Cuban Statement on Events of October 19, 1983 – 10/20/1983


It has become clear that for several weeks, perhaps months, a profound conflict within the leadership and ranks of the ruling party in Grenada had been developing. When Maurice Bishop, main leader of the Party and Prime Minister of Grenada, made a brief 36-hour stopover in Cuba between the night of Thursday, October 6, and the morning of Saturday the 8th, following official visits to Hungary and Czechoslovakia, he made no mention at all in his talks with Comrade Fidel and other Cuban leaders of the serious discussions and differences within the New Jewel, the name by which the ruling party in his country is known, thus demonstrating great dignity and respect for his party and for Cuba. The talks all centered around Cuban cooperation with Grenada; arrangements for cooperation undertaken by the Grenadian delegation in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, with which he was very pleased; and other international matters.

On Friday, October 7, Fidel accompanied Bishop on a tour of important sites under construction in Cienfuegos, showing him the progress of our development programs and the excellent attitude of our workers, with whom both of them talked extensively.

A few days later, on Wednesday, October 12, our embassy in Grenada reported the surprising and unpleasant news that there had been profound divisions in the Central Committee of the Party in Grenada. On the morning of that day, Bishop had informed the embassy staff of the differences that had arisen some time before, saying that discussions had been carried out to try to reach a solution but that he never imagined that the situation would become so serious in his absence. He s1mply reported the differences but did not ask for our opinion or cooperation to try to overcome them, once again demonstrating his great respect for Cuba’s foreign policy and for the internal affairs of his own Party.

That afternoon it became known that Bishop’s opponents had obtained a majority in the Central Committee of the Party and in the political apparatus of the army and security forces and that Bishop had been removed from his post in the Party and placed under house arrest. Since this was a purely internal matter, in spite of our friendship with Bishop and our trust in his integrity and leadership abilities, the Cuban Party and Government instructed their representatives in Grenada to refrain completely from interfering in the internal affairs of the Party and of Grenada, in keeping with the principles and standards of Cuban foreign policy.

During the following few days the news flowed in from our embassy of the positions and reasoning of the two sides involved in the conflict. Actually, in our opinion, rather than a substantive conflict, there appeared to be personality clashes and disputes on methods of leadership in which other subjective factors also played a role.

On Saturday, October 15, Comrade Fidel sent a message to the Central Committee of the New Jewel clearly expressing the Cuban position of total noninterference in the internal affairs of the Party and country. He also expressed his deep concern over the fact that the split which had developed could considerably damage the image of the revolutionary process in Grenada within the country and abroad; that even in Cuba, where Bishop was very well regarded, it would not be easy to explain the events; and that he harbored the hope that the difficulties could be overcome with the greatest wisdom, calmness, loyalty to principles and generosity.

Essentially, Cuba’s concern was centered around preventing the situation from leading to a violent and bloody confrontation.

The message also said that Cuba’s cooperation with the people of Grenada was a commitment that would continue, regardless of any changes in the Party and national leadership, since this was a purely internal matter.

For several days more, the situation remained at an impasse. At times it seemed that an honorable, intelligent and peaceful solution could be found. It was clear that the people supported Bishop and wanted him on the scene.

The Western press was involved in all sorts of speculation about the events. We didn’t say a single word, so as to avoid having our public statements appear as interference in the internal affairs of Grenada, in view of our close, broad and fraternal relations with that sister country. We thus remained true to our principle of respect for the internal affairs of sister parties and countries.

Yesterday morning, October 19, brought the news that the workers had gone on strike and the people had taken to the streets to support Bishop. A big demonstration had gone to his residence and released him from house arrest. The reports are still not clear, but it would appear that the people took over a military installation. The army sent troops to the area. There are reports that they fired on the people, killing and wounding some. The army regained control of the installation and arrested many people. There was no news of the fate of Bishop and the other leaders with him.

The dramatic outcome became known in the afternoon. An official communiqué announced the death of Maurice Bishop, Prime Minister; Unison Whiteman, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Jacqueline Creft, Minister of Education; Vincent Noel, First Vice President of the Grenada Trade Union Congress; Norris Bain, Minister of Housing; and Fitzroy Bain, General Secretary of the Agricultural Workers’ Union. The exact circumstances under which Bishop and the other leaders died is not yet clear.

Bishop was one of the political leaders best liked and most respected by our people because of his talent, modesty, sincerity, revolutionary honesty and proved friendship with our country. He also enjoyed great international prestige. The news of his death deeply moved the Party leadership, and we pay heartfelt tribute to his memory.

Unfortunately, the division among the Grenadian revolutionaries led to this bloody drama

No doctrine, no principle or proclaimed revolutionary position and no internal division can justify atrocious acts such as the physical elimination of Bishop and the prominent group of honest and worthy leaders who died yesterday.

The death of Bishop and his comrades must be cleared up. If they were executed in cold blood, the guilty should receive exemplary punishment.

Now imperialism will try to use this tragedy and the serious mistakes made by the Grenadian revolutionaries to sweep away the revolutionary process in Grenada and place the country under imperial and neocolonialist rule once again.

The situation is extremely difficult and complex. Only a miracle of common sense, equanimity and wisdom on the part of the Grenadian revolutionaries and serenity in the reaction and conduct of the international progressive movement can still save the process.

No steps should be taken which could aid imperialism in its plans.

In Grenada there are many doctors, teachers, technicians in various fields and hundreds of Cuban construction workers helping out in vital services for the people and working on key projects for economic development.

Although we feel very bitter about the events, we will not rush to take any steps with regard to our technical and economic cooperation, since that could affect basic services and vital economic interests of the people of Grenada, for whom we have sincere and deep feelings of admiration and affection.

After yesterdays tragic outcome, we will closely follow the course of events; we will adhere strictly to the principle of not interfering in Grenada’s internal affairs; and, above all, we will take into account the interests of the Grenadian people as to economic and technical cooperation, if such cooperation is possible in the new situation. However, our political relations with the new leaders of Grenada will have to undergo profound and serious analysis.

Nonetheless, if the revolutionary process in Grenada is saved, we will do everything we can to help.

We only hope that the tragic events which have taken place will cause all revolutionaries in Grenada and the rest of the world to reflect deeply and that the concept that no crime can be committed in the name of revolution and freedom will prevail.

October 20, 1983

One Response to Cuban Statement on Events of October 19, 1983 – 10/20/1983

  1. Pingback: HISTORY: Forward Ever, Backward Never: Remembering Maurice Bishop | Neo-Griot

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