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Guyana - Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of William B. Mitchell, William A. Bibbiani, Carole E. DuPre, Diane Fairbank, Janice H. Hopper, Ransford W. Palmer, Theodore L. Stoddard, and Robert L. Wood, who wrote the 1969 first edition of Guyana: A Country Study. The present volume incorporates portions of their work.

The authors are grateful to individuals in various government agencies and private institutions who gave of their time, research materials, and expertise in the production of this book. These individuals include Ralph K. Benesch, who oversees the Country Studies/Area Handbook Program for the Department of the Army. None of these individuals, however, is in any way responsible for the work of the authors.

The authors also would like to thank those people who contributed directly to the preparation of the manuscript. They include Sandra W. Meditz, who reviewed drafts, provided valuable advice on all aspects of production, and conducted liaison with the sponsoring agency; Marilyn L. Majeska, who reviewed editing and managed production; and Barbara Edgerton and Izella Watson, who did the word processing. In addition, Vincent Ercolano and Richard Kolladge edited the chapters; Catherine Schwartzstein performed the final prepublication editorial review; Joan C. Cook compiled the index; and Malinda B. Neale and Linda Peterson of the Library of Congress Printing and Processing Section performed the phototypesetting, under the supervision of Peggy Pixley.

Thanks also go to David P. Cabitto, who provided valuable graphics support and who, along with the firm of Greenhorne and O'Mara, prepared the maps; and to Wayne Horne, who did the cover art and chapter illustrations. Finally, the authors acknowledge the generosity of the individuals and the public and private agencies who allowed their photographs to be used in this study.

Guyana - Preface

Like its predecessor, this study is an attempt to examine objectively and concisely the dominant historical, social, economic, political, and military aspects of contemporary Guyana and Belize. Sources of information included scholarly books, journals, monographs, official reports of governments and international organizations, and numerous periodicals. To the extent possible, place-names follow the system adopted by the United States Board on Geographic Names. Measurements are given in the metric system.

The body of the text reflects information available as of January 1992. Certain other portions of the text, however, have been updated. The <> Introduction discusses significant events that have occurred since the completion of research. A Bibliography lists published sources thought to be particularly helpful to the reader.

Guyana - Introduction

GUYANA AND BELIZE belie their geographic location. Although both are located on the mainland of the Americas, they more closely resemble the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean than they do their Latin American neighbors. Christopher Columbus passed near the coasts of both countries, but later Spanish explorers and settlers ignored the areas because they lacked the mineral riches that brought the Spanish to the New World. The wealth of both areas would prove to be not gold but agriculture. By the end of the eighteenth century, the indigenous populations of both regions had been greatly reduced or driven to remote areas, and the coastal lands held growing populations of British or Dutch plantation owners. Plantation work was labor intensive, and initially African slaves, then other ethnic groups, were imported to work the land. As the colonies expanded economically, Britain claimed formal sovereignty, but title to each colony remained contested.

The twentieth century saw a shift in political power from the old plantocracy to a new nonwhite middle class, a rising self- consciousness among the various ethnic groups, and a slow evolution toward independence. Formal ties to Britain eventually were broken, but, like their anglophone Caribbean neighbors, Guyana and Belize today still strongly bear the mark of their colonial heritage. They retain their British institutions, their use of the English language, their economies based on agriculture, and their societies composed of a complex ethnic mix often divided along racial lines.

Unlike the great civilizations of Middle America that left monuments and records for archaeologists to decipher, the early societies in Guyana were relatively simple, nomadic cultures that left few traces. Early Spanish records and linguistic studies of the Caribbean reveal only a broad outline of pre-Columbian events. We do know that several centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, the Arawak moved north from Brazil to settle and farm the area along the northeast coast of South America before expanding farther north onto the Caribbean islands. Shortly before the arrival of the Europeans, the aggressive, warlike Carib pushed into the area and largely destroyed Arawak society.

Because of the warlike Carib and the region's apparent lack of gold or silver, the Spanish ignored the northeastern coast of South America. Settlement by Europeans would wait until 1616, when a group of Dutch arrived to establish a trading post. The Dutch soon realized the agricultural potential of the swampy coastal land and aggressively set out to drain the coast using a vast system of seawalls, dikes and canals. What had been swampy wasteland decades before, soon turned into thriving sugar plantations.

The development of agriculture brought rapid change to the colony. Because the plantation economy needed labor, the Dutch imported African slaves for the task. The growing economy also attracted the attention of the British, and British settlers from neighboring Caribbean islands poured into the three Dutch colonies established along the coast. By the late 1700s, the new British settlers effectively controlled the colonies. Formal control by Britain would come in 1814, when most Dutch colonies were ceded to Britain after the Napoleonic wars.

In 1838 Britain completed the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire, and the problem of obtaining cheap and plentiful labor arose anew. The planters first sought to attract Portuguese, then Chinese, workers, but both groups soon left plantation work. Concerned that the decline in labor would ruin the sugar-based economy, the planters finally contracted laborers from India to work the sugar fields. Large numbers of indentured workers poured into British Guiana in the late 1800s. Although theoretically free to return after their contract period had expired, most East Indians remained, adding a new ethnic group to the colony's mélange of Africans, Europeans, and Amerindians.

The twentieth century saw a rising consciousness among the country's ethnic groups and a struggle for political power between the new, disenfranchised, nonwhite middle class and the old plantocracy. Economic changes gave momentum to the growing call for political changes. The country saw rice production, dominated by the Indo-Guyanese (descendants of East Indians), and bauxite mining, dominated by the Afro-Guyanese (descendants of Africans), grow in importance, whereas sugar growing, controlled by the European plantation owners, declined. The British colonial administration responded to demands for reform by establishing universal suffrage in 1950 and allowing the formation of political parties.

The People's Progressive Party (PPP), the country's first political party, quickly became a formidable force. The PPP was formed by two men who would dominate Guyanese politics for decades to come: Cheddi Jagan, a Marxist Indo-Guyanese, and Linden Forbes Burnham, an Afro-Guyanese with leftist political ideas. A new constitution allowing considerable self-rule was promulgated in 1953; in elections that year the PPP, headed by Jagan, won a majority of seats in the new legislature. The new administration immediately sought legislation giving the labor unions expanded power. This legislation and the administration's leftist rhetoric frightened the British colonial authorities, who suspended the new government after only four months.

Conflict with the British was not the only problem facing the PPP. Personal rivalries between Jagan and Burnham and growing conflict between the Indo-Guyanese and the Afro-Guyanese widened into an open split. In 1957 Burnham and most of the Afro-Guyanese left the PPP and formed the rival People's National Congress (PNC). The two parties shared left-wing ideologies; the differences between them were largely based on ethnicity.

The British promulgated a new constitution in 1957. Elections in that year and in 1961 resulted in more PPP victories. Under the new constitution, considerable power resided in the hands of the governor, who was appointed by the British. The PPP administration headed by Jagan was therefore unable to implement most of its radical policy initiatives. The Marxist rhetoric, however, intensified.

Convinced that independence under a PPP administration would result in a communist takeover, the British authorities permitted and even encouraged a destabilization campaign by the opposition PNC. Antigovernment demonstrations and riots increased and in 1963 mobs destroyed parts of Georgetown, the capital. When labor unrest paralyzed the economy, British troops were called in to restore order. In the midst of the unrest the government scheduled new elections in 1964.

Voting along ethnic lines again gave the PPP the largest number of seats in the legislature. But the rival PNC, by allying itself with a small business-oriented party, was able to form a coalition government. Jagan had to be forcibly removed as prime minister, and in December 1964 Burnham assumed the post. Under the new administration, events stabilized, and independence was set for May 26, 1966.

The independent Guyana inherited by the PNC was one of the least-populated and least-developed countries in South America. Located on the northeast coast of the continent just north of the equator, the Idaho-sized country is wedged among Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname (former Dutch Guiana). More than 90 percent of the population lives within five or six kilometers of the sea. This coastal plain, constituting only 5 percent of the country's total area, was originally low swampland but was transformed by the Dutch into the country's most productive agricultural land. Inland from the coastal plain lies the white-sand belt, site of most of Guyana's mineral wealth of bauxite, gold, and diamonds. Farther inland are the interior highlands, consisting of largely uninhabited mountains and savannahs.

Guyana's ethnic mix at independence, still the same in 1993, consisted primarily of Indo-Guyanese--about half the population-- and Afro-Guyanese--slightly more than 40 percent of the total. Smaller numbers of Amerindians, Asians, and Europeans completed Guyana's ethnic mélange. More than two-thirds of the population was Christian, with significant Hindu and Muslim minorities. Established by the British, the school system has resulted in high literacy rates (more than 90 percent).

The small military, the Guyana Defence Force, existed primarily as a deterrent to Venezuela's territorial claim. Venezuela's claim to the western three-fifths of Guyana, a dispute that dated from the colonial era, was thought to have been settled by arbitration in 1899. When later evidence showed that one of the judges had been influenced to vote against Venezuela, that country declared the arbitration settlement invalid and in the 1960s aggressively pursued its territorial claim on western Guyana. This border dispute was to flare periodically after Guyana's independence.

The first years of PNC administration after independence saw Prime Minister Burnham vigorously establishing control over Guyana's political and economic life. The 1968 elections were won by the PNC, despite charges of widespread fraud and coercion of voters. As the government's control over the country's political institutions increased, Burnham began nationalizing industries and financial institutions. In 1970 Guyana was declared a "cooperative republic," and government control of all economic activity increased. The 1973 elections were considered the most undemocratic in Guyana's history, and by 1974 all organs of the state had become agencies of the ruling PNC.

In the late 1970s, a number of events increased opposition to the Burnham regime. The economy, which had grown immediately after independence, began to contract because of nationalization. In addition, in 1978 negative international attention was focused on Guyana when more than 900 members of the People's Temple of Christ led by Jim Jones committed mass murder and suicide at their community in western Guyana. As opposition to the government increased, the government responded by violence against opposition members and meetings. The authoritarian nature of the Burnham government caused the loss of both foreign and domestic supporters.

A new constitution was promulgated in 1980, shifting power from the prime minister to the new post of executive president, but the political and economic situation continued to decline. Government programs had been financed by increasing the foreign debt, but in the early 1980s, most foreign banks and lending organizations refused further loans. The quality of life deteriorated: blackouts were frequent, and shortages of rice and sugar, Guyana's two largest crops, appeared. In 1985 in the midst of this turbulence, Burnham died while undergoing throat surgery.

Vice President Hugh Desmond Hoyte became the country's new executive president. He had two stated goals: to secure political power and revitalize the economy. Establishing political control was easy. The PNC chose Hoyte as its new leader, and in the 1985 elections the PNC claimed more than 79 percent of the vote. Economic growth, however, would require concessions to foreign lenders. Hoyte therefore began to restructure the economy. An economic recovery plan was negotiated with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank allowing for new loans in exchange for free-market reforms and reversal of the Burnham administration's nationalization policies. To win favor with Western governments and financial institutions, Hoyte also moderated the previous administration's leftist tilt in international relations.

The results of economic reform were slow to appear, but by 1990 the economy began to grow again. The last legitimate date for new elections was December 1990. Sensing, however, that the PNC might be able to win a fair election (and thus regain a measure of international respect) if the economy continued to improve, the government invoked a clause in the constitution allowing elections to be postponed a year. Seeing a chance for an honest election, a group of Guyanese civic leaders created the Elections Assistance Board (EAB) to monitor the upcoming elections. The EAB appealed to the Carter Center in Atlanta for international support in its effort.

Despite threats and intimidation, in July 1991 the EAB conducted a door-to-door survey to verify voter lists. When the lists were shown to be grossly inaccurate, the Hoyte administration, under pressure from the EAB and the international community, declared a state of emergency and agreed to postpone the elections until October 1992 and implement a series of reforms suggested by the Carter Center. The reforms included appointment of a new election commissioner and agreement that the ballots be counted at polling centers in view of poll watchers instead of being taken to government centers and army bases for tallying.

The election date was finally set for October 5, 1992. Hoyte based the PNC campaign on the improving economy, which he credited to his free-market reforms. The PPP, still headed by Jagan after forty-two years, renounced its past Marxist policies and embraced elements of a free-market economy. In a reversal of decades of racial politics, Jagan attempted to downplay the country's ethnic polarization by naming an Afro-Guyanese, Sam Hinds, as his running mate.

Monitored by an international team of observers headed by United States former President Jimmy Carter, election results gave an alliance of the PPP, the smaller Working People's Alliance (WPA), and the United Force (UF) 54 percent of the vote, and the PNC, 45 percent. These results translated into thirty-two seats in the National Assembly for the PPP, thirty-one seats for the PNC, and one apiece for the WPA and the UF. Foreign observers certified the elections as "free, fair, and transparent." The PNC conceded defeat on October 7 and, after twenty-eight years, stepped down from power. Following brief consultations, the PPP formed a coalition government with the WPA and the UF (named the PPP-Civic coalition) and named Jagan executive president.

Two days of rioting and looting in Georgetown and Linden in eastern Guyana followed announcement of the election results. By the time the army and police restored order, 2 demonstrators had been killed and more than 200 injured. Many analysts attributed the violence to the fear that a PPP government would mean fewer economic benefits for the Afro-Guyanese population. Former President Carter, however, stated that the violence was localized and the looting unrelated to the voting.

In a radio broadcast on October 13, Jagan outlined the direction of the new government. He stated his intention to build a political consensus that cut across ethnic lines and to continue the privatization policies of his predecessor. Analysts speculated that the new administration would have difficulty in getting measures approved by the National Assembly and would face strong opposition from the PNC-dominated military and civil service. Election observers noted also the need to lower racial tension in a society that some characterized as one of the most racially divided they had witnessed. The motto on the Guyanese coat of arms proudly proclaims "one people, one nation, one destiny." In 1993, however, this motto remained a distant goal.

The history of preindependence Belize parallels in many ways the history of Guyana. Unlike the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Guyana, however, the Maya in Belize left majestic ruins of their civilization. Remains of the earliest settlers of the area date back at least to 2500 B.C. By 250 A.D. the classic period of Maya culture had begun; this period of city-building lasted for more than 700 years. During this time, the Maya built big ceremonial centers, practiced large-scale agriculture using irrigation, and developed writing and a sophisticated calendar. Around the tenth century, evidence suggests that the great cities were abandoned, perhaps because of increased warfare among the city-states, revolt of the peasants against the priestly class, overexploitation of the environment, or a combination of these and other factors. Even though the great ceremonial centers were left to decay, the Maya continued to inhabit the region until the arrival of the Europeans.

The first European settlers in the area were not Spanish but English. Although Christopher Columbus passed through the area on his fourth voyage to the Americas in 1502, Spanish explorers and settlers ignored the region because it lacked gold. English pirates roaming the Caribbean in the seventeenth century began establishing small camps near the Belize River to cut logwood, from which a black dye was extracted. Logwood extraction proved more profitable than piracy, and the English settlements on the Caribbean coast grew.

The Spanish sent expeditions throughout the eighteenth century to dislodge the British settlers. The British were repeatedly forced to evacuate but returned shortly after each attack. Several treaties in the late 1700s recognized the British settlers' right to extract logwood but confirmed Spanish sovereignty over the region, a concession that later would lead to a territorial dispute.

The colony continued to grow throughout the nineteenth century. Logwood extraction was replaced by mahogany cutting as the settlement's principal economic activity, and slaves were introduced to increase production. By the time emancipation was completed in 1838, the settlement had evolved into a plantation society with a small number of European landowners and a large population of slaves from Africa.

In the nineteenth century, the colony was also a magnet for dispossessed groups throughout the region. The Garifuna, an Afro-indigenous people descended from the Carib Indians and slaves of the Eastern Caribbean, found refuge in the area in the early 1800s. In the mid- and late 1800s, large numbers of Maya, many of whom had intermarried with or become culturally assimilated to the Spanish-speaking population of Central America, fled fighting in the Yucatán or forced labor in Guatemala and settled in the colony.

The nineteenth century also saw the development of formal government. As early as 1765, a common law system for the settlers was formalized, and a superintendent was named in 1794. A rudimentary legislature began meeting in the early 1800s, and in 1854 the British produced a constitution and formally established the colony of British Honduras in 1862. Political power in the colony remained firmly in the hands of the old settler elite, however; blacks working the plantations were disenfranchised, and smaller populations of smallholder Garifuna and Maya lived on the periphery of society.

The early 1900s were a period of political and social change. Nonwhite groups, particularly an emerging black middle class, began to agitate for the vote and political power. Mahogany production slowed, and the colony began to depend on sugar for revenue. Additional immigrants from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries drifted in and settled among the rural Maya. Creoles, as the English-speaking blacks called themselves, began to participate in colonial politics.

The Great Depression of the 1930s greatly accelerated the pace of change. Mahogany exports virtually collapsed, and the colonial officials responded with measures designed primarily to protect the interests of the plantation owners. As a result, widespread labor disturbances broke out. Pressured by persistent labor unrest, the government eventually legalized trade unions in 1941. The unions soon broadened their demands to include political reform, and in 1950 the first and most durable political party, the People's United Party (PUP), was formed with strong backing from the labor movement. Universal suffrage was granted to literate adults in 1954, and by the 1960s the colony was being prepared for independence.

The final obstacle to independence proved to be not internal problems or resistance from the colonial power, but an unresolved territorial claim over all of Belize by neighboring Guatemala. The dispute dated to treaties signed in the 1700s, in which Britain agreed to Spanish sovereignty over the region. Guatemala later claimed it had inherited Spanish sovereignty over Belize. Although negotiations over the issue had occurred periodically for more than a century, the matter of sovereignty became a particularly important issue for Guatemala in the 1960s and 1970s, when it realized Britain might grant independence to Belize.

Guatemala's demand for annexation of Belize was largely fought in the international area. Realizing that Belize's small defense force of 700 was no match for Guatemala's army, the British stationed a garrison force to deter any aggression. Belize sought support for sovereignty from the United Nations, the Nonaligned Movement, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Organization of American States. First, individual states and then the international organizations themselves came to support Belize's cause. By 1980 Guatemala was completely without international support for its territorial claim, and the British granted Belize independence in 1981.

Belize at independence was a small country whose economy depended on one crop. Unlike many other newly emerging nations, however, Belize was underpopulated in the early 1990s. The country, approximately the size of Massachusetts, consists largely of tropical forest, flat in the north and with a low range of mountains in the south. Belize has traditionally depended on one crop (forest products in the 1700s and 1800s; sugar in the mid- 1900s) for its economic livelihood. A collapse in the price of sugar in the 1980s forced the government to diversify the economy. The growth of tourism and increased citrus and banana production in the 1990s made the economy less vulnerable to the price swings of a single commodity.

Ethnic diversity characterized Belizean society. The two largest groups were the Creoles, an English-speaking group either partly or wholly of African descent, and the Hispanic descendants of immigrants from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries or Hispanicized indigenous groups called Mestizos. Smaller groups included the Garifuna and the various Maya peoples. The 1980 census showed the population to be about 40 percent Creole and 33 percent Mestizo. A considerable of influx of people from Central America shifted these percentages, however, so that the 1991 census showed the Mestizos to be the larger group, a change that distanced the country from the anglophone Caribbean and made it increasingly resemble its Hispanic neighbors on the isthmus of Central America.

The British legacy included a parliamentary democracy based on the British model, a government headed by the British monarch but governed by a prime minister named by the lower house of the bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. The constitutional safeguards for citizens' rights were respected, and the two elections since independence had seen power alternate between the country's two political parties with an absence of irregularities or political violence. The last election in 1989 saw George Cadle Price, leader of the PUP, regain the position of prime minister, a post he had held at the time of independence.

In 1993 Belize faced a number of challenges. The nation endeavored to meet the needs of a growing population with only limited resources. The makeup of the population itself was changing as Belizeans became more like their Central American neighbors and less like the English-speaking Caribbean. Most analysts agreed, however, that as the twentieth century drew to a close, Belize seemed well-positioned to deal successfully with the economic and social changes confronting it.

March 3, 1993

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In the months following completion of research and writing of this book, significant political developments occurred in Belize. On May 13, 1993, the British government, saying that it felt its military presence in Belize was no longer necessary because resolution of Guatemala's long-standing territorial claim seemed imminent, announced that it would remove most of its troops from Belize within a year. On June 1, buoyed by overwhelming victories in by-elections for the Belize City Council and for a vacated parliamentary seat, Prime Minister George Price called for the governor general to dissolve the National Assembly on June 30 and hold general elections the following day, fifteen months before the mandate of his People's United Party (PUP) was due to expire. The main opposition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP) headed by Manuel Esquivel, and the newly formed National Alliance for Belizean Rights headed by veteran UDP politician Philip Goldson announced they would participate in the election. The PUP was confident of victory because the economy was growing and the opposition appeared disorganized. The PUP also claimed that recently passed legislation giving Guatemala access to the Caribbean through Belizean territorial waters had finally settled the dispute with Guatemala.

Events in neighboring Guatemala, however, came to dominate the issues in the Belizean election. On June 2, the Guatemalan military removed President Jorge Serrano Elías, who had earlier accepted Belize's right to exist and established diplomatic relations with Belize. Later in June, the Guatemalan military announced plans to impeach Serrano in absentia for his accord with Belize.

In its election campaign, the UDP seized on many Belizeans' fears of renewed Guatemalan territorial claims, the consequence of the British troop withdrawal, and resentment by Creoles over the growing hispanicization of the country. Esquivel accused Price's administration of making too many concessions to Guatemala to obtain a settlement to the dispute and promised to suspend the legislation granting Guatemala access to the Caribbean. The UDP also charged that the PUP had not fought hard enough to keep the British garrison in Belize and promised to reopen talks to maintain a British presence if it were brought to power. In addition, the UDP accused the PUP of having allowed too many Spanish-speaking refugees into Belize (the 1991 census revealed that for the first time there were more Mestizos than Creoles in the country) and then catering to the Spanish-speaking vote.

These campaign charges, along with attacks on the PUP as being corrupt and secretly planning to devalue the Belizean dollar, resulted in a surprise victory for the UDP on July 1. Although the PUP won a slim majority of the total votes cast, the UDP won sixteen of the twenty-nine seats in the National Assembly. The UDP victory for several seats was razor-thin (six of the seats were won with a majority of five or fewer votes) and several recounts were held. Results of the sixteen-seat victory for the UDP were confirmed, however, and on July 5, Manuel Esquivel was sworn in as Belize's new prime minister.

Guyana - History


The first humans to reach Guyana belonged to the group of peoples that crossed into North America from Asia perhaps as much as 35,000 years ago. These first inhabitants were nomads who slowly spread south into Central America and South America. Although great civilizations later arose in the Americas, the structure of Amerindian society in the Guianas remained relatively simple. At the time of Christopher Columbus's voyages, Guyana's inhabitants were divided into two groups, the Arawak along the coast and the Carib in the interior. One of the legacies of the indigenous peoples was the word Guiana, often used to describe the region encompassing modern Guyana as well as Suriname (former Dutch Guiana) and French Guiana. The word, which means ""land of waters,"" is highly appropriate, considering the area's multitude of rivers and streams.

Historians speculate that the Arawak and Carib originated in the South American hinterland and migrated northward, first to the present-day Guianas and then to the Caribbean islands. The peaceful Arawak, mainly cultivators, hunters, and fishermen, migrated to the Caribbean islands before the Carib and settled throughout the region. The tranquility of Arawak society was disrupted by the arrival of the bellicose Carib from the South American interior. Carib warlike behavior and violent movement north made an impact still discussed today. By the end of the fifteenth century, the Carib had displaced the Arawak throughout the islands of the Lesser Antilles. The Carib settlement of the Lesser Antilles also affected Guyana's future development. The Spanish explorers and settlers who came after Columbus found that the Arawak proved easier to conquer than the Carib, who fought hard to maintain their freedom. This fierce resistance, along with a lack of gold in the Lesser Antilles, contributed to the Spanish emphasis on conquest and settlement of the Greater Antilles and the mainland. Only a weak Spanish effort was made at consolidating Spain's authority in the Lesser Antilles (with the arguable exception of Trinidad) and the Guianas.


Although Columbus sighted the Guyanese coast in 1498, during his third voyage to the Americas, the Dutch were the first Europeans to settle what is now Guyana. The Netherlands had obtained independence from Spain in the late 1500s and by the early 1600s had emerged as a major commercial power, trading with the fledgling English and French colonies in the Lesser Antilles. In 1616 the Dutch established the first European settlement in the area of Guyana, a trading post twenty-five kilometers upstream from the mouth of the Essequibo River. Other settlements followed, usually a few kilometers inland on the larger rivers. The initial purpose of the Dutch settlements was trade with the indigenous people. The Dutch aim soon changed to acquisition of territory as other European powers gained colonies elsewhere in the Caribbean. Although Guyana was claimed by the Spanish, who sent periodic patrols through the region, the Dutch gained control over the region early in the seventeenth century. Dutch sovereignty was officially recognized with the signing of the Treaty of Munster in 1648.

