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Grenada - Ten Years Later

By Festus Brotherson Jr.. Festus Brotherson Jr.professor of political science at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, recently visited Grenada. / October 19, 1993



TEN years after United States armed forces intervened in Grenada there is little hope the Caribbean isle of spices will develop rapidly. American aid has dwindled since problems in Cuba and the collapse of the USSR made the island unimportant. Grenadians remain tolerant, persevering, and innovative. But they cannot yet harness their talents or sway international developments.

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One fine achievement is the rekindling of a democratic political culture. An independent print and electronic media have emerged. Democratic values have spread in the society; qualities such as openness, accountability, and a preference for the resolution of political disputes by discussion and the ballot box.

The unpopular National Democratic Congress government of Prime Minister Nicholas Braithwaite is expected to be voted out in the elections coming in little over a year. The pursuit of structural economic reforms, sanctioned by the International Monetary Fund, has led to deepening hardship - unemployment and stagnation. Production has declined drastically - particularly in the nutmeg industry, traditionally Grenada's primary source of revenue. In 1988 export of nutmegs earned $30 million. By 1992 the figure plummeted to $7 million. The 1993 earnings are projected at $6 million. Declines are due in part to saturation of the nutmeg market by Indonesia, the world's largest producer.

A bright spot is tourism. This sector has shown steady growth since 1990 and is now the major source of revenue.

Feelings toward Americans 10 years after US military action have changed from naive to cynical. There is a love-hate relationship with America. Grenadians like American people and admire US technological innovation. Yet there is latent and even overt animosity toward the US and its tourists. It is felt that US policies exploit Grenada and the rest of the Caribbean to the point where young people must emigrate to America, Canada, or Britain to attain a better living and future.

The phrases Grenadians use to describe the 1983 event provide another measure of sentiment toward the US. ``Rescue mission'' means that the speakers still approve of the US action. ``Invasion'' means strong disapproval. ``Intervention'' signals that one has moderate but mixed views. Increasingly, intervention is the term most commonly used.

Since 1983 the US has given Grenada about $100 million in aid. This helped build the Point Salines International Airport (started by the Cubans), construction of a road leading to it, and repairs to other roadways and bridges.

There is widespread perception, however, that Cuban aid from 1979-83 was somehow more substantial and beneficial to the society. This view is shared by both prominent and ordinary citizens. It is interesting to note how favorably many people still speak of the Cubans. They built bridges and did most of the work to make a reality of the long-held Grenadian dream for a new airport. The Cubans also provided doctors, dentists, teachers, and bureaucrats. They gave scholarships and constructed housing and industrial sites.

Economic and cultural development seem unlikely to improve in either the short or long term. Development objectives remain elusive. Moreover, in Grenada it does not appear to matter what ideological `ism' the country embraces. The island was ``capitalist'' a few decades ago. It then embraced socialism under Maurice Bishop's People's Revolutionary Government. Now it has readopted capitalism. Throughout, only marginal successes have resulted. More common have been severely dislocating boom and bust cycles and gridlocked economies with falling production levels.

Grenada's attorney general, Dr. Francis Alexis, feels a failure to produce tangible benefits means ``conditions are developing that might produce sentiments that again value the rule of the strong man in society.'' The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHELCSPS.COM.