On Human Rights, Memory, and Finding a Disappeared Prime Minister in Grenada

The 1983 US invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada has to be considered one of the most quixotic examples of imperialism and global politics during the Cold War. While the invasion was brief, hundreds were wounded or killed in the fighting. Although the country has seen relative political stability since the internationally-condemned US invasion, reminders of the invasion and its long-term impacts on national identity and public memory are still visible. In the early 2000s, Grenada formed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and in 2006, the commission submitted its report, recommending retrials for the so-called “Grenada-17” who were convicted for the assassination of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, whose murder sparked the invasion. The report also called on Grenada to find the bodies of those murdered or disappeared, including Bishop’s body, whose remains were never found after his assassination.

That issue has come to the surface again, as Grenada has begun another attempt to locate Bishop’s remains:

Grenada’s government wants the mystery solved as a way of healing the national psyche […] “It’s important for all concerned to bring some closure to this chapter in Grenada’s history,” Finance Minister Nazim Burke said in his office, just down a winding road from the 17th century fort where the 39-year-old Bishop and the others, including his pregnant mistress, were executed by Grenadian soldiers following a coup by a radical faction of Bishop’s Cuba-backed party.

The story is a fascinating one, and gets at the heart of how the violations of human rights, political murders, and forced “disappearances” of bodies can still resonate within societies and national politics (which is allegedly exactly what the US had hoped to prevent by hiding Bishop’s remains) decades after the actual events themselves.

About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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