315. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Vaky) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Newsom)1

Grenada: Views of CARICOM Governments

Last week I sent ARA/CAR Director Ashley Hewitt to meet with Prime Minister Manley in Kingston on recent events in Grenada. Hewitt has a good rapport with Manley from his time as DCM and Charge of our Embassy at Kingston from 1973–75. I had two purposes. One [Page 775] was to send a message to the new government in Grenada that we really do want to be cooperative and helpful by means of a channel they are likely to trust. The second was to send a discreet message to the Cubans and the Soviets that we are concerned about the situation in Grenada and keeping an eye on it, lest they be tempted by our apparent indifference. While Hewitt was in the area, he paid a brief visit to Trinidad and Barbados and met with the Foreign Ministers of those countries. Simultaneously, we sent our Ambassador to Guyana in to see their Foreign Minister, drawing on the same talking points Hewitt used in his conversation with Manley.2

In his various conversations, Hewitt focused on two aspects of the Grenada situation; the likely consequences of recent events for Grenada itself, and their significance for the region as a whole. As might be expected, assessments of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) and its intentions varied substantially depending upon the perspective of the observer. Unsurprisingly, Manley regarded the NJM as consisting for the most part of idealistic young reformers who should be given encouragement and assistance, while Trinidad’s Foreign Minister Donaldson and Barbados’s Foreign Minister Forde regarded Grenada at least potentially as a source of communist infection and possibly Soviet influence.

Aside from differences in interpretation arising from differing ideological perspective, however, there was an interesting congruence of views on a number of points. For example, it was generally felt that:

—the Grenada coup is symptomatic of growing [Page 776] instability in the Eastern Caribbean, and may have some ripple or demonstration effects;

—the repressive character of the Gairy regime made Grenada unique in a way, but that underlying economic and social problems had more to do with bringing about the coup than political factors;

—recent events will contribute to the divisions which already trouble both the West Indies Associated States (WIAS) and CARICOM as a whole;

—what the new government needs now are friends and assistance, and that those who help most now are likely to be most influential later;

—the entire Leeward and Windward island chain needs more economic assistance and security support if future Grenadas are to be avoided.

While Manley clearly regards the new government in Grenada almost as a protege of his, he was nonetheless more concerned about instability in the Eastern Caribbean and divisive forces within CARICOM than we expected. Forde and Donaldson took an even stronger line, Forde saying that he had information that Maurice Bishop and other NJM leaders had received training in both Cuba and the Soviet Union, and that he feared Grenada might constitute a site for Soviet presence in the Eastern Caribbean. The strong line taken by Donaldson was particularly surprising given the “hands off” attitude of Trinidad to date. Although reiterating his government’s policies, Donaldson indicated strong concern over the security implications of the coup in Grenada saying that it threatened to “draw the great powers back into the Caribbean and return the area to the kind of relationships that prevailed in the 17th and 18th centuries”. Specifically, Forde indicated a need for a regional coast guard for the Leeward and Windward Islands plus Barbados; increased training and assistance for police and security forces in the region; and much improved intelligence coverage.

We are looking at ways we can be helpful to Grenada and the other WIAS States in the economic area in the relatively short run, and we are also looking at what can be done in the security and intelligence areas. We propose to have talks with the British and perhaps the Canadians on what we might jointly do within a few weeks.3

Cables summarizing Hewitt’s conversations are attached.4

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 23, Grenada, 4/1/1979–4/22/1979. Confidential. Drafted by Hewitt.
  2. Burke reported on his meeting with Guyanese Foreign Minister Wills in telegram 1570 from Georgetown, April 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790157–0789)
  3. The Department of State held consultations in Washington with U.K. and Canadian officials May 2–3. See Document 361.
  4. Telegram 1223 from Port of Spain, April 6, and telegrams 1306 and 1315 from Bridgetown, both April 6, were not attached.