|(John Ventour was a member of the Central Committee of the
New Jewel Movement which led Grenada from 1979 to the 1983
U.S. invasion. He and sixteen others have been held in Richmond Hill
Prison, a jail built more than two hundred years ago, since 1983. The Grenada
17 were initially sentenced to death. They were tortured for nine
years. Wendy is a friend of Ventour's.)
August 25, 1990
I am convinced, Wendy, that there's no way people, particularly the Grenadian People, would be able to really understand ---- to come to grips with ---- what happened in October 1983 without their knowledge of the decisive role Fidel played in the crisis. Notwithstanding the U.S. role in spurring on the crisis and manipulating the October 19th 1983 demonstration, using their agent provocateurs, I am also convinced, Wendy, that without FC's interference in our party's affairs the dark clouds of tragedy which descended over and engulfed our country on October 19, 1983, would not have occurred. The Grenada Revolution would probably be alive today.
Many people have said, Wendy, that they just cannot understand how one or two differences among comrades who were always so united, who experienced so much adversities together, could rapidly lead to such an enormous Tragedy in one Week! Why ---- and how could Maurice lead a mob of people to overrun and seize the Army's H.Q.? This isn't done anywhere in the World. [In the entire history of our Party's struggle against the Gairy Dictatorship, never once did we ever encourage the people to march on even a small police station in an outlying rural area, much less the Army H.Q. Many persons left the demonstration on October 19, when they realized that it had been diverted from the route to the Market Square and was heading to Fort Rupert.]
Notwithstanding the role that George Louison, Cletus St. Paul, Shahiba Strong, Don Rojas, etc. planned in manipulating Maurice, surrounding and saturating him with "conspiracy" theories and gossip, etc. (while in Eastern Europe) to get him to reverse his support for Joint Leadership of the Party, I believe that Maurice would not have violated such a Party decision (he never did before), or spread the October 12th grave rumor (which brought the Party Crisis into the open and sparked off the National political crisis), where it not for the interference of FC in our Party's internal affairs. If, for whatever reason, Maurice no longer felt that Joint Leadership was correct he would have sought dialogue (as usual) rather than do what he did.
[Joint Leadership (JL), as part of a number of reorganizational measures, was a purely internal Party matter aimed at pulling the Party (P) out of its crisis (and eventually to strengthen the P). It did not affect ---- had nothing to do with ---- any State Positions as Prime Minister, etc.; Maurice would still have been PM, and Bernard - Deputy P.M.]
Wendy, When Maurice left Grenada on Monday September 26, 1983, for Eastern Europe, there was total agreement among all of us (except George Louison who was out of Grenada and who, incidentally, was the ONLY member of the Central Committee (CC) of the P to vote against the JL Proposal at the extraordinary NJM CC Meeting, September 14-16, 1983). At the end of the 15 hour Extraordinary General Meeting of the P, held the previous day, Sunday September 25, 1983, the entire full Party membership (including Maurice and the rest of the CC) voted for JL of the Party. That is when JL as decided on, Wendy, and NOT by "a clique" (as George Louison, Rojas et al have peddled to the world) but by the entire P membership. I'll never forget the great joy that suffused all of us, Wendy ---- all comrades singing and embracing one another (every P member embraced Maurice and Bernard at about 12:00 midnight). Who could then expect and foresee that in the next 3 weeks our country would be plunged into a National/Political crisis? Who could by the greatest stretch of the imagination, Wendy, ever think that in 24 days a Tragedy of catastrophic dimensions would occur? That the Leader of the Grenada Revolution would be dead? EH, Wendy, who could?
On September 26, 1983, a General Meeting of Candidate members of the P also supported and endorsed the P membership's decision on JL of the P, and on the weekend of Friday Sept. 30th ---- Sunday October 2nd, a special Party Conference of all levels of the P membership ---- full members, Candidate members,
This was motivated by the fact that after 5 years of U.S. propaganda, and even after a 9 month kangaroo Show Trail which pronounced me and the "Grenada 17" "guilty of murder," the majority of Grenadian people are still confused: they do not understand how and why October 19, 1983 occurred in Grenada. And to add to their confusion has been Fidel Castro's loud protestations of Cuba's "honorable role [in the Grenada events]" and his vehement, virulent and hysterical attacks on the surviving Leadership of NJM and the Grenada Revolution, his calls for "exemplary punishment" for us Grenadian Revolutionaries. As some persons have told me, at times Cuba's propaganda against us appears to be indistinguishable from that of the U. S. Reagan Administration, that it sometimes seems as though Fidel wants us dead more than
U. S. Imperialism. They are not far from the truth. But they don't know why.
I know, too, that many fraternals, trade unionists, etc. who have been engaged in solidarity work on my (and the 'Grenada 17') behalf are also confused. As one Grenadian patriot and MBPM member has told me: "Chalky, there is something wrong. I don't believe this [October 19th Tragedy] could just occur so there is something else. But, I can't find the missing link."
This "Missing Link" none of us have ever publicly exposed, notwithstanding our very strong feelings over Cuba's interference in our internal affairs, and our predicament ---- that we are facing death. We do not want to give U.S. Imperialism any ammunition to use against the Cuban Revolutionary Process, Party and Government, given the overall tremendous role Cuba has played within the World Progressive and Revolutionary Movement. Also, we do not want to be accused of using this information to save our lives (or to give anyone, any excuse to say so).
