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Michael Manley

The Rght. Hon. Michael Manley
First Term:1972 to 1980
Second Term:1989 to 1992
Predecessor:Hugh Shearer
Successors:Edward Seaga, Percival Patterson
Date of Birth:December 10, 1924
Place of Birth:Jamaica
Political Party:People's National Party

Jamaica's fifth Prime Minister. Served two terms, 1972 to 1980 and 1989 to 1992.

Son of Prime Minister Norman Manley, Michael inherited the leadership of the Jamacian People's National Party upon his father's death in 1969.

Manley soundly beat the unpopular incumbent Prime Minister Hugh Shearer in the election of 1972 after running on a platform of promising to curb Jamaica's worsening poverty situtation.

An ardent socialist, upon assuming office Manley instituted a series of harsh economic reforms that yielded mixed success. Though he was a light-skinned Jamaican from an elite family, he was able to maintain a close relationship with the country's black majority, and projected a public image of being a casual, friendly leader. Unlike his father, who had a reputation for being uptight and businesslike, the younger Manley rarely wore suits, and often mingled with the people.

Manley was also a close friend of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and helped improve relations between the two island nations.

Manley was also one of the leaders who helped create Jamaica's infamous political culture of violence. To ensure public support and electoral success, Manley's PNP party actively supported and funded many of Jamaica's vicious street gangs. Manley was not alone in these actions however, and Jamaica's other party, the Jamaican Labour Party, under the leadership of Edward Seaga was also an active participant in the move to politicize Jamaican street violence.

The inevitable result of these actions came in the 1980 elections. The rival gangs armed by the two parties fought viciously to ensure victory for their respective political masters. As a result, the elections were extremely corrupt, with widespread voter intimidation, riots, and gunplay. Nearly 1000 Jamaicans were killed in the chaos.

Edward Seaga emerged the victor, and became Jamaica's next Prime Minister. As Leader of the Opposition Manley became an outspoken critic of the new conservative administration, especially Seaga's warm relationship with American President Ronald Reagan. After Seaga committed Jamaican troops to Reagan's invasion of Grenada in 1983, Manley vowed that he and his party would boycott the next election. Manley held true on his threat, and needless to say, Seaga was easily re-elected.

By 1989 Manley had softened his hard-line socialist rhetoric, and in the next election he campaigned on a more moderate platform. Seaga's administration had fallen out of favor, and the PNP was soundly re-elected.

Manley's second term was short, and largely uneventful. In 1992, citing health reasons he stepped down as Prime Minister and PNP leader. His Deputy Prime Minister, Percival Patterson, assumed both offices.

Michael Manley died on March 6, 1997, the same day as another controversial Caribbean socialist, Cheddi Jagan of Guyana.