United Nations, N.Y. — Throughout the English-speaking Caribbean, people are trying to make the difficult choice of the lesser evil. While the short-lived coup in Grenada by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard was almost universally deplored, US intervention under any circumstances triggers deep anxieties in the area and raises fears for the future.
Caribbean diplomats say that the island governments that most actively pushed for intervention had all been nervous for several years about the spread of radical ideas among their own populations. These fears were not allayed by radical radio broadcasts beamed at their islands by the Grenadan regime.
Antigua and Dominica, like Jamaica, according to these sources, had experienced ''their own troubles with left-wing groups'' and were ''nervous of contagion by the (political) virus.''
In particular, Dominica's prime minister, Eugenia Charles, came to power as a reaction against these problems. Leaders of Antigua, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Dominica also wereelected on strong anticommunist platforms. During the past year, their relations with Prime Minister Maurice Bishop (who was deposed two weeks ago and killed last week) had greatly improved. But the prospect of an even more radical government in Grenada was intolerable to them.
At present, English-speaking Caribbean reaction is mixed. Bishop supporters throughout the area tend to be against the intervention in spite of their strong opposition to the Coard coup. Left-of-center intellectuals, trade union leaders, and many Trinidadian political party leaders shy away from supporting intervention.
One well-placed Caribbean intellectual stated that groups opposing intervention have no great love of Coard but are troubled by the invasion's implications.
Divisions among the English-speaking Caribbean countries at the prospect of intervention emerged at a meeting of CARICOM (the umbrella organization of English-speaking states) leaders in Trinidad over the weekend. With American ships already streaming toward Grenada, the island republics of Dominica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Antigua lobbied for armed intervention by CARICOM states. Trinidad, Guyana, Belize, and to a lesser extent the Bahamas fought the proposal, arguing that an invasion would be counterproductive, setting dangerous precedents which would lead to greater problems in the future.
With CARICOM at an impasse, the four states lobbying for intervention decided to move ahead anyway. After taking this decision they received the support of Jamaica and Barbados.
The states acted under the aegis of the subregional group, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The legal basis for the intervention was a regional defense treaty signed several months ago by OECS members which, among other things, contained a provision enabling members to call on third-party assistance should any one of them feel threatened. However, Grenada never signed the treaty precisely because Maurice Bishop feared that it would be used to justify invasion.
Opposition to the intervention stems from fears that:
1. It has set a precedent for third-party states to invite forces into other states, which raises doubts about the national sovereignty of the countries in the region.
2. It brings up fears about the militarization of the area, a process which began in 1979 with the Bishop takeover. At that time, the Grenadan leader increased the size and quality of his armed forces. In response special police officers from Antigua, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Dominica were trained by the US in Puerto Rico and Panama. According to Caribbean sources, these special police forces make up the core of the Caribbean troops currently involved in the intervention.
3. Most dangerously it raises the specter that the eastern Caribbean will become the stage for the next round of East-West confrontational politics. Especially troubling to some are reports that some Cuban airport workers were killed.
A crucial question for many in the Caribbean is what kind of government will come out of the military occupation. Some stress that the US has a very bad track record in Latin America, leaving in the wake of its interventions governments that are very backward-looking, repressive, and strongly militarized.
Sources in Trinidad (which has a large Grenadan population) report that reactions of ordinary people are also mixed. They reportedly resent outside intervention, but are glad to be rid of Coard. Their fears of intervention are, however, less pronounced than those of intellectuals and labor leaders.