I'd requested my friend not to even reveal to anyone the fact that Fidel played a decisive role in causing the October 1983 Tragedy. And she has respected my confidence. We ---- surviving NJM Leaders ---- had instructed others that in the event we are dead --murdered under the guise of the Judicial process ---- all (the full) details of Cuba's relationship to the NJM and Grenada Revolution over the 4 1/2 years should be made public. [This is, of course, contained in a far larger, more detailed, indeed comprehensive document on Cuba ---- Grenada Relations.] We felt that such information should only be exposed ---- and in the correct form, only among Revolutionary, Progressive, fraternal friends ---- at a time when there would be no personal motive to be gained from so doing, but that of establishing the TRUTH, for the historical record. So that this could be lessons for the future, that National Liberation Movements and Revolutionary/Progressive Parties would be aware of what had transpired, and would be on guard against making similar (and possibly fatal) errors.
Only a few months ago I was able to read, for the first time, an interview Fidel held (sometime in 1986, I believe) with U. S. Congressman, Mervyn M. Dymally, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the USA It is contained in a booklet Nothing Can Stop the Course of History.
Then only recently I have become aware of a "mind-blowing" act: Cuba's efforts ---- through the Head of the Americas and Caribbean Department of the World Federation of Trade Unions, who is a Cuban ---- to block assistance to me, a trade unionist, to help me in my struggle to expose the Kangaroo Show Trial through which I was railroaded by the U.S. Reagan Administration and its local puppets, and for my human and constitutional right to receive a free and fair trial. And more than that: six years after their interference which greatly contributed to the Great Tragedy they still continue their "Isle of Youth" policy towards Grenada; not only blocking W.F.T.U. assistance to me, but also to the two largest Trade Unions in Grenada on the ground that they "need a clean bill of health." They want to now decide for the workers of Grenada who should be their Trade Union leaders?! It is clear that they have learned nothing from the Grenada Tragedy of 1983, nor even from the profound changes unfolding not only inside the Soviet Union but, just as significantly, in the qualitative development in the Soviet Union's relations with other fraternal parties and countries, in recent years.
This has convinced me that that position of not revealing to our friends "the Missing Link," before the final outcome of our ('The Grenada 17') case, is no longer correct.
This document, therefore, is for your personal information. It is NOT TO BE PUBLISHED.
John Anthony ? Ventour
December 21st, 1989
Wendy, I can only speculate (reasonably so) that George Louison (aided by the influence of Shahiba Strong, Don Rojas and Cletus St. Paul) and possibly Unison Whitemen, Persuaded Maurice to raise the JL decision with FC and hence return to Grenada via Cuba.
Maurice spent an extra day (October 7th) with FC in Cuba, and returned home on the evening of October 8th.
Now, Wendy, you should know that FC had great love for Maurice. The first time he met Maurice, in September 1979, at the UN, I was told, FC touched him under the heart after embracing him. And I understand, as the legend goes, whenever FC does that to someone ---- touches him/her under the heart ---- it means that he has totally accepted that person as someone to protect. So, in practice, he adopted Maurice as his "son."
Therefore, Wendy, given Maurice's closeness with FC, and all that transpired in Eastern Europe (the decision to return via Cuba, etc.), it is inconceivable that he would not have raised (and did not raise) the JL issue with FC. In any event, after their return, from October 9th, George Louison began telling P members living in the West Coast of the island (St. John's, St. Mark and St. Patrick) that "FC is supporting us" and that Maurice should "take the issue to the masses."
The JL of the P issue was indeed taken to the masses via the fateful rumor on October 12th (which Maurice gave to 2 members of the P.S. unit ---- Cletus St. Paul and Errol George ---- to go and spread) that "Phyllis Coard and Bernard Coard want to kill Maurice Bishop."
On June 28, 1984, at the Preliminary Inquiry into the deaths of Maurice et al, Errol George, the Deputy Chief of Maurice's personal security unit, was the first prosecution witness to testify. He told Prosecuting Counsel that on October 12th 1983 he had a conversation with Cletus St. Paul, the Chief of Maurice's P.S. unit and that
During that conversation he [St.. Paul] gave me a pen and a piece of paper. On that paper I wrote people's names. After writing the names I and Cletus St. Paul went to Maurice Bishop's room, there a conversation took place.
After that conversation I went to one Theresa who is Maurice Bishop's cook. After Theresa I went to the chief of security who was Ashley Folkes and made a report to him...
He said that the next day he went to Butler House and spoke at a meeting at which full members of the NJM and Central Committee members, including Maurice Bishop, were present
I spoke about the rumor that was given to me to go and tell some people. It told the meeting what the Rumor was.
The rumor was Phyllis Coard and Bernard Coard want to kill Maurice Bishop.
[PRELIMINARY INQUIRY DEPOSITION: Page 6, Lines 160-92.]
Under cross-examination by Defense Counsel, Mr. Howard Hamilton Q.C., Errol George said:
I remember speaking of a rumor. When it was given to me it was given to me as a rumor. I was told I had a rumor to spread. No one told me it was not true. Prior to St. Paul giving me that rumor I had never heard it before. I was also given a list of names of the persons to whom those (sic) rumor should go to. There were about fifteen (15) names on the list.
Errol George further said
At the conversation in Maurice Bishop's bedroom on 12th October, 1983, Bishop gave me instructions about the rumor. He told me I must remember to say Phyllis Coard first and then Bernard Coard. [Emphasis added]
[P.I. DEPOSITION: Page 13, Line 444--80]
This rumor, Wendy, plunged the entire country into a state of deep crisis and confusion----rumors were running wild (and George Louison, Kendrick Radix, Don Rojas et al did their best to fuel them and sew more confusion among our people)----sparking off a fateful chain of events which led to the grave tragedy.
