>At Once Upon a Time in the West we not only monitor Communist Bloc developments in Latin America and the Caribbean Basin in general, but watch with special interest the second Sandinista regime in Managua and Grenada’s new pro-Cuban government. In the latter case, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, who is center-left in political orientation, has subverted any good accomplished by the US invasion of his island in 1983.
At the time Cuban engineers and workers were helping the Marxist dictatorship of “Comrade” Maurice Bishop extend the island’s runway at St. George’s to 10,000 feet. This would effectively accommodate Soviet strategic bombers, a fact that rightly alarmed US President Ronald Reagan and the Pentagon. After securing the political and military support of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and under the pretext of rescuing US medical students attending St. George’s University, the White House dispatched land and naval forces to oust the communist regime and its 700 Cuban “guests.”
Following Operation Urgent Fury, the Soviet media raged against “US imperialism” and the first Sandinista regime in Managua feared that it too would be ousted in a US invasion, a spectre that haunts the rhetoric of President Daniel Ortega to this day.
Last May Thomas renamed Grenada’s Point Salines International Airport after deceased dictator Bishop and pledged closer relations with Cuba. On March 2 Thomas, making good on his vow, wrapped up a two-day state visit to Cuba, where he met with Cuban President Raul Castro, attended a dinner in his honor, inspected an agricultural cooperative and a meat processing plant, and toured Spanish-built forts in Havana. In the picture above the Grenadian PM, second from left, meets Cuban dignitaries. Castro is first on the left.
“We are still able to work together to our mutual benefit, whether its health, education or in the international community in areas such as climate change,” Thomas gushed to his host Castro. He added: “Grenada and Cuba have a long history of collaborating on major issues, such as Cuba’s assistance in the construction of Grenada’s largest economic project, the Maurice Bishop International Airport.” Meanwhile Grenadian government ministers drafted new agreements with their Cuban counterparts on the Grenada-Cuba Joint Commission.
As Grenada again snuggles up to Cuba, Thomas has also welcomed Red Chinese and Venezuelan participation in the construction of low-income housing for Grenadians. On March 1 16 workers from the People’s Republic of China arrived in Grenada to erect dwellings using materials already shipped to the island in 23 containers. The first set of houses will be built at Mt. Gay in St. George’s and Soubise in St. Andrew, and will be completed within 18 months. The sod-turning ceremony for the construction took place last November in St. Andrew and was attended by Grenadian and Chinese officials.
In September 2009 Venezuela made good on a promise given in 2004, after Hurricane Ivan roared through the Eastern Caribbean, by handing over more than 100 homes to Grenadians. At the time, Thomas enthused: “On behalf of the people of Grenada, I express our profound gratitude and thanks to the government and people of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for their donation and continued support particularly in the area of housing. This project is a tangible manifestation of the strong relationship that exists between our two countries.” The houses, which were built by the Venezuelan military, were completed in 2006, before Thomas became prime minister, but remained vacant due to the different electrical standards between Grenada and Venezuela.
There should be no surprise that Grenada’s PM is aligning his country with Cuba, Venezuela, and Red China. At least one high-ranking cadre from the New Jewel Movement can be found in Thomas’ cabinet, Nazim Burke, Minister of Finance and Economic Development. During the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), which came to power in an armed 1979 coup, Burke was a senior technocrat and, after the collapse of the PRG, briefly finance minister. In terms of managing Grenada’s finances, Burke, pictured above, had this to say in a March 9 interview with Caribbean Net News:
In a time like this, you really have to be fairly certain about what you do. We do not have the space to make very serious mistakes. Our debt situation is not good. I don’t think it is uncommon for a minister for finance to be cautious.
The element of caution is inextricably connected with the prerequisite of prudence. Prudence necessarily involves a measure of caution. We cannot be reckless in the assignment because the resources that we have do not allow us the space to make up if we did something that was terribly wrong.
Burke is cautiously considering the possibility of accepting a US$100 million loan from the PRC to build a hotel in South St. George’s:
Government would not seek to borrow an additional $100 million if there is really no pressing need to do so. Remember at the end of the day, you have to service the loan. If we can get a very concessional loan from China and we can put that to productive use to increase the room stock, to create jobs and to expand the tourism and hospitality sector, then it would be in Grenada’s interest to do so.
More than 18 years after the Cold War ended, reconceptualized cadres of “defunct” communist regimes amass personal fortunes or seek foreign investments for their impoverished countries. Is it possible, however, that the Communist Bloc is still eyeballing Grenada’s airport as a possible staging point for attacking the Continental USA? We can’t say for sure, but the scenario of strategic encirclement of the USA deserves continued scrutiny. The Communist Party of China, hiding behind front company Hutchison-Whampoa, controls port facilities at either end of the Panama Canal and at Freeport in the Bahamas.
In 2008 the Kremlin media floated several trial balloons concerning the basing or refuelling of Russia’s strategic bombers in Cuba, Venezuela, and Algeria. Promises to renovate the Soviet-built, never-used runway at Punta Huete in Nicaragua and Nauru International Airport in the South Pacific also deserve scrutiny. If Russian strategic aviation had access to Nicaragua and/or Nauru, Tu-95s or Tu-160s could theoretically launch cruise missiles against the US West Coast from southeast of Hawaii, presumably beyond the normal patrol zones of NATO-NORAD. Just a thought, but will someone in the Pentagon entertain the same thought?