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Looking Over Their Shoulders


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VIOLENCE [image, unknown] Why the fighting doesn't stop

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Looking over their shoulders
‘Violence breeds violence - they have their revolution and then they just go on fighting amongst themselves.’ So runs the popular wisdom. But successful revolutions are usually under immediate threat. Huw Richards focusses on three countries which haven’t been allowed to build a new society in peace.


GRENADA was ruled from its independence in 1974 by Sir Eric Gairy. An eccentric autocrat, he relied increasingly on his Mongoose Gang police who by 1979 were receiving Chilean instruction. He was overthrown by the New Jewel Movement, led by Maurice Bishop, on 13th March 1979.

New Jewel revived the economy, reducing unemployment from 49 to 14 per cent. It introduced free education and healthcare. But its radical stance enraged the Reagan administration.

As early as 1981 a US naval exercise rehearsed an invasion of ‘Amber and the Amberines’ - Grenada’s full name is ‘Grenada and the Grenadines’.

Despite the World Bank’s opinion that a new international airport was crucial to the development of the Grenadian economy, the US tried to stop the EEC funding its construction, claiming the 9,000 foot runway made it a potential Soviet or Cuban base. Grenada admitted being aided by Cuba, but denied intending to provide a base.

On 23rd March 1983 Reagan labelled Grenada a ‘threat to the security of the United States’ saying ‘It bears the Soviet and Cuban trademark, which means it will attempt to spread the virus among its neighbours’. Six days later New Jewel instructed Grenadians to prepare for a US invasion.

Bishop went to Washington in mid-1983 pleadIng for an easing in pressure - offering in return to reduce his relationship with Cuba. He received no concessions and was overthrown and murdered soon after his return. This provided the pretext for the US invasion of 25th October 1983.


CIVIL war broke out almost as soon as Angola won independence from Portugal in November 1975. The MPLA, backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union, defeated Its FNLA and UNITA rivals - taking full control by March 1976.

South African troops had entered Angola from neighbouring Namibia in 1975 and have maintained pressure ever since. South Africa sees Angola as a likely base for the Namibian nationalist movement SWAPO. They say they will leave Namibia, which they occupy illegally, as soon as the 25,000 plus Cubans leave Angola. They have, however, as in August 1982, often launched cross-border attacks when Namibia talks seem likely to produce results.

Major attacks took place in 1980 and 1981. Operation Protea in 1981, deploying 11,000 soldiers and bombing forces, penetrated 300 miles into Angola. South Africa occupies the southern state of Sunene and as recently as December 1983 raided 125 miles into Angola. They have given substantial support to UNITA, which also receives financial assistance from Saudi Arabia. UNITA claims 40,000 troops. They occupy one-third of the country and their guerillas operate over most of the rest - cutting the vital Benguela railway and threatening the capital Luanda.


UNITED STATES forces left Nicaragua in 1933 after 21 years presence, leaving Anastasio Somoza in charge of the National Guard. The Somoza family ruled Nicaragua as a family fiefdom until 1979 - when they were overthrown by the radical Sandinistas after a civil war costing 50,000 lives. Reagan cut off aid in 1981 and Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank loans have been blocked. Nicaragua has been in a state of emergency since March 1982 when three vital bridges were blown up. Since 1983 ‘Contras’ have invaded from Honduras and Costa Rica - including both former members of the National Guard trained in Florida and Eden Pastora’s NDF, with 20 million dollars worth of American backing. Honduras has been described as ‘little short of a fully-fledged American base’ - with 5000 marines and 5000 contras based there. The CIA covert operation against Nicaragua is its largest since Vietnam with 150 full-time operatives and a 24 million dollar budget voted by Congress late in 1983.

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