Now, Wendy, I'm not saying that the issue could not----or should not----have been taken to the masses. What I am saying most distressfully----what is wrong----is the deceitful, dishonorable and unprincipled manner the masses were manipulated on the basis of deliberately false information--a Rumor. In the case where the issue of Joint Leadership of the Party could not be satisfactorily settled in the P, the masses, as organized in the organs of Popular Democracy----Workers' Parish Councils, and Zonal Councils throughout the country----should have been consulted, presented with all the facts, hear all sides, all arguments, debate it, then decide. Isn't this real and genuine participatory democracy? Many of the so-called "experts" on the 1983 Grenada crisis are quite loud with their allegations and charges that we were against the masses' involvement in deciding the JL (of the Party) issue, and that Maurice was for their involvement. How far is this from the truth! Wendy, if Maurice wished for the peoples' involvement why didn't he propose it or take the issue to the Organs of Popular Democracy? He know that he was immensely popular among the masses----that they would support him, so why didn't he? Is manipulating the masses by a rumor, which is maliciously fabricated, the thing that is becoming of a revolutionary? Or does democracy entail bringing the facts in a structured way to the masses? Just in passing, Wendy, you would be interested to know that Maurice, Uni (Whitman) and George Louison all voted against a Resolution to give the minutes of the Extraordinary NJM CC Sept. 14-16 Meeting to the party members so that they could see all the discussion re that meeting and the CC members' reasons for the JL Proposal.
After the rumor had been spread I held several meetings with workers on different workplaces, on October 13, 14, 15, 17 and 18th (including a large meeting with representatives of many workplaces and companies, on the evening of Friday October 14) trying to explain to them the nature of the political crisis----the rumor----and what the JL of the Party really entailed. However, Wendy, because of the hysterical, Virulent Propaganda Campaign unleashed by the U.S. in the media, and by George Louison, Kendrick Redix, Don Rojas, etc., on the ground in Grenada, coming on the hears of the Rumor, passions and emotions were inflamed and only a minority of workers fully grasped----really understood----the issue.
In addition, Wendy, there are several other incidents which occurred to support----and lead one to reasonably conclude--that there were discussions on our P internal affairs with FC, who you may know, is a very emotional man; and rather than be impartial he probably decided to "protect his son" from the "JL Conspiracy" (or whatever he was told), and certain decisions were made. Among these incidents:
(i) The Cuban Ambassador, Julian Rizo, who was in Cuba while Maurice was there returned on the same flight with Maurice, George Louison, Uri, Don Rojas, et al. He (Rizo) immediately went to live permanently (up to the Invasion) in the Cuban Embassy (where he could be in 24 hour daily direct contact with Cuba) instead of his residence. Unexpectedly and unprecedentedly (because PRA soldiers guarded the Embassy, like Cuban soldiers guard Grenada's Embassy in Havana, Cuba) about thirty (30) Cubans were armed and placed to guard the Cuban Embassy, in addition to the Grenadian soldiers there. Grenadian Security Forces were advised by Cubans and trained in Cuba, They could therefore interpret such action. So, Wendy, from the night of October 8th Rizo set up a command post with 30 armed Cubans at the Cuban Embassy. What was all of this for? What was being planned? Was this preparation for an armed conflict to resolve the internal Party differences?
(ii) Then, Wendy, on the night of October 18th when discussions were held between Maurice and four (4) other CC members, aimed at resolving the Crisis, he organized to meet with the Cuban Ambassador on the following morning----October 19th--before discussions continued that day. Why was this necessary, Wendy? Ambassador Rizo was not a Grenadian much less a member of the NJM. This was also unprecedented. [The meeting, however, failed to come off before the crowd reached Maurice's residence at Mt. Wheldale and took him away.]
(iii) I understand, Wendy, that on October 19th , immediately after the seizure of Fort Rupert by the crowd, Maurice et al were trying to get in contact with the Cuban Embassy, and also directly with Cuba. For what?
(iv) Cuban Military Advisors, without any explanation, failed to report to work at the different PRA camps, from around October 14th, and the Cuban Military Battalion based at Point Saline's, which comprised Cuban Army officers and airport constructions workers, were placed on alert from around October 13-14, 1983.
(v) And Cuban construction workers at Point Saline's, Doctors, Teachers, etc. went on strike (in practice) in Grenada from around October 17th. They actually agitated Grenadian workers at the International Airport Project, etc. to go on strike and to demonstrate. They also provided transport for Grenadians to go and demonstrate. Cuban Teachers, too, agitated students to leave school to join demonstrations. Would the Cubans in Grenada have done all that if they did not have official support?
Why was Cuba so central in all of this, Wendy?
There is another critical/key aspect of Cuba's relationship to the NJM and the Grenada Revolution, which, in my view, Wendy, reflects what I would call their petty hegemonic aspirations/design re our process and attempts to make us very dependent on them.
I think it is also necessary to give and share with you some background information FC's and Cuba's relationship to our P and the Grenada Revolution.
