359. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Research and Analysis for American Republics, Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Estep) to the Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs, Bureau of Inter-American Affairs (Hewitt)1


  • Prospects for Stability in Smaller Islands of the Eastern Caribbean

As you requested, we have reviewed the situation in St. Lucia, Antigua, Dominica, and St. Vincent in light of the apparently successful coup in Grenada,2 to assess the possibility that similar developments might occur among Grenada’s neighbors. We describe below the current situation in each of the islands, with particular attention to opposition movements. We also examine the Cuban strategy for the area, to the extent this may be determined. We have reached the following conclusions.

On the one hand:

—There is little or no evidence that opposition groups in the islands are sufficiently prepared or determined, nor are the conditions ripe, for a coup like that in Grenada to be attempted in the near term.

—Though it has quickly become a truism, the tradition of democratic processes is strong in the islands; opposition groups would unquestionably prefer to reach power through peaceful means, i.e., elections.

—Outside assistance to the New Jewel Movement (NJM) on the basis of available evidence consisted only of some training, encouragement, and perhaps modest funding.

—Events in Grenada have alarmed its neighbors; the coup leaders (and NJM friends abroad) seem to have been much concerned over international reaction and particularly that of the US.

On the other hand:

—The successful coup in Grenada cannot fail to stimulate radical groups in the other islands to consider a similar attempt, particularly if a group’s prospects for achieving power through peaceful methods are very poor. Outside supporters, e.g., Cuba, will also be encouraged.

—Cuba sees real opportunities in the Eastern Caribbean for developing influence at very little risk or cost. While Havana does not appear [Page 894] to be actively promoting leftist coups, it is pursuing programs likely to encourage such tendencies among opposition groups.

—Governments in the other islands will henceforth be more alert against potential coup plotting, gunrunning, and similar threats to stability, but their defense forces are probably incapable of putting up much resistance to well-planned attempts carried out by a well-trained and equipped force with substantial local support or acceptance.

—Once the new regime in Grenada consolidates its position, the island may become a clearinghouse of a sort among radical groups in the Eastern Caribbean.

In short, our conclusion for the near term is that the Grenada coup is not likely to be repeated in a neighboring island. The medium term is less predictable and requires more analysis as further information becomes available. Gairy’s ouster was symptomatic, in many ways, of the unstable balance of forces within these tiny islands. All of them have serious economic problems, and their restricted potential for development may mean that they are not inherently viable. The islands could accordingly fall into political turmoil which might result in increasingly radical regimes, almost certainly of the left.

[Omitted here is a more detailed discussion of the political situation in the smaller islands of the Eastern Caribbean, including Cuban influence in the region.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 81B00401R: Subject Files of the Presidential Briefing Coordinator for DCI (1977–1981), Box 25, Folder 6: DCI/NIO Meetings. Secret; Noforn; Nocontract.
  2. See Document 313.