Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Something of note... Grenada commemorates anniversary of US invasion

Grenada commemorates 21st anniversary of US invasion
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (AP) -

Grenada yesterday commemorated the 21st anniversary of a US-led invasion of the island during the Cold War but most residents were invariably focused on rebuilding from the rubble left by Hurricane Ivan.

The commemoration came as residents struggle to recover after Ivan tore through Grenada on September 7, killing 39 people and damaging or destroying 90 per cent of buildings. Many islanders still live in their cars or with relatives or friends.

The former British colony yesterday declared a national day of thanksgiving and prayer.

The Caribbean island became a point of contention in the Cold War after Maurice Bishop led a bloodless coup and installed a Marxist government in 1979. In October 1983, a radical faction of the government staged a coup, and on October 19 a firing squad killed Bishop - who was prime minister - and 10 of his supporters.

Six days after Bishop's killing, US President Ronald Reagan ordered the invasion and US troops led a force that included soldiers from nearby islands.

Reagan said the purpose was to restore order and protect American interests, particularly the lives of hundreds of American medical students.

He 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 uses only.

The 1983 invasion remains controversial and some details remain unclear, including the number of Grenadians killed. The US government said 45 Grenadians, 24 Cubans and 19 US troops were killed.

While most residents came together in the face of Ivan's destruction, many remain divided on the issue of the US invasion. Many still consider Bishop a hero while others praise the US intervention.

Sixteen coup plotters remain in prison, sentenced to life, including former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard. Originally, 17 people were sentenced for their role in the 1983 coup, but Coard's wife, Phyllis, was freed in 2000 to undergo cancer treatment and now lives in Kingston, Jamaica.

Coard and the others are awaiting appeals before the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal and Britain's Privy Council, saying their life sentences were improperly handed down after the coup. Hearings are scheduled to begin by next month in St Lucia.

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