By Hudson George
Following a particular political ideology as the norm for Grenada is a waste of time, similar to the old traditional belief that producing large amounts of agriculture products will make the economy grow and the nation will prosper. However, it is no hidden secret that the majority of Grenadians are comfortable with the present government’s decision to join ALBA.
Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers
As a small country in the Caribbean Basin, Grenada cannot survive economically on its own without any assistance from richer nations. For example, Canada, the US and Mexico form the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) as their trading bloc. However, the Caribbean, Central and South American countries are not part of NAFTA. And while old colonial Britain is a member of the European Union (EU); therefore, those former British colonies have no other choice but to look somewhere else to find a trading bloc.
The late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela created ALBA as an alternative to NAFTA and some of the English-speaking Caribbean countries are members of ALBA through the invitation of the Chavez-led government. On the other hand, Grenada, which is also a former British colony just 87 miles north of Venezuela, was not a member of ALBA until just recently. The Keith Mitchell government signed on as the newest member at a recently held summit in Cuba. According to news reports coming from the Spice Isle, Grenada will be a full member in a month’s time, when all the paperwork is done.
However, it is no hidden secret why Grenada as an independent country took so long to join ALBA, even though Grenadians are experiencing economic hard times, due to two major hurricanes and a global recession. However, based on Grenada’s past political history during the Maurice Bishop-led people’s revolution that was part of the Cold War era between the US, Russia and Cuba, some Grenadian politicians are nervous that it might upset the US if they advocate for Grenada to join ALBA.
In addition, with Hugo Chavez’s anti-American policy that is still popular among Venezuelan voters, it is obvious why the former NDC government led by Tillman Thomas refused to be a part of ALBA. And even though Mr Thomas associated himself with left wing political activists and politicians to defeat the Keith Mitchell NNP in the 2008 general election, his political loyalty to the US never wavered. Mr Thomas is not a practical politician as Dr Mitchell.
In addition, we can say that all leaders who governed Grenada after the people’s revolution find themselves obligated to please the US administration, due to fact that the US invaded Grenada and restored the traditional democratic system of government. However, some of those leaders understand the fact that they must be non aligned if they want to be successful and serve the people‘s interest. They realise that the US will not give Grenada enough financial aid and technical assistance as most Grenadians had expected after the invasion.
However, after the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) crumbled and democracy was restored in the tri-island state and the interim period ended, the Herbert Blaize NNP was elected to govern the country. Blaize’s NNP government was very much pro-America and anti-Cuba because the Cold War was still affecting Grenada politics; and the Grenadian people were very much confused about the power struggle and bloodshed that took place between the Maurice Bishop and Bernard Coard warring factions within the PRG.
During the course of Blaize’s NNP five-year administration, conflicts occurred between Blaize and some of his elected members of parliament. Blaize prorogued parliament to stay in office and he died during that period. Blaize’s successor Ben Jones finished the term and the Nicolas Braithwaite-led NDC party won the election. The NDC stayed on a similar political course as the former Blaize NNP, trying to please the US administration without rocking the political boat, while the Grenadian people’s well-being was compromised by the political elites.
The NDC government led by Braithwaite and later on by George Brizan suffered the same political fate as the Blaize and Ben Jones NNP. The NDC was defeated by Dr Keith Mitchell’s NNP in the general election. When Mitchell took office he made a sort of political shift and portrayed himself as a practical leader who recognised the needs of the people. Mitchell opened up relationships with Cuba. Fidel Castro was invited to visit Grenada. Castro visited Grenada and received the biggest welcome from the Grenadian people to a foreign leader. From then on, Cuba has been helping Grenada in health and education.
Now that Mitchell’s NNP is back in office after defeating the Thomas NDC government in the 2012 election, Mitchell seems to be making another practical decision by joining ALBA. He realises that Grenada needs financial assistance and cheaper oil and gas for local consumption. Therefore, if Venezuela is willing to help Grenada as Cuba is doing, the Grenadian people will be happy with Dr Mitchell’s decision to join ALBA.
Basically, Grenada is too small and underdeveloped to play big power politics. Grenada needs a practical leader that is willing to seek the best interest for the Grenadian people. Presently, Grenada is excluded from NAFTA and the only alternative is to join ALBA in the interest of the Grenadian people.