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Grenada’s economy, which suffered from the effects of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the global economic crisis in 2008, saw modest growth in 2011 due to expansion of the construction and tourism industries. Meanwhile, the country’s political opposition charged that a proposed Financial Intelligence Unit Bill would be used by Prime Minister Tillman Thomas’ administration to engage in politically motivated investigations of financial crimes.
Grenada gained independence from Britain in 1974. Maurice Bishop’s Marxist New Jewel Movement seized power in 1979, creating the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG). In 1983, Bishop was murdered by New Jewel hard-liners Bernard Coard and Hudson Austin, who took control of the country. However, a joint U.S.-Caribbean military intervention quickly removed the PRG and set the country on a path toward new elections. In 1986, Coard and 18 others were sentenced to death; subsequently, 2 of the 19 were pardoned, and the rest—who became known as the Grenada 17—had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Between 2006 and 2009, all of the members of the Grenada 17 had their sentences reduced from life imprisonment to lesser terms after a ruling on the constitutionality of their sentences was handed down by Grenada’s highest court, the London-based Privy Council. The last prisoners were released in September 2009.
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of the New National Party (NNP) ruled Grenada from 1995 to 2008, when his party lost parliamentary elections to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). The NDC captured 11 seats in the 15-member House of Representatives, while the NNP won the remaining 4 seats. Tillman Thomas, the NDC leader, was sworn in as prime minister in July 2008.
While Grenada continues to struggle with the effects of the global financial crisis and the impact of Hurricane Ivan, which devasted the country in 2004, the country enjoys greater economic stability than some of its neighboring countries. The economy enjoyed modest growth in 2011 as a financial stimulus provided incentives for the tourism and construction industries.
Grenada concluded a maritime demarcation treaty with Trinidad in April 2010, which may facilitate private investment in oil exploration. However, Grenada’s link with foreign oil exploration investors remains a contentious issue. In August 2010, a state appellate court in the United States cleared former deputy prime minister Gregory Bowen of any wrongdoing in the 2005 cancellation of American investor Jack Grynberg’s oil exploration contract. Bowen’s legal costs were assumed by Global Petroleum Group (GPG), a Russian company that was granted oil exploration rights in 2005 after the termination of Grynberg’s contract. Oil exploration by GPG has stalled as the Thomas administration revisits the GPG deal.
Grenada is an electoral democracy. The 2008 parliamentary elections were considered generally free and fair, although there were allegations of voter-list manipulation. The bicameral Parliament consists of the directly elected, 15-seat House of Representatives, whose members serve five-year terms, and the 13-seat Senate, to which the prime minister appoints 10 members and the opposition leader appoints 3 members. The prime minister is typically the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives and is appointed by the governor-general, who represents the British monarch as head of state. Grenada’s main political parties are the NDC, the NNP, the Grenada United Labor Party, and the People’s Labor Movement.
Despite the adoption of anticorruption legislation in 2007, corruption remains a serious political issue in Grenada. In August 2010, the NDC announced plans to request a special prosecutor to investigate multiple allegations of corruption in the Keith Mitchell administration, including accusations of corruption in relation to the decision to switch Grenada’s diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China. In 2011, a Financial Intelligence Unit Bill was introduced that would expand the role of the existing Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which investigates financial crimes, move it from a department within the police force to a branch of government, and give legal protection from lawsuits to the director of the unit. Opposition politicians expressed serious concern that the bill would limit the independence of the FIU and be used to engage in politically motivated investigations. The bill had not been adopted by year’s end.
The right to free expression is generally respected. The media, including three weekly newspapers and several other publications, are independent and freely criticize the government. A private corporation, with a minority stake owned by the government, operates the principal radio and television stations. There are also nine privately owned radio stations, one privately owned television station, and a privately owned cable company. Access to the internet is unrestricted.
Citizens of Grenada generally enjoy the free exercise of religious beliefs, and there are no official restrictions on academic freedom.
Constitutional guarantees regarding freedoms of assembly and association are respected. Grenada has a robust civil society that participates actively in domestic and international discussions, although limited resources hamper its effectiveness. Workers have the right to strike and to organize and bargain collectively, though employers are not legally bound to recognize a union of their employees if the majority of the workers are not unionized. All unions belong to the government-subsidized Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC).
The independence and authority of Grenada’s judiciary is generally respected by the Royal Grenada Police Force. Grenada is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States court system and a charter member of the Caribbean Court of Justice, but the country still relies on the Privy Council in London as its final court of appeal. Detainees and defendants are guaranteed a range of legal rights, which the government respects in practice. However, a lack of judges and facilities has led to a backlog of six months to one year for cases involving serious offenses. The Grenada 17 case was repeatedly criticized for perceived political manipulation by the government, and Amnesty International classified the group as political prisoners. Grenada’s prisons are significantly overcrowded with occupancy level at 195 percent.
While women are represented in the government, they comprise 23 percent of the Senate and only 13 percent of the lower house following 2008 elections. Women generally earn less than men for equal work. New domestic violence legislation was introduced in 2010; however, most instances of abuse go unreported or are settled out of court. Sexual minorities remain a target of discrimination.