In 1621 the government of the Netherlands gave the newly formed Dutch West India Company complete control over the trading post on the Essequibo. This Dutch commercial concern administered the colony, known as Essequibo, for more than 170 years. The company established a second colony, on the Berbice River southeast of Essequibo, in 1627. Although under the general jurisdiction of this private group, the settlement, named Berbice, was governed separately. Demerara, situated between Essequibo and Berbice, was settled in 1741 and emerged in 1773 as a separate colony under direct control of the Dutch West India Company.

Although the Dutch colonizers initially were motivated by the prospect of trade in the Caribbean, their possessions became significant producers of crops. The growing importance of agriculture was indicated by the export of 15,000 kilograms of tobacco from Essequibo in 1623. But as the agricultural productivity of the Dutch colonies increased, a labor shortage emerged. The indigenous populations were poorly adapted for work on plantations, and many people died from diseases introduced by the Europeans. The Dutch West India Company turned to the importation of African slaves, who rapidly became a key element in the colonial economy. By the 1660s, the slave population numbered about 2,500; the number of indigenous people was estimated at 50,000, most of whom had retreated into the vast hinterland. Although African slaves were considered an essential element of the colonial economy, their working conditions were brutal. The mortality rate was high, and the dismal conditions led to more than half a dozen slave rebellions.

The most famous slave uprising began in February 1763. On two plantations on the Canje River in Berbice, slaves rebelled, taking control of the region. As plantation after plantation fell to the slaves, the European population fled; eventually only half of the whites who had lived in the colony remained. Led by Cuffy (now the national hero of Guyana), the rebels came to number about 3,000 and threatened European control over the Guianas. The insurgents were defeated with the assistance of troops from neighboring French and British colonies and from Europe.

One of the most significant Dutch legacies in Guyana was the method of land management. Settlement and agriculture initially were limited to a belt of land extending 50 to 150 kilometers upriver. The marshy coast flooded at high tide and did not appear conducive to European settlement. The prospect of large profits for tropical agricultural products, especially sugar, led to the reclamation of coastal lands in the second half of the 1700s. The Dutch were eminently suited to this task, having originated the polder system, a technique by which a tract of usable land is created by damming and then draining a water-covered area. Using this system, the Dutch created a coastal plain that remains one of Guyana's most productive plantation areas.

The polder system entailed the use of a front dam, or facade, along the shorefront. This dam was supported by a back dam of the same length and two connecting side dams, which formed a rectangular tract of land known as a polder. The dams kept the salt water out, and fresh water was managed by a network of canals that provided drainage, irrigation, and a system of transportation. The labor for the ""polderization"" of Guyana's coast was provided by the Dutch colony's African slaves.


Eager to attract more settlers, in 1746 the Dutch authorities opened the area near the Demerara River to British immigrants. British plantation owners in the Lesser Antilles had been plagued by poor soil and erosion, and many were lured to the Dutch colonies by richer soils and the promise of landownership. The influx of British citizens was so great that by 1760 the English constituted a majority of the population of Demerara. By 1786 the internal affairs of this Dutch colony were effectively under British control.

As economic growth accelerated in Demerara and Essequibo, strains began to appear in the relations between the planters and the Dutch West India Company. Administrative reforms during the early 1770s had greatly increased the cost of government. The company periodically sought to raise taxes to cover these expenditures and thereby provoked the resistance of the planters. In 1781 a war broke out between the Netherlands and Britain, which resulted in the British occupation of Berbice, Essequibo, and Demerara. Some months later, France, allied with the Netherlands, seized control of the colonies. The French governed for two years, during which they constructed a new town, Longchamps, at the mouth of the Demerara River. When the Dutch regained power in 1784, they moved their colonial capital to Longchamps, which they renamed Stabroeck. The capital eventually would become known as Georgetown.

The return of Dutch rule reignited the conflict between the planters of Essequibo and Demerara and the Dutch West India Company. Disturbed by plans for an increase in the slave tax and a reduction in their representation on the colony's judicial and policy councils, the colonists petitioned the Dutch government to consider their grievances. In response, a special committee was appointed, which proceeded to draw up a report called the Concept Plan of Redress. This document called for far-reaching constitutional reforms and later became the basis of the British governmental structure. The plan proposed a decision-making body to be known as the Court of Policy. The judiciary was to consist of two courts of justice, one serving Demerara and the other Essequibo. The membership of the Court of Policy and of the courts of justice would consist of company officials and planters who owned more than twenty-five slaves. The Dutch commission that was assigned the responsibility of implementing this new system of government returned to the Netherlands with extremely unfavorable reports concerning the Dutch West India Company's administration. The company's charter therefore was allowed to expire in 1792 and the Concept Plan of Redress was put into effect in Demerara and Essequibo. Renamed the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo, the area then came under the direct control of the Dutch government. Berbice maintained its status as a separate colony.

The catalyst for formal British takeover was the French Revolution and the resulting Napoleonic Wars. In 1795 the French occupied the Netherlands. The British declared war on France and in 1796 launched an expeditionary force from Barbados to occupy the Dutch colonies. The British takeover was bloodless, and local Dutch administration of the colony was left relatively uninterrupted under the constitution provided by the Concept Plan of Redress.

Both Berbice and the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo were under British control from 1796 to 1802. By means of the Treaty of Amiens, both were returned to Dutch control. Peace was short-lived, however. War between Britain and France resumed in less than a year, and the United Colony and Berbice were seized once more by British troops. At the London Convention of 1814, both colonies were formally ceded to Britain. In 1831, Berbice and the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo were unified as British Guiana. The colony would remain under British control until independence in 1966.


Political, economic, and social life in the 1800s was dominated by a European planter class. Although the smallest group in terms of numbers, members of the plantocracy had links to British commercial interests in London and often enjoyed close ties to the governor, who was appointed by the monarch. The plantocracy also controlled exports and the working conditions of the majority of the population. The next social stratum consisted of a small number of freed slaves, many of mixed African and European heritage, in addition to some Portuguese merchants. At the lowest level of society was the majority, the African slaves who lived and worked in the countryside, where the plantations were located. Unconnected to colonial life, small groups of Amerindians lived in the hinterland.

Colonial life was changed radically by the demise of slavery. Although the international slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807, slavery itself continued. However, the momentum for abolition remained, and by 1838 total emancipation had been effected. The end of slavery had several ramifications. Most significantly, many former slaves rapidly departed the plantations. Some ex-slaves moved to towns and villages, feeling that field labor was degrading and inconsistent with freedom, but others pooled their resources to purchase the abandoned estates of their former masters and created village communities. Establishing small settlements provided the new Afro-Guyanese communities an opportunity to grow and sell food, an extension of a practice under which slaves had been allowed to keep the money that came from the sale of any surplus produce. The emergence of an independent-minded Afro-Guyanese peasant class, however, threatened the planters' political power, inasmuch as the planters no longer held a near-monopoly on the colony's economic activity.

Emancipation also resulted in the introduction of new ethnic and cultural groups into British Guiana. The departure of the AfroGuyanese from the sugar plantations soon led to labor shortages. After unsuccessful attempts throughout the 1800s to attract Portuguese workers from Madeira, the estate owners were again left with an inadequate supply of labor. The Portuguese had not taken to plantation work and soon moved into other parts of the economy, especially retail business, where they became competitors with the new Afro-Guyanese middle class. Some 14,000 Chinese came to the colony between 1853 and 1912. Like their Portuguese predecessors, the Chinese forsook the plantations for the retail trades and soon became assimilated into Guianese society.

Concerned about the plantations' shrinking labor pool and the potential decline of the sugar sector, British authorities, like their counterparts in Dutch Guiana, began to contract for the services of poorly paid indentured workers from India. The East Indians, as this group was known locally, signed on for a certain number of years, after which, in theory, they would return to India with their savings from working in the sugar fields. The introduction of indentured East Indian workers alleviated the labor shortage and added another group to Guyana's ethnic mix.


When Britain gained formal control over what is now Guyana in 1814, it also became involved in one of Latin America's most persistent border disputes. At the London Convention of 1814, the Dutch surrendered the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo and Berbice to the British. Although Spain still claimed the region, the Spanish did not contest the treaty because they were preoccupied with their own colonies' struggles for independence. In 1835 the British government asked German explorer Robert Hermann Schomburgk to map British Guiana and mark its boundaries. As ordered by the British authorities, Schomburgk began British Guiana's western boundary with Venezuela at the mouth of the Orinoco River. A map of the British colony was published in 1840. Venezuela protested, claiming the entire area west of the Essequibo River. Negotiations between Britain and Venezuela over the boundary began, but the two nations could reach no compromise. In 1850 both agreed not to occupy the disputed zone.

The discovery of gold in the contested area in the late 1850s reignited the dispute. British settlers moved into the region and the British Guiana Mining Company was formed to mine the deposits. Over the years, Venezuela made repeated protests and proposed arbitration, but the British government was uninterested. Venezuela finally broke diplomatic relations with Britain in 1887 and appealed to the United States for help. The British at first rebuffed the United States government's suggestion of arbitration, but when President Grover Cleveland threatened to intervene according to the Monroe Doctrine, Britain agreed to let an international tribunal arbitrate the boundary in 1897.

For two years, the tribunal consisting of two Britons, two Americans, and a Russian studied the case. Their three-to-two decision, handed down in 1899, awarded 94 percent of the disputed territory to British Guiana. Venezuela received only the mouth of the Orinoco River and a short stretch of the Atlantic coastline just to the east. Although Venezuela was unhappy with the decision, a commission surveyed a new border in accordance with the award, and both sides accepted the boundary in 1905. The issue was considered settled for the next half-century.


Nineteenth-Century British Guiana

The constitution of the British colony favored the white planters. Planter political power was based in the Court of Policy and the two courts of justice, established in the late 1700s under Dutch rule. The Court of Policy had both legislative and administrative functions and was composed of the governor, three colonial officials, and four colonists, with the governor presiding. The courts of justice resolved judicial matters, such as licensing and civil service appointments, which were brought before them by petition.

The Court of Policy and the courts of justice, controlled by the plantation owners, constituted the center of power in British Guiana. The colonists who sat on the Court of Policy and the courts of justice were appointed by the governor from a list of nominees submitted by two electoral colleges. In turn, the seven members of each College of Electors were elected for life by those planters possessing twenty-five or more slaves. Though their power was restricted to nominating colonists to fill vacancies on the three major governmental councils, these electoral colleges provided a setting for political agitation by the planters.

Raising and disbursing revenue was the responsibility of the Combined Court, which included members of the Court of Policy and six additional financial representatives appointed by the College of Electors. In 1855 the Combined Court also assumed responsibility for setting the salaries of all government officials. This duty made the Combined Court a center of intrigues resulting in periodic clashes between the governor and the planters.

Other Guianese began to demand a more representative political system in the 1800s. By the late 1880s, pressure from the new Afro-Guyanese middle class was building for constitutional reform. In particular, there were calls to convert the Court of Policy into an assembly with ten elected members, to ease voter qualifications, and to abolish the College of Electors. Reforms were resisted by the planters, led by Henry K. Davson, owner of a large plantation. In London the planters had allies in the West India Committee and also in the West India Association of Glasgow, both presided over by proprietors with major interests in British Guiana.

Constitutional revisions in 1891 incorporated some of the changes demanded by the reformers. The planters lost political influence with the abolition of the College of Electors and the relaxation of voter qualification. At the same time, the Court of Policy was enlarged to sixteen members; eight of these were to be elected members whose power would be balanced by that of eight appointed members. The Combined Court also continued, consisting, as previously, of the Court of Policy and six financial representatives who were now elected. To ensure that there would be no shift of power to elected officials, the governor remained the head of the Court of Policy; the executive duties of the Court of Policy were transferred to a new Executive Council, which the governor and planters dominated. The 1891 revisions were a great disappointment to the colony's reformers. As a result of the election of 1892, the membership of the new Combined Court was almost identical to that of the previous one.

The next three decades saw additional, although minor, political changes. In 1897 the secret ballot was introduced. A reform in 1909 expanded the limited British Guiana electorate, and for the first time, Afro-Guyanese constituted a majority of the eligible voters.

Political changes were accompanied by social change and jockeying by various ethnic groups for increased power. The British and Dutch planters refused to accept the Portuguese as equals and sought to maintain their status as aliens with no rights in the colony, especially voting rights. The political tensions led the Portuguese to establish the Reform Association. After the anti-Portuguese riots of 1889, the Portuguese recognized the need to work with other disenfranchised elements of Guianese society, in particular the Afro-Guyanese. By the turn of the century, organizations including the Reform Association and the Reform Club began to demand greater participation in the colony's affairs. These organizations were largely the instruments of a small but articulate emerging middle class. Although the new middle class sympathized with the working class, the middle-class political groups were hardly representative of a national political or social movement. Indeed, working-class grievances were usually expressed in the form of riots.

Guyana - Political and Social Changes in the 1900s

The 1905 Ruimveldt Riots rocked British Guiana. The severity of these outbursts reflected the workers' widespread dissatification with their standard of living. The uprising began in late November 1905 when the Georgetown stevedores went on strike, demanding higher wages. The strike grew confrontational, and other workers struck in sympathy, creating the country's first urban-rural worker alliance. On November 30, crowds of people took to the streets of Georgetown, and by December 1, 1905, now referred to as Black Friday, the situation had spun out of control. At the Plantation Ruimveldt, close to Georgetown, a large crowd of porters refused to disperse when ordered to do so by a police patrol and a detachment of artillery. The colonial authorities opened fire, and four workers were seriously injured.

Word of the shootings spread rapidly throughout Georgetown and hostile crowds began roaming the city, taking over a number of buildings. By the end of the day, seven people were dead and seventeen badly injured. In a panic, the British administration called for help. Britain sent troops, who finally quelled the uprising. Although the stevedores' strike failed, the riots had planted the seeds of what would become an organized trade union movement.

Even though World War I was fought far beyond the borders of British Guiana, the war altered Guianese society. The AfroGuyanese who joined the British military became the nucleus of an elite Afro-Guyanese community upon their return. World War I also led to the end of East Indian indentured service. British concerns over political stability in India and criticism by Indian nationalists that the program was a form of human bondage caused the British government to outlaw indentured labor in 1917.

In the closing years of World War I, the colony's first trade union was formed. The British Guiana Labour Union (BGLU) was established in 1917 under the leadership of H.N. Critchlow. Formed in the face of widespread business opposition, the BGLU at first mostly represented Afro-Guyanese dockworkers. Its membership stood around 13,000 by 1920, and it was granted legal status in 1921 under the Trades Union Ordinance. Although recognition of other unions would not come until 1939, the BGLU was an indication that the working class was becoming politically aware and more concerned with its rights.

After World War I, new economic interest groups began to clash with the Combined Court. The country's economy had come to depend less on sugar and more on rice and bauxite, and producers of these new commodities resented the sugar planters' continued domination of the Combined Court. Meanwhile, the planters were feeling the effects of lower sugar prices and wanted the Combined Court to provide the necessary funds for new drainage and irrigation programs.

To stop the bickering and resultant legislative paralysis, in 1928 the British Colonial Office announced a new constitution that would make British Guiana a crown colony under tight control of a governor appointed by the Colonial Office. The Combined Court and the Court of Policy were replaced by a Legislative Council with a majority of appointed members. To middle-class and working-class political activists, this new constitution represented a step backward and a victory for the planters. Influence over the governor, rather than the promotion of a particular public policy, became the most important issue in any political campaign.

The Great Depression of the 1930s brought economic hardship to all segments of Guianese society. All of the colony's major exports--sugar, rice and bauxite--were affected by low prices, and unemployment soared. As in the past, the working class found itself lacking a political voice during a time of worsening economic conditions. By the mid-1930s, British Guiana and the whole British Caribbean were marked by labor unrest and violent demonstrations. In the aftermath of riots throughout the British West Indies, a royal commission under Lord Moyne was established to determine the reasons for the riots and to make recommendations.

In British Guiana, the Moyne Commission questioned a wide range of people, including trade unionists, Afro-Guyanese professionals, and representatives of the Indo-Guyanese community. The commission pointed out the deep division between the country's two largest ethnic groups, the Afro-Guyanese and the Indo-Guyanese. The largest group, the Indo-Guyanese, consisted primarily of rural rice producers or merchants; they had retained the country's traditional culture and did not participate in national politics. The Afro-Guyanese were largely urban workers or bauxite miners; they had adopted European culture and dominated national politics. To increase representation of the majority of the population in British Guiana, the Moyne Commission called for increased democratization of government as well as economic and social reforms.

The Moyne Commission report in 1938 was a turning point in British Guiana. It urged extending the franchise to women and persons not owning land and encouraged the emerging trade union movement. Unfortunately, many of the Moyne Commission's recommendations were not immediately implemented because of the outbreak of the World War II.

With the fighting far away, the period of World War II in British Guiana was marked by continuing political reform and improvements to the national infrastructure. The reform-minded governor, Sir Gordon Lethem, reduced property qualifications for officeholding and voting, and made elective members a majority on the Legislative Council in 1943. Under the aegis of the Lend- Lease Act of 1941, a modern air base (now Timehri Airport) was constructed by United States troops. By the end of World War II, British Guiana's political system had been widened to encompass more elements of society and the economy's foundations had been strengthened by increased demand for bauxite.

Guyana - The Development of Political Parties

The immediate postwar period witnessed the founding of Guyana's major political parties, the People's Progressive Party (PPP) and the People's National Congress (PNC). These years also saw the beginning of a long and acrimonious struggle between the country's two dominant political personalities--Cheddi Jagan and Linden Forbes Burnham.

The end of World War II began a period of worldwide decolonization. In British Guiana, political awareness and demands for independence grew in all segments of society. At the same time, the struggle for political ascendancy between Burnham, the ""Man on Horseback"" of the Afro-Guyanese, and Jagan, the hero of the Indo-Guyanese masses, left a legacy of racially polarized politics that remained in place in the 1990s.

Jagan had been born in Guyana in 1918. His parents were immigrants from India. His father was a driver, a position considered to be on the lowest rung of the middle stratum of Guianese society. Jagan's childhood gave him a lasting insight into rural poverty. Despite their poor background, the senior Jagan sent his son to Queen's College in Georgetown. After his education there, Jagan went to the United States to study dentistry, graduating from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1942.

Jagan returned to British Guiana in October 1943 and was soon joined by his American wife, the former Janet Rosenberg, who was to play a significant role in her new country's political development. Although Jagan established his own dentistry clinic, he was soon enmeshed in politics. After a number of unsuccessful forays into Guiana's political life, Jagan became treasurer of the Manpower Citizens Association (MPCA) in 1945. The MPCA represented the colony's sugar workers, many of whom were Indo- Guyanese. Jagan's tenure was brief, as he clashed repeatedly with the more moderate union leadership over policy issues. Despite his departure from the MPCA a year after joining, the position allowed Jagan to meet other union leaders in British Guiana and throughout the English-speaking Caribbean.

The springboard for Jagan's political career was the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), formed in 1946 as a discussion group. The new organization published the PAC Bulletin to promote its Marxist ideology and ideas of liberation and decolonization. The PAC's outspoken criticism of the colony's poor living standards attracted followers as well as detractors.

In the November 1947 general elections, the PAC put forward several members as independent candidates. The PAC's major competitor was the newly formed Labour Party, which, under J.B. Singh, won six of fourteen seats contested. Jagan won a seat and briefly joined the Labour Party. But he had difficulties with his new party's center-right ideology and soon left its ranks. The Labour Party's support of the policies of the British governor and its inability to create a grass-roots base gradually stripped it of liberal supporters throughout the country. The Labour Party's lack of a clear-cut reform agenda left a vacuum, which Jagan rapidly moved to fill. Turmoil on the colony's sugar plantations gave him an opportunity to achieve national standing. After the June 16, 1948 police shootings of five Indo-Guyanese workers at Enmore, close to Georgetown, the PAC and the Guiana Industrial Workers Union (GIWU) organized a large and peaceful demonstration, which clearly enhanced Jagan's standing with the Indo-Guyanese population.

Jagan's next major step was the founding of the People's Progressive Party (PPP) in January 1950. Using the PAC as a foundation, Jagan created from it a new party that drew support from both the Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese communities. To increase support among the Afro-Guyanese, Forbes Burnham was brought into the party.

Born in 1923, Burnham was the sole son in a family that had three children. His father was headmaster of Kitty Methodist Primary School, which was located just outside Georgetown. As part of the colony's educated class, young Burnham was exposed to political viewpoints at an early age. He did exceedingly well in school and went to London to obtain a law degree. Although not exposed to childhood poverty as was Jagan, Burnham was acutely aware of racial discrimination.

The social strata of the urban Afro-Guyanese community of the 1930s and 1940s included a mulatto or ""coloured"" elite, a black professional middle class, and, at the bottom, the black working class. Unemployment in the 1930s was high. When war broke out in 1939, many Afro-Guyanese joined the military, hoping to gain new job skills and escape poverty. When they returned home from the war, however, jobs were still scarce and discrimination was still a part of life. By the time of Burnham's arrival on the political stage in the late 1940s, the Afro-Guyanese community was ready for a leader.

The PPP's initial leadership was multiethnic and left of center, but hardly revolutionary. Jagan became the leader of the PPP's parliamentary group, and Burnham assumed the responsibilities of party chairman. Other key party members included Janet Jagan and Ashton Chase, both PAC veterans. The new party's first victory came in the 1950 municipal elections, in which Janet Jagan won a seat. Cheddi Jagan and Burnham failed to win seats, but Burnham's campaign made a favorable impression on many urban Afro- Guyanese.

From its first victory in the 1950 municipal election, the PPP gathered momentum. However, the party's often strident anticapitalist and socialist message made the British government uneasy. Colonial officials showed their displeasure with the PPP in 1952 when, on a regional tour, the Jagans were designated prohibited immigrants in Trinidad and Grenada.

A British commission in 1950 recommended universal adult suffrage and the adoption of a ministerial system for British Guiana. The commission also recommended that power be concentrated in the executive branch, that is, the office of the governor. These reforms presented British Guiana's parties with an opportunity to participate in national elections and form a government, but maintained power in the hands of the British- appointed chief executive. This arrangement rankled the PPP, which saw it as an attempt to curtail the party's political power.


The PPP'S First Government, 1953

Once the new constitution was adopted, elections were set for 1953. The PPP's coalition of lower-class Afro-Guyanese and rural Indo-Guyanese workers, together with elements of both ethnic groups' middle sectors, made for a formidable constituency. Conservatives branded the PPP as communist, but the party campaigned on a center-left platform and appealed to a growing nationalism. The other major party participating in the election, the National Democratic Party (NDP), was a spin-off of the League of Coloured People and was largely an Afro-Guyanese middle-class organization, sprinkled with middle-class Portuguese and IndoGuyanese . The NDP, together with the poorly organized United Farmers and Workers Party and the United National Party, was soundly defeated by the PPP. Final results gave the PPP eighteen of twenty-four seats compared with the NDP's two seats and four seats for independents.

The PPP's first administration was brief. The legislature opened on May 30, 1953. Already suspicious of Jagan and the PPP's radicalism, conservative forces in the business community were further distressed by the new administration's program of expanding the role of the state in the economy and society. The PPP also sought to implement its reform program at a rapid pace, which brought the party into confrontation with the governor and with high-ranking civil servants who preferred more gradual change. The issue of civil service appointments also threatened the PPP, in this case from within. Following the 1953 victory, these appointments became an issue between the predominantly Indo-Guyanese supporters of Jagan and the largely Afro-Guyanese backers of Burnham. Burnham threatened to split the party if he were not made sole leader of the PPP. A compromise was reached by which members of what had become Burnham's faction received ministerial appointments.

The PPP's introduction of the Labour Relations Act provoked a confrontation with the British. This law ostensibly was aimed at reducing intraunion rivalries, but would have favored the GIWU, which was closely aligned with the ruling party. The opposition charged that the PPP was seeking to gain control over the colony's economic and social life and was moving to stifle the opposition. The day the act was introduced to the legislature, the GIWU went on strike in support of the proposed law. The British government interpreted this intermingling of party politics and labor unionism as a direct challenge to the constitution and the authority of the governor. The day after the act was passed, on October 9, 1953, London suspended the colony's constitution and, under pretext of quelling disturbances, sent in troops.