(i) FC and Cuba had absolutely no role in making the Grenada Revolution. Indeed, they did not provide any assistance in making the Revolution, despite requests for assistance by our P, and despite pre-1979 visits to Cuba by Maurice and Unison on one occasion, Bernard on another, and Selwyn Strachan in 1979. Basically, they did not believe our claims about being in a position to remove the neo-fascist Gairy. They were obviously wary of us and our claims since they knew little or nothing about our P. So FC and Cuba were as surprised as the rest of the world when the Grenada Revolution was made on March 13, 1979. After that they came forward with massive assistance, and a hot love--relationship developed between Grenada and Cuba.
(ii) From the very early days of the Revolution Cuba attempted to influence our Procession Grenada by getting involved into matters they ought not to have been involved in. Consistently, throughout the 4 1/2 years, they tried to, in improper ways, influence the placement and changing of personnel in the PRA, for example. This began as early as 1980. Then, to the annoyance of many in our P Leadership, including many Grenadian Army officers, Ambassador Rizo used to impose himself on meetings of Maurice and the High Command of the Army. It was a disgusting form of interference.
I remember a personal experience in September 1981. I had arrived in Cuba on a brief (4-day) visit re coordination of a Caribbean Trade Union Conference which was to be held in Grenada two months later----in November that same year. Just weeks prior to my visit the NJM CC had unanimously removed CDE. Vince Noel from the Party Leadership. For almost one year before, Vince, who was also a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee at the time, had been criticized on several occasions for serious short-comings re his work----failure to carry out Party tasks, etc. Rank and file P members were now openly complaining about his poor work performance and questioning his leadership. It had indeed become very embarrassing to the NJM Leadership. As a result, George Louison tabled a resolution to remove Vince. It was supported by all in the CC, including Maurice, Uri and Kendrick Radix. As was normal protocol, the Cuban and other fraternal parties had been informed of this development.
Now, here I was in the Jose Marti International Airport's VIP lounge, having arrived only minutes before, in discussion with a Cuban official who came to meet me. After I had politely answered some of his questions----explaining our P Leadership's rationale/reasons for Vince's removal, the official of the Cuban Communist Party had the gall to tell me that they (the Cuban Party) "did not agree!"
(iii) In very improper ways, also, Wendy, they tried to change the way in which decisions were historically made by our P Leadership. Our P had always, from its inception, Wendy, stressed collective leadership, with Maurice being the first among equals. In that context the strength of all our leaders came to bear; and the weakness of Maurice in making decisions, in strategy and tactics, and in guiding and supervising the work of the P, and later the Revolution, were overcome. [Maurice himself, on more than one occasion, openly admitted to all these weaknesses.] In that context (of our collective Leadership), while Maurice was clearly perceived as the Leader, the first among equals, Bernard, because of his particular strengths in the areas in which Maurice was weak was looked toward for leadership, and in practice, therefore, it was Bernard who led the P in those areas, before and during the Revolution. So it was an informal arrangement; one based on the year of experience in our struggle; and an arrangement which led our P to glory.
(iv) In Cuba, however, the form leadership takes in their P is obviously different: Their circumstances are different; their history is different; and FC is FC. In Cuba, FC is the Maximum Leader in all areas. And this seems to have always been the case in their struggle. It is their history.
(v) In short, Wendy, Leadership in Cuba was always more personalized, more individualistic, it appears, and to a great extent this is due to the incredible ability of FC. But in Grenada, leadership had always been more collective. This was due to the tremendous qualities of Maurice and Bernard in different areas; and also due to their specific weaknesses. So the emphasis on collective leadership was based on our history, and rooted in our history. It developed and took root on the anti-Gavry battlefields, and in the unforgettable days in laying the basis for the Revolution, planning the Revolution, and then its glorious execution.
(vi) But that history, Wendy, (our History) Cuba did not know of because they did not know our P in any real way until after March 13, 1979.
(vii) Yet from 1979 and onwards, with ever greater intensity, they attempted to influence Maurice into adopting FC's style of leadership; into becoming a FC. But Maurice was never, and could never have been, FC. They were different persons, Wendy.
(viii) That interference by Cuba, again in many improper ways, for example FC sending down persons to Grenada to tell Maurice that certain decisions are his prerogative ; and that the NJM: CC could not take certain decisions, etc., etc., made for and naturally did lead to friction.
(ix) This friction and its by product, combined with other subjective factors, and with the objective difficulties inherent in the task of transforming a poor backward underdeveloped country, and especially having to do so in the face of the most hawkish U.S. Administration since the gun-boat diplomacy days of President Theodore Roosevelt, led to a profound internal crisis in the P and Revolution by August- September, 1983.
(x) The JL decision (which as I stated before was part of a package of measures to overcome our P crisis), however, went against the form of leadership Cuba had tried to promote and impose on us for the better part of 41/2 years. And they were hell- bent on quashing it, Wendy.
(xi) So Maurice, obviously convinced by those around him that the JL decision was some kind of "conspiracy" to ultimately renounce him as leader, was therefore in the correct psychological state to make a complete break with the historically based collective leadership, and to place himself above the leadership and General Meeting of the Party's decision. Outside of Cuba's interference, Wendy, there was absolutely no way he would have done that. Given his personality he would have taken that step only under strong encouragement. Indeed even if he wanted to, the balance of forces within the P and the Revolution would not have permitted it---- he would have recognized that the P and its organs were decisive for the future of the Revolution. But with Cuba's backing and, indeed, encouragement, he had an alternative manpower and material resource base outside of our P to fall back on.
There is another critical/key aspect of Cuba's relationship to the NJM and Grenada Revolution----and how it directly affected the October '83 crisis---- that I should share with you, Wendy.
