313. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1

SUBJECT

  • Mini-SCC Meeting on Grenada

The NSC chaired a mini-SCC meeting today which included representatives from State, DOD, JCS, DIA, and CIA. The consensus of the group was that Maurice Bishop, who is head of the New Jewel Movement, has successfully seized control of the government in Grenada.2 He is encountering no resistance, even in the countryside where the ex-Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy, was supposed to have had so much support. The Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are meeting in Barbados to discuss the events. Yesterday, they issued a statement expressing hope that the leaders of the regime in Grenada would “hold fair and free elections . . . without delay.” The Foreign Ministers also pledged their help “if requested.” They are meeting tomorrow as well.3

The leadership of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) is young (25–35), idealistic, and socialistically-inclined. Their principal motivations appear to be hatred for Gairy (Bishop’s father is alleged to have been killed by Gairy’s police in a demonstration in 1974) and nationalism. Cuba and several other countries have supported this movement since its beginning, but while the leadership spans the ideological spectrum, most of them appear to look to Jamaica and Tanzania as their model.

It was the consensus of the SCC that Bishop and his group could probably be co-opted by the U.S. or perhaps by Cuba. They are sensitive to international reaction to their coup, and eager to obtain international legitimacy, but if we are not sensitive to their overtures, it is conceivable that they could turn to Cuba. However, our current evaluation is that [Page 772]they do not intend to either shift their government towards social revolution or towards alliance with the Cubans.

It was agreed that we would await the outcome of the current meeting of CARICOM Foreign Ministers, and then try to obtain the support of the British and the Canadians for a simultaneous public statement indicating support for CARICOM’s request for early parliamentary elections. In this public statement, we will draw attention to several points made in the CARICOM statement of March 14—that we are unhappy with the way the government was changed, but hope that the regime will continue to act responsibly—and also to the assurances which Bishop has given our Ambassador in Barbados—that they will respect private property and human rights.4 At the same time, we will also go privately to Bishop to make this statement and signal to him our concern about the direction of his movement and about the importance we attach to the Caribbean.5 We will also continue to have discussions with CARICOM on ways to proceed in ensuring the possibility of supervised elections.

In addition, State was tasked to look into concrete inducements which we could consider at an appropriate time to ensure that the New Jewel Movement and its leadership will remain directed to a more stable and democratic future; the intelligence community will examine the connections between this group and the Cubans; and State will also begin consultations with the British on what we should do if the elections strategy does not succeed.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 23, Grenada, 3/16/1979–3/31/79. Secret. Attached is a cover sheet from Pastor which states that Brzezinski requested that the minutes of the meeting be held until March 19 and then forwarded to the President. Handwriting on the cover sheet indicates the action was carried out.
  2. The coup began on March 13, while Gairy was in New York. (Telegrams 850 and 856 from Bridgetown, March 13; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790115–1257 and D790116–0267)
  3. In telegram 956 from Bridgetown, March 16, the Embassy transmitted the March 15 CARICOM statement. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790121–0734)
  4. Ortiz and Bishop met on March 13. No record of the meeting has been found. The statement announcing the continuation of relations with Grenada was released at the State Department press briefing on March 22. The text was transmitted to Bridgetown in telegram 71202, March 22. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790132–1109)
  5. Ortiz met with Bishop on March 23 and presented the Department’s statement on continuation of relations, emphasizing the importance of “prompt and fair elections.” Bishop expressed his pleasure with the statement and his desire to have friendly relations with the United States and vowed to protect U.S. citizens and property. Regarding elections, he said “it would take longer than 3 months or 6 months to do.” (Telegram 1108 from Bridgetown, March 26; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790139–0912) See also Document 314.
  6. See Document 361.