changed the version, saying the men were caught in a crossfire during a police raid in the area.

Vegetable vendor Audrey Stephen was in the taxi when police fired on the vehicle. She said Bacchas was on his way to drop her and Brown off at the market when they came upon about a dozen armed police on a dirt road. As the vehicle approached the officers open-ed fire, said Stephen, who was grazed in her right leg.

"All of a sudden I heard ‘bam, bam, bam, bam, bam!’ and I hit the floor of the car,’’ Stephen, 54, told The As-sociated Press. "I yelled to them that we were going to the market and they shot again.’’

Prime Minister Calls For End To Race-Based Politics

CHAGUARAMAS, Trinidad (AP) – Prime Minister Patrick Manning called for an end to race-based politics as his party kicked off its annual convention.

The Leader of this former British colony spoke for nearly 90 minutes to hundreds of supporters in the northwestern city of Chaguaramas. Mann-ing portrayed his People’s National Movement as a party that embraced all races, and he suggested ideas for altering the country’s constitution.

"All must feel comfortable and all must participate in the affairs of party and country,’’ Manning said. "If you are racist, you are not PNM; if you are intolerant of other people’s religious beliefs, you are not PNM.’’

Politics remain largely divided along racial lines in Trinidad and Tobago, where blacks and people of East Indian descent roughly split the 1.3 million population.

Elections have ended closely in Tri-nidad in recent years, where blacks have sided with Manning while people of East Indian descent have generally backed the opposition United National Congress.

Anti-Government Protesters Attack Police Station In Western Haiti Leaving One Dead, Three Injured

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Anti-government protesters loyal to a slain gang leader attacked a western Haiti police station, and gunfire killed a girl on her bicycle and wounded the police chief and two officers, a government spokesman said.

Followers of slain strongman Amiot Metayer launched night’s surprise at-tack, government spokesman Mario Du-puy said.

As the siege carried on, a girl riding a bicycle nearby was hit by a stray bullet and killed, Dupuy said. No arrests were reported.

The attack was the latest in more than four weeks of upheaval in Gona-ives that started when Metayer’s bullet-riddled body was found Sept. 22.

His followers, once loyal to Presi-dent Jean-Bertrand Aristide, have ac-cused the government of involvement in the killing, saying the strongman had damaging information on the president.

The government denied involvement, and Aristide refused demands that he resign.

The protests left at least 10 people dead and 34 injured with bullet wounds in Gonaives. Dupuy said the police station raid was led by fugitive Jean Tatoune, one of 150 inmates who es-caped when Metayer’s followers drove a tractor through the prison walls to free their leader in August.

Meanwhile, in Haiti’s second-lar-gest city of Cap-Haitien, Aristide partisans set up flaming tire barricades to block opposition supporters from en-tering the northern city and force an opposition alliance to cancel its protest.

The North District Front – composed of opposition parties and citizens groups – planned to hold the march as opposition leaders ended three days of strategy talks.

The opposition, which claims the last elections in 2000 were rigged, has refused to participate until the government meets its demands to disarm its partisans and reform the police.

Stock Exchange Hits 60,000 Mark, Propelled By Rally In Trinidad

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Jam-aica’s stock exchange cracked the 60,000-point barrier for the first time, a milestone credited mainly to a strong performing market in neighboring Tri-nidad.

The Jamaica Stock Exchange index closed at 60,085 in morning trading, up from 59,859, according to exchange data. The index is up 32 percent from its Jan. 1 level of 45,396.

"It reflects a pretty robust year so far," stock exchange general manager Wain Iton said. "We’ve had a very good 10-month period."

Improved earnings from domestic companies have bolstered the index this year, but a strong rally by Trini-dadian stocks cross-listed on Jamaica’s exchange helped push it above 60,000, analyst Rezworth Burchenson of King-ston-based Sigma Merchant bank said.

Shares of Trinidadian firms RBTT Financial Holding and Guardian Hold-ings have jumped 12 percent and 31 percent, respectively, in October.

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