In 1981 Cuba requested and received permission from the Party and People's Revolutionary Government to organize their construction workers at the point Saline's International Airport project into a reserve Revolutionary Government to organize their construction workers at the point saline's international airport project into a reserve military Batalion. Over fifty (50) officers from the Cuban armed forces (FAR) arrived in Grenada to beat them. Our P Leadership was only too happy to accede to this request because we were informed that...this reserve batallion would asset our young PRA in the defense of Grenada, in the event of any invasion.
Months later, quite accidentally, while working together with Cuban Military Advisers; preparing defense plans for our country to be able to report any military aggression, Lt. Col. Layne----the day to day "Commander of the PRA"----was told by the leader of the Cuban military mission in Grenada that the Cuban Batallion would only respond to a request for assistance from the Commander-in-chief (a position they imposed on us in 1981); not the P Leadership, not the PRG; but one man! However, it was only years later, when the crisis unfolded, that the significance of this statement was fully realized.
Cuba's interference in NJM and Grenada's internal affairs is not unique. I have heard of several instances of their interference in the internal affairs of other Revolutionary Parties and Countries. Among them:
(1) In the 1960's the Algerian Party removed Ben Bela as leader of their party. I don't know the reasons or the details; but I understand that Cuba objected to this and interfered, and this led to a strain in relations between the Algerian and Cuban Parties/Revolutionaries.
(2) In the 1960's, also, Wendy, there was a debate on the Way Forward in the Venezulan Communist Party. I understand that debate was centered around the issue of whether or not the party should pursue the path of armed struggle. FC publicly condemned the leadership of the PCV, assessing them of "sitting on their doorstep watching the corpse of Imperialism pass by [rather than take up arms and make the Revolution]."
(3) In the mid-late 1970's, I also understand that the Ethiopian Leader, Mengisthu, threatened to expel Cuba's Ambassador to Ethiopia if Cuba did not withdraw him. The Ambassador was accused of interference in the Ethiopian party and country's affairs.
(4) Then, Wendy, there is Angola. In 1976 or 77, I remember hearing and reading news reports that the number two leader of the MPLA (the Ruling Revolutionary Party in Angola) was killed because he was a CIA agent, and also because of some counter-revolutionary plot.
Several years later I learnt that a problem had arisen within the MPLA Leadership and Cuban Military Force's in Angola intervened on behalf of the then, late MPLA Leader, Agostino Neto, crushing a "rebellion" against him. As a result, Neto Alvis, the number two person in the Angolan Leadership, together with many of the MPLA members, server Angolan Army Leaders and Soldiers, had been killed by the Cubans.
Wendy, I don't know the details of any of these incidents. And I am not concerned here with which side was wrong or right. Whatever, that did not give FC, or anybody else for that matter, any right of interfere in other People's/Party's affairs.
So with this history, on the night of October 14, 1983, Bernard Coard and Selwyn Strachan held a meeting with Cuba's Ambassador Vilian Rizo and 1st Secretary Gaston Diaz. In the meeting, I understand, they asked Rizo and Diaz for clarification re the Angolan situation in 1976/77. All Rizo would say was that Cuban Forces intervened in Angola "upon a request from the Angolan Commander-in-chief." When asked how would Cuba respond if a similar request were to be made by Grenada's "Commander-in-chief," Rizo refused to answer. The answer though was forthcoming.
Two days later, Wendy, the NJM CC received a reply----from FC: He complained (in that letter) that we were impugning the integrity of Cuba, etc. When Ambassador Rizo delivered FC's letter he refused to shake hands, as was normal, with the CC Comrades present. I was not present. However, I understand that when he finished reading the letter Rizo informed the CC Comrades that he had instructions from FC to give a copy to George Louison "for him to use in whatever way" he wished! Can you imagine that, Wendy? The Cuban Party was informed of expulsion from the NJM CC. But here was FC refusing to recognize it. So that letter addressed to the NJM CC was given too George Louison----someone who was no longer a member of the NJM Leadership.
But that is not all, Wendy. That letter from FC to the NJM CC was signed: "Commander-in-chief!" Highly significant, eh? Not 1st Secretary of the PC.C. Not as President of the Republic of Cuba. Not as Prime Minister of Cuba. Not even as Commander-in-chief of Grenada? Anyone in the circumstances, then, would of naturally have seen this as a deliberate insult to NJM and Grenada and, also, as a warning.
So, Wendy, given this background, and Cuba's interference in our
P affairs: FC's support and active assistance to Maurice; Ambassador Rizo's movement of 30 Cubans to guard the Cuban Embassy; the placing of their Military Advisors and their workers at Point Saline's airport site "on Alert" from around October 13th [The workers composed their Reserve Military Batallion; and alert", in
the military lexicon, is the first stage before a call to action]; their continuing to recognize George Louison as a member of the NJM Leadership, even after he was expelled from the Party Leadership by the CC and the October 13th Extraordinary NJM
General Meeting; our Security Forces were naturally gravely concerned about Cuba's intentions.