Guyana - The Interim Government, 1953-57

Following the suspension of the constitution, British Guiana was governed by an interim administration consisting of small group of conservative politicians, businessmen, and civil servants that lasted until 1957. Order in the colonial government masked a growing rift in the country's main political party as the personal conflict between the PPP's Jagan and Burnham widened into a bitter dispute. In 1955 Jagan and Burnham formed rival wings of the PPP. Support for each leader was largely, but not totally, along ethnic lines. J.B. Lachmansingh, a leading Indo- Guyanese and head of the GIWU, supported Burnham, whereas Jagan retained the loyalty of a number of leading Afro-African radicals, such as Sydney King. Burnham's wing of the PPP moved to the right, leaving Jagan's wing on the left, where he was regarded with considerable apprehension by Western governments and the colony's conservative business groups.

Guyana - The Second PPP Government, 1957-61, and Racial Politics

The 1957 elections held under a new constitution demonstrated the extent of the growing ethnic division within the Guianese electorate. The revised constitution provided limited selfgovernment , primarily through the Legislative Council. Of the council's twenty-four delegates, fifteen were elected, six were nominated, and the remaining three were to be ex officio members from the interim administration. The two wings of the PPP launched vigorous campaigns, each attempting to prove that it was the legitimate heir to the original party. Despite denials of such motivation, both factions made a strong appeal to their respective ethnic constituencies.

The 1957 elections were convincingly won by Jagan's PPP faction. Although his group had a secure parliamentary majority, its support was drawn more and more from the Indo-Guyanese community. The faction's main planks were increasingly identified as Indo- Guyanese: more rice land, improved union representation in the sugar industry, and improved business opportunities and more government posts for Indo-Guyanese. The PPP had abrogated its claim to being a multiracial party.

Jagan's veto of British Guiana's participation in the West Indies Federation resulted in the complete loss of Afro-Guyanese support. In the late 1950s, the British Caribbean colonies had been actively negotiating establishment of a West Indies Federation. The PPP had pledged to work for the eventual political union of British Guiana with the Caribbean territories. The Indo-Guyanese, who constituted a majority in Guyana, were apprehensive of becoming part of a federation in which they would be outnumbered by people of African descent. Jagan's veto of the federation caused his party to lose all significant Afro-Guyanese support.

Burnham learned an important lesson from the 1957 elections. He could not win if supported only by the lower-class, urban AfroGuyanese . He needed middle-class allies, especially those AfroGuyanese who backed the moderate United Democratic Party. From 1957 onward, Burnham worked to create a balance between maintaining the backing of the more radical Afro-Guyanese lower classes and gaining the support of the more capitalist middle class. Clearly, Burnham's stated preference for socialism would not bind those two groups together against Jagan, an avowed Marxist. The answer was something more basic--race. Burnham's appeals to race proved highly successful in bridging the schism that divided the Afro-Guyanese along class lines. This strategy convinced the powerful Afro-Guyanese middle class to accept a leader who was more of a radical than they would have preferred to support. At the same time, it neutralized the objections of the black working class to entering an alliance with those representing the more moderate interests of the middle classes. Burnham's move toward the right was accomplished with the merger of his PPP faction and the United Democratic Party into a new organization, the People's National Congress (PNC).

Following the 1957 elections, Jagan rapidly consolidated his hold on the Indo-Guyanese community. Though candid in expressing his admiration for Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, and, later, Fidel Castro Ruz, Jagan in power asserted that the PPP's MarxistLeninist principles must be adapted to Guyana's own particular circumstances. Jagan advocated nationalization of foreign holdings, especially in the sugar industry. British fears of a communist takeover, however, caused the British governor to hold Jagan's more radical policy initiatives in check.

Guyana - PPP Reelection and Debacle

The 1961 elections were a bitter contest between the PPP, the PNC, and the United Force (UF), a conservative party representing big business, the Roman Catholic Church, and Amerindian, Chinese, and Portuguese voters. These elections were held under yet another new constitution that marked a return to the degree of self-government that existed briefly in 1953. It introduced a bicameral system boasting a wholly elected thirty-five-member Legislative Assembly and a thirteen-member Senate to be appointed by the governor. The post of prime minister was created and was to be filled by the majority party in the Legislative Assembly. With the strong support of the Indo-Guyanese population, the PPP again won by a substantial margin, gaining twenty seats in the Legislative Assembly, compared to eleven seats for the PNC and four for the UF. Jagan was named prime minister.

Jagan's administration became increasingly friendly with communist and leftist regimes; for instance, Jagan refused to observe the United States embargo on communist Cuba. After discussions between Jagan and Cuban revolutionary Ernesto ""Che"" Guevara in 1960 and 1961, Cuba offered British Guiana loans and equipment. In addition, the Jagan administration signed trade agreements with Hungary and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

From 1961 to 1964, Jagan was confronted with a destabilization campaign conducted by the PNC and UF. Riots and demonstrations against the PPP administration were frequent, and during disturbances in 1962 and 1963 mobs destroyed part of Georgetown.

Labor violence also increased during the early 1960s. To counter the MPCA with its link to Burnham, the PPP formed the Guianese Agricultural Workers Union. This new union's political mandate was to organize the Indo-Guyanese sugarcane field-workers. The MPCA immediately responded with a one-day strike to emphasize its continued control over the sugar workers.

The PPP government responded to the strike in March 1964 by publishing a new Labour Relations Bill almost identical to the 1953 legislation that had resulted in British intervention. Regarded as a power play for control over a key labor sector, introduction of the proposed law prompted protests and rallies throughout the capital. Riots broke out on April 5; they were followed on April 18 by a general strike. By May 9, the governor was compelled to declare a state of emergency. Nevertheless, the strike and violence continued until July 7, when the Labour Relations Bill was allowed to lapse without being enacted. To bring an end to the disorder, the government agreed to consult with union representatives before introducing similar bills. These disturbances exacerbated tension and animosity between the two major ethnic communities and made a reconciliation between Jagan and Burnham an impossibility.

Jagan's term had not yet ended when another round of labor unrest rocked the colony. The pro-PPP GIWU, which had become an umbrella group of all labor organizations, called on sugar workers to strike in January 1964. To dramatize their case, Jagan led a march by sugar workers from the interior to Georgetown. This demonstration ignited outbursts of violence that soon escalated beyond the control of the authorities. On May 22, the governor finally declared another state of emergency. The situation continued to worsen, and in June the governor assumed full powers, rushed in British troops to restore order, and proclaimed a moratorium on all political activity. By the end of the turmoil, 160 people were dead and more than 1,000 homes had been destroyed.

In an effort to quell the turmoil, the country's political parties asked the British goverment to modify the constitution to provide for more proportional representation. The colonial secretary proposed a fifty-three member unicameral legislature. Despite opposition from the ruling PPP, all reforms were implemented and new elections set for October 1964.

As Jagan feared, the PPP lost the general elections of 1964. The politics of apan jhaat, Hindi for ""vote for your own kind,"" were becoming entrenched in Guyana. The PPP won 46 percent of the vote and twenty-four seats, which made it the majority party. However, the PNC, which won 40 percent of the vote and twenty-two seats, and the UF, which won 11 percent of the vote and seven seats, formed a coalition. The socialist PNC and unabashedly capitalist UF had joined forces to keep the PPP out of office for another term. Jagan called the election fraudulent and refused to resign as prime minister. The constitution was amended to allow the governor to remove Jagan from office. Burnham became prime minister on December 14, 1964.


Burnham in Power

In the first year under Burnham, conditions in the colony began to stabilize. The new coalition administration broke diplomatic ties with Cuba and implemented policies that favored local investors and foreign industry. The colony applied the renewed flow of Western aid to further development of its infrastructure. A constitutional conference was held in London; the conference set May 26, 1966 as the date for the colony's independence. By the time independence was achieved, the country was enjoying economic growth and relative domestic peace.

The newly independent Guyana at first sought to improve relations with its neighbors. For instance, in December 1965 the country had become a charter member of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (Carifta). Relations with Venezuela were not so placid, however. In 1962 Venezuela had announced that it was rejecting the 1899 boundary and would renew its claim to all of Guyana west of the Essequibo River. In 1966 Venezuela seized the Guyanese half of Ankoko Island, in the Cuyuni River, and two years later claimed a strip of sea along Guyana's western coast.

Another challenge to the newly independent government came at the beginning of January 1969, with the Rupununi Rebellion. In the Rupununi region in southwest Guyana, along the Venezuelan border, white settlers and Amerindians rebelled against the central government. Several Guyanese policemen in the area were killed, and spokesmen for the rebels declared the area independent and asked for Venezuelan aid. Troops arrived from Georgetown within days, and the rebellion was quickly put down. Although the rebellion was not a large affair, it exposed underlying tensions in the new state and the Amerindians' marginalized role in the country's political and social life.

Guyana - The Cooperative Republic

The 1968 elections allowed the PNC to rule without the UF. The PNC won thirty seats, the PPP nineteen seats, and the UF four seats. However, many observers claimed the elections were marred by manipulation and coercion by the PNC. The PPP and UF were part of Guyana's political landscape but were ignored as Burnham began to convert the machinery of state into an instrument of the PNC.

After the 1968 elections, Burnham's policies became more leftist as he announced he would lead Guyana to socialism. He consolidated his dominance of domestic policies through gerrymandering, manipulation of the balloting process, and politicalization of the civil service. A few Indo-Guyanese were coopted into the PNC, but the ruling party was unquestionably the embodiment of the Afro-Guyanese political will. Although the Afro-Guyanese middle class was uneasy with Burnham's leftist leanings, the PNC remained a shield against Indo-Guyanese dominance. The support of the Afro-Guyanese community allowed the PNC to bring the economy under control and to begin organizing the country into cooperatives.

On February 23, 1970, Guyana declared itself a ""cooperative republic"" and cut all ties to the British monarchy. The governor general was replaced as head of state by a ceremonial president. Relations with Cuba were improved, and Guyana became a force in the Nonaligned Movement. In August 1972, Burnham hosted the Conference of Foreign Ministers of Nonaligned Countries in Georgetown. He used this opportunity to address the evils of imperialism and the need to support African liberation movements in southern Africa. Burnham also let Cuban troops use Guyana as a transit point on their way to the war in Angola in the mid- 1970s.

In the early 1970s, electoral fraud became blatant in Guyana. PNC victories always included overseas voters, who consistently and overwhelmingly voted for the ruling party. The police and military intimidated the Indo-Guyanese. The army was accused of tampering with ballot boxes.

Considered a low point in the democratic process, the 1973 elections were followed by an amendment to the constitution that abolished legal appeals to the Privy Council in London. After consolidating power on the legal and electoral fronts, Burnham turned to mobilizing the masses for what was to be Guyana's cultural revolution. A program of national service was introduced that placed an emphasis on self-reliance, loosely defined as Guyana's population feeding, clothing, and housing itself without outside help.

Government authoritarianism increased in 1974 when Burnham advanced the ""paramountcy of the party."" All organs of the state would be considered agencies of the ruling PNC and subject to its control. The state and the PNC became interchangeable; PNC objectives were now public policy.

Burnham's consolidation of power in Guyana was not total; opposition groups were tolerated within limits. For instance, in 1973 the Working People's Alliance (WPA) was founded. Opposed to Burnham's authoritarianism, the WPA was a multiethnic combination of politicians and intellectuals that advocated racial harmony, free elections, and democratic socialism. Although the WPA did not become an official political party until 1979, it evolved as an alternative to Burnham's PNC and Jagan's PPP.

Jagan's political career continued to decline in the 1970s. Outmaneuvered on the parliamentary front, the PPP leader tried another tactic. In April 1975, the PPP ended its boycott of parliament with Jagan stating that the PPP's policy would change from noncooperation and civil resistance to critical support of the Burnham regime. Soon after, Jagan appeared on the same platform with Prime Minister Burnham at the celebration of ten years of Guyanese independence, on May 26, 1976.

Despite Jagan's conciliatory move, Burnham had no intention of sharing powers and continued to secure his position. When overtures intended to bring about new elections and PPP participation in the government were brushed aside, the largely Indo-Guyanese sugar work force went on a bitter strike. The strike was broken, and sugar production declined steeply from 1976 to 1977. The PNC postponed the 1978 elections, opting instead for a referendum to be held in July 1978, proposing to keep the incumbent assembly in power.

The July 1978 national referendum was poorly received. Although the PNC government proudly proclaimed that 71 percent of eligible voters participated and that 97 percent approved the referendum, other estimates put turnout at 10 to 14 percent. The low turnout was caused in large part by a boycott led by the PPP, WPA, and other opposition forces.

Burnham's control over Guyana began to weaken when the Jonestown massacre brought unwanted international attention. In the 1970s, Jim Jones, leader of the People's Temple of Christ, moved more than 1,000 of his followers from San Francisco to form Jonestown, a utopian agricultural community near Port Kaituma in western Guyana. The People's Temple of Christ was regarded by members of the Guyanese government as a model agricultural community that shared its vision of settling the hinterland and its view of cooperative socialism. The fact that the People's Temple was well-equipped with openly flaunted weapons hinted that the community had the approval of members of the PNC's inner circle. Complaints of abuse by leaders of the cult prompted United States congressman Leo Ryan to fly to Guyana to investigate. The San Francisco-area representative was shot and killed by members of the People's Temple as he was boarding or airplane at Port Kaituma to return to Georgetown. Fearing further publicity, Jones and more than 900 of his followers died in a massive communal murder and suicide. The November 1978 Jonestown massacre suddenly put the Burnham government under intense foreign scrutiny, especially from the United States. Investigations into the massacre led to allegations that the Guyanese government had links to the fanatical cult.

Although the bloody memory of Jonestown faded, Guyanese politics experienced a violent year in 1979. Some of this violence was directed against the WPA, which had emerged as a vocal critic of the state and of Burnham in particular. One of the party's leaders, Walter Rodney, and several professors at the University of Guyana were arrested on arson charges. The professors were soon released, and Rodney was granted bail. WPA leaders then organized the alliance into Guyana's most vocal opposition party.

As 1979 wore on, the level of violence continued to escalate. In October Minister of Education Vincent Teekah was mysteriously shot to death. The following year, Rodney was killed by a car bomb. The PNC government quickly accused Rodney of being a terrorist who had died at the hands of his own bomb and charged his brother Donald with being an accomplice. Later investigation implicated the Guyanese government, however. Rodney was a well- known leftist, and the circumstances of his death damaged Burnham's image with many leaders and intellectuals in less- developed countries who earlier had been willing to overlook the authoritarian nature of his government.

A new constitution was promulgated in 1980. The old ceremonial post of president was abolished, and the head of government became the executive president, chosen, as the former position of prime minister had been, by the majority party in the National Assembly. Burnham automatically became Guyana's first executive president and promised elections later in the year. In elections held on December 15, 1980, the PNC claimed 77 percent of the vote and forty-one seats of the popularly elected seats, plus the ten chosen by the regional councils. The PPP and UF won ten and two seats, respectively. The WPA refused to participate in an electoral contest it regarded as fraudulent. Opposition claims of electoral fraud were upheld by a team of international observers headed by Britain's Lord Avebury.

The economic crisis facing Guyana in the early 1980s deepened considerably, accompanied by the rapid deterioration of public services, infrastructure, and overall quality of life. Blackouts occurred almost daily, and water services were increasingly unsatisfactory. The litany of Guyana's decline included shortages of rice and sugar (both produced in the country), cooking oil, and kerosene. While the formal economy sank, the black market economy in Guyana thrived.

In the midst of this turbulent period, Burnham underwent surgery for a throat ailment. On August 6, 1985, while in the care of Cuban doctors, Guyana's first and only leader since independence unexpectedly died. An epoch had abruptly ended. Guyana was suddenly in the post-Burnham era.

Guyana - From Burnham to Hoyte

Despite concerns that the country was about to fall into a period of political instability, the transfer of power went smoothly. Vice President Desmond Hoyte became the new executive president and leader of the PNC. His initial tasks were threefold: to secure authority within the PNC and national government, to take the PNC through the December 1985 elections, and to revitalize the stagnant economy.

Hoyte's first two goals were easily accomplished. The new leader took advantage of factionalism within the PNC to quietly consolidate his authority. The December 1985 elections gave the PNC 79 percent of the vote and forty-two of the fifty-three directly elected seats. Eight of the remaining eleven seats went to the PPP, two went to the UF, and one to the WPA. Charging fraud, the opposition boycotted the December 1986 municipal elections. With no opponents, the PNC won all ninety-one seats in local government.

Revitalizing the economy proved more difficult. As a first step, Hoyte gradually moved to embrace the private sector, recognizing that state control of the economy had failed. Hoyte's administration lifted all curbs on foreign activity and ownership in 1988.

Although the Hoyte government did not completely abandon the authoritarianism of the Burnham regime, it did make certain political reforms. Hoyte abolished overseas voting and the provisions for widespread proxy and postal voting. Independent newspapers were given greater freedom, and political harassment abated considerably.

In September 1988, Hoyte visited the United States and became the first Guyanese head of state to meet with his United States counterpart. By October 1988, Hoyte felt strong enough to make public his break with the policies of the Burnham administration. In a nationally televised address on October 11, he focused Guyana's economic and foreign policies on the West, linking Guyana's future economic development to regional economies and noting that the strengthening of Guyana's relations with the United States was ""imperative."" While these objectives were in contrast to the policies of the past two decades, it was unclear what the long-term political and economic results would be.



With a land area of approximately 197,000 square kilometers, Guyana is about the size of Idaho. The country is situated between 1 and 9 north latitude and between 56 and 62 west longitude. With a 430-kilometer Atlantic coastline on the northeast, Guyana is bounded by Venezuela on the west, Brazil on the west and south, and Suriname on the east. The land comprises three main geographical zones: the coastal plain, the white sand belt, and the interior highlands.

The coastal plain, which occupies about 5 percent of the country's area, is home to more than 90 percent of its inhabitants. The plain ranges from five to six kilometers wide and extends from the Courantyne River in the east to the Venezuelan border in the northwest.

The coastal plain is made up largely of alluvial mud swept out to sea by the Amazon River, carried north by ocean currents, and deposited on the Guyanese shores. A rich clay of great fertility, this mud overlays the white sands and clays formed from the erosion of the interior bedrock and carried seaward by the rivers of Guyana. Because much of the coastal plain floods at high tide, efforts to dam and drain this area have gone on since the 1700s.

Guyana has no well-defined shoreline or sandy beaches. Approaching the ocean, the land gradually loses elevation until it includes many areas of marsh and swamp. Seaward from the vegetation line is a region of mud flats, shallow brown water, and sandbars. Off New Amsterdam, these mud flats extend almost twenty-five kilometers. The sandbars and shallow water are a major impediment to shipping, and incoming vessels must partially unload their cargoes offshore in order to reach the docks at Georgetown and New Amsterdam.

A line of swamps forms a barrier between the white sandy hills of the interior and the coastal plain. These swamps, formed when water was prevented from flowing onto coastal croplands by a series of dams, serve as reservoirs during periods of drought.

The white sand belt lies south of the coastal zone. This area is 150 to 250 kilometers wide and consists of low sandy hills interspersed with rocky outcroppings. The white sands support a dense hardwood forest. These sands cannot support crops, and if the trees are removed erosion is rapid and severe. Most of Guyana's reserves of bauxite, gold, and diamonds are found in this region.

The largest of Guyana's three geographical regions is the interior highlands, a series of plateaus, flat-topped mountains, and savannahs that extend from the white sand belt to the country's southern borders. The Pakaraima Mountains dominate the western part of the interior highlands. In this region are found some of the oldest sedimentary rocks in the Western Hemisphere. Mount Roraima, on the Venezuelan border, is part of the Pakaraima range and, at 2,762 meters, is Guyana's tallest peak. Farther south lies the Kaieteur Plateau, a broad, rocky area about 600 meters in elevation; the 1,000-meter high Kanuku Mountains; and the low Acarai Mountains situated on the southern border with Brazil.

Much of the interior highlands consist of grassland. The largest expanse of grassland, the Rupununi Savannah, covers about 15,000 square kilometers in southern Guyana. This savannah also extends far into Venezuela and Brazil. The part in Guyana is split into northern and southern regions by the Kanuku Mountains. The sparse grasses of the savannah in general support only grazing, although Amerindian groups cultivate a few areas along the Rupununi River and in the foothills of the Kanuku Mountains.


Guyana - Rivers

Guyana is a water-rich country. The numerous rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean, generally in a northward direction. A number of rivers in the western part of the country, however, flow eastward into the Essequibo River, draining the Kaieteur Plateau. The Essequibo, the country's major river, runs from the Brazilian border in the south to a wide delta west of Georgetown. The rivers of eastern Guyana cut across the coastal zone, making east-west travel difficult, but they also provide limited water access to the interior. Waterfalls generally limit water transport to the lower reaches of each river. Some of the waterfalls are spectacular; for example, Kaieteur Falls on the Potaro River drops 226 meters, more than four times the height of Niagara Falls.

Drainage throughout most of Guyana is poor and river flow sluggish because the average gradient of the main rivers is only one meter every five kilometers. Swamps and areas of periodic flooding are found in all but the mountainous regions, and all new land projects require extensive drainage networks before they are suitable for agricultural use. The average square kilometer on a sugar plantation, for example, has six kilometers of irrigation canals, eighteen kilometers of large drains, and eighteen kilometers of small drains. These canals occupy nearly one-eighth of the surface area of the average sugarcane field. Some of the larger estates have more than 550 kilometers of canals; Guyana itself has a total of more than 8,000 kilometers. Even Georgetown is below sea level and must depend on dikes for protection from the Demerara River and the Atlantic Ocean.

Guyana - Climate

Guyana has a tropical climate with almost uniformly high temperatures and humidity, and much rainfall. Seasonal variations in temperature are slight, particularly along the coast. Although the temperature never gets dangerously high, the combination of heat and humidity can at times seem oppressive. The entire area is under the influence of the northeast trade winds, and during the midday and afternoon sea breezes bring relief to the coast. Guyana lies south of the path of Caribbean hurricanes and none is known to have hit the country.

Temperatures in Georgetown are quite constant, with an average high of 32°C and an average low of 24°C in the hottest month (July), and an average range of 29°C to 23°C in February, the coolest month. The highest temperature ever recorded in the capital was 34°C and the lowest only 20°C. Humidity averages 70 percent year-round. Locations in the interior, away from the moderating influence of the ocean, experience slightly wider variations in daily temperature, and nighttime readings as low as 12°C have been recorded. Humidity in the interior is also slightly lower, averaging around 60 percent.

Rainfall is heaviest in the northwest and lightest in the southeast and interior. Annual averages on the coast near the Venezuelan border are near 250 centimeters, farther east at New Amsterdam 200 centimeters, and 150 centimeters in southern Guyana's Rupununi Savannah. Areas on the northeast sides of mountains that catch the trade winds average as much as 350 centimeters of precipitation annually. Although rain falls throughout the year, about 50 percent of the annual total arrives in the summer rainy season that extends from May to the end of July along the coast and from April through September farther inland. Coastal areas have a second rainy season from November through January. Rain generally falls in heavy afternoon showers or thunderstorms. Overcast days are rare; most days include four to eight hours of sunshine from morning through early afternoon.

Guyana - Society

THE COMPOSITION OF GUYANESE SOCIETY is a reflection of the country's colonial past. The colony was created by Dutch and British planters who grew sugarcane using the labor of slaves and indentured workers. Ignoring the country's vast interior, the planters constructed dikes and dams that transformed the coast into an arable plain. With the exception of the indigenous Amerindians and a few Europeans, the entire population consisted of imported plantation workers or their descendants.

Guyanese culture developed with the adaptation of the forced and voluntary immigrants to the customs of the dominant British. Brought to Guyana as slaves, Africans of diverse backgrounds had been thrown together under conditions that severely constrained their ability to preserve their respective cultural traditions. In adopting Christianity and the values of British colonists, the descendants of the African slaves laid the foundations of today's Afro-Guyanese culture. Arriving later and under somewhat more favorable circumstances, East Indian immigrants were subjected to fewer pressures to assimilate than the Africans had been. As a result, more of their traditional culture was preserved.

Although the culture of independent Guyana has become more truly national, the Guyanese people remain divided by ethnic mistrust. The Guyanese elite that has emerged to replace the colonial administration faces the enormous challenge of satisfying the aspirations of the people concerning economic development and educational opportunity.

Guyana - Population

Guyana's population was counted at 758,619 in the census of 1980 and estimated to be 764,000 in 1990. This slow growth was in sharp contrast to the decades following World War II, when the population rose from 375,000 in 1946 to 700,000 in 1970. The natural increase in population in 1990 was 1.9 percent; this growth was almost completely negated, however, by the large numbers of Guyanese who emigrated. The population was relatively young, with 37 percent under fifteen years of age in 1985.

