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Bernard Coard

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Winston Bernard Coard (born August 10, 1944) was a Grenadian politician who was part of the coup d'état that overthrew Maurice Bishop's government in 1983.

He was deposed by the United States Military in an invasion dubbed "Operation Urgent Fury."

Contents

Education

After completing secondary school, Coard moved to the United States, where he studied sociology and economics at Brandeis University, where he joined the Communist Party USA. In 1967 he moved to the United Kingdom, where he worked for two years as a teacher in London.

Early relationship with Maurice Bishop

Born in Victoria, Coard first met Bishop when they were studying together at the Grenada Boy's Secondary School. Interested in the left wing politics which he shared with Bishop from an early age, the two became friends, and in 1962, they joined together to found the Grenada Assembly of Youth After Truth. Twice per month Bishop and Coard would lead political debates in St. George's Central Market Place. He also ran several youth organisations in South London.

At the University of Sussex he studied political economy. During his time as a student at Sussex, he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. After completing his doctorate, he moved back to the Caribbean, working as a lecturer at the Jamaican campus of the University of the West Indies. During his stay in Jamaica, he joined the Worker's Liberation League. Coard even helped draft the manifesto of the League. He also worked as a visiting lecturer at the Institute of International Relations from 1972 to 1974.

Coard published How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System in 1971.

In 1976 Coard returned to Grenada, soon becoming active in Grenadian politics. Soon after returning home, he joined the New Jewel Movement, his childhood friend's left wing organisation. He was to run for the seat of St. George's in the upcoming elections.

Eric Gairy

The 1976 elections in Grenada were highly suspect, and accusations that the leader of the Grenada United Labour Party, Eric Gairy, had ensured that all election officials were GULP party members, and that the ballots had been tampered with. Though Coard won the seat he was running for, the NJM did not win the elections overall, and Maurice Bishop became the head of the opposition.

When Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet sent officers to train the Grenadian police and army on how to deal with civil unrest at Gairy's request, there was public outcry against the GULP leader.

In response to this, Bernard Coard and Maurice Bishop began to develop links with Fidel Castro's government in Cuba.

Aside from his support from Pinochet, Eric Gairy's mental state began to raise concerns amongst the Grenadian population. During a speech to the United Nations in October 1977, Gairy urged the UN to establish an Agency for Psychic Research into Unidentified Flying Objects and the Bermuda Triangle. He also asked that 1978 be made the Year of the UFO.

Taking power

Rumours began to spread that Gairy was going to use his Mongoose Gang to kill off the New Jewel Movement's leaders, including Coard, during an overseas trip by Gairy. Deciding to take action before this could happen, the NJM took over Grenada's radio station on March 13, 1979. Before long, they had control of the entire island.

Influenced by Marxists such as Daniel Ortega, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Bishop's NJM began to set up Worker's Councils across Grenada. Aid from the Soviet Union and Cuba allowed the NJM to build an international airport with a 10,000 foot runway in St. George's. In 1980, Coard was the head of a delegation to Moscow to formalise relations with the Soviet Union.

He also chaired the Organising Committee that decided on every day matters for the NJM.

The coup d'état

Bernard Coard was acting as Bishop's Minister of Finance, Trade and Industry, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister. In an attempt to keep up a good relationship with the US, Bishop allowed private enterprise to continue in Grenada, something Coard, a Marxist who favoured a Soviet Union style command economy, disagreed strongly with.

Among other things, Coard also disagreed with Bishop's ideas on grassroots democracy.

Deciding that action needed to be taken to remove Maurice Bishop from power, Coard enlisted the support of General Hudson Austin and thus the army, and on October 19, 1983, overthrew the government. He had Bishop and seven of Bishop's supporters rounded up and shot in the basketball court at Fort Rupert.

Austin proclaimed himself head of the "Revolutionary Military Council" and became the nation's new head of government. Governor General Paul Scoon was detained.

The United States took advantage of the post-coup chaos to launch Operation Urgent Fury on October 25, an invasion to depose Coard, a Marxist with even more extreme views than Bishop.

Just after Marines landed in Grenada, Coard, along with his wife Phyllis, Selwyn Strachan, John Ventour, Liam James and Keith Roberts were arrested.

Deposed

They were tried in August 1986, and Bernard Coard was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment in 1991. He is serving his sentence in Richmond Hill Prison, located near his hometown of Victoria. In September 2004, the prison in which he was held was damaged by Hurricane Ivan and many inmates took the opportunity to flee, but Coard chose not to escape.

Bernard Coard has three children, Sola Coard (born 1971), Abiola Coard (born 1972) and Neto Coard (born 1979).

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