The combination of this and Maurices role in originating and organizing the spreading of the Rumor, and the Consequent near-violence of the Rumor that same night (October 12th) at a Militian Station in St. Paul's (a suburb in El. George's) was discussed by the Security Forces with Maurize in a front manner on October 14 Thereabouts; and he was strongly advised to stay home for a few days and let things calm down in the country, and return to normal, while attempts were being made to resolve the crisis. The objective also, I understand, was to deny Maurice access to the Cubans (until after we had resolved our internal crisis), about whom the Grenada Security Forces were obviously very concerned. Maurice's moral position, Wendy, was extremely weak for at the October 13th extraordinary P general meeting at which he and Errol George (deputy chief of his P.S. unit) and other spoke, he was exposed red-handed by the entire P membership present, as the person behind the grateful rumor that "Phillis Coard and Bernard Coard [were] planning to kill Maurice Bishop."
Wendy, I can never forget that October 13th general meeting at Butler House. It was a very sad one. I chaired it. Maurice sat next to me on the Podium. When he arrived the entire hall of members, Candidate members and Applicants, and CC members present, etc., gave an ovation, as usual, clapping----welcoming him.
The same happened when he rose to address the meeting. He did so for about 45 minutes. He accepted responsibility for the political crisis in the P and country but stated categnzally that he knew nothing of the origin of the October 12th rumor----he could not accept responsibility for it, he said. At the end of his speech he stated that he would speak later on in the meeting. [He did not know at the time that Errol George, his deputy P.S. Chief, who was also a Candidate member of NJM, would also speak at the meeting.]
Wendy, I'll never forget how Maurice's countenance changed when, at the end of his address, as the applause from the ovation died down, Errol George entered the hall following my announcement that he would now address the meeting.
A thunderous silence pervaded the large packed hall. One could hear a pin drop as Errol George vividly recounted how he was given the rumor by Maurice and Cletus St. Paul in Maurice's bedroom on the previous morning; had Maurice told him to remember to call Phyllis Coard's name first; how a listing 15 or so names of persons who were to be given the rumor to spread, was drawn up. Maurice kept his head down, writing----taking detailed notes----in his notebook throughout Errol George's testimony. A sad stillness permeated the air. When Errol George left the hall, I (as chairman) turned to Maurice and asked him if he wanted to speak now. He said no. It was indeed sad, Wendy. Comrades----students, young-workers, women, teachers, etc., etc.----cried at the meeting.
During the break, about 9:00 p.m.----the meeting began at 5:00 p.m. and ended after midnight----several P members checked Maurice asked him to speak again, to defend himself. Later on I also asked him again. He never did. He sat throughout listening to member after member speak.
So, Wendy, Maurice was morally on the defensive inside the party. That is why he went along with the Security and Defense Committee's recommendation. Otherwise, had he decided not to, there is little that could really have been done by security to stop him.
Bernard was given the same advice, I understand, and also did not leave his home until after the crowd overran Mr. Widdele and took Maurice away on October 19th. This act was translated to the world as "House Arrest" and a "Palace Coup" by George Louison, Kendrick Radix, etc. (and further magnified by the U.S. orchestrated propaganda) and raised the crises to a new plane. One can easily see in retrospect how what happened could have been so interpreted (i.e. as "House Arrest") to the outside world.
Wendy, I believe that FC and Cuba's attempts to impose their from of leadership on us: (a) is a reflection of their genuinely held view that FC-type of leadership is the best----at least the best for this region; and (b) in their view, provided the best mechanism for Cuba to wield influence and, indeed, control over the Genada process. With FC adopting Maurice's as his "son," and with Cuba's form of leadership, Cuba's control over the Grensda Revolution would have been complete.
Wendy, I and all others here have the greatest respect and admiration for the man FC, as a Leader, and for the immense unquestionable contribution he (and his Party and Country) has made to the World Revolutionary Process. Tremendous advances have been made under his great leadership for the people of Cuba. However, I would not be human if I don't feel angered----to put it mildly----over what I will describe as Cuba's act of great treachery of the Grenada Revolution. After all these years, Wendy; honestly, I want to sound dispationate but I'm sure you know that there are something's in life that one cannot forgive or forget. Despite its catastrophic consequences, it is still possible for me to forgive (but not forget) FC for his interference in our affairs. After all, one may argue that he thought he was doing the best thing and his decisions were based on incorrect information of the situation in our Party, etc., etc., etc. But let me tell you; I try to avoid thinking (and speaking) about this for it really hurts; I become passionately furious then! How could one ever forgive this, Wendy? Can you imagine that while the Cuban Ambassador and Military Advisor were discussing with PRA Officers and reviewing Military plans for the defense of our country against the imminent U.S. Invasion; at the same time, in Cuba, the Cuban Government was privately telling and assuring the U.S. Interests Section in Havana that the U.S. could send forces into Grenada (come into Grenada) to evacuate its citizens, and that the Cuban forces in Grenada would only fire on them if fired upon? Can you imagine that, Wendy?? As if they owned Grenada----as if Grenada were a province of Cuba?! As if Grenada were an Isle of Youth?!