Guyana's birthrate, which averaged thirty-two live births per 1,000 residents in the two decades prior to 1940, jumped to an exceptionally high forty live births per 1,000 in the two decades after 1940. The rate began to drop after 1960 and by 1990 had fallen to twenty-five live births per 1,000.

Efforts to control malaria and to improve sanitation in the 1940s resulted in a dramatic decrease in infant mortality and in the overall death rate. In the 1930s, the infant mortality rate was 149 for every 1,000 live births. By 1946 this rate had dropped to eighty-seven per 1,000, and in 1990 it stood at thirty deaths per 1,000 live births. Statistics on the general death rate mirror the decline in the infant mortality rate. The death rate (including infant mortality) in 1944 was twenty-two per 1,000 residents; in 1963, eight per 1,000; and in 1990, five per 1,000, one of the lowest rates in the Western Hemisphere.

Indo-Guyanese women had a higher birthrate than Afro-Guyanese women in the years after World War II. However, by the early 1960s the fertility rate for Indo-Guyanese women had begun to drop. Statistics for the 1980s showed Indo-Guyanese women marrying at a later age and having fewer children than had been customary in the 1950s. By the 1990s, the difference in birthrates between IndoGuyanese and Afro-Guyanese women had disappeared.

A general decline in fertility rates among women in all ethnic groups was attributed to the increased availability and use of contraceptives. In 1975 the Guyana Fertility Survey found that 57 percent of women who had been married had used contraceptives at some time and that about 40 percent currently were using them. This high rate of contraceptive use was maintained in the absence of public or private family-planning campaigns.

<>Ethnic Composition
<>Population Distribution
<>Urban Population

Updated population figures for Guyana.

Guyana - Ethnic Composition

Ethnic diversity is one of the most significant characteristics of the Guyanese population. As of 1980, Guyanese of East Indian descent (Indo-Guyanese) constituted 51 percent of the total population. Guyanese wholly of African descent made up 31 percent of the population. Those listed as of mixed ancestry constituted 12 percent. Since the mixed-ancestry category comprised individuals of partial African ancestry who were usually included in the Afro-Guyanese community, the Afro-Guyanese population in effect constituted 42 percent of the total population. The remainder of the population was composed of Amerindians (4 percent) individuals of European or Asian descent (3 percent).

A higher growth rate for the Indo-Guyanese population in the post-World War II period resulted in a change in the ethnic composition of Guyanese society. The Indo-Guyanese population grew from 43 percent of the total in 1946 to a majority--51 percent--in 1980. During the same period, the Afro-Guyanese proportion of the population decreased from 49 percent to 42 percent. Although the small European (mostly Portuguese) and Asian (almost entirely Chinese) sectors continued to grow in absolute numbers after World War II, they represented a decreasing proportion of the population.


Guyana - Population Distribution

Statistics indicate that Guyana is one of the most lightly populated countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The World Bank estimated that there were four people per square kilometer in Guyana in 1988, far fewer than the average of twenty people per square kilometer for all of Latin America. However, more than 90 percent of Guyana's population lived along the coast, on a strip constituting only 5 percent of the country's total land area. A more useful figure is the population density per square kilometer of agricultural land, which was estimated at forty-six in 1988. In Latin America as a whole, the average population density on agricultural land was fifty-five per square kilometer.

More than 70 percent of Guyana's coastal population is rural, living on plantations or in villages strung along the coastal road. The villages range in size from several hundred to several thousand inhabitants. The layout of the villages is dictated by the drainage and irrigation systems of the plantations, both active and abandoned. The villages are most heavily concentrated along the estuary of the Demerara River and the eastern environs of Georgetown, near the mouth of the Berbice River close to New Amsterdam, and along the extreme east coast near the Courantyne River.

The pattern of population distribution in Guyana is a product of nineteenth-century economic development, which was based on the cultivation of sugarcane. Because the swampy coast was fertile and sugar production was geared to export, the large sugar estates confined their operations to a narrow coastal strip. Most of the villages had ethnically diverse populations, but usually one ethnic group predominated. The urban population was predominantly African, but it would be misleading to suggest that all Afro-Guyanese were urban. Indeed, the majority of the Afro-Guyanese population was rural. A far greater majority of Indo-Guyanese, however, lived outside the cities. The interior of the country was left mainly to the Amerindians. Even the later exploitation of timber, bauxite, and manganese in the interior failed to effect any sizeable migration.


Guyana - Urban Population

Guyana remained a primarily rural country in 1991. The only significant urban area, the capital city of Georgetown, was home to more than 80 percent of the urban population. The smaller towns served primarily as regional distribution centers. Georgetown had an estimated population of 195,000 in 1985 and an annual growth rate of 6.6 percent. Linden, the country's second largest town with a population of 30,000, was a bauxite mining complex on the Demerara River. The port of New Amsterdam in eastern Guyana had a population of about 20,000.

The proportion of the population living in urban areas increased only slightly between 1960, when it was 29 percent, and 1980, when it was 30.5 percent. By 1985, 32.2 percent of the population was living in urban areas.


Guyana - Emigration

Guyanese statistics indicated an average of 6,080 declared emigrants a year between 1969 and 1976, increasing to an average of 14,400 between 1976 and 1981. Figures for 1976 showed 43 percent of the emigrants going to the United States, 31 percent to Canada, 10 percent to Britain, and 9 percent to the Caribbean. Deteriorating economic conditions caused emigration to increase sharply in the 1980s. Unofficial estimates put the number leaving the country in the late 1980s at 10,000 to 30,000 annually. Many of these emigrants were reported to be middle-class professionals, largely Indo-Guyanese, who opposed government policies that favored employment of Afro-Guyanese in the public sector. This emigration resulted in a significant loss of skilled personnel.



Guyana's ethnic mix is the direct product of the colonial economy. Except for the Amerindians and a few Europeans, the country's ethnic groups are the descendants of groups brought in to work the early plantations. An economy based on sugar production required a large labor force. Attempts to enslave the Amerindian population failed, and the planters soon turned to African slaves. By 1830 there were 100,000 such slaves in British Guiana.

After the abolition of slavery became totally effective in 1838, the planters found a new source of cheap labor in the form of indentured workers, foreigners recruited to work for a specific number of years, usually five, with the possibility of reenlisting for an additional period and eventually being repatriated. Even before slavery was abolished, the importation of indentured workers began. They were recruited from Portugal, India, China, and the West Indies. Although the terms of indenture were nearly as harsh as slavery, the planters succeeded in bringing about 286,000 persons into the country by the early twentieth century. More than 80 percent of these indentured workers were East Indians; their arrival would profoundly affect Guyana's ethnic composition and the nature of Guyanese society in general.

<>Portuguese and Chinese
<>Development of Ethnic Identity
<>Ideologies of Race and Class

Guyana - Afro-Guyanese

Descendants of the Africans, the Afro-Guyanese came to see themselves as the true people of British Guiana, with greater rights to land than the indentured workers who had arrived after them. The fact that planters made land available to East Indians in the late nineteenth century when they had denied land to the Africans several decades earlier reinforced Afro-Guyanese resentment toward other ethnic groups in the colony. The AfroGuyanese people's perception of themselves as the true Guyanese derived not only from their long history of residence, but also from a sense of superiority based on their literacy, Christianity, and British colonial values.

By the early twentieth century, the majority of the urban population of the country was Afro-Guyanese. Many Afro-Guyanese living in villages had migrated to the towns in search of work. Until the 1930s, Afro-Guyanese, especially those of mixed African and European descent, comprised the bulk of the nonwhite professional class. During the 1930s, as the Indo-Guyanese began to enter the middle class in large numbers, they began to compete with Afro-Guyanese for professional positions.

Guyana - Indo-Guyanese

Between 1838 and 1917, almost 240,000 East Indian indentured workers were brought to British Guiana. The indentured workers had the right to be repatriated at the end of their contracts, but as of 1890, most of the East Indian indentured workers had chosen to settle in British Guiana.

Although the great majority of the East Indian immigrants workers were from northern India, there were variations among them in caste and religion. Some 30 percent of the East Indians were from agricultural castes and 31 percent were from low castes or were untouchables. Brahmans, the highest caste, constituted 14 percent of the East Indian immigrants. About 16 percent were Muslims. The only acknowledgment the colonial government and the plantation managers gave to caste differences was their distrust of the Brahmans as potential leaders. East Indian workers were housed together and placed in work gangs without consideration of caste. Unlike the African slaves, the East Indian indentured workers were permitted to retain may of their cultural traditions. But the process of assimilation has made the culture of the modern Indo-Guyanese more homogeneous than that of their caste-conscious immigrant ancestors.

Guyana - Portuguese and Chinese

The Portuguese were among the first indentured workers brought to Guyana. Portuguese indentured immigration began in 1835 and ended in 1882, with most of the immigrants having arrived by the 1860s. Most of the Portuguese came from the North Atlantic island of Madeira.

Economically successful in Guyana, the Portuguese nonetheless experienced discrimination. Even though of European origin, they were treated as socially inferior by the British plantation owners and officials because of their indentured past and Roman Catholic religion. Despite discrimination, by the end of the nineteenth century the Portuguese were firmly established as an important part of Guyana's middle class and commercial sector.

Indentured Chinese workers first came to British Guiana from the south coast of China in 1853. Relatively few in number, the Chinese became the most acculturated of all the descendants of indentured workers. The Chinese language and most Chinese customs, including religion, disappeared. There were no clans or other extended kinship organizations, and soon most Chinese did not trace their ancestry beyond the first immigrant. Because almost all of the Chinese indentured immigrants were men, they tended to intermarry with both East Indians and Africans, and thus the Chinese of Guyana did not remain as physically distinct as other groups.

Like the Portuguese, the Chinese left the plantations as soon as their indenture contracts were fulfilled. Many entered the retail trade. Other Chinese engaged in farming and pioneered wetrice production, using techniques they brought from China. The Chinese tended to live in urban settings.

Guyana - Amerindians

The Amerindians are the descendants of the indigenous people of Guyana; they are broadly grouped into coastal and interior tribes. The term tribes is a linguistic and cultural classification rather than a political one. The coastal Amerindians are the Carib, Arawak, and Warao, whose names come from the three language families of the Guyanese Amerindians. The population of coastal Carib in Guyana declined in the nineteenth century, but Arawak and Warao communities can be found near the Pomeroon and Courantyne rivers.

The interior Amerindians are classified into seven tribes: Akawaio, Arekuna, Barama River Carib, Macusi, Patamona, Waiwai, and Wapisiana. The Barama River Carib, Akawaio, Arekuna, and Patamona live in river valleys in western Guyana. Two Amerindian groups live in the Rupununi Savannah region: the Macusi in the northern half and the Wapisiana in the southern half. The Waiwai live in the far south of the country, near the headwaters of the Essequibo River. All of the interior Amerindians originally spoke Carib languages, with the exception of the Wapisiana, whose language is in the Arawak linguistic family.

By the 1990s, all of the Amerindian groups had undergone extensive acculturation. The coastal Amerindians were the most acculturated, sharing many cultural features with lower-class Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese. There had been considerable intermarriage between coastal Amerindians and Afro-Guyanese. The Waiwai and the Barama River Carib were probably the least acculturated of the Amerindians. Nevertheless, most Amerindians spoke English (or near Brazil, Portuguese) as a first or second language. Almost all Amerindians had been affected by missionary efforts for many decades. Finally, most Amerindians had been integrated in one way or another into the national economic system, though usually at the lowest levels.

Guyana - Development of Ethnic Identity

One of the dominant characteristics of Guyanese society and politics, ethnicity has received much attention from social scientists and historians. It is an oversimplification to describe Guyanese society as made of up of separate racial groups. Terms such as Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese refer to ethnic identities or categories. Significant physical and cultural variations exist within each ethnic category. Thus, two Guyanese with quite different ancestry, political and economic interests, and behavior may share the same ethnic identity.

All of the immigrant groups in British Guiana adapted to the colony's dominant British culture. In many ways, the descendants of the various immigrant groups have come to resemble each other more than their respective ancestors. Moreover, the immigrants' descendants have spread out from their original social niches. Indo-Guyanese are to be found not only on the sugar plantations or in rice-producing communities, but also in the towns, where some are laborers and others are professionals or businessmen. Afro-Guyanese are likewise found at all levels of society.

Among the experiences shared by all of the immigrant groups was labor on the plantations. After the abolition of slavery, the nature of the labor force changed, but not the labor itself. East Indians performed the same work as the slaves before them and lived in the same kind of housing; they were subject to the same management structure on the plantations. All of the immigrants groups were exposed to the same dominant British value system and had to accommodate their own values to it. Africans saw themselves as belonging to different cultural groups; Indian society was differentiated by religion and caste. To the British, however, race was the primary social determinant, and East Indians found themselves categorized as a single race distinct from the Africans.

Perhaps nowhere was assimilation more evident than in language use. English, the official language, has become the primary language of all Guyanese, with the exception of a few elderly IndoGuyanese and some Amerindians. The universal use of English is a strong unifying cultural force. English also brings the nation closer to other countries of the English-speaking Caribbean, although it has isolated Guyana from Spanish- and Portuguesespeaking Latin America.

As the descendants of the immigrant groups became more Anglicized, cultural differences grew less pronounced, and even physical differences became blurred through intermarriage. The cultural differences that remained took on a symbolic importance as indicators of ethnic identity. Many of these cultural differences had not been passed on by ancestors, but developed in the colony. Guyanese Hinduism, for example, is closer to Islam and Christianity than anything observed by the ancestors of the Indo-Guyanese, yet it serves to rally ethnic solidarity.

Guyana - Ideologies of Race and Class

Racial stereotypes developed early in the colony. British planters characterized Africans as physically strong but lazy and irresponsible. East Indians were stereotyped as industrious but clannish and greedy. To some extent, these stereotypes were accepted by the immigrant groups themselves, each giving credence to positive stereotypes of itself and negative stereotypes of other groups. The stereotypes provided a quick explanation of behavior and justified competition among groups. Africans were described as improvident when they refused to work for low wages or make long-term contracts with the plantations. East Indians were considered selfish when they minimized their expenses to acquire capital.

In modern Guyana, the association of behavior with ethnicity is less rigid than in colonial days. Where once there was a sharp and uniform distinction between behavior considered "British" and behavior considered "coolie," now there is a continuum of behaviors, which receive different ethnic labels in different contexts. What is considered "British" in a rural village might be considered "coolie" in the capital.

Along with stereotyping, the colonial value system favoring European, specifically British, mores and behavior has persisted. Eurocentrism was promoted by the colonial education system, which idealized British customs. The superiority of British culture was accepted by the ex-slaves, who perceived their Christianity, for example, as an indication that they too were civilized. From the late nineteenth century, the emerging middle class of urban AfroGuyanese , Indo-Guyanese, and others developed a nationalist ideology based largely on British values. They claimed a place in society because they met standards that had been set by the British.


Afro-Guyanese Patterns

The Africans brought to Guyana as slaves came from cultures with highly developed family systems. Slavery had a devastating effect on African social life and especially on family structures. Spouses could be separated, children could be sold away from their mothers, and sexual exploitation by planters was common. Although legal marriage was forbidden to the slaves, Africans attempted to sustain relationships between men and women and their children.

The monogamous nuclear family is but one family structure accepted among Afro-Guyanese. Although the Christian church wedding has become a important popular ideal, it is more likely to be achieved by middle-class than by lower-class Afro-Guyanese. For many, a church wedding comes not at the beginning of a union, but as a sort of culmination of a relationship. Many common-law marriages are recognized socially but lack the status of a legal wedding. Afro-Guyanese, especially in the lower socioeconomic groups, may have a series of relationships before entering into a legal or common-law marriage. Some such relationships do not entail the establishment of a separate household. The children of such relationships live with one of the parents, usually the mother.

Because of the variety of conjugal relationships that AfroGuyanese adults may form over the course of their lives, the composition of households varies. They may be headed by fathers or mothers and may include children from several parents. Afro-Guyanese households tend to be clustered around females rather than males because the men frequently leave their homes in search of paid work. A three-generation household is likely to include daughters with children whose fathers are away or do not live in the household. Children born out of wedlock are not stigmatized.

<>Indo-Guyanese Patterns

Guyana - Indo-Guyanese Patterns

The plantation system had an effect on the family life of East Indians as well as on that of Africans. In rural India, the basic social unit was the large extended family. Caste position was the first criterion in choosing an appropriate mate. In the plantation housing of British Guiana, it was not possible to maintain extended households even if the kin were available. Considerations of caste became less important in choosing a spouse largely because there were so few women among the East Indian indentured workers.

A wedding is not only an ideal to the Indo-Guyanese; it is the usual rite of passage to adulthood. An elaborate wedding is a necessary affirmation of the social prestige of a Hindu family, as well as a major ritual in the life cycle. Muslim weddings are less elaborate, but also confer prestige on the families involved. Parents usually play a role in selecting the first mate. Religion and sect are important in choosing a marriage partner; caste notions may be as well. However, first marriages are not necessarily expected to endure.

An increasing number of East Indian marriages are regarded as legal, especially since Hindu and Muslim clergy have legal authority to perform wedding ceremonies. No social stigma is attached to civil wedding ceremonies, common-law unions, or conjugal unions between couples who remain legally married to others but have ended their past relationships by mutual consent.

The Indo-Guyanese family tends to be organized through male lines. Extended-family members do not necessarily share the same household, but they often live near each other and may engage in economic activities together. A young couple typically lives with the husband's family for several years, eventually establishing their own cooking facilities and later their own home. In contrast to Afro-Guyanese practice, three-generation households with males at the head are not uncommon among the Indo-Guyanese. The role of the woman is typically more subordinate in Indo-Guyanese families than in Afro-Guyanese households.


Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam are the dominant religions in Guyana. The majority of the Indo-Guyanese are Hindus, although a substantial number are Muslims. Some Indo-Guyanese have converted to Christianity, but conversion is often for professional reasons. Some converts continue their Hindu or Muslim rituals in addition to participating in Christian services. Most Afro-Guyanese are Christians, although a few have converted to Hinduism or Islam. Guyana's other ethnic groups are largely Christian. In 1990, some 52 percent of Guyanese were Christian, 34 percent were Hindu, and 9 percent were Muslim. Of the Christians, 65 percent were Protestant and 35 percent Roman Catholic.

Christianity's status as Guyana's dominant system of values is a consequence of colonial history. To the European planters, colonial administrators, and missionaries, the profession of Christian beliefs and observance of Christian practices were prerequisites to social acceptance. Even though the planters discouraged the teaching of their religion to the slaves, Christianity eventually became as much the religion of the Africans as of the Europeans. Indeed, after abolition, Christian institutions played an even more important role in the lives of the former slaves than in the lives of the masters. By the time the East Indians and other indentured groups arrived in Guyana, a new syncretic Afro-Guyanese culture in which Christianity played an important part had already been established. Only since the mid-twentieth century, with the growth of the Indo-Guyanese population and the efforts of their ethnic and religious organizations, have Muslim and Hindu values and institutions been recognized as having equal status with those of Guyana's Christians.

<>Obeah and Amerindian Practices
<>Religion and Politics

Guyana - Christianity

Among the Christian denominations active in Guyana in the 1990s, the Anglican Church claimed the largest membership: about 125,000 adherents as of 1986. Anglicanism was the state religion of British Guiana until independence. The Roman Catholic Church had a membership of about 94,000 in 1985. The majority of Roman Catholics lived in Georgetown, and the Portuguese were the most active members, although all the ethnic groups were represented. The Presbyterian Church was the third largest denomination, with nearly 39,000 members in 1980. Several other Christian churches had significant memberships in 1980, including the Methodists, Pentecostals, and Seventh-Day Adventists, each of which had about 20,000 members. There were smaller numbers of Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Congregationalists, Nazarenes, Moravians, Ethiopian Orthodox, and other mainstream Christians. Other sects in Guyana included Rastafarianism, which looks to Ethiopia for religious inspiration, and the Hallelujah Church, which combines Christian beliefs with Amerindian traditions. There were also at least 60,000 people describing themselves as Christian who had no formal church affiliation.

Guyana - Hinduism

The majority of the East Indian immigrants were Hindu, and their dominant sect was Vaishnavite Hinduism. Status differences were attached to castes, and rituals varied with caste status. The higher castes worshipped the classic pantheon of Vishnu and Shiva. Vaishnavite Hinduism remains the predominant religion of the IndoGuyanese , although it has been considerably modified.

During the indenture period, the East Indian caste system, with its reinforced variations of rites and beliefs within the Vishnu cult, broke down. Hinduism was redefined, and caste-distinguishing practices were eliminated. Christian missionaries attempted to convert East Indians during the indenture period, beginning in 1852, but met with little success. The missionaries blamed the Brahmans for their failure: the Brahmans began administering spiritual rites to all Hindus regardless of caste once the Christian missionaries started proselytizing in the villages, hastening the breakdown of the caste system. After the 1930s, Hindu conversions to Christianity slowed because the status of Hinduism had improved and discrimination against Hindus had diminished.

Orthodox Hinduism stresses the festivities accompanying religious rites. Festivals may last several days and are usually held in times of crisis or prosperity. Because the sponsor of a festival provides a tent and feeds a large number of guests, orthodox Hindu rituals require considerable outlays of money. A Hindu family has difficulty fulfilling ritual obligations unless it has accumulated a surplus of cash.

Since the late 1940s, reform movements have caught the attention of many Guyanese Hindus. The most important, the Arya Samaj movement (Aryan Society), was founded in India in 1875; the first Arya Samaj missionary arrived in Guyana in 1910. Arya Samaj doctrine rejects the idea of caste and the exclusive role of Brahmans as religious leaders. The movement preaches monotheism and opposition to the use of images in worship as well as many traditional Hindu rituals.

Guyana - Islam

Like the Hindus, Guyana's Muslims are organized into orthodox and reform movements. The Sunnatival Jamaat is the orthodox Sunni Islamic movement. The largest Islamic organization in the country is the Guyana United Sadr Islamic Anjuman. The reform movement, the Ahmadiyah, was founded in India in the late nineteenth century; its first missionary to Guyana arrived in 1908. The reform movement has had considerable success, even including some Afro-Guyanese among its converts. The rites of orthodox and reform Islam are similar, but the reform movement allows the Quran to be read in English and women to enter a designated section of the mosque. In contrast to the situation found on the Indian subcontinent, Muslims and Hindus experience little friction in Guyana. These two religious communities have a tacit agreement not to proselytize each other's members. In smaller villages, Christians and Muslims come together to participate in each other's ceremonies.

Until the 1970s, Hindu and Muslim holidays were not officially recognized. A number of non-Christian religious days are now public holidays. Hindu holidays include Holi, the spring festival, and Divali, the festival of lights. Muslim holidays include Id al Fitr, the end of Ramadan, the sacred month of fasting; Id al Adha, the feast of sacrifice; and Yaum an Nabi, the birthday of Muhammad. The dates for these holidays vary. An East Indian heritage day is celebrated and on May 5, an Amerindian festival is held on Republic Day, in February.

Guyana - Obeah and Amerindian Practices

A number of folk beliefs continue to be practiced in Guyana. Obeah, a folk religion of African origin, incorporates beliefs and practices of all the immigrant groups. Obeah practitioners may be Afro-Guyanese or Indo-Guyanese, and members of all the ethnic groups consult them for help with problems concerning health, work, domestic life, and romance. Some villagers wear charms or use other folk practices to protect themselves from harm.

Traditional Amerindian religious beliefs vary, but shamans play a significant role in all of them. The shaman is believed to communicate with the world of spirits in order to detect sorcery and combat evil. The shaman is also a healer and an adviser, the representative of the village to the spiritual world and sometimes its political leader as well. Missionary activity to the Amerindians has been intense. As a result, the traditional beliefs and practices of all the Amerindian groups have been modified; some have even disappeared.

Guyana - Cults

The House of Israel was established by an American fugitive, David Hill, also known as Rabbi Edward Washington, who arrived in Guyana in 1972. The cult had no ties to traditional Jewish religion but was a black supremacist movement. In the 1970s, the group claimed a membership of 8,000. The House of Israel had a daily radio program in which it preached that Africans were the original Hebrews and needed to prepare for a racial war. Opponents of the government claimed that the House of Israel constituted a private army for Guyana's ruling party, the People's National Congress (PNC). During an anti-government demonstration, a House of Israel member murdered a Roman Catholic priest because he was on the staff of a religious opposition newspaper, the Catholic Standard. The House of Israel also engaged in strikebreaking activities and disruptions of public meetings. Critics of the government alleged that House of Israel members acted with impunity during the government of Linden Forbes Burnham. However, under Hugh Desmond Hoyte, Burnham's successor, Rabbi Washington and key associates were arrested on a long-standing manslaughter charge and imprisoned.

