Suddenly the Caribbean is taking on a different political coloration -- and Washington is breathing a bit easier. After three years of increasing US agonizing about growing Cuban adventurism and influence throughout the 3-million-square-mile Caribbean basin at the expense of US influence, the tide shows signs of changing.
Caribbean voters, in a series of elections culminating in last week's Jamaican parliamentary vote, have put governments friendly with Washington into power in most of the English-speaking Caribbean.
The Jamaican contest, held Oct. 30 in the charged atmosphere of mounting political violence and economic collapse, was easily the most significant as Prime Minister Michael Manley, avowed friend of Cuba's Fidel Castro and advocate of third-world togetherness, went down to a crushing defeat. The opposition Jamaica Labour Party led by Edward Seaga captured 52 of the 60 seats.
It was a stunning personal loss for the charismatic Mr. Manley.
But it was an equally stunning blow to Cuba, which had established a strong diplomatic, economic, and cultural presence in Jamaica. Cuba further saw its neighbor island as a key element in its political strategy of radicalizing the Caribbean islands and creating a loose Cuban hegemony in the area.
It will be long debated whether the Manley ouster, and his replacement by the moderate Mr. Seaga, was due to rejection of Mr. Manley's Cuba connection or to concern over Jamaica's staggering economic problems and the island's mounting political violence.
All of these probably contributed to the Manley loss. And it would be wrong to read too much into the Cuban connection as a factor in the lopsided Seaga victory.
Still, incoming Prime Minister Seaga, at his swearing- in ceremony Nov. 1, said flatly his party's win was "a hard blow for communist interests in the Caribbean."
The Jamaican electorate, he went on, "said 'no' on the question of support for Marxism. . . . They spoke with a loud voice against communism and Marxism."