A hard-hitting report on the ruling family of the former British colony of Antigua.
"From Jamaica east to Puerto Rico and down...to South America,'' writes former Atlanta Constitution reporter Coram, "there is no country so corrupt as Antigua.'' Coram's candid account, scrupulously researched, focuses on the excesses of Antiguan Prime Minister Vere Cornwall Bird and his sons, who run the island nation like feudal lords, dispensing favors, harboring criminals (such as Robert Vesco), arranging weapons shipments to South Africa and the Medellin drug cartel. Bird came to prominence during colonial days as a labor leader who confronted the ruling sugar barons and united the workers in a series of strikes. With this constituency, it was only natural that he assume power when Antiguan independence came in 1981. In subsequent years, Bird and his sons have tightened their grip on the island, retaining popularity despite scandals involving a multimillion-dollar renovation of the airport, the transshipment of arms, and the peddling of hotel licenses. It's only recently that the dynasty has shown signs of crumbling, as the sons snipe at one another, rivals for their 80-year-old father's mantle. According to Coram, anarchy threatens and no politician seems capable of filling the impending void. But the author's picture isn't unrelievedly gloomy: He brightens his text with irony-laced anecdotes concerning such matters as the attempt of a group of self-proclaimed Italian "aristocrats'' to set up a sovereign state on Barbuda, Antigua's sister island. (Although Coram's subtitle indicates a strong tie between U.S. policy and Antigua's moral rot, the actual linkage seems more a matter of a cold war willingness to overlook the Birds' immorality in order to ensure the support of an anti-Communist ally.)
A perceptive portrait of an island society and its leaders, marred only slightly by obvious generalities about the problems facing tourist-based Caribbean economies.