US anxiety mounts as revolutionary mood sweeps through Caribbean
In anxious United States eyes, a number of Caribbean islands look like trouble spots. Some are believed to be particularly susceptible to Cuban influence. Among events in the islands that stir concern:
Grenada: March 13, 1979. Maurice Bishop and 40 to 50 armed men overthrow the government of Sir Eric Gairy. Mr. Bishop develops strong ties with Cuba, revolutionary Nicaragua, and the Arab world; builds up his army; and criticizes the US for creating unrest in the Caribbean. [See story, Page 14]
Dominica: June 21, 1979. Parliament ousts Prime Minister Patrick John, the man who led the nation to independence (Nov. 3, 1978) from Britain. Corruption, including stealing funds to assist South Africa, was alleged, but the final straw appeared to be Mr. john's attempt to quell a strike for higher wages by government employees.
Oliver Seraphin is Mr. John's successor, but it is uncertain whether the new Prime Minister will resist Cuba's overtures in the area, given the nation's poor economic condition. Unemployment is running at 35 percent and Dominica's only real resource -- its banana crop -- may be insufficient to keep essential services going.
St. Lucia: July 3, 1979. Leftists sweep to power in the first election since independence (Feb. 2, 1979) from Britain. Led by George Odlum of the Labour Party, the new government pledges to limit foreign investment and is especially friendly toward Cuba.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Oct. 27, 1979. This cluster of 300 sun-soaked islands becomes independent from Britain, but eruption of Mt. Soufriere and severe hurricane damage earlier in the year give the country's economy a very wobbly start.
Banana and coconut crops and tourism were practically wiped out by the volcano's eruption, causing the US to worry that the island may be another target for Fidel Castro's attentions.
Haiti: Nov. 15, 1979. President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier fires half his Cabinet, appoints military men and loyalists as replacements, and resurrects the Ton Ton Macoutes, the private terror army of his late father, "Papa Doc."
The actions appear to end Mr. Duvalier's moves toward liberalization earlier in 1979. The President is reportedly worried about a coup attempt against him, but not from Cuba.
Unemployment afflicts about 25 percent of Haitians, and another 50 percent are under- employed -- making this nation the hemisphere's poorest.
Puerto Rico: March 15, 1980. Puerto Rican members of F.A.L.N. (Armed Forces of National Liberation) occupy Carter-Mondale campaign headquarters in Chicago and Bush headquarters in New York, demanding independence for the US commonwealth. The issue of independence vs. statehood vs. continued commonwealth status is the hottest topic on the island.
Puerto Ricans will vote on the issue, probably in 1981. If it becomes a state, Puerto Rico will be the first in which Spanish is the chief language. Half the residents are on food stamps. Cuba supports independence for the island and annually brings up the issue before the UN decolonization committee.