LOS ANGELES - Charles A. Gillespie Jr., a career diplomat who opened the first US Embassy in Grenada and later served as ambassador to Colombia and Chile, died of cancer Friday at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif. He was 72.
Mr. Gillespie was a specialist in Caribbean and Latin American affairs during a three-decade career in foreign service. He was often assigned to countries in turmoil, including Grenada during the US invasion in 1983 and Colombia from 1985 to 1988, during a crackdown on cocaine trafficking. In the latter posting, he received daily death threats from members of the Colombian crime syndicate.
His last ambassadorial assignment, from 1988 to 1991, coincided with the last years of the Augusto Pinochet regime in Chile.
A native of Long Beach, Calif., Mr. Gillespie graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, and served in Europe in the Army before beginning his US Foreign Service career in 1965 as regional security officer at the US Embassy in Manila.
From 1983 to 1985 he was deputy assistant secretary of state for the Caribbean and deputy for operations in the State Department.
He was involved in planning the October 1983 invasion of Grenada by the United Nations and several other nations that resulted in the overthrow of a military government that had executed Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. About 100 people, including 19 members of US forces, were killed in the siege, the first major military operation by the United States since the Vietnam War.