Guyana acquired international notoriety in 1978 following a mass murder-suicide at the commune of the People's Temple of Christ, which had been led by the Reverend Jim Jones, of Oakland, California. In 1974 the People's Temple, a utopian commune, leased a tract of land near Port Kaituma in western Guyana to escape from mounting scrutiny of the group by California authorities. The government welcomed the People's Temple in part because of its interest in populating the interior of the country, especially the area claimed by Venezuela, where Jonestown was situated. Members of the People's Temple also became close to PNC leaders, and the group was allowed to function without interference from the government. Allegations of atrocities by commune leaders and charges that the commune was holding people against their will led a United States congressman, Leo Ryan, to go to Jonestown to investigate the allegations of abuse.

Fearing that Congressman Ryan's report on the commune would bring unwanted publicity and restrictions on his operations, Jones had the congressman shot as he was boarding an airplane to return to Georgetown. The United States immediately asked Guyana to send in its army. Before the army could reach Jonestown, however, Jones coerced and cajoled over 900 members of the commune to commit murder and suicide.

Guyana - Religion and Politics

Through much of Guyana's history, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches helped maintain the social and political status quo. The Roman Catholic Church and its newspaper, the Catholic Standard, were vocal opponents of the ideology of the People's Progressive Party (PPP) in the 1950s and became closely associated with the conservative United Force. However, in the late 1960s the Roman Catholic Church changed its stance toward social and political issues, and the Catholic Standard became more critical of the government. Subsequently, the government forced a number of foreign Roman Catholic priests to leave the country. By the mid-1970s, the Anglicans and other Protestant denominations had joined in the criticisms of government abuse. The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches also worked together, unsuccessfully, to oppose the government's assumption of control of church schools in 1976.

The Guyana Council of Churches was the umbrella organization for sixteen major Christian denominations. Historically, it had been dominated by the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. The Guyana Council of Churches became an increasingly vocal critic of the government in the 1970s and 1980s, focusing international attention on its shortcomings. The conflict between the government and the Guyana Council of Churches came to a head in 1985, when members of the PNC-influenced House of Israel physically prevented the council from holding its annual meeting. Later that year, police searched the homes of the major Christian church leaders. The PNC maintained the support of a number of smaller Christian denominations, however.

In contrast to the most prominent Christian clergy, who maintained connections with international denominations, Hindu and Muslim leaders depended on strictly local support. For them, resistance to political pressure was more difficult. In the 1970s, the PNC succeeded in splitting many of the important Hindu and Muslim organizations into pro-PNC and pro-PPP factions.


Free education from nursery school through university was a major reason for Guyana's 1990 estimated literacy rate of 96 percent, one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. As of 1985, the average worker in Guyana had completed 6.8 years of schooling. Families of all ethnic groups and classes took interest in the schooling of their children, and education reform has had a central place in government policy since the 1960s.

The earliest record of schooling in Guyana dates back to Dutch rule and the arrival of a religious instructor in Essequibo in 1685. Because seventeenth- and eighteenth-century planters sent their children to Europe to study, local education developed slowly. Private schools and academies for the children of prospering non-British colonists were established and maintained in the colony during the nineteenth century; the first known reference to the establishment of public schools was made early in the 1800s.

By 1834 there were numerous schools, both elementary and secondary, in British Guiana's urban centers. After the cessation of slavery in 1838, many Africans quickly made use of the educational opportunities open to them. By 1841 there were 101 elementary schools, most of them under the direction of the London Missionary Society. A teacher-training school and a college were opened in the 1850s. Primary education became compulsory in 1876. Truancy, however, was common.

The British planters and bureaucrats discouraged the education of the Indo-Guyanese indentured laborers. The government stated in 1904 that Indo-Guyanese should not be prosecuted if they objected on religious grounds to sending their daughters to school. Planters used this policy to discourage workers from sending their children to school. Not until 1933 was the Indo-Guyanese leadership successful in changing government policy.

For most of the colonial period, secondary education was restricted to the upper and middle classes. With the exception of a very few scholarships, secondary education was paid for by parents, not the government. Thus, most of the students who completed primary school were excluded from a secondary education.

Guiding the development of the colonial school system was the traditional British view that the purpose of secondary education was to prepare the elite for its role in society. The two best secondary schools, Queen's College and Bishop's High School, both in Georgetown, employed the same curricula and methods used in British "public" schools. During most of the colonial period, there was little interest either in vocational training or in expanding educational opportunities. The requirement of a single, standard certificate based on a highly literary curriculum prevented education reform well into the twentieth century.

In 1961 the government took steps that greatly increased access to education. Many new secondary schools were opened, especially in rural areas, and school fees were abolished. Two years later, the University of Guyana was established. The percentage of children between the ages of twelve and seventeen attending school increased from 63 percent in 1960 to 76 percent in 1985. For those between ages eighteen and twenty-three, school attendance increased almost threefold, from 4.7 percent to 12.9 percent, between 1960 and 1985.

<>Education Policy and the Teaching Profession
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<>Attitudes toward Education

Guyana - Education Policy and the Teaching Profession

The postindependence government placed particular emphasis on education, both to develop a skilled labor force and to increase opportunity for disadvantaged people. Primary and secondary education was supervised by the Education Department of the Ministry of Education, Social Development, and Culture. District officers inspected schools at the local level. The university and institutions of technical education were administered by the Ministry of Higher Education, established in 1980. In 1988 expenditures on education constituted 6.4 percent of government spending. Many leading members of the government, including presidents Burnham and Hoyte, were former schoolteachers; others were the children of teachers. Yet critics of the government asserted that the education system had undergone decline in the 1970s and 1980s, despite the priority given it by the government. Critics also charged the government with using the school system to disseminate political propaganda.

In 1976 the government abolished private education and became responsible for providing free education from nursery school through the university level. The government took over about 600 schools. The great majority of the private schools taken over by the government had been religious. Most of them had been Christian, and a few had been Hindu or Muslim. The takeover was opposed by the churches and by a large segment of the middle class, which feared a decline in education standards and increased competition from lower-class students.

Guyana had no shortage of teachers through the 1980s. The teaching profession remained an honored one, even though teachers were no longer the most educated members of their community. Teaching had long been a means of advancement for Afro-Guyanese, who made up the majority of teachers until the 1950s; they instructed both Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese children. IndoGuyanese began to enter the profession in the 1920s, but there was little room for advancement for non-Christians in the denominational schools. After World War II, Indo-Guyanese took a greater interest in schooling and a large number went into education. Schoolteachers became the largest professional group among the Indo-Guyanese; they tended to teach in government schools, where religious differences were less important. About 7 percent of the primary school instructors in the country were IndoGuyanese in 1935; by 1965, this segment had increased to 54 percent; surpassing the proportion of Indo-Guyanese in the general population.

Guyana - Primary Schools

Nursery school was available to Guyanese children for two years, beginning at age four. Children began primary school at age six. Primary schools had six grades: Preparatory A and B and Standards I through IV. Primary schools were attended five hours a day, Monday through Friday. A school year usually had 189 days, beginning in September and ending in July. The school year was divided into three trimesters: Christmas Term, Easter Term, and Summer Term. Primary education for students with disabilities was provided by the Thomas Lands School in Georgetown.

In 1984 there were 368 nursery schools and 418 primary schools in Guyana. In 1981 about 130,000 students attended primary schools, an enrollment rate of 96 percent. With 3,909 teachers in Guyana, the national teacher-pupil ratio was one teacher to thirty-three pupils.

Guyana - Secondary Schools

Entry into secondary education was based on students' performance in a placement examination, the Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE) administered to eleven-year-old students. For those students who scored poorly on the SSEE, a continuation of primary education for three years was also available in the so-called senior department of the primary schools, which were also known as all-age schools. Students who completed primary school or all-age school were eligible to continue in secondary school.

There were three kinds of secondary schools to which students who had taken the SSEE could be admitted: the general secondary school, the multilateral school, and the community high school. General secondary schools had a six-year program, with Forms I through VI. (Form VI was the equivalent of the senior year of high school in the United States.) At the end of the secondary program, students could take the Secondary Schools Proficiency Examination for entry into trade school, or examinations at the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level or Caribbean Examination Council examinations for university admission.

The multilateral schools, established in 1974, provided five years of education for students ages ten through eighteen. After a basic three-year course, students concentrated on science, technology, agriculture, home economics, or commerce for their final two years of study. The multilateral schools ended at the Form-V level. The final examinations were for the Ordinary Levels of the GCE.

A third type of secondary school was the community high school, open to students over twelve years of age. During the first half of the four-year program, students were taught basic academic skills as well as prevocational subjects. In the final two years, they concentrated on a vocational area, such as agriculture, arts and crafts, industrial arts, or home economics. The program included on-the-job training.

There were fifty-eight general secondary schools and thirty multilateral and thirty community high schools in Guyana in 1983. In 1981 there were 73,700 secondary students in Guyana, an enrollment rate of 57 percent. The teacher-pupil ratio was one to seventeen.

Guyana - Institutions of Higher Education

The principal institution of higher education was the University of Guyana; there were also several specialized schools and an elaborate adult education program. Established as an independent institution in 1963, the University of Guyana occupied its campus near Georgetown in 1969. The university had faculties of natural science, social science, arts, technology, and education. In addition to these areas, the university offered bachelor's degrees in public administration, social work, pharmacy, and education. The university also provided an undergraduate degree for law students. The first master's-level graduate program, in Guyanese history, was started in 1973. Master's degrees have also been awarded in biology, chemistry, economics, education, and political science. There were 2,004 university students in July 1983.

Training of primary and secondary school teachers was provided by three institutions: the Cyril Potter College of Education, the Lilian Dewar College of Education, and the University of Guyana. These institutions provided preservice training, postgraduate diploma courses, and a one-year course for trained teachers, culminating in presentation of a Certificate in Education. Primary teachers underwent a two-year program of study and secondary teachers a three-year program. The University of Guyana had diploma programs in education that provided certification in vocational training, music, art, physical education, and evaluation. Additional training was provided by the Institute of Education, and in-service training was common.

Among Guyana's vocational institutes were the Government Technical Institute, where mechanics, machine tooling, plumbing, electronic repair, construction, and business were taught; the Industrial Training Centre, run by the Ministry of Labour; the Carnegie School of Home Economics; and the Burrowes School of Art. Agricultural sciences and management were taught at the Guyana School of Agriculture under the direction of the Ministry of Agriculture and by the Burnham Agricultural Institute.

The government created the Kuru Kuru Cooperative College in 1973 and the Cuffy Ideological Institute in 1977 to advance its ideological objective of promoting socialism. The Workers' Education Unit was also formed to provide ideological programs at work.

Adult education was provided by the Extramural Department of the University of Guyana, the Extramural Department of the Kuru Kuru Cooperative College, and the Adult Education Association.

Guyana - Attitudes toward Education

Guyana's high literacy and school attendance rates evinced a great interest in education. From the time of slavery, AfroGuyanese saw education as a means of escape from the drudgery of plantation labor. The schoolteacher became an important figure in village life and a cornerstone of the incipient middle class. Parents made economic sacrifices so their children could attend school. Literacy improved the position of villagers in dealing with the government and commercial institutions. An education created the possibility that one could become a clerk or administrator in the public or private sectors. For the very few who acquired a secondary education, entry into medicine, law, and other professions might become possible.

Until the 1930s, Indo-Guyanese often were opposed to primary schooling for their children. The Indo-Guyanese plantation workers feared both discrimination and the influence of Christian education on their children. They were also reluctant to forgo the labor their children provided. In addition, the planters discouraged the workers and their children from pursuing an education. In the 1930s and 1940s, however, a significant number of Indo-Guyanese became successful rice producers and began to regard the education of their children as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. Thereafter, the increasing enrollment of Indo-Guyanese children in elementary and secondary schools reflected the revision in parents' attitudes. New schools were built in the predominantly IndoGuyanese sugar-state areas.

Curriculum content was considered secondary to passing examinations and becoming eligible for a white-collar job. For this reason, parents showed little interest in a vocational curriculum that would prepare students for agricultural or mechanical jobs. Parents resisted attempts by the government to channel students into courses that it considered more relevant to Guyana's needs if those courses did not lead to a secondary education.

A high level of demand for expanded educational opportunities persisted in the postindependence period, especially at the secondary level. At the same time, parents continued to exhibit conservatism concerning curricula, not because they favored the traditional course contents, but because they continued to regard an academic curriculum as the best avenue to employment opportunities.


Food and Diet

Although the 1990 average daily nutritional intake in Guyana, 2,450 calories, exceeded the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recommended level by about 10 percent, malnutrition remained a problem. Intake of protein calories averaged 62.7 grams, of which 23.1 came from animal sources.

Although the national food supply generally is adequate, a high incidence of malnutrition persists, especially in rural areas where deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, folic acid, and protein are common.

Not everyone in Guyana has the means to produce or purchase the food needed for an adequate diet. Also, some foods are not available in sufficient supply to ensure good nutrition. Malnutrition is still estimated to affect more than a third of all children under five years of age.

Peas, rice, and bread are staples in the diet of many Guyanese. Locally grown vegetables that are high in carbohydrates, such as cassava, plantains, and breadfruit, are widely consumed, but are available only in season. Green and yellow vegetables are plentiful, but are usually of poor quality. Chicken bought in local markets is frequently contaminated with salmonella.

<>Health and Welfare Services

Guyana - Health

Many of Guyana's health problems are the result of its human geography. Most of the population is crowded in the low-lying coastal plain, where cycles of flooding and drought have historically made sanitation difficult. The coastal plain is a hospitable environment for the malaria-carrying mosquito, and crowded housing on the plantations facilitates the spread of disease. It was not until after World War II that nationwide efforts to improve health conditions were made.

Among the endemic illnesses in Guyana are malaria, typhoid, filariasis, and tuberculosis. Measles remains a common infectious disease. The leading causes of death are circulatory, respiratory, infectious, and parasitic diseases. In the late 1940s, the government began a malaria-control campaign that largely eradicated the disease on the coastal plain. Nevertheless, in 1990 malaria remained a problem in the interior and had returned to some areas of the coast as well. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) also was a growing problem. A total of 145 cases of AIDS had been reported by the end of 1990.

The infant mortality rate for Guyana in 1988 was 43.9 per 1,000 live births. This figure was considerably below the average rate for Latin America and the Caribbean (52 per 1,000), and was a great improvement over the rate of 141 per 1,000 in the 1930s. However, for low-income families, the rate was 72.6 per 1,000. Life expectancy at birth was estimated at sixty-six years in 1988, about the same as the average for Latin America.

Sewage treatment remains inadequate in many rural households, especially in the villages. More than 90 percent of the urban population, but only 65 percent of the rural population, had access to safe water in 1988. According to World Bank estimates, access to safe water in rural areas had declined 10 percent in the two previous decades because of poor maintenance of purification facilities. In 1960 the government initiated a successful environmental sanitation program in the Essequibo area, where parasitic-infection rates had run between 80 percent and 90 percent. In sugar-estate communities, potable water was supplied by the sugar industry.

Guyana - Health and Welfare Services

Until World War II, medical facilities in rural areas were inadequate. The extension of workers' compensation to agricultural workers in 1947 and the subsequent establishment of the medical services on the sugar estates did much to improve rural health care. The World Bank estimated that 89 percent of the population had access to health care in the late 1980s. Some children under twelve had been immunized against measles (52 percent), and diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT) (67 percent), figures that are about average for the region. Health expenditures by the government were 3.7 percent of all expenditures in 1984.

In 1988 there were 21 hospitals, 47 health clinics, and 115 rural health centers in Guyana. The country counted 2,933 hospital beds for a bed to population ratio of approximately one to 280. Guyana's seven private hospitals and the largest public hospitals are in Georgetown.

Statistics for 1988 showed 164 physicians in Guyana, which made for a physician-to-patient ratio of one to 5,000. About 90 percent of the physicians were in public service. Most physicians in the private sector were also holding government jobs. Approximately half of the country's physicians were expatriates from communist countries, such as Cuba and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), who were assigned to work in Guyana as part of bilateral agreements. These foreign professionals experienced significant language and cultural difficulties in dealing with patients.

Guyana's 789 nurses made for a nurse-to-patient ratio of one to 1,014 in 1988. There were an additional 875 nursing assistants and 409 trained midwives. Because of the shortage of nurses, many health care functions that in developed countries would be performed by nursing personnel were assigned to nursing students. Thirty-eight pharmacists were licensed to operate.

A national insurance program was established in 1969. It covers most workers and self-employed people for disability, sickness, and maternity. The program is administered by the National Insurance Board. Workers with permanent total disabilities are paid their full salary; those with temporary disabilities get at least 60 percent of their salary. Employees with illnesses can receive 60 percent of their salary for up to six months. Women can take maternity leave for up to thirteen weeks with 60 percent of their salary. Guyana also has a pensions system that provides a basis of 30 percent of earnings starting at age sixty-five. Employers and employees alike pay into all of these insurance funds, which are administered by the National Insurance Board. Social security and welfare accounted for 2.7 percent of government expenditures in 1984.

Guyana - Economy

GUYANA'S ECONOMY WAS IN DIRE CONDITION in the early 1990s. When the country gained independence in 1966, it was one of the least developed areas in the Western Hemisphere. In the 1970s and 1980s, the economy deteriorated further after the government nationalized foreign-owned companies and took control of almost all economic activity. Output of bauxite, sugar, and rice--the country's three main products--fell sharply. Guyana's gross domestic product (GDP reflected the decline in output. Real GDP fell during the late 1970s and decreased by an estimated 6 percent per year during the 1980s. The fall in GDP in terms of United States dollars was even more dramatic because of repeated devaluations of the Guyanese dollar (for value of the Guyanese dollar). In 1990 the GDP was only US$275 million. Per capita GDP amounted to less than US$369 per capita, making Guyana one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere.

Declining GDP was but one symptom of the malaise that had overcome Guyana's economy in the 1980s. Other indications were the nation's crumbling infrastructure, especially the electrical power supply; the high level of external debt and payments arrears; and the emigration of professionals and skilled workers. Conditions were harsh for the roughly 764,000 people living in the country. In 1990 an estimated 40 percent of workers earned the minimum wage, equivalent to only US$0.5 per day. Three factors--the flourishing illegal economy, the cash remittances that Guyanese citizens received from relatives living abroad, and the country's near selfsufficiency in food production--were all that kept the economic decline from becoming a disaster.

But in the early 1990s, there were signs that twenty years of stagnation and decline could be ending. The government of Guyana was at last coming to grips with the deep economic crisis. The economy's performance had not yet recovered, but the government was dismantling statist policies and opening up the country to foreign investment.

There were two principal reasons for the dramatic policy reversal. The first reason was the death in 1985 of then-President Linden Forbes Burnham, who had been in power since the mid-1960s. Burnham refused to recognize the ill effects of "cooperative" socialism, which he had designed. The second reason for the reversal was Guyana's debt. President Hugh Desmond Hoyte, Burnham's successor, inherited a tremendous external debt burden and large debt payment arrears. By 1988 those arrears exceeded US$885 million (equal to four times the country's annual exports), and Guyana's international creditors had exhausted their patience. Hoyte faced the stark alternatives of having all credit to his country cut off or enacting a package of reforms approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He chose the latter option, launching an ambitious Economic Recovery Program (ERP) in 1988 with the goal of dismantling Guyana's socialist economy and ending the country's self-imposed isolation. "My single ambition," Hoyte told the Financial Times in 1989, "is to put this economy right. I want to put it on the path to recovery."

Guyana's economy was still far from recovery in 1991, but the Hoyte government's commitment to reform was clear. The government had cut its budget deficit (in real terms), removed most price controls, legalized foreign currency trading, liberalized trade regulations, encouraged foreign investment, and had begun privatizing state-owned companies. In early 1991, the official and market exchange rates were unified for the first time since independence. Market forces were replacing state intervention; incentives to private individuals were replacing government regulations. Foreign investors appeared ready to tap Guyana's considerable natural resource potential.

Economic reform still faced formidable obstacles, however. Chief among these was the shortage of financial resources to improve the nation's infrastructure and rebuild its productive base. The IMF and other international creditors had refinanced the debt, propping up the financial side of the economy. But Guyana needed additional loans--even though its debt burden was already huge--so that the productive side of the economy could be rebuilt. A second obstacle was the social cost of the government's austerity plan. Guyanese citizens could ill afford to receive lower wages or pay higher taxes to help eliminate the budget deficit. Thus, Guyana needed international assistance for humanitarian as well as economic reasons. For the government then, the economic reform program posed two sizable challenges: to maintain the political initiative at home and to garner the continued support of the international financial community.



Guyana was first colonized by Dutch settlers in the 1600s. Spanish explorers had ignored the area because it lacked obvious mineral wealth. Key features of Guyana's current economic structure, especially the patterns of land use, can be traced to the period of Dutch stewardship. The Dutch West India Company, which administered most of the colony from 1621 to 1792, granted early Dutch and then British settlers ownership over 100-hectare tracts of land. Settlers augmented these narrow coastal tracts by clearing swampland and expanding their holdings inland, for several kilometers in some cases. Many of the large sugar plantations that formed the basis of the colonial economy were established in this manner. Dutch settlers also left their mark on the land. They built a system of dikes and drainage canals on Guyana's low-lying coastal plain, using techniques developed in the Netherlands. Parts of this original sea-defense system continued to operate in the 1990s.

Sugar soon emerged as the most important plantation crop. Sugar was first grown in colonial Guyana in 1658 but was not produced on a large scale until the late 1700s, about 100 years later than in the rest of the Caribbean region. Because Guyana's plantation owners entered the sugar industry late, they were able to import relatively advanced equipment for milling sugarcane. This investment in advanced equipment gave the local sugar industry a firm foundation and made it the leading sector of the local economy. By 1800 there were an estimated 380 sugar estates along the coast. In the 1990s, almost two centuries later, the population was still concentrated on the same coastal strip of land, and sugar was still one of the nation's two most valuable products.

Guyana's distinct ethnic makeup can be traced to conditions that prevailed during the colonial period. To supply the labor required for sugar cultivation, plantation owners at first imported slaves from West Africa. (The indigenous Amerindian population of Guyana was small and lived mostly in the impenetrable interior.) Thousands of slaves were imported each year as plantations expanded; more than 100,000 slaves worked in the colony by 1830.

The British formally took over the colony in 1814. But British Guiana's plantation economy fell into turmoil after 1833, when Britain passed the Act for the Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Colonies. The law provided a five-year transitional period during which plantation owners were to begin paying soon-to-be- freed slaves for their services. In practice, however, owners alienated the slaves by wringing as much work as possible from them during the last years in bondage. Upon emancipation in 1838, almost all of the former slaves abandoned the plantations. Agricultural production plummeted. Some groups of former slaves were able to buy failed plantations, but they lacked the capital to reconstruct the complex operations after years of neglect. Most former slaves reverted to subsistence farming. By 1848 only 20,000 Africans worked on sugar estates. Even so, few Africans left the country; more than 40 percent of Guyana's postindependence population was descended from African slaves.

Faced with the prospect of a complete extinction of the sugar industry, plantation owners looked abroad for laborers. Free immigrants had little enthusiasm for the harsh working conditions on sugar estates, but indentured servants were less discriminating. Indentured servants typically contracted to work for five years in exchange for a one-way passage to British Guiana as well as food and housing. (In some cases, a return voyage was offered in exchange for extra years of service.) After taking on indentured servants from Portugal, China, and the West Indies, plantation owners turned to what would become the most important source of immigrants: India. About 240,000 indentured East Indians were brought to British Guiana between 1838 and 1917, the date when indentured labor was abolished. The British government supported this intraempire transfer of labor. In the short term, the influx of labor saved British Guiana's sugar industry. In the long term, the immigration deeply affected British Guiana's ethnic makeup. Most of the East Indians remained in the colony after completing their terms of indenture; many became independent rice farmers. Their descendants, along with later immigrants from India, accounted for about half of Guyana's postindependence population.

The racial and ethnic divisions that arose out of the two great waves of immigration into Guyana in the colonial period had a profound effect on the country. The divisions between Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese persisted into the modern period, in both economic and political terms. In the early 1990s, most IndoGuyanese were still employed in agriculture, growing sugar and rice, while the majority of Afro-Guyanese lived in Guyana's few urban areas..

