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Cuba's welcome is wearing thin in several regions

By Daniel SoutherlandStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 7, 1983


For the first time in more than a decade, Cuba's troops and diplomats are on the defensive on several fronts. Grenada has not been the Cubans' only recent setback.

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Some 600 miles to the southeast of Grenada, on the very day of the Grenada invasion, left-leaning Surinam ordered Cuba's ambassador to leave.

In recent months and years, voters on small islands to the north of Grenada - Dominica, St. Vincent, Antigua, and St. Lucia - have elected conservative governments. If Cuba was trying to ''export revolution'' to those islands, as President Reagan says, it was not doing very well.

In Angola, insurgent troops have for the first time launched sustained offensives, throwing the Cubans and their Angolan allies on the defensive.

In Ethiopia, an economic disaster of a country, the Cubans are not associated with anything approaching a success story.

Cuban President Fidel Castro obviously hopes, through diplomacy, propaganda, and other means, to exploit the opposition that has surfaced against the United States as a result of the Grenada invasion. But it is not clear to what extent he will succeed, if at all.

Diplomats from a number of key Latin American countries have told State Department officials that while they publicly oppose American intervention of any kind, they privately applaud the Grenada action. Venezuelan officials were described as ''relieved'' by the expulsion of the Cubans from Grenada.

State Department officials hope that documents captured on Grenada will help persuade other allies in Latin America and Western Europe that the invasion was justified. Among the three quarters of a ton of documents are five secret treaties concluded between Grenada and Cuba, the Soviet Union, and North Korea. These cover military aid to the island of some $38 million from the Soviets and North Koreans and deliveries of arms that State Department officials say were too extensive to be strictly for Grenada's self-defense.

According to the officials, Grenada has an Army of 1,500 men and was training a militia of 2,000 to 4,000 men. The documents indicate that the Soviets were to deliver to Grenada, among other things, 4,000 Soviet AK-47 automatic rifles, 2, 500 carbines, 7,000 mines, 15,000 grenades, 1,050 pistols, 293 snipers' rifles, 60 armored personnel carriers, and 74 rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers. North Korea was to provide 1,000 rifles, 80 machine guns, and 50 RPGs.

Administration officials say the documents substantiate their charge that Grenada, an island of only 110,000 people, was receiving more military equipment than it needed for purely defensive purposes.

In a speech to the Associated Press Managing Editors conference in Louisville , Ky., last Friday, Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth W. Dam said that prior to the US-led invasion, the disintegration of political authority in Grenada under a leftist-led military council had ''created a dynamic that spread uncertainty and fear and that made further violence likely.'' The island's military leaders, Mr. Dam said, ''would have either driven the island into further chaos or turned it into an armed fortress.

''In either event, the threat to US citizens and to the peace of the eastern Caribbean would have increased,'' he added. ''Inaction would have made a hostage situation more likely and increased the costs in lives of any subsequent rescue operation.''

But there is no clear evidence in the captured documents to indicate, as President Reagan charged in a major address on Oct. 27, that ''a Cuban occupation of the island had been planned.''

What the documents do say is that Cuba, under its secret treaty obligations, would maintain 27 ''permanent'' military specialists on the island, including nine specialists in the general staff of the Grenadian armed forces. In addition , the treaty annex said, 12 to 13 specialists would visit the island for two- to four-month periods.