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New Left Review I/141, September-October 1983


Fred Halliday

Cold War in the Caribbean

Amidst the general worsening of East-West relations, and the sharply antagonistic policy of the usa towards the Third World, a new political situation has emerged in the Caribbean. The region itself has a population of around twenty-nine millions, and comprises thirteen independent island states, numerous European and American colonies, and three mainland enclaves that are separated from the Spanish-speaking continent by reason of history and geography. [1] The independent island states are: in the north, Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic; the Leeward Islands of Antigua and Barbuda, and St Kitts and Nevis; the Windward Islands of Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent, Barbados, and Grenada; Trinidad and Tobago. The three circum-Caribbean states, which are linked to the islands rather than to the mainland by linguistic bonds, are Belize, Surinam and Guyana. Much of the information contained in this article was gathered during a visit to Grenada and Barbados in June 1983. I would particularly like to thank the following for help and information given in this connection: Samori Marksman of the Caribbean People’s Alliance, and editor of Caribbean Perspective (PO Box 2194, Brooklyn, New York 11202, USA); Rickey Singh, editor of Caribbean Contact (PO Box 616, Bridgetown, Barbados); and Rod Prince, of Latin American Newsletters (91–93 Charterhouse Street, London EC1M 6LN). Historically, the Caribbean islands, and particularly those speaking English, Dutch and French, have felt distinct from the conflicts of Central and South America. Yet many of the islands and Central American states underwent a common subjection to us military occupation earlier in this century, and today, by reason of us pressure and revolutionary co-operation alike, the Caribbean is being to a considerable degree drawn into the conflicts that are raging in Central America itself. One sign of this new situation has been the attempt by Reagan to evolve an overt combined military-economic approach to the area, represented by a series of air and naval manoeuvres held since his accession to office, and by the Caribbean Basin Initiative announced in October 1981. The former serves to menace the independent states of the region, the latter to provide economic incentives to the capitalist states of the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean region through financial aid and tariff reductions. Another index has been the increase of covert activity in the region by the revamped cia—involving military activity in Central America, harassment of Cuba and Grenada, the islands defying us control, and threats against Surinam. But this imperialist attack from without coincides with an aggravated situation within the states of the Caribbean, brought on by the impact of world recession and the spread of new forms of popular resistance in states long supposed to be characterized by tranquil social and political conditions. The ideology of the Caribbean, of tourist paradise, calypso colonies and rum islands, is an index of the metropolitan image of the region and the subordinate status long allocated to it. Yet, both historically and in the contemporary period, it is profoundly false in the manner in which it masks the conflicts that endure, and persistently erupt, within these societies.

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