ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada (AP) -- Sir Eric Gairy, the authoritarian leader who
served as Grenada's prime minister for 12 years, has died at his home in
southern Grenada. He was 75.
Gairy died Saturday in Grand Anse, said Jerry Romain, a leader of Gairy's
political party. The cause of death wasn't disclosed. Gairy suffered a stroke
last year; he also had diabetes and glaucoma.
State-run radio played somber music to mark Gairy's death, and Prime
Minister Keith Mitchell said a state funeral was being planned.
"We have lost a true statesman, a person who genuinely loved poor people,"
Gairy dominated politics on this Caribbean island for three decades, and
became Grenada's first prime minister after independence from Britain in 1974.
He was accused of numerous human rights abuses, and a paramilitary band of
thugs known as the "Mongoose Gang" terrorized his opponents.
First as the island's de facto ruler and then as prime minister, Gairy
personally approved government spending and hiring decisions and granted
contracts to his supporters. As his years in power lengthened, he responded to
growing dissent with repression and restrictions on organized labor and the
Gairy took an interest in UFOs, once urging the United Nations to
investigate them. He left Grenada for talks at the United Nations on UFOs on
March 12, 1979. The next day, Maurice Bishop, of the opposition New Jewel
Movement, took control of Grenada in a coup.
The United States granted Gairy refuge, but quickly recognized the new
People's Revolutionary Government.
Bishop was assassinated, along with 10 other people, on Oct. 19, 1983. Six
days later, U.S. Marines and paratroopers, along with a small regional force,
invaded the island and ousted a Marxist junta that had seized power.
Gairy returned home and campaigned for his Grenada United Labor Party, which
he founded in 1954. He told supporters he was a different man from the
high-living "Uncle Gairy" who ran the island before the coup.
But his party lost elections in 1984, 1990 and 1995. On June 7, 1996, he
suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in Venezuela.
Gairy and his wife, Cynthia, were separated. His two daughters recently won
control of his estate because of his deteriorated physical and mental
condition. One of his daughters, Marcelle Gairy of London, serves as Grenada's