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Previous US Invasions Changed Little in Grenada and Panama

BOTH President Clinton's immediate predecessors launched their own invasions of Western Hemisphere nations: Ronald Reagan in the tiny island of Grenada in 1984 and George Bush in Panama in 1989.

The twin attacks succeeded in deposing unsavory regimes and in restoring a measure of freedom to beleaguered nations. But in neither case has a nirvana of stable prosperity followed.

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Grenada. President Reagan ordered the US military into Grenada to depose the leaders of the eccentric Marxist New Jewel Movement, who had assassinated their own party's founder, Maurice Bishop. Political chaos posed a threat to US medical students on the island, claimed Reagan officials.

Since then, Grenada has reverted to the functioning parliamentary democracy it was before the New Jewel Movement seized power in a 1979 coup.

A residue of pro-US sentiment remains. But $100 million of US aid pumped into the island in the mid-1980s did not produce an economic boom, and a variety of social and economic woes dog the nation's poor majority. Unemployment is near 40 percent, and tourist traffic has not lived up to expectations.

Panama. President Bush moved to oust Manuel Noriega after the so-called ``pineapple'' annulled the Panamanian election of May 1989 and declared himself head of state. Mr. Noriega remains in a US prison, convicted on various charges of drug-running and murder by US and Panamanian courts.

But in the 1990s, Panama has been beset by social unrest, bomb attacks, and drug-related criminality. Thousands of pro-Noriega military men remain underground, and the government is relatively weak.

Panamanian unemployment runs in the range of 20 percent. In its annual survey of political and civil rights, the New York-based Freedom House think tank judges Panama only ``partly free.''

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