On 13 March 1979, whilst Gairy was out of the country, the NJM launched a bloodless coup which removed Gairy, suspended the constitution, and established a People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop who declared himself Prime Minister. His Marxist–Leninist government established close ties with Cuba, Nicaragua, and other communist bloc countries. All political parties except for the New Jewel Movement were banned and no elections were held during the four years of PRG rule.
Invasion by the United States (1983):
Some years later a dispute developed between Bishop and certain high-ranking members of the NJM. Though Bishop cooperated with Cuba and the USSR on various trade and foreign policy issues, he sought to maintain a “non-aligned” status. Bishop had been taking his time making Grenada wholly socialist, simultaneously encouraging private-sector development in an attempt to make the island a popular tourist destination. Hardline Marxist party members, including communist Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, deemed Bishop insufficiently revolutionary and demanded that he either step down or enter into a power-sharing arrangement.
On 16 October 1983 Bernard Coard and his wife, Phyllis, backed by the Grenadian Army, led a coup against the government of Maurice Bishop and placed Bishop under house arrest. These actions led to street demonstrations in various parts of the island because Bishop had widespread support from the population. Because Bishop was a widely popular leader, he was freed by impassioned supporters who marched en masse on his guarded residence from a rally in the capital’s central square. Bishop then led the crowd to the island’s military headquarters to reassert his power. Grenadian soldiers were dispatched in armored vehicles by the Coard faction to retake the fort. A confrontation between soldiers and civilians at the fort ended in gunfire and panic. Three soldiers and at least eight civilians died in the tumult that also injured 100 others, a school-sponsored study later found. When the initial shooting ended with Bishop’s surrender, he and seven of his closest supporters were taken prisoner and executed by a firing squad of soldiers. Besides Bishop, the group included three of his cabinet ministers, a trade union leader and three service-industry workers.
After the execution of Bishop, the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) formed a Military-Marxist government with General Hudson Austin as chairman. The army declared a four-day total curfew, during which anyone leaving their home without approval would be shot on sight.
The overthrow of a moderately socialist government by one which was strongly pro-communist concerned the administration of US President Ronald Reagan. Reagan also claimed that particularly worrying was the presence of Cuban construction workers and military personnel building a 10,000-foot (3,000 m) airstrip on Grenada. Bishop had stated the purpose of the airstrip was to allow commercial jets to land, but some US military analysts argued that the only reason for constructing such a long and reinforced runway was so that it could be used by heavy military transport planes. The contractors, American and European companies, and the EEC, which provided partial funding, all claimed the airstrip did not have military capabilities. Reagan claimed that Cuba, under the direction of the Soviet Union, would use Grenada as a refuelling stop for Cuban and Soviet airplanes loaded with weapons destined for Central American communist insurgents.