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  • Fidel Castro looking over documents with Maurice Bishop in Havana, Cuba 1981

    Fidel Castro looking over documents with Maurice Bishop in Havana, Cuba 1981 | Photo: Post Delicia

Published 13 March 2019

Today teleSUR celebrates the 40th anniversary of the bloodless coup that ushered Maurice Bishop into power, enacting social reforms throughout the country. 

Grenadians mark the 40th anniversary of the bloodless coup d’état which wrestled the Spice Islands from the reins of Prime Minister Eric Gairy on March 13, 1979.

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The government, at the time, was steeped in a neocolonialist design, favoring the wealthier class of citizens and pandering to United Kingdom and United States interests.

But, following the ousting of Gairy, eventual Prime Minister (PM) Maurice Bishop managed to effectively adopt and implement socialist principles to grow literacy by 13 percent points, double doctor-patient ratio, put in place new labor laws which unionized 80% of the population, and in four years reduce unemployment from half of the population to 14%.

Grenada’s economy blossomed by 9% after an agricultural boom reduced food imports and increased exports.

Other protective laws were tabled; several such edicts were to criminalize the sexual victimization of women, ensuring equal pay for equal work and mandating maternity leave.

Free health care and secondary education were also introduced and scholarships providing free college education abroad.

PM Bishop, a British educated attorney, spearheaded agricultural and educational reform, preventive medicine campaigns, social planning, nationalization of banks, phasing out of foreign-owned insurance companies and participatory democracy especially for the working class.

Bishop and his flourishing new paradigm were beloved by many, which agitated developed nations and effected the prime minister to be be surveilled by them — in the vein of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

During Gairy’s dictatorial rule, the majority of Grenadians lived in poverty despite the nation’s rich resources, such as nutmeg — for which the island was best known — mace, cacao and bananas.

Bishop’s New Jewel Movement (NJM) took power — in just about six hours — by means of a coup d’état, a first for the English-speaking Caribbean.

Just before 11:00 a.m., on that fateful day, Maurice Bishop, who led the NJM’s revolution,  broadcast a nationwide message urging Grenadians to support the successful commandeering of the nation by the armed forces.

Bishop assured Grenadians that the revolution was for “food, for decent housing and health services, and for a bright future for our children and great grandchildren,” adding that “all democratic freedoms, including freedom of elections, religious and political opinion, will be restored to the people.”

5:00 p.m. of March 13th

Nearing the end of the day, all police stations across the islands had surrendered and a majority of government officials, top military and police officers were in custody.

Bishop, an admirer of late Cuban President Fidel Castro, said during a speech in Havana, Cuba in 1980: “Your revolution, comrades, has also provided the region and the world with a living legend in your great and indomitable leader, Fidel Castro. Fidel has taught us not only how to fight, but also how to work, how to build socialism, and how to lead our country in a spirit of humility, sincerity, commitment and firm revolutionary leadership.”

Soon after, during the early 80s, Bishop faced a split within the ranks of the New Jewel Movement which resulted in a forced power-share agreement and house arrest, which prompted civil demonstrations that tried to free him and reinstate him.

This failed, however, when troops under command of General Hudson Austin captured and executed Bishop, along with several colleagues and an unknown number of citizens. The United States soon thereafter in 1983 invaded Grenada on the pretense of restoring order.


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