The people's Revolutionary Army (PRA) was very small----only 500 strong, but notwithstanding the Army Command suited to create PRA soldiers at Point Solidies to defend the International Airport its Military logic told them that the Airport would be the first targets (on "beach-head") of the Invaders. In defense plans drawn up with the Cuban Advisors before 1983, the critical importance of the Airport to site was noted. The PRA had held many military carcass in that area to repulse any enemy attempt to scuze the Airport. And the understanding, as stipulated in our country's Defense Plans, was the Defense of the Airport would be in conjunction with the Cuban Reserve Military Battalion. However, Wendy, the Cuban Military Advisors (Iand Ambassador Rizo) basically blackmailed our Country's Armed Forces into allowing them alone to maintain their (Cuban) Forces on the Airport site. The Cubans tried to get our Army Commard to agree that their forces would remain in Point Saline's but that they would only resist if the Americans fired on them. Our officers objected to this on the grounds that Point Saline's was likely to be a principal section for the Invaders (as outlined in Defense Plans which they had advised) and it would be madness to have located in a principal section, troops who were not prepared to give unconditional resistance to any attempts by the enemy to land there. The Cubans knew that such a position was unacceptable. Further, the Grenadian Officers (unaware that Cuba had already communicated their position to the Reagan Administration that they would not resist if not fired upon) said to the Cuban Officials in Grenada: Suppose the U.S. had intercepted Communications from Cuba to them in Grenada, instructing them along like they proposed, then the enemy would know that they had free access----free way into Grenada through the International Airport.
To this Ambassador Rizo responded by saying that the scenario raised by the Grenadian Officers was "purely hypothetical" and therefore decision could not be made on that basis.
Our officers said: Well, if that scenario turns out to be true and the Americans began landing in Point Salines unimpeded by Cuban Forces, then are Grenadian Army would have a responsibility to resist the enemy with force----with fire.
Ambassador Rizo then responded that if this happened Cuban forces would be placed in danger. The Grenadian officers insisted that they would have the responsibilities to resist the invading force.
At that point, Wendy, Cuba----through Ambassador Rizo----played the card of blackmail. Rizo then said that if this were to be the case, his Government's instructions were that they would have to evacuate all their personnel onto a boat they had in St George's harbor before the (invent) invasion commenced, starting immediately. That was.
In the face of this, Wendy, the Grenadian Army had to back down. The implications of maintaining their position were to dire: both from the military standpoint if the invasion did come; and if for some reason it did not come, then from the economic standpoint. The U.S., the Grenadian Army Leaders felt (not knowing of the Secret agreement) would hesitate re--invasion and landing of their troops, because they would not be sure whether or not Cuban Forces would fight and kill many of their "boys", etc. It was clear that if Cuba withdrew their personnel to a boat in the harbor they would not have remained there; they would have returned to Cuba, and FC would have blamed the "intransigence" of the Grenadian side for the collapse in relations.
Cuba, therefore, imposed an agreement on the Grenada Revolution, forcing the PRA Troops to remain behind a certain line, out of effective firing range of the U.S. Soldiers at their point of disembark----at their "most vulnerable moment.
Wendy, I wonder if you can imagine the rage of our soldiers on the early morning of October 25, 1983. When they saw U.S. troops freely paratrooping over Point Salvine.
The landing of paratroopers at Point Salines was a very risky adventure. The U.S. Military Specialists must have been aware of that. They must have had their concerns and it is not beyond probability that the knowledge that they were to act in a certain way would mean lack of resistance at their most vulnerable moment, could have tipped the scale in favor of such an action. If serious resistance was offered to the paratroopers then, it is more than possible ---- almost certain that ----- they would have been repulsed. The whole form of the invasion took would have had to be different; and while this has may not have made a difference to the final outcome, given the American's overwhelming superiority in men and equipment, the price paid by Reagan for his outrage would have been much higher; and this may have had consequences for history.
The Cubans allowed paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division to seize the International Airport. The Yankees would not have been in a position to land unrestricted at the International Airport, scores of Military Transport warcrafts with tons of military equipment and thousands of troops in several hours on October 25th if PRA soliders were located at Point Salines. How could one forget this, Wendy?
On the afternoon of October 25th Ambassador Rizo called our Wartime Command H.Q. requesting assistance from the Army's APC's (Armoured Cars) for the Cuban Forces at Point Salines. The U.S. superior technology had jammed the PRA's communication equipment so there was no previous knowledge of what was happening at/on the Front, near Point Salines. Because of this lack of communication, the Wartime Command thought that the Cubans were now fighting. Two (2) APC's had to be taken from another Defense point and sent to Point Salines. They drove into an ambush there leading to the destination of the APC's and the deaths of several young soldiers.
Then to crown it all, on October 25th a formal request was made to the Cuban Government for military assistance to repel the invading forces. FC replied that this was "unthinkable" and "[we] should all fight to the last man!" We should all die so that no one would ever know the south?! FC's message, Wendy, devasted some of Grenada's most selfless Army commander. To hear that it was "morally impossible" for a "friend" to come to your assistance when Imperialist Forces overwhelmed one's side, was a bit too much for them. "Practically impossible" ---- yes, Wendy, that was understood, but "morally impossible" when the understanding was that they would come to the assistance of the Grenada Revolution ---- not a particular individual - in her hour of need? Too much, Wendy!
How do you think our soldiers and the Grenadian youth and women in the People's Militia fled (and still feel) about all this (especially those who were located in Grand Ance---- near to Point Salines ---- and on their own pinned down the U.S. Forces at Point Salines for a couple of days) when the world has the impression that it was Cuba's Forces in Grenada who resisted the U.S. Invaders, defending Grenada's Independence and soverisity? I (and all the others here), however, must pay tribute to the memory of those Cubans who (acting in accordance with FC's instructions had no choice but to allow U.S. forces to freely land and capture Point Salines) lived resisting the Yankees after they were directly attacked in their Camp Sites at Point Salines.
