TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: The 1990 Attempted Coup

In 1990, Trinidad and Tobago faced a coup attempt by Yasin Abu Bakr, head of Jamaat al Muslimeen. Jamaat al Muslimeen grew out of political and revolutionary Islam, with a focus on liberation and equality for Afro-Trinbagoans. While it’s not related directly to the Nation of Islam in the US, there definitely are parallels.

Jamaat al Muslimeen came to prominence in the 80s with an anti-drug and anti-mob vigilante campaign. However, in the late 80s, Trinidad and Tobago faced serious economic and social hardship from a collapse in oil prices, with government austerity measures created widespread discontent.

This discontent was what Jamaat al Muslimeen gave as one of their reasons for the coup attempt, which involved attacks on police stations, and taking broadcasters and Parliamentarians hostage. The attempt failed, but 24 people were killed, and the Prime Minister was shot, but survived.

Here’s a slightly overwrought look back at 1990, but it gives a good overview of the attempt, and powerful interviews with the hostages.

In the above video, the hostages, particularly the Parliamentarians, express their surprise about the lack of popular groundswell against Abu Bakr and general ambivalence about the coup. This report from 1991 really highlights the disaffection against the government at the time:

However, after the coup attempt, political life more or less went back to normal in Trinidad and Tobago. Abu Bakr spent a few years in jail, and is still engaged in Trinidadian politics and public life – sometimes community focused, sometimes in … spicier ways.

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