The most important change in Guyana's economy after the turn of the century was the development of the bauxite (aluminum ore) industry by North American companies. Mining of bauxite began in 1914, and the ore would alternate with sugar as Guyana's most valuable product. Guyana possessed vast reserves of bauxite in the northeast, and by the 1960s, the country had become the world's fourth largest producer (after the Soviet Union, Jamaica, and Suriname). Until the 1980s, Guyana was also the leading producer of calcined bauxite, a high grade of the mineral required for specialized applications.

<>Parallel Economy

Guyana - HISTORY OF THE ECONOMY - Postindependence

Guyana achieved political independence in 1966, but economic independence did not immediately follow. Most decisions affecting the economy continued to be made abroad because foreign companies owned most of the agricultural and mining enterprises. Two British companies, Booker McConnell and Jessel Securities, controlled the largest sugar estates and exerted a great deal of influence on the nation. In the early 1970s, the Booker McConnell company alone accounted for almost one-third of Guyana's gross national product (GNP). The company produced 85 percent of Guyana's sugar, employed 13 percent of the work force, and took in 35 percent of the country's foreign exchange earnings.

Two other foreign companies dominated the mining sector: the Demerara Bauxite Company (Demba), a subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of Canada (Alcan); and the Reynolds Bauxite Company, a subsidiary of the Reynolds Metals Company of the United States. Together these firms accounted for 45 percent of the nation's foreign exchange earnings. Foreign companies also controlled the major banks.

The Burnham government, which took office in 1964, saw continued foreign domination of the economy as an obstacle to progress. As economist DeLisle Worrell pointed out, foreign ownership was considered the root cause of local economic difficulties. Emerging nations of the Caribbean region shared this viewpoint, which was supported by a number of arguments. Foreign-owned companies were said to use inappropriate production technologies in the Caribbean. These technologies were capital intensive, rather than labor intensive, because they had been developed for the industrialized world. Thus, local unemployment remained higher than necessary. Furthermore, local economies were geared to producing only primary products (sugar and bauxite in Guyana) rather than value-added products (processed foods and aluminum parts, for example). Guyana sold its inexpensive primary products abroad at world market prices that made local economies vulnerable to international price swings. At the same time, local economies had to import expensive products, such as machinery, because most small, less-developed countries had no manufacturing base.

According to critics of the country's economic system, foreign companies were satisfied with the existing arrangements and had no incentive to develop the local economies. In short, foreign control was stifling regional aspirations. Many people in Caribbean countries, particularly those with left-leaning political sympathies, called for government control of the economies.

The government moved vigorously to take control of the economy. In 1970 Burnham proclaimed Guyana as the world's first "cooperative republic." He said that the country would continue to welcome foreign investors but that the government would own at least 51 percent of any enterprise operating in Guyana. The Burnham government originally planned not to exceed this 51 percent ownership; it wanted majority control of the companies but wanted to maintain foreign management teams and the flow of foreign investment. In practice, however, major foreign companies balked at the idea of shared ownership, and the Burnham government took complete control of the economy, eliminating both foreign ownership and foreign management.

During the 1970s, Guyana nationalized the major companies operating in the country. Demba became a state-owned corporation in 1971. Three years later, the government took over the Reynolds Bauxite Company. The Burnham government then turned its attention to the sugar industry. Some observers say the latter move was largely for political reasons; they say the Burnham government was seeking to extend its base of support among Indo-Guyanese sugar laborers. Guyana nationalized Jessel Securities in 1975 after the company began laying off workers to cut costs. In 1976 the government nationalized the huge Booker McConnell company. By the late 1970s, the government controlled over 80 percent of the economy.

Nationalization of large foreign companies was but one aspect of pervasive government control of economic activity. By the early 1980s, the government had also taken over the bulk of the retailing and distribution systems. It controlled the marketing of all exports, even those few products, such as rice, which were still produced privately. It owned all but two financial institutions and tightly regulated currency exchange. The government controlled prices and even attempted to dictate patterns of consumption by banning a wide range of consumer imports. Local substitutes for even the most basic imports were proposed, such as rice flour for imported wheat flour.

The nationalized economy at first appeared to be performing well. During the early 1970s, world prices of both sugar and bauxite rose, allowing the newly nationalized enterprises to reap sizable profits. Increased government spending helped stimulate the economy, and GDP grew at about 4 percent per year from 1970 to 1975.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, however, the world commodity prices that had favored Guyana declined, reversing the earlier gains. Economic output dropped as demand for sugar and bauxite fell. Nonetheless, government spending continued at a high rate, and Guyana was forced to begin borrowing abroad. This pattern of declining GDP, continued high levels of government spending, and foreign borrowing was common throughout Latin America in the 1980s.

Guyana's economic decline grew more acute during the 1980s. Unfavorable world prices were only part of the problem. There were two more basic difficulties: the lack of local managers capable of running the large agricultural and mining enterprises, and the lack of investment in those enterprises as government resources were depleted. Bauxite production, which had dropped from 3 million tons per year in the 1960s to 2 million tons in 1971, fell to 1.3 million tons by 1988. Similarly, sugar production declined from 330,000 tons in 1976 to about 245,000 tons in the mid-1980s, and had declined to 168,000 tons by 1988. Rice production never again reached its 1977 peak of 210,000 tons. By 1988, national output of rice was almost 40 percent lower than in 1977.

The decline in productivity was a serious problem, and the Burnham government's reaction to the downturn aggravated the situation. As export revenues fell, foreign exchange became scarce. Rather than attacking the root of the problem, low domestic output, the government attempted to ration foreign exchange. The government regulated all transactions requiring foreign exchange and severely restricted imports. These controls created their own inefficiencies and shortages. More significantly, tight government control encouraged the growth of a large parallel market. Smugglers brought in illegal imports, and currency traders circumvented government controls on foreign exchange. Although many citizens began working and trading in the parallel economy, many others were leaving the country. An estimated 72,000 Guyanese, almost one-tenth of the population, emigrated between 1976 and 1981. Among those who left the country were many of the most skilled managers and entrepreneurs. Finally, the hostile political orientation of the Burnham government foreclosed the possibility of aid from the United States.

The crisis finally came to a head in the late 1980s because of Guyana's unsustainable foreign debt. As export revenues fell, the government began borrowing abroad to finance the purchase of essential imports. External debt ballooned to US$1.7 billion by 1988, almost six times as large as Guyana's official GDP. Because the government funneled the borrowed money into consumption rather than productive investment, Guyana's economy did not grow out of debt. Instead, the government became increasingly unable to meet its debt obligations. Overdue payments, or arrears, reached a staggering US$1 billion in 1988. Rather than risk a curtailment of all foreign credit (even short-term loans for imported machinery and merchandise), the Hoyte government embarked on an IMF-backed austerity and recovery program. The Economic Reform Program (ERP) introduced in 1988 amounted to a reversal of the statist policies that had dominated Guyana's economy for two decades.

Guyana - THE ECONOMY - Structure

The structure of Guyana's export-oriented economy in the 1980s was much the same as it had been since colonial times. Sugar, bauxite, and rice were the most important products. In fiscal year (FY) 1989, agriculture accounted for 30 percent of Guyana's official GDP, mining for 10 percent, manufacturing and construction for 15 percent, services for 22 percent, government for 18 percent, and other activities for about 5 percent. The existence of a large unofficial parallel market in Guyana made it difficult to obtain reliable data on overall economic activity. But according to some estimates, as much as one-half of Guyana's actual economic activity occurred in the parallel market.

The most important agricultural concern was the sugar industry, operated by the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco). Sugar production declined significantly during the 1980s. The magnitude of the decline became apparent in 1988, when Guyana imported sugar for the first time in the twentieth century. The second most important agricultural product was rice. In contrast to sugar, rice was produced mostly on privately owned farms, and most rice was consumed domestically. Rice production fluctuated widely during the 1980s. Droughts, floods, and plant disease often interfered with crops, especially in 1988, when Guyana imported rice as well as sugar. Guyana also produced livestock for domestic consumption and exported fishery products. Forest resources remained largely unexploited.

Bauxite production was the most important part of the mining sector. The major bauxite mines, operated by the Guyana Mining Enterprise Limited (Guymine), were in the Linden area and on the Berbice River at Kwakwani. Bauxite production declined to 1.3 million tons in 1988 compared with the 1966 level of 3 million tons. Guyana also mined gold and diamonds, but the exact value of all of these goods was not known because smugglers commonly absconded with these valuable minerals.

Processing of sugar, bauxite, rice, and other primary products accounted for three-quarters of Guyana's manufacturing activity. Guyanese industry produced some consumer goods, but the country lacked heavy manufacturers. The service component of GDP included transport, communications, financial activities, trade, and distribution. Official statistics did not include many services, which the parallel market provided.

Guyana - Parallel Economy

A growing share of economic activity in Guyana took place outside of the official economy in the 1980s. The rise of the socalled parallel market was alarming for several reasons. In general terms, the parallel economy, or black market, was harmful because it indicated that the official economy was not providing enough goods and services, and that a "norm of illegality" existed in Guyana. More specifically, the illegal economy drained talent and initiative from the official economy, deprived the government of tax revenues, and led to inefficient use of resources. In addition, the parallel market was considered a major source of inflation and currency instability.

The size of Guyana's parallel economy was difficult to estimate because illegal traders and businessmen kept a low profile to avoid both foreign currency regulations and taxation. The Financial Times and the Economist both estimated in 1989 that the parallel market carried out between US$50 million and US$100 million worth of business annually. By the higher estimate, the parallel economy was about one-third the size of the official economy. Economist Clive Thomas argued in various studies that the parallel economy ranged from one-half to roughly the same size as the official economy.

The key feature of the illegal economy was foreign currency trading, an activity that arose when the government began restricting legal access to foreign exchange. When it introduced foreign exchange controls in the late 1970s, the government was trying to keep Guyana's balance of payments from worsening by controlling the flow of money and goods to and from the country. The government also had to restrict access to foreign currency in order to maintain an overvalued exchange rate. If Guyanese citizens had had unlimited access to foreign currency, many of them would have bought United States dollars, depleting Guyana's foreign exchange reserves, because of their anticipation of devaluations of the Guyanese dollar.

The restriction on foreign exchange helped maintain the fixed exchange rate but it also created a shortage of foreign currency, making it nearly impossible for individuals and businesses to import essential items (foreign merchants would not accept Guyanese dollars). Street traders filled the gap by supplying much-needed foreign currency; they made a profit by selling foreign currencies at a high price. Thus, the black market exchange rate per United States dollar was about G$60 in early 1989, compared with the official rate of G$33. The Economist reported in mid-1990 that brick-sized stacks of G$100 bills were trading for US$1,000 on Georgetown's America Street, dubbed "Wall Street."

The largest currency traders in the country, known as the Big Six, set the parallel exchange rate on a weekly or daily basis by tracking supply and demand, according to Thomas. There were several sources of the foreign currency supply: illegal exports of gold, diamonds, rice, sugar, shrimp, and furniture; cash remittances from abroad; unrecorded expenditures by tourists and visitors; overinvoicing of imports; and sales of illegal drugs. Demand for foreign currency came primarily from three groups: local producers or retailers needing to import foreign materials or merchandise, investors and savers seeking a safe haven against devaluation of the local currency, and people exchanging local currency because they planned to leave Guyana temporarily or permanently. There was a close relationship between foreign currency trading and other illegal activities such as smuggling, tax evasion, and narcotics sales.

The government responded ambivalently to the parallel market. Official policy restricted illegal economic activity, but in practice, the government often turned a blind eye to the welldeveloped parallel economy. Government attempts to repress the illegal market, as in the early 1980s, were unsuccessful. Guyana's borders were long and unpatrolled, making smuggling relatively easy. In addition, cash remittances from abroad were common, meaning that many people in Guyana had frequent access to foreign currency and could easily trade on the parallel market. Many observers also noted that the government tolerated the parallel market because it provided goods that were restricted but essential. In fact, even state-owned companies traded on the parallel market.

A fundamental shift in policy toward the parallel economy occurred in the late 1980s, when the Hoyte government began stressing the need for a revitalized private sector. To many people in Guyana, as well as in the international financial community, the existing parallel market was the epitome of private sector initiative under difficult conditions. The Hoyte government signaled a measure of agreement with this view in 1989 when it legalized and regulated the parallel foreign currency market. The government's aim was to eliminate the illegal economy by absorbing it into the legal economy.

Guyana - Economy - Infrastructure

The country's underdeveloped and decaying infrastructure seriously handicapped Guyana's economy. Many of the basic facilities and services that were taken for granted even in other developing countries were either never present in Guyana or had deteriorated by the late 1980s. This absence of basic infrastructure meant that the country's economic recovery would have to begin at the most fundamental levels. No reform of Guyana's productive sectors was possible without a significant level of investment in electricity, transportation, communications, the water system, and seawalls.

The unreliable supply of electricity in Georgetown and throughout Guyana was "the single most debilitating infrastructural inadequacy," according to Minister of Finance Carl Greenidge. The United States Embassy reported that the lack of electricity in the Georgetown area was a leading factor in emigration from Guyana. Blackouts of sixteen hours per day were common in 1989-90. Improving the electrical system was a government priority. Other infrastructural problems also blocked economic development. The poor road system, for example, made it difficult to transport bauxite and blocked efforts to harvest timber.

Guyana - Economy - GOVERNMENT POLICY

When he took office in 1985, President Desmond Hoyte said he would accelerate "the pursuit of socialist construction." One year later, however, his government began taking the first steps toward dismantling Guyana's statist economy. Faced with a deep economic crisis--declining production levels and an acute balance of payments shortfall--the government began cutting public spending and encouraging foreign investment. At first it was not clear whether this economic reversal was simply a short-term response to the crisis or a long-term change in political philosophy. But after 1986 the Hoyte government continued to move toward a free-market economy under the guidance of the IMF, despite considerable opposition in the country. By 1990 the nation appeared ready to end its disastrous twenty-year experiment with a closed, governmentcontrolled economy.

Guyana - The Economic Recovery Program

The Hoyte government signaled its commitment to reform in 1988 when it announced a far-reaching Economic Recovery Program (ERP). The plan had four interrelated objectives: to restore economic growth, to incorporate the parallel economy into the official economy, to eliminate external and internal payments imbalances, and to normalize Guyana's financial relations with its foreign creditors. Restoring Economic Growth

To create a climate favorable for growth, the government removed many of the most onerous limitations on economic activity that had been put in place during the period following independence. First, the government liberalized foreign exchange regulations. For the first time in many years, the government allowed exporters to retain a portion of their foreign currency earnings for future use. Previously, only the government-owned Bank of Guyana had had the legal right to hold foreign currency. Second, the government lifted price controls for many items, although key goods such as petroleum, sugar, and rice remained controlled. Third, the government lifted import prohibitions for almost all items other than food and allowed individuals to import goods directly without government intervention. Fourth, private investment was encouraged by offering streamlined approval of projects and incentives such as tax holidays. To reassure potential foreign investors that Guyana's policy had indeed changed, the government announced in 1988 that "It is no part of Government's policy to nationalize property . . . . The era of nationalizations is therefore to be considered at an end."

Absorbing the Parallel Market

The second major objective of the ERP was to absorb the parallel market into the legal economy. The parallel market was seen as denying tax revenues to the government, adding to inflationary pressures through uncontrolled currency trading, and generally encouraging illegal activity in Guyana. By liberalizing foreign exchange and other regulations, the government began to make inroads into the illegal economy. The 1989 Foreign Currency Act allowed licensed dealers to exchange Guyanese dollars for foreign currency at market-determined rates. By 1990, more than twenty licensed exchange houses operated in Georgetown, taking the place of some illegal currency traders.

A related policy focused on the exchange rates. The government began devaluing the Guyanese dollar so that the official exchange rate would eventually match the market rate. This devaluation process was an essential feature of the recovery program. It not only targeted the parallel economy but also improved the country's export competitiveness. But the devaluations were painful for consumers. In April 1989, the government changed the official exchange rate per United States dollar from G$10 to G$33, instantly tripling the domestic currency price of most imports. The unofficial exchange rate at that time was reportedly G$60 per United States dollar, so the Guyanese dollar was still overvalued at the official rate. As of mid-1990, the disparity between the two rates persisted: the official rate was G$45 but the unofficial rate (at the now legal exchange houses) was G$80 per United States dollar. An important milestone was reached in early 1991 when Guyana adopted a floating exchange, removing the distinction between the official and the market exchange rates. The Guyanese dollar stabilized at US$1=G$125 in June 1991.

Eliminating Payments Imbalances

The third major goal of the ERP was to eliminate internal and external payments imbalances. In other words, the government was seeking to eliminate the public sector deficit on the one hand and the current account deficit on the other. The public sector deficit--the gap between government revenues and overall government spending--had reached 52 percent of GDP by 1986. This level was unsustainable and was an alarming increase over earlier deficits: an average of 12 percent of GDP during 1975-80 and an average of 2 percent of GDP during 1971-75.

The government attacked the public sector deficit in a straightforward manner: it cut spending and sought to enhance revenues. The government halted all monetary transfers to troubled state-owned enterprises (with the exception of the Guyana Electricity Corporation). As a longer-term measure, the government began studying the public enterprises--the heart of the statist economy--to determine which ones should be privatized (wholly or partially) and which ones should be closed. By 1990 the government had plans to allow significant privatization of the sugar and bauxite industries. In addition, the central government planned to limit expenditures by delaying salary increases and eliminating unnecessary civil service positions. Such fiscal austerity was useful to the economy. Still, the need to service the foreign debt limited the extent to which the government could cut back on spending; the government slated half of 1989 expenditures for interest payments.

The government attempted to raise revenues by absorbing the parallel economy to broaden the tax base, by improving the collection of the consumption tax, and by reducing import duty exemptions. Starting in 1988, the government required companies to pay taxes on earnings from the current year, rather than the previous year. This set of expenditure and revenue policies produced measurable results but failed to eliminate the serious financial difficulties facing the government.

Normalizing International Financial Relations

Even more pressing than the public sector deficit was Guyana's balance of payments shortfall. The extent of the problem was indicated by the overall balance of payments, which was a record of the flow of goods, services, and capital between Guyana and the rest of the world. The deficit in the current account had increased during the early 1980s, reaching almost 50 percent of GDP in 1986. In effect, this meant that Guyana was receiving more goods and services from the rest of the world than it was providing and was having to pay for the difference. The government paid part of this deficit by using reserves such as stocks of gold. But part of the deficit went unpaid when reserves became depleted. This unpaid portion was critical. Referred to as "external payment arrears," it marked Guyana as a bad credit risk, threatening to completely undermine Guyana's ability to obtain even short-term trade credits from abroad. Accumulated external payment arrears had expanded to almost three times Guyana's official GDP by 1988.

The Hoyte government attempted to decrease the balance of payments deficit by increasing exports and limiting imports; Guyana's trade was close to balanced in 1988, but a sizable trade deficit again appeared in 1990. Low productivity meant that exports did not expand significantly, and the government lacked the resources needed to eliminate the external payments arrears. Therefore, an agreement with the country's foreign creditors was crucial.

The IMF and the World Bank played a vital role in devising Guyana's economic reform program. The two institutions also helped ensure that the government implemented the planned reforms.

The IMF had curtailed all further lending to Guyana beginning in 1983, because payments on previous loans were overdue. In 1988 the IMF worked with government representatives to draft a reform plan, with the understanding that economic reform within Guyana would lead to renewed international financial support for the country. IMF support was important not only for the resources the institution could provide but also because many other lenders, such as commercial banks and foreign governments, waited for IMF approval before making loans.

In 1989, after Guyana's government had shown a commitment to restructuring the economy, the IMF and the World Bank helped eliminate the external payments arrears. A so-called Donor Support Group led by Canada and the Bank for International Settlements paid US$180 million to enable Guyana to repay arrears. The IMF, the World Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank then refinanced this amount, essentially replacing Guyana's overdue payments with a new long-term loan. The elimination of the longstanding external payments arrears cleared the way for Guyana to borrow abroad if necessary and allowed it to reschedule other external debts on more favorable terms.

Results of the Economic Recovery Program

The reforms introduced by President Hoyte resulted in no immediate progress. A policy framework paper prepared by the government in cooperation with the World Bank and the IMF had predicted that real GDP would grow by 5 percent in 1989. But instead, real GDP fell by 3.3 percent. Economic performance continued to decline in early 1990, according to the United States Embassy. Changes in government policy could not erase the profound difficulties facing the economy: massive foreign debt, emigration of skilled persons, and lack of infrastructure.

But in early 1991, there were signs of improvement: Guyana had rescheduled its debt, making the country eligible for international loans and assistance, and foreign investment surged in the country. These changes, preconditions but not guarantees of economic recovery, would not have occurred without the Economic Recovery Program.

Guyana - LABOR

About 240,000 people, or about 55 percent of the adult population (85 percent of adult men and 25 percent of adult women), were economically active in Guyana as of 1990. Official statistics indicated that 16 percent of the economically active persons were unemployed in 1980. In 1985 the government reported that no reliable unemployment estimate was available. Unemployment in 1990 was estimated at between 12 percent and 15 percent. In the mid1980s , an estimated 30 percent of employed people worked in agriculture, 20 percent in mining and manufacturing, and 50 percent in construction, services, and administration. As with other economic statistics in Guyana, these figures did not include the substantial number of people working in the parallel economy.

The United States Department of State estimated in 1990 that 25 percent of Guyana's work force was unionized. Organized labor in Guyana was closely tied to the major national political parties. In 1990, the largest labor organization, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), comprised eighteen unions, most of which were affiliated with the ruling People's National Congress (PNC) party. President Hoyte was honorary president of the oldest TUC member, the Guyana Labour Union (GLU). British Guiana's best known labor leader, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, started the GLU in 1917 (as the British Guiana Labour Union) when he organized dockworkers. Another important labor organization was the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), which represented 14,000 sugar workers. The predominantly Indo-Guyanese GAWU was associated with the opposition People's Progressive Party (PPP). Intraparty divisions were reflected in labor organizations: in 1988 seven unions left the TUC in protest at PNC electioneering tactics and formed the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).

Labor unions played an important role in the anticolonial movement in the 1960s and in the nationalization of foreign companies in the 1970s. But the close ties between the TUC unions and the governing PNC party did not guarantee that workers' interests were always advanced. In 1988 the Guyanese National Assembly adopted a constitutional amendment under which government no longer had to consult with trade unions on labor and social legislation. According to the government, this move was an essential step toward dismantling the statist economy. As part of the reform program, the government effectively cut workers' purchasing power by repeatedly devaluing the Guyanese currency. Wage increases did not keep pace with the devaluations. Prolonged strikes followed, leading to production losses in all major sectors. During wage negotiations in 1990, the unions were again dissatisfied when President Hoyte announced across-the-board pay increases that were significantly lower than what the unions had requested. Economic stabilization was taking precedence over union demands.

Workers in Guyana received overtime pay when they worked in excess of an eight-hour day or a forty-hour week. But in 1990, about 40 percent of the country's workers were in minimum-wage jobs, earning the equivalent of US$0.5 per day (at December 1990 exchange rates). These low wages, often not enough to even cover the costs of commuting to work, helped explain the high rate of emigration. The government barred children under age fourteen from working, but the United States Department of State reported in 1990 that younger children did work, often selling candy, cigarettes, and other items along roads.


Agriculture was the chief economic activity in Guyana. Only the coastal plain, comprising about 5 percent of the country's land area, was suitable for cultivation of crops. Much of this fertile area lay more than one meter below the high-tide level of the sea and had to be protected by a system of dikes and dams, making agricultural expansion expensive and difficult. In the 1980s, there were reports that the 200-year-old system of dikes in Guyana was in a serious state of disrepair. Guyana's remaining land area is divided into a white sand belt, which is forested, and interior highlands consisting of mountains, plateaus, and savanna.

In the 1980s, sugar and rice were the primary agricultural products, as they had been since the nineteenth century. Sugar was produced primarily for export whereas most rice was consumed domestically. Other crops included bananas, coconuts, coffee, cocoa, and citrus fruits. Small amounts of vegetables and tobacco were also produced. During the late 1980s, some farmers succeeded in diversifying into specialty products such as heart-of-palm and asparagus for export to Europe.


Guyana - Sugar

The extent of Guyana's economic decline in the 1980s was clearly reflected in the performance of the sugar sector. Production levels were halved, from 324,000 tons in 1978 to 168,000 tons in 1988.

