[The following is based on an Associated Press story dated August 24, 1997.]
ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada -- Sir Eric Gairy, the authoritarian leader who served as Grenada's prime minister for 12 years, died recently at his home in southern Grenada. He was 75.
According to a spokesman, Gairy died Saturday, August 23 in Grand Anse of undisclosed cause. Gairy suffered a stroke last year; he also had diabetes and glaucoma.
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.
As his years in power lengthened, he responded to growing dissent with repression and restrictions on organized labor and the media.
But alongside his political activities, Gairy took a strong interest in UFOs. In the late 1970s, he sponsored an effort to convene hearings on the UFO issue at the United Nations.
Gairy left Grenada for New York City to attend UFO talks at the United Nations 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. Gairy is therefore the only political ruler known to have been overthrown while pursing an interest in UFOs.
The U.N.'s official UFO inquiry was tabled a short time later and has never been revived.
Maurice Bishop was assassinated, along with 10 other people, on Oct. 19, 1983. Six days later, U.S. Marines and paratroopers 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 had founded in 1954. But his party lost elections in 1984, 1990 and 1995. On June 7, 1996, he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in Venezuela.
Grenada's current Prime Minister Keith Mitchell said Gairy was to be given a state funeral.
Original file name: CNI - Grenada.Eric Gairy
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