How can anyone ever forgive, much less forget, this immense act of betrayal of the Grenada Revolution, Wendy? True, it was our (Grenada) responsibility to defend Grenada. But a vital element of the defense plans for the Cuban Military Advisors had drawn up for our Armed Forces, to repel any invasion, was the assistance of the Cuban Reserve Military Batallion. So, isn't that betrayal when those you have to rely on - who have made you rely on them; who have promised, and who you expect to assist you ---- do not honor their agreement? Isn't that treachery when they black-mailed us into not locating any PRA forces at Point Salines and then allowed the Yankees to seize the International Airport?
I'm sure that you can empathize with me, Wendy? I hope that I have succeeded in trying to give you a much better appreciation for the reasons for FC's Vehement and hysterical attacks on us in October/November 1983, and subsequently Cuba's propaganda against us which they have disseminated within the World Revolutionary Movement. Fortunately, several Revolutionary Parties and Governments in the "Third World" have had their own experiences of Cuba's interference in their internal affairs and, therefore, have never believed Cuba's propaganda lines on us.
Wendy, I have no doubt that privately FC is filled with remorse; he certainly must deeply regret his interference in our affairs, which led to the death of the Grenada Revolution. I also believe that George Louison, too, deeply regrets his opportunist and divisive role in September ----- October 1983. [I'll never forget him telling comrades during the break at the October 13th party General Meeting - after he was exposed by Party members for his dishonest and divisive conduct, and when he realized that his appeal against his expulsion from the CC (on the previous day) was rejected by the Party membership, the meeting having voted overwhelmingly, by standing ovation, to endorse his removal from the party leadership----that the only reason why he voted against Joint Leadership of the party was because he knew that Maurice would not agree with it (!). But having lost out, politically, inside the party, George Louison decided to go "for broke"----a military/violent solution.]
It is not surprising, Wendy, that after 5 years George Louison, Kendrick Radix and co. in the MBPM (who have opportunistically used Maurice's name to try and win the support of our people) have not been able to get NJM members, much less the people, to support them. That is reality as opposed to wishful thinking. They have not been able to translate the overwhelming support and yearship of the masses for the revolution into support for their organization. They have no organized party machinery. They have gone from bad to worse since 1884. No wonder that George Lousion and Kendrick Radix have resigned from the top Leadership of the MBPM. They miscalculated greatly: They thought that we would have been killed long ago and that they would get away with their likes and slander against us. But as out peoples emotions (and the effects of their great trauma) wane, their (George Louison et al) roles will be exposed. The overwhelming majority of the NJM membership and soldiers of the PRA have shunned them (the MBPM) and continue to firmly support the party and Army Leadership behind bars; for they know what happened of September-October 1983; of the key role George Louison, in particular, played in intensifying the party and national crisis.
Footnote to September 1988
Wendy, not withstanding that the U.S. already had agent provocateurs in the demonstration on October 19, 1983, who would have been intent on manipulating the demonstration for violent confrontations, I have only recently arrived at the conclusion----based on new information----that the October 19 Military/violent confrontation was preconceived/planned by FC, George Louison, Maurice et al.
Only a few days ago we were discussing the trial of Cuban hero, General Ochoa, on Cuba's role in the October 83 crisis and tragedy. Chris (Major Stroude) was making a certain point, speculating on the intentions of the Cuban Military Advisors when they had turned up to work it Fort Rupert on the morning (around 9:00 am) of October 19th. Crisis was assuming that we knew this and told us he turned then away, telling them that there would be no work on that day. That was news to me (and most of us). Why did the Cuban Military Advisors suddenly turn up "to work" at the Fort Rupert Army HC when they had not done so (or visited any Army Camp) from October 14th? Was it part of the plan to be on hand, in advance, knowing that Maurice at all would attempt to seize Fort Rupert, and hence be able to assist them by "neutralizing" officers at the Army's HQ? Or, was it purely an "intelligence" function?
These, Wendy, cannot be wild and crazy questions because it is only a few months ago I learnt about a certain article in a Barbados Nation, December 1986 Special Issue on The Maurice Bishop Murder Trial. I'm yet to see that paper and article. I'm sure you've seen it. I understand that the article reported on a meeting FC held with some U.S. Congressmen after the U.S. Invasion. I (WE) had never known before that Maurice had actually contacted FC/Cuba on October 19th. FC apparently said that a request for assistance [Translate use of Cuba's Reserve Military Batallion at Point Saline a-la----Angola, 1976] from Maurice did reach Cuba, but by then the Fort Rupert Tragedy had already occurred. He, however, added: in any event Cuba would not have acceded to the request(!).
But, Wendy, that was already not Maurice's calculation. And Maurice was nobody's fool, Wendy. If he had any doubts as to whether Cuba would intervene militarily; if he did not have a firm guarantee/assurance that Cuba would intervene on his behalf he would have told the crowd which burst into the Mr. Wheldale Security compound on October 19: "Look, wait a while, me and the fellas having a meeting to settle this thing." He would have continued the discussions, as agreed, from the previous Nigeft, with a view to arriving at a compromise solution. Or, he would have given the people his side of the story, then lead them through the streets, call a general strike, cripple the country and force the party and Armed Forces to Capitulate. Instead, he chose none of these. When one recalls George Louison's 2 hour meeting with him on the morning of October 19th, and Louison and Unison Whiteman's meeting the afternoon before with Ambassador Rizo, etc. it is clear that George Louison told Maurice that Cuba would respond positively to his "request for assistance."
So Maurice chose a (path of) Military solution to the crisis which provoked the greatest Tragedy in the history of the Caribbean, and paved the way for the defeat of the Grenada Revolution.
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