A number of factors contributed to the shrinking harvests. The first factor was nationalization. The rapid nationalization of the sugar industry in the mid-1970s led to severe management difficulties and an emigration of talent. The Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco), which took over the sugar plantations, lacked needed experience. Perhaps more important, Guysuco did not have access to the reserves of foreign capital required to maintain sugar plantations and processing mills during economically difficult periods. When production fell, Guysuco became increasingly dependent on state support to pay the salaries of its 20,000 workers. Second, the industry was hard-hit by labor unrest directed at the government of Guyana. A four-week strike in early 1988 and a seven-week strike in 1989 contributed to the low harvests. Third, plant diseases and adverse weather plagued sugar crops. After disease wiped out much of the sugarcane crop in the early 1980s, farmers switched to a disease-resistant but less productive variety. Extreme weather in the form of both droughts and floods, especially in 1988, also led to smaller harvests.

Guyana exported about 85 percent of its annual sugar output, making sugar the largest source of foreign exchange. But the prospects for sugar exports grew less favorable during the 1980s. Rising production costs after nationalization, along with falling world sugar prices since the late 1970s, placed Guyana in an increasingly uncompetitive position. A 1989 Financial Times report estimated production costs in Guyana at almost US$400 per ton, roughly the same as world sugar prices at that time. By early 1991, world sugar prices had declined sharply to under US$200 per ton. Prices were expected to continue decreasing as China, Thailand, and India boosted sugar supplies to record high levels.

In the face of such keen international competition, Guyana grew increasingly dependent on its access to the subsidized markets of Europe and the United States. The bulk of sugar exports (about 160,000 tons per year in the late 1980s) went to the European Economic Community (EEC) under the Lomé Convention, a special quota arrangement. The benefits of the quota were unmistakable: in 1987, for example, the EEC price of sugar was about US$460 per ton, whereas the world price was only US$154 per ton. (The gap between the two prices was not so dramatic in other years, but it was significant.) Guyana was allowed to sell a much smaller amount of sugar (about 18,000 tons per year in 1989, down from 102,000 tons in 1974) in the United States market at prices comparable to those in the EEC under another quota arrangement, the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Maintaining preferential access to the European market was a priority in Guyana; in 1988 and 1989, production levels were too low to satisfy the EEC quota, so Guyana imported sugar at low prices and reexported it to the lucrative European market. Even so, Guyana fell 35,000 tons short of filling the quota in 1989 and 13,000 tons short in 1990.

The government of Guyana restructured the sugar industry in the mid-1980s to restore its profitability. The area dedicated to sugar production was reduced from 50,000 hectares to under 40,000 hectares, and two of ten sugarcane-processing mills were closed. Guysuco also diversified into production of dairy products, livestock, citrus, and other items. Profitability improved, but production levels and export earnings remained well below target. In mid-1990, the government took an important step toward long-term reform of the sugar industry--and a symbolically important step toward opening the economy--when Guysuco signed a management contract with the British firms Booker and Tate & Lyle. The Booker company owned most sugar plantations in Guyana until the industry was nationalized in 1976. A study by the two companies reportedly estimated that US$20 million would be needed to rehabilitate Guyana's sugar industry.

Guyana - Rice

Rice production in Guyana reached a high of over 180,000 tons in 1984 but declined to a low of 130,000 tons in 1988. The fluctuating production levels were the result of disease and inconsistent weather. Droughts and heavy rains had an adverse effect on rice crops because the irrigation and drainage systems in rice-growing areas were poorly maintained. The area under rice cultivation fell from 100,000 hectares in 1964 to 36,000 hectares in 1988, according to the Guyana Rice Producers' Association.

Most rice farms in Guyana were privately owned; the government operated the irrigation systems and rice-processing mills. This division of the industry resulted in several difficulties. According to the United States Embassy, the government neglected irrigation and drainage canals because private farmers refused to pay taxes for their maintenance. Meanwhile, the government-run mills were reportedly slow in paying farmers for their crops. In addition, the government-controlled distribution system for tractors, fuel, spare parts, and fertilizer was highly inefficient, according to some reports. In 1990 the government began privatizing the rice industry by putting several rice mills up for sale.

The bulk of Guyana's rice production was consumed domestically. Even so, exports took on increasing importance during the 1980s as a source of foreign exchange; there were even reports of rice being smuggled out of the country. Guyana shared a quota for rice exports to the EEC with neighboring Suriname but was unable to fill the quota during the late 1980s. In 1988 the government set a 1991 production goal of 240,000 tons and an export goal of 100,000 tons. In the first quarter of 1990, however, exports fell to a record low of 16,000 tons, for an annual rate of less than 70,000 tons. Half of these exports came directly from private farmers, the other half from the Guyana Rice Milling and Marketing Authority.

Guyana - Forestry

Timber was the least exploited but most abundant natural resource in Guyana in the early 1990s. Forests, many of which reportedly had commercial potential, covered three-quarters of the country's land. Over 1,000 different species of trees were known to grow in the country.

The two main difficulties in timber production were the limited access to the forests and electrical power problems at the major lumber mills. The government and interested groups overseas were addressing both difficulties. The government launched the Upper Demerara Forestry Project in the early 1980s to improve hardwood production on a 220,000-hectare site. In 1985 the International Development Association, part of the World Bank, provided a US$9 million loan for expansion of the forestry industry. In 1990 the government sold the state-owned logging company and announced plans to allow significant Republic of Korea (South Korean) and Malaysian investment in the timber industry. Showing concern for the longterm condition of its forests, the government also planned to set aside 360,000 hectares of rain forest for supervised development and international research into sustainable management.

Guyana - Fisheries

Fishery products took on increasing importance during the 1980s as potential earners of foreign exchange. By the end of the decade, shrimp had become the third leading earner of foreign exchange after sugar and bauxite. Fisheries production in Guyana totaled about 36,000 tons in 1989, down from 45,000 tons in the mid-1980s. The most valuable portion of the catch was the 3,800 tons of shrimp. Many fishermen reportedly sold their shrimp catch at sea to avoid taxes and earn foreign currency. Thus, shrimp exports may have been much higher than recorded. Shrimp exports were expected to continue increasing as Guyana developed shrimp farms along its coast; Guysuco began operating one such farm in the late 1980s. The bulk of the fisheries catch was sold at the dockside and consumed domestically. A US$5 million fish-processing plant was under construction on the Demerara River in 1990, raising the possibility of frozen fish exports. The government sold Guyana Fisheries Limited, which employed about 5,000 people, to foreign investors in 1990.

Guyana - Livestock

Livestock production was not a major activity in Guyana because of a shortage of adequate pasture land and the lack of adequate transportation. In 1987 there were an estimated 210,000 cattle, 185,000 pigs, 120,000 sheep, and 15 million chickens in the country. The country imported Cuban Holstein-Zebu cattle in the mid-1980s in an effort to make Guyana self-sufficient in milk production; by 1987 annual production had reached 32 million liters, or only half the target quantity.

Guyana - MINING

Guyana's mining sector offered the best hope of rapid growth in the late 1980s. The government's decision to open the sector to foreign management and investment attracted interest from companies in a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Norway, and Australia. Guyana was known to have sizable reserves of bauxite, gold, and diamonds. Foreign investment was expected to dramatically increase the rate at which those reserves were mined.


Guyana was known to have a 350-million-ton bauxite reserve, one of the world's highest concentrations of the valuable mineral. But production of bauxite dipped sharply after the government nationalized the industry in the 1970s. In the mid-1980s, bauxite production hovered around 1.5 million tons per year, or half the annual level of the 1960s and 1970s. The state-owned Guyana Mining Enterprise Limited (Guymine) suffered repeated losses as a result of inefficient management, declining world prices for bauxite, and prolonged strikes by workers. The losses drained the company's capital reserves and led to deterioration of plants and equipment. Guyana's single alumina plant, located in Linden, used to separate 300,000 tons per year of aluminum oxide from raw bauxite ore until the facility closed in 1982. From then on, Guyana was forced to export only unprocessed bauxite ore, foregoing the added revenues to be gained from refining the mineral.

In the 1970s, Guyana had the advantage of being the world's leading supplier of so-called calcined bauxite, a high grade of the mineral used for lining steel furnaces and other high-temperature applications. After 1981, however, China emerged as a major source of calcined bauxite, and Guyana became known as a less reliable supplier. By the end of the decade, China had displaced Guyana as the leading exporter of calcined bauxite, even though Guyana had the advantage of being closer to the major North American and European markets.

Bauxite mining was concentrated in northeast Guyana. The two largest mines were located at Linden, on the Demerara River directly south of Georgetown, and at Kwakwani on the Berbice River. There was little development of new mining areas during the period of state ownership. But in the late 1980s, the government began offering foreign companies the chance to rebuild and expand the bauxite industry.

The Reynolds Bauxite Company, formerly the owner of the mine at Kwakwani, was one of the first foreign firms allowed back into Guyana. It provided managerial assistance to Guymine beginning in 1985. In the late 1980s, Reynolds began investing an estimated US$25 million to open a bauxite mine at Aroaima on the Berbice River. An elaborate system of tugboats and barges was required to bring the bauxite 126 kilometers down the Berbice River and then 120 kilometers along the coast to Georgetown for transport to the United States. According to London's Economist Intelligence Unit, Reynolds awarded a ten-year transportation contract to GoliathKnight , an Anglo-Dutch company. The mine was expected to produce 1.5 million tons of bauxite in its first year of operation (July 1990-June 1991) and 2.6 million tons per year by 1995. Guymine was also negotiating to allow Venezuela's Venalum company to begin extracting 600,000 tons per year in the region around Kwakwani.

The government anticipated further development of the bauxite industry in the Linden area. A new mine near Linden, called the East Montgomery North Mine, was expected to open by 1994. It was to take the place of the three largely depleted pits in the area. The government sought significant foreign investment for the project; production was expected to reach 2 million tons per year in the 1990s. Norway's Norsk Hydro was discussing the possibility of reopening the alumina plant near Linden at a cost of about US$100 million. Furthermore, just as the Reynolds company was returning to the mines it had previously owned, Alcan was negotiating a return to bauxite production facilities in Linden.

<>Gold and Diamonds

Guyana - Gold and Diamonds

The bauxite sector attracted foreign investment in the late 1980s because companies knew about Guyana's vast reserves and the country's previously formidable production capacity. Gold mining, in contrast, attracted more speculative investment from companies eager to explore the country's neglected potential. Gold production peaked in 1894 at 4,400 kilograms per year but declined to an officially declared level of 160 kilograms per year in 1983. Declared production averaged 500 kilograms per year during the late 1980s, but undeclared production was thought to be five times as high: an estimated 3,000 kilograms of gold were being extracted each year. Individual miners working in southern Guyana smuggled most of the gold they found to Brazil to avoid paying taxes and to avoid receiving Guyana's low official price, which was based on an artificially high exchange rate.

Lured by the prospect of a 1990s gold boom, at least ten foreign companies began operations or preliminary explorations within Guyana in the late 1980s. They brought with them industrial equipment, such as powerful suction dredges, that could extract up to 500 grams of gold from a riverbed in a twelve-hour shift. Three of the largest companies were Canada's Golden Star Resources and Placer Dome, and Brazil's Paranapanema. Others included Australia's Giant Resources, Homestake Mining of the United States, and Britain's Robertson Group. The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission hosted potential investors' visits to the country, and the government promised to pay the market value for gold (US$356 per ounce in May 1991) in United States dollars. The government's promise achieved measurable results in 1990: during the first half of the year, declarations increased by 75 percent over the previous year.

Even if only a few of the proposed foreign investments reached their expected output levels, the government projected that Guyana would still be producing over 6,000 kilograms of gold per year (presumably officially declared by the foreign companies) by the mid-1990s. Paranapanema, drawing on experience in Brazil's tropical terrain, expected to produce 1,500 kilograms per year at its Tassawini joint venture on the northwest Barama River. In the Mahdia region on the Essequibo River, Placer Dome and Golden Star Resources reported that an operation capable of producing 2,000 kilograms per year was probably possible; the companies planned a feasibility study before actually starting operations.

Information on diamond production in Guyana was sketchy because the bulk of the mineral was reportedly smuggled out of the country. Declared production fluctuated between 4,000 and 12,000 carats per year in the 1980s. Undeclared production was probably much higher. In 1966, the industry produced about 92,000 carats, 60 percent of which were reported as gem quality.


Energy Supply

The lack of a reliable supply of electricity in Guyana, especially in Georgetown, was the most severe constraint on economic activity and a major factor in emigration. By 1990 blackouts of sixteen hours per day were common in the capital city, affecting even the presidential mansion. Blackouts occurred without warning and sometimes lasted for several days. Most businesses in Georgetown employed standby generators, raising the demand for imported fuel.

The electricity supply was unreliable because the facilities of the state-owned Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC) had deteriorated during the 1980s. In 1991 the GEC had a capacity of 253 megawatts of electricity and generated 647 gigawatt-hours of electricity, satisfying about half the estimated demand. The reasons for the shortfall were not only the lack of funds to replace aging generators and to build new power plants, but also periodic fuel shortages because most electrical power was produced thermally. There were other less tangible problems: GEC's finances were inadequate because the cost of electricity was below the cost of production (especially when taking depreciation into account); and the attitude of managers and workers was reportedly very poor. The bauxite and sugar sectors had their own electricity supply system apart from the GEC, but they also suffered power shortages.

Two types of efforts were under way in the early 1990s to rectify the electricity shortage. In the short term, GEC was limping along with the help of a small floating generator made in the United States and two ten-megawatt gas-turbine generators borrowed from Brazil. There was also a possibility that electricity would be bought from neighboring Venezuela.

In the longer term, the government was trying to obtain foreign investment and assistance to rebuild the electrical system. GEC planned to hire a consulting firm to help it develop a least-cost expansion program and to improve the pricing of electrical service. International financial organizations were also expected to contribute funds. As early as 1985, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had approved a US$16 million loan for rehabilitation of GEC, and an agreement was reached with an Italian company to build a US$45 million (thirty-megawatt) power station. Both projects were delayed, as were plans to build a hydroelectric plant on the Mazaruni River. The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that GEC rehabilitation still had not started in mid-1990. In 1990 negotiations were under way with the United States firm, Leucadia, to form a joint-venture company for the operation of the electrical system.

Guyana - Manufacturing

Most manufacturing in Guyana involved the processing of agricultural products (sugar, rice, coconuts, and timber) and minerals (bauxite, gold, and diamonds). The production of alumina from bauxite was suspended in 1982. Guyana produced small quantities of textiles, ceramics, and pharmaceuticals in stateowned factories. Among those industries, the pharmaceutical industry showed the most potential for growth, having attracted investments from Beecham, a British firm, and from Tecno Bago, an Argentine firm. Manufacturers in Guyana also produced wooden furniture, cigarettes, and paints, and other products.

The government was attempting to sell off many of the smaller manufacturing companies as part of the Economic Recovery Program. One of the first state-owned manufacturers to be partially privatized was Demerara Distillers Limited, which produced rum and other alcoholic beverages. The company was relatively successful under state ownership, having become the world's largest producer of rum after Bacardi and the leading supplier of bulk rum (sold under various brand names) to Britain, according to the Financial Times. The government owned the majority of the company until 1988, when Demerara Distillers issued 12 million new shares and diluted government ownership to about 47 percent. The government did not appear ready to completely relinquish its hold on the rum producer, however, because it blocked the company's 1990 effort to issue more shares.

Expansion of the manufacturing sector, like expansion in other sectors, depended on increased foreign investment. Many observers noted that with such investment, Guyana could become a supplier of manufactured products to other countries in the Caribbean region. The Commonwealth Advisory Group, affiliated with the Donor Support Group that arranged the refinancing of the debt arrears in 1989, had reported in 1989 that Guyana had the potential for "vibrant and profitable" manufacturing of garments, shoes, leather goods, sawn timber, furniture and other wood products, processed agricultural products, paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerators. Preconditions for that sort of development, according to the group, included an easing of the foreign exchange constraint (achieved by 1990); improved infrastructure (telecommunications and transport); a simpler, less burdensome tax system; injections of foreign capital and technical skills; attractive wages for skilled workers; and stable government policy in support of private manufacturing.

Guyana - Government and Politics

GUYANA IS OSTENSIBLY a parliamentary-style democracy with a constitution, a National Assembly, a multiparty system, elections, a president chosen by the majority party, a minority leader, and a judicial system based on common law. Despite its democratic institutions, independent Guyana has seen more than two decades of one-party rule and strongman politics, perpetuated by manipulation, racially based voting patterns, and a disenfranchisement of the Guyanese people.

Since 1964 when People's National Congress (PNC) leader Linden Forbes Burnham came to power, Burnham, his successor Hugh Desmond Hoyte, and the PNC have dominated the politics of Guyana. Although Burnham paid lip service to an ambitious political and economic experiment, cooperative socialism, which was to develop Guyana to the benefit of all Guyanese, his paramount concern seemed to be the preservation and enhancement of his own political power. Burnham's true agenda became apparent in 1974, when he announced the subordination of all other institutions in Guyana to the PNC. The late 1970s and early 1980s increasingly saw the government system function primarily to benefit Burnham and his party.

After Burnham's death in 1985, the administration of Desmond Hoyte abandoned many of the authoritarian policies of Hoyte's predecessor. The new president chose to work largely within the framework of the government, tolerated an opposition press, and attempted to downplay the significance of rigid racial political blocs. Whether these moves represented a strengthening of democracy in Guyana or merely a tactical move motivated by economic hardship remained to be determined.



Preindependence Constitutions

Guyana's complex constitutional history provides a useful means of understanding the conflict between local interests and those of Britain, the long-time colonial power. The colony's first constitution, the Concept Plan of Redress, was promulgated under Dutch rule in 1792 and remained in effect with modifications under British administration until 1928. Although revised considerably over the years, the Concept Plan of Redress provided for a governor appointed by the colonial power and for a Court of Policy that evolved into the colony's legislature. Reforms throughout the nineteenth century gradually broadened the electoral franchise and lessened the power of the planters in the colonial government.

As a result of financial difficulties in the 1920s and conflict between the established sugar planters and new rice and bauxite producers, the British government promulgated a new constitution making British Guiana a crown colony. The Court of Policy was replaced by a Legislative Council with thirty members (sixteen appointed and fourteen elected), and executive power was placed in the hands of a governor appointed by officials in London. Modifications throughout the 1930s and 1940s made the majority of members of the Legislative Council subject to popular election and further broadened the franchise.

The formation of British Guiana's first major political party in 1950 and growing pressure for independence again forced the British to overhaul the political framework. A royal commission proposed a new constitution that would provide for a bicameral legislature consisting of a lower House of Assembly and an upper State Council, a governor appointed by the British, and seven ministers appointed by the House of Assembly. This constitution was put into effect in early 1953. The electoral success of selfproclaimed Marxist-Leninist Cheddi Jagan and his leftist People's Progressive Party (PPP) in the April 1953 elections frightened the colonial authorities. After the new legislature passed a controversial labor bill and pressed for independence, the British suspended the constitution in October 1953 and put in place an interim government whose members were chosen entirely by British authorities.

New elections were held in 1957 to choose a majority of members in the new Legislative Council; the rest of the members were chosen by the governor. During its four-year tenure, this government set up a committee to make recommendations on yet another constitution. The committee proposed that a new government be formed with full internal autonomy. Only defense and external affairs would be managed by the British.

In 1961 the new constitution went into effect. The legislature was bicameral: the lower house, a thirty-five-member Legislative Assembly, consisted entirely of elected officials; and the upper house, the thirteen-member Senate, consisted entirely of appointees. The prime minister, who was chosen by the party with a majority of votes in the Legislative Assembly, held the most powerful executive post. Assisting the prime minister were various other ministers. The governor remained the titular head of state. The PPP won the elections of August 1961, and Jagan was named prime minister.

Labor strife and civil disturbances were widespread in 1962 and 1963. In an effort to quell the unrest, the British colonial secretary declared a state of emergency and proposed modifying the constitution to provide for a unicameral fifty-three-member National Assembly and proportional representation. The proposal was adopted, and elections were set for 1964. These elections brought to power a new coalition government headed by the PNC. However, the PPP administration refused to step down. Not until a constitutional amendment was enacted empowering the governor to dismiss the National Assembly was the old government removed from power.

<>Independence Constitution
<>Constitution of 1980

Guyana - Independence Constitution

Independent Guyana's first constitution (a modified version of the 1961 constitution) took effect on the first day of independence, May 26, 1966. It reaffirmed the principle that Guyana was a democratic state founded on the rule of law. The titular head of the country was the British monarch, represented in Guyana by the governor general, who served in a largely ceremonial capacity. Real executive power rested in the prime minister, appointed by the majority party in the unicameral fifty-three-member National Assembly, and his ministers. The first postindependence elections, conducted in 1968, confirmed the dominant role of the PNC and its leader, Forbes Burnham.

On February 23, 1970, the Burnham government proclaimed the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. This move had both economic and political ramifications. The government argued that the country's many resources had been controlled by foreign capitalists and that organizing the population into cooperatives would provide the best path to development.

The 1970 proclamation severed Guyana's last significant constitutional tie to Britain. The governor general, heretofore the ceremonial head of state, was replaced by a president, also a ceremonial figure. Arthur Chung, a Chinese-Guyanese, was the country's first president.

Although its ties to the British monarch were broken, Guyana remained within the Commonwealth of Nations. Membership in the Commonwealth allowed Guyana to reap the benefits of access to markets in Britain and to retain some of the defense arrangements that Britain offered its former colonies. In particular, the British defense umbrella was seen as a deterrent to Venezuelan claims on Guyanese territory.

Guyana - Constitution of 1980

As Burnham consolidated his control over Guyanese politics throughout the 1970s, he began to push for changes in the constitution that would muffle opposition. He and his colleagues argued that the changes were necessary to govern in the best interest of the people, free of opposition interference. By the late 1970s, the government and the legislature were PNC-dominated, and the party had declared its hegemony over the civil service, the military, the judiciary, the economic sector, and all other segments of Guyanese society. Burnham called the 1966 constitution inadequate and the product of British conservatism. Nationalization of private enterprise was to be the first step in revamping a system that Burnham felt had been designed to protect private property at the expense of the masses.

Two of the principal architects of the new constitution were the minister of justice and attorney general, Mohammed Shahabbuddeen, and Hugh Desmond Hoyte, the minister of economic planning. Attorney General Shahabbuddeen was given the task of selling the new constitution to the National Assembly and the people. He decried the 1966 constitution as a capitalist document that supported a national economy based on exports and the laws of supply and demand. He argued that the constitution safeguarded the acquisitions of the rich and privileged and did not significantly advance the role of the people in the political process.

The constitution of 1980, promulgated in October of that year, reaffirmed Guyana's status as a cooperative republic within the Commonwealth. It defines a cooperative republic as having the following attributes: political and economic independence, state ownership of the means of production, a citizenry organized into groups such as cooperatives and trade unions, and an economy run on the basis of national economic planning. The constitution states that the country is a democratic and secular state in transition from capitalism to socialism and that the constitution is the highest law in the country, with precedence over all other laws. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, speech, association, and movement, and prohibits discrimination. It also grants every Guyanese citizen the right to work, to obtain a free education and free medical care, and to own personal property; it also guarantees equal pay for women. However, freedom of expression and other political rights are limited by national interests and the state's duty to ensure fairness in the dissemination of information to the public. Power is distributed among five "Supreme Organs of Democratic Power": the executive president, the cabinet, the National Assembly, the National Congress of Local Democratic Organs, and the Supreme Congress of the People, a special deliberative body consisting of the National Assembly in joint session with the National Congress of Local Democratic Organs. Of these five divisions of government, the executive president in practice has almost unlimited powers.

The important constitutional changes brought about by the 1980 document were mostly political: the concentration of power in the position of executive president and the creation of local party organizations to ensure Burnham's control over the PNC and, in turn, the party's control over the people. The constitution's economic goals were more posture than substance. The call for nationalization of major industries with just compensation was a moot point, given that 80 percent of the economy was already in the government's hands by 1976. The remaining 20 percent was owned by Guyanese entrepreneurs.



The office of executive president is by far the most powerful position in Guyana. The executive president is head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. He or she has the power to veto any bill passed in the National Assembly and can dissolve the assembly if a veto is overridden.

Elected to a term not to exceed five years concurrent with the term of the incumbent National Assembly, the executive president is the nominee of the party with the largest number of votes in the assembly. There is no limit on the number of times the executive president may be reelected. Grounds for removal from office include inability to function for medical reasons, violations of the constitution as determined by a two-thirds vote of the National Assembly, and findings of gross misconduct by vote of threequarters of the National Assembly. If a motion to remove the executive president from office passes the National Assembly, he or she has three days to vacate the office or dissolve the legislature. The executive president may postpone national elections in one-year increments for up to five years.

The executive president appoints several vice presidents, a prime minister, and various other ministers. This group is known collectively as the cabinet. Although the prime minister and other vice presidents must be selected from the elected members of the National Assembly, other cabinet ministers need not hold an elective post. The number of vice presidents and ministers varies. In 1990 there were two vice presidents and eight ministers. The executive president may dismiss all cabinet members at will.

<>Other National Institutions
<>Local Government
<>Civil Service

Guyana - Legislature

The sixty-five-member unicameral National Assembly constitutes Guyana's legislative branch. Fifty-three members are directly elected though a system of proportional representation, ten members are elected by the regional democratic councils (local legislative bodies for each region), and two members come from the Supreme Congress of the People (a special national-level advisory group). The National Assembly has the power to pass bills and constitutional amendments, which are then sent to the executive president for approval.

The National Assembly has six months to override the presidential veto of a bill. Following an override, the executive president has the authority to dissolve the assembly within twentyone days and call for new elections. President Burnham used this authority to stifle parliamentary opposition during his administration.

The 1980 constitution provides for the executive president to appoint the minority leader, formerly known as the leader of the opposition. The minority leader must be the elected member of the National Assembly, who, in the president's judgment, is best able to lead the opposition members of the National Assembly. Naming his own chief opponent was yet another tool President Burnham used to control the government apparatus.

Guyana - Judiciary

Vestiges of a Dutch legal system remain, particularly in the area of land tenure. However, the common law of Britain is the basis for the legal system of Guyana. The judiciary consists of a magistrate's court for each of the ten regions and a Supreme Court consisting of a High Court and a Court of Appeal. The 1980 constitution established the judiciary as an independent branch of the government with the right of judicial review of legislative and executive acts.

The constitution secures the tenure of judicial officers by prescribing their age of retirement (sixty-two or sixty-five), guaranteeing their terms and conditions of service, and preventing their removal from office except for reasons of inability or misconduct established by means of an elaborate judicial procedure. These constitutional arrangements are supplemented by statutory provisions that establish a hierarchy of courts through which the individual under scrutiny may secure enforcement of his civil and political rights.

The lower courts, known as magistrates' courts, have jurisdiction in criminal cases and civil suits involving small claims. The High Court has general jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters. Criminal cases are always tried by a jury of twelve persons. Appeals of High Court rulings go to the Court of Appeal.

Any person in Guyana has the right to bring charges involving a breach of criminal law. In practice, the police as the official law enforcement body generally institute and undertake criminal prosecutions. Traditionally, the attorney general (a cabinet-level minister) exercises supervisory authority over all criminal prosecutions.

The executive president appoints all judges, with the exception of the chancellor of the High Court (the head of the judiciary), the chief justice of the Court of Appeal, and the chief magistrate. The Judicial Service Commission appoints these top three judges; however, the commission itself is selected by the president. Although selection of the members of the Judicial Service Commission is supposed to be made with opposition input, in fact the opposition has no say in judicial appointments. Observers have noted that trials are generally fair, but if a guilty verdict is reached, the executive president often drops strong hints concerning the magnitude of the sentence he expects for crimes that have received national publicity.

Guyana - Other National Institutions

The National Congress of Local Democratic Organs is a national body charged with representing the interests of local government. Members of this body are drawn from the regional governments. Each Regional Democratic Council elects two members to sit on the national congress. The constitution also provides for members of other local councils to elect members; however, no other local bodies have been created by the central government. The national congress's role is advisory.

The members of the National Assembly, together with all the members of the National Congress of Local Democratic Organs, form the Supreme Congress of the People. The supreme congress meets at times designated by the executive president to make recommendations to him or her on matters of public interest. It may be dissolved by the executive president by proclamation and is automatically dismissed if the executive president dissolves the National Assembly.

Guyana - Local Government

The 1980 constitution divides Guyana into ten regions, each having a Regional Democratic Council and a regional chairman. Regional councillors serve five-year terms concurrent with the term of the National Assembly, and the councillors of every region elect from among themselves one member to sit on the National Assembly and two members to sit on the National Congress of Local Democratic Organs. The executive president may suspend or dissolve any Regional Democratic Council at will. The system of local governments was designed to decentralize the government and place greater political power in the hands of the people. Resistance by the president to sharing power and the regional governments' fear of dismissal without recourse have, in effect, severely limited the capability of regional government to enact policy.

Six towns in Guyana are incorporated: Georgetown, Corriverton, Linden, New Amsterdam, Bartica, and Anna Regina, northwest of the mouth of the Essequibo River. Each town has a mayor and town council, which are responsible for maintenance of the municipality. However, city officials lack a political mandate or any real power beyond the exercise of municipal duties and are usually political appointees of the PNC.

Guyana - Civil Service

The civil service is not a neutral body in the traditional British sense. Civil servants are regarded as servants of both the government and the PNC. Opposition to the PNC usually results in the loss of the incumbent's job because the executive president has authority to dismiss anyone whose actions he or she deems contrary to national or party interest. Fear of dismissal and consequently being blacklisted is one of the primary reasons large numbers of Guyanese professionals emigrated in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Electoral Process

The constitution provides for free elections, a secret ballot, and universal suffrage for citizens over the age of eighteen. Voting for the National Assembly is indirect, with voters casting ballots for lists of candidates rather than for individuals. Seats are then apportioned by an Elections Commission on the basis of the percentage each list receives. There is no minimum percentage required for a party to win a seat in the assembly. National elections must be held if the executive president dissolves the National Assembly or no more than five years after a new assembly has been elected. However, the constitution of 1980 allows the executive president to postpone national elections in one-year increments for up to five years.

Despite constitutional guarantees of fair elections, every election since the early 1960s has been tainted by charges of fraud. The most blatant alleged abuse has concerned the votes of expatriate Guyanese. The electoral system allows overseas Guyanese to vote. The number of overseas Guyanese has been said to be inflated, however, and returns have always heavily favored the PNC. Voting districts have been gerrymandered, and the army frequently has been accused of tampering with ballot boxes and breaking up opposition rallies.

Electoral fraud appeared to diminish during the Hoyte administration. Opposition groups continued to pressure the government to reform the electoral process. In 1991 the executive president agreed to require the use of metal ballot boxes that are less easily tampered with and to permit the Elections Commission to operate more freely. The commission was given the task of producing a new voter list, but by 1991 had failed to do so, prompting the president to declare a state of emergency and postpone national elections.

<>Political Parties
<>Interest Groups

Guyana - Political Parties

People's National Congress

The PNC was formed in 1957 when Forbes Burnham broke away from the PPP. The PNC represents the country's Afro-Guyanese community and many of Guyana's intellectuals. The PNC was the main partner in the coalition government formed in 1964 and has been the outright winner of every election held since then. The party held fiftythree seats after the 1980 elections. After the 1985 elections, the PNC held fifty-four seats in the National Assembly--forty-two elected seats and all of the twelve appointed seats. The party came under the leadership of Desmond Hoyte following the death of Forbes Burnham in 1985.

Ideologically, the PNC has swung from socialism to middle-of- the-road capitalism several times. Although Burham professed leftist views, the party originally adopted a procapitalist policy as an alternative to the PPP's socialism and to attract members of the Afro-Guyanese middle class. In the mid-1970s, Burnham stated that the PNC was socialist and committed to the nationalization of foreign-owned businesses and to government control of the economy. In the late 1980s, Executive President Hoyte declared that his predecessor's policies had bankrupted the country and that the PNC would again encourage private investment.

People's Progressive Party

Guyana's oldest political party, the PPP, was founded in 1950 by Cheddi Jagan as a means to push for independence. After the 1961 elections, however, the party came to represent almost exclusively the Indo-Guyanese community. A long-time Marxist-Leninist, Jagan declared in 1969 that the PPP was a communist party and advocated state ownership of all industry. The PPP won elections in 1953, 1957, and 1961, but its leftist policies led to internal unrest and opposition from the British colonial authorities. The PPP had ten National Assembly seats after the 1980 election and in the 1985 elections won eight seats.

Other Political Groups

Concerned that the PPP had been coopted by the more conservative PNC in the early 1970s, a multiethnic group of politicians and intellectuals formed the Working People's Alliance (WPA) in 1973. Originally a loose organization, the WPA became a formal political party in 1979 after three of its leaders were imprisoned by the Burnham government. Its membership is drawn from the Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese communities, and the party advocates moderately leftist policies. The WPA refused to participate in the 1980 elections, charging that they would be rigged, but won one seat in the 1985 elections.

A small conservative party, the United Force (UF) was founded in 1960 by a wealthy Portuguese businessman to represent Guyana's business community. It also draws support from Guyana's Roman Catholic Church and the small Portuguese, Chinese, and Amerindian populations. The party won two seats in both the 1980 and 1985 elections.

After the 1985 elections, five parties--the PPP, the WPA, the small Democratic Labour Movement, the People's Democratic Movement, and the National Democratic Front--formed the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD). The PCD promised to push for fair elections and oppose PNC manipulation of the electoral process.

Guyana - Interest Groups

Trade Unions

Trade unions traditionally have played a major role in Guyana's political life. They began to emerge when Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow mobilized waterfront workers and formed the nation's first labor union, The British Guiana Labour Union (BGLU), in 1917. Since then, union members have become a significant segment of the Guyanese working class. It was from the trade unions that the PPP and PNC evolved and drew their strength.

Most union members work in the public sector, and trade unions historically have had close ties to the ruling government. Many of the twenty-four unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the main umbrella group for trade unions in Guyana, are formally affiliated with the PNC. Unions have the right to choose their own leaders freely, but in practice the ruling party has significant influence over union leadership. Government officials are often also union leaders. For instance, President Hoyte has been named the honorary president of one of the member unions of the TUC.

Government-labor relations have been marred by the PNC's attempts to control and silence the unions. This control initially was secured through the dominance of the Manpower Citizens Association, a pro-PNC union. When the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) entered the TUC in 1976, the size of the GAWU's membership (about 15,000) meant that it would be the largest union in the TUC, a status that would entitle it to the largest number of delegates. The PNC quickly contrived a system whereby GAWU ended up with far fewer delegates than it had previously been entitled to, and as such the TUC remained under PNC control. From 1982 to 1984, Minister of Labour Kenneth Denny and Minister of Finance Salim Salahuddin held very senior posts in the TUC simultaneously with their ministerial portfolios. In March 1984, the National Assembly passed the Labour Amendment Act, which stipulated that the TUC would henceforth be the only forum through which organized labor could bargain.

The Labour Amendment Act clearly was designed to stifle labor opposition to government policies. The law backfired, however, because reaction to it led to the ouster of the PNC-controlled labor leadership, which was replaced by leaders professing to be more independent. The main resistance to the PNC's control of the TUC came from a seven-union opposition bloc within the TUC, headed by the GAWU. Many unions, including some of the PNC-affiliated ones, began to criticize the government.

In the 1984 TUC elections, the seven-member reform coalition made significant inroads. The coalition candidate for TUC president ran against the PNC candidate and won. The changes in union leadership were a clear indication of the breadth of dissatisfaction with the PNC's efforts to roll back union power, and with Guyana's rapidly deteriorating economy. The seven disaffected unions left the TUC and in 1988 formed the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).


The 1980 constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but the government owns the nation's largest publication and exercises indirect control over other newspapers by controlling the importation of newsprint. Administrations have also stifled opposition by making frequent charges of libel against the editors of opposition newspapers. The newspaper with the largest circulation is the government-owned Guyana Chronicle. The PNC's New Nation has the second highest circulation. Smaller newspapers include the PPP's Mirror, the independent Stabroek News, and the Catholic Standard, published by the Roman Catholic Church.

The government's influence over the press has lessened, and increased criticism has been allowed under President Hoyte. The opposition Stabroek News, which started out as a weekly, increased publication to six times a week in 1991. It has become widely regarded as the only reliable and nonpartisan source of news in Guyana. At about the same time the Stabroek News expanded operations, the PPP's Mirror was allowed to import new presses and increase its size from four to sixteen pages per issue.

Religious Organizations

At different times and from different perspectives, the churches of Guyana have been a source of opposition to government policy. In the 1950s, the Christian churches were vocal opponents of Jagan and the PPP's Marxism. These churches also drew international attention with their criticisms of the Burnham government in the 1970s and 1980s.

Much of the criticism of the national government has come from the Guyana Council of Churches (GCC), an umbrella organization of sixteen major Christian denominations. Anglicans and Roman Catholics, confident of foreign support for their positions, often have taken the lead. Some of the smaller churches with ties to the PNC have been instrumental in getting the GCC to soften its criticism. One sect, the House of Israel, has been reported to have close ties to the PNC. The sect's members were accused of disrupting a 1985 meeting of the GCC.

Hindu and Muslim religious organizations traditionally have played almost no political role in Guyana. In contrast to many Christian organizations, which receive support from adherents abroad, Hindu and Muslim leaders rely strictly on a local base. Religious leaders often are dependent on local political bosses, and the PNC has successfully recruited many Hindu and Muslim leaders into party organizations.

Other Groups

The long-standing policy of dividing constituencies into ethnic elements has prevented the establishment of a strong independent business organization. Fear of the Marxist PPP caused many middleclass Afro-Guyanese to support the PNC, beginning in the 1960s. Members of the business community who oppose government policy often do so through participation in the UF.

A movement began in the 1940s to press for improvement in socioeconomic conditions for women. The first formal women's organization was headed by Janet Jagan, wife of Cheddi Jagan, but it soon became merely an arm of Jagan's PPP. There is no national women's organization that spans ethnic groups. Rather, a women's group functions as part of the PPP, and a Women's Affairs Bureau of the ruling government is associated with the PNC.


The international relations of the former British colony have been oriented toward the English-speaking world and guided by ideological principles. Except for those countries on Guyana's borders, Latin America is largely ignored. Independent Guyana's foreign policy has had five predominant themes: political nonalignment, support for leftist causes worldwide, promotion of economic unity in the English-speaking Caribbean, opposition to apartheid, and protection of Guyanese territorial integrity in the resolution of the border disputes with Venezuela and Suriname.

Although upholding the principal foreign policy themes, the PNC has adroitly shifted emphasis to reflect changes in domestic policy. To consolidate power against the leftist PPP, PNC foreign policy from 1964 to 1969 was pro-Western. Confident of its domestic power base from 1970 to 1985, the government was nonaligned in international affairs, with strong support for less-developed countries and socialist causes. Guyana established diplomatic ties and symbolic economic ties with the communist governments in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and Cuba. Since Hoyte's accession to the presidency in 1985, foreign policy has again been less supportive of leftist causes, in part to obtain backing for Hoyte's economic programs from Western nations.

Relations with ...
<>the United States

<>the Commonwealth Caribbean
<>Communist Countries

Guyana - Relations with the United States

Guyana's relations with the United States have ranged from cordial to cool. For the United States, Burnham's policies from 1964 to 1969 were nonthreatening. Burnham assured the United States that he had no intention of pursuing Jagan-style socialism or of nationalizing foreign-owned industries. The United States felt there was little chance of Guyana becoming a second Cuba.

Relations between the two nations cooled significantly after 1969, when Burnham began to support socialism both domestically and internationally. He established the cooperative republic in 1970 and nationalized the sugar and bauxite industries in the mid-1970s. Guyana also became active in the Nonaligned Movement (NAM). Burnham attended the NAM conference in Zambia in 1970 and hosted the conference in Georgetown in 1972. In 1975 the United States accused Guyana of allowing Timehri Airport to be used as a refueling stop for planes transporting Cuban troops to Angola. United States aid to Guyana virtually stopped, and acrimonious rhetoric emanated from both sides.

Under the administration of President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), United States-Guyana relations improved somewhat. The United States ambassador to the United Nations (UN) told the Guyanese government that the region's leaders could expect greater understanding of their alternative development strategies from the Carter administration. When the assistant secretary of state said that the United States did not feel threatened by Guyana's political philosophy, it seemed that the two countries had reached an understanding. This rapprochement led to resumption of United States aid to Guyana.

Relations cooled again with the succession of Ronald Reagan to the United States presidency in 1981. United States aid to Guyana was again halted, and Guyana later was excluded from the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Relations reached their lowest point after the United States invaded Grenada in 1983. Burnham had ties to Grenada's New Jewel Movement and was vocal in his opposition to the invasion. He criticized the United States and chastised fellow regional leaders who supported intervention in a speech at the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom).

After Burnham's death in 1985, United States-Guyanese relations improved under the more market-oriented administration of President Hoyte. The new president welcomed Western aid and investment, and the government stopped its anticapitalist, anti-Western, and socialist rhetoric. The United States responded by resuming wheat shipments in 1986. Frictions remained over the Guyanese electoral process, however.

Guyana - Relations with Venezuela

Relations between Guyana and Venezuela have been driven by a persistent border dispute. Venezuela's claim to a mineral-rich five-eighths of Guyana's total land mass dates back to the early nineteenth century. The dispute was considered settled by arbitration in 1899. Decades later a memo written by a lawyer involved in the arbitration and published posthumously indicated that the tribunal president had coerced several members into assenting to the final decision. In 1962 Venezuela declared that it would no longer abide by the 1899 arbitration on the grounds of this new information.

On February 17, 1966, representatives of Britain, Guyana, and Venezuela signed an agreement in Geneva that established a border commission consisting of two Guyanese and two Venezuelans. The commission failed to reach an agreement, but both countries agreed to resolve their dispute by peaceful means as stipulated in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter. In the meantime, relations remained tense. In February 1967, Venezuela vetoed Guyana's bid to become a member of the Organization of American States (OAS). The Venezuelan government also attempted to sabotage Guyana's development plans for the disputed region by letting it be known to would-be foreign investors that it did not recognize Guyanese jurisdiction.

With Venezuelan backing, several prominent ranching families and Amerindian followers in the southern part of the disputed region began an uprising. The rebels launched a surprise attack on the police outpost at Lethem on January 2, 1969, and several policemen were killed. The government flew police and military forces to the region with orders to raze everything. Only livestock and cattle were spared. The Venezuelan government admitted that some of the Guyanese insurgents had received training in Venezuela and that it would grant refuge to the rebels. Guyana protested this action in the UN.

Venezuela found itself diplomatically isolated, unable even to gain the support of its neighbors in Latin America. Pressure on Venezuela to resolve the dispute led to the Protocol of Port-of- Spain, whereby in 1970 Guyana and Venezuela agreed to a twelve-year moratorium on the dispute. The protocol would be automatically renewed unless either party gave notice of its intention to do otherwise.

In 1981 the Venezuelan president, Luis Hererra Campíns, announced that Venezuela would not renew the protocol. Relations again grew tense. Guyana's government accused Venezuela of massing troops near their common border to invade Guyana. The Venezuelan government denied this accusation, stating that its troops merely were involved in regular maneuvers. The subsequent Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands (called the Malvinas by Argentina) and the 1983 United States invasion of Grenada were heavily criticized by the Guyanese government, which feared that a precedent had been set for Venezuela to resolve its territorial grievance by force.

In the late 1980s with different administrations in both countries, relations between Venezuela and Guyana improved. Relations became so cordial, in fact, that Venezuela sponsored Guyana's bid for OAS membership in 1990. Although the territorial issue remained unresolved, there seemed little imminent threat of a Venezuelan invasion.

Guyana - Relations with Brazil

Traditionally, relations between Guyana and Brazil have been good. Brazil has provided small amounts of military assistance to Guyana in the form of jungle warfare training and logistical matériel. Brazil's military assistance to Guyana has been contingent on Guyana's refusal of any military aid from Cuba. In 1975 United States allegations that Guyana was allowing Cuban troops en route to the Angolan civil war to refuel in Guyana made the Brazilian government nervous, and it briefly undertook military maneuvers on its border with Guyana.

In the 1960s, both governments were anxious to complete a highway that would link the Brazilian city of Manaus to Georgetown. Completion of the highway would afford Brazil easy access to an Atlantic port from its northernmost states, and Guyana would gain direct access to Brazilian markets. In 1971 Brazil offered Guyana technical assistance to complete the Guyanese portion from Lethem to Georgetown. The offer was refused, however, and the road was not completed until the early 1990s.

Guyana - Relations with Suriname

Guyana's relations with Suriname have at times been tense. Suriname has a territorial claim to a triangle of a land between the New and Courantyne rivers in southeast Guyana. In 1969 Suriname sent troops into the disputed territory. They were quickly repelled by the Guyanese army. Although Suriname made no further attempts to take the territory by force, two issues continued to trouble relations. The first was the forced repatriation of Guyanese living in Suriname. When Suriname's economic decline began in 1980, Surinamese leader Colonel Desi Bouterse blamed Guyanese immigrants, many of whom were successful rice farmers. The second issue was the matter of fishing rights in the disputed territory. Both countries have periodically detained each other's fishermen and confiscated fishing boats on the Courantyne River.

Guyana - Relations with Britain

Despite Burnham's anti-Western rhetoric of the 1970s and early 1980s, Guyana has attempted to maintain good relations with Britain, in part to discourage Venezuelan territorial ambitions. Guyana remained in the Commonwealth of Nations after independence and has played an active role in Commonwealth affairs. Guyana strongly criticized the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands and was a vocal supporter of Britain in the UN.

Guyana - Relations with the Commonwealth Caribbean

Guyana under PNC administrations has consistently encouraged greater unity among the English-speaking Caribbean countries. This policy began in 1961 and was in sharp contrast to the policies of the PPP in the 1950s. The Jagan government had refused to join the West Indies Federation because of Indo-Guyanese concerns about becoming a ethnic minority within the federation. In an independent Guyana, the Indo-Guyanese would be in the majority, and Jagan hoped that such an arrangement would secure political power for the IndoGuyanese and the PPP.

Under the PNC, the Guyanese government joined the Caribbean Free Trade Association (Carifta) with Antigua and Barbados. By 1973 Carifta had become Caricom and had the expanded goal of fostering greater economic, social, and political unity among the member countries. Caricom's headquarters were located in Georgetown, and in 1991 membership included all independent members of the Englishspeaking Caribbean and Belize.

Despite a trend toward economic union since the 1960s, political relations between Guyana and the English-speaking Caribbean occasionally have been poor. Except for Jamaica and Grenada in the 1970s, all of the English-speaking Caribbean countries were pro-Western and procapitalist. This stance put them in direct conflict with the often anti-Western, anticapitalist rhetoric of the Guyanese government.

The low point in relations came after the United States invasion of Grenada. Burnham heavily criticized other Caribbean leaders for their support of the operation, especially Dominica's prime minister, Eugenia Charles, who played a leading role. The rift between Burnham and the other Commonwealth leaders grew so great that it threatened the future of Caricom.

After Burnham's death in 1985, President Hoyte moved quickly to repair relations. At a well-publicized meeting of Caricom heads of government in 1986, Hoyte posed for a picture with the other leaders. Relations generally were good after that conference.

Guyana - Relations with Communist Countries

Guyana enjoyed close relations with Cuba in the 1970s and early 1980s. The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1972, and Cuba agreed to provide medical supplies, doctors, and medical training to Guyana. President Burnham flew with Fidel Castro Ruz in Castro's airplane to the NAM conference in Algiers in 1973. Castro made an official state visit to Guyana in August 1973, and Burnham reciprocated in April 1975, when he was decorated with the José Martí National Order, Cuba's highest honor. After the United States invasion of Grenada, Burnham distanced himself somewhat from Cuba, fearing United States intervention in Guyana. Under Hoyte's administration, relations with Cuba have been cordial but not close.

Relations with other communist countries were close under Burnham. Diplomatic relations with China were established in June 1972. In 1975 China agreed to provide interest-free loans to Guyana and to import Guyanese bauxite and sugar. In 1976 the Soviet Union appointed a resident ambassador to Georgetown. Burnham paid official state visits to Bulgaria and China in 1983 to seek increased economic aid.

The rapidly changing world of the 1990s provided numerous challenges for the Guyanese government. Two decades of rule by the Burnham administration had resulted in a profound weakening of the country's democratic process and close ties with socialist countries, punctuated by frequent vocal support for leftist causes around the world. Driven by the need to obtain financial support from the West to rejuvenate a collapsed economy, Burnham's successor, Desmond Hoyte, began loosening ties with socialist regimes and downplaying leftist rhetoric. The fall of communism in the early 1990s only accelerated this trend. Financial help and closer relations with the West, particularly the United States, however, came with a price: free-market reforms and genuine respect for Guyana's democratic institutions. In 1992 it remained to be seen whether Guyana had undergone merely another tactical policy shift as an expedient or was truly set on a path of democracy.

Guyana - Bibliography

Adamson, Alan H. Sugar Without Slaves: The Political Economy of
     British Guiana, 1838-1904. New Haven: Yale University
     Press, 1972.

Akhtar, Shameen. British Guiana: A Study of Marxism and
     Racialism in the Caribbean. Dallas: Southern Methodist
     University, 1962.

Augies, F.R., S.C. Gordon, D.G. Hall, and M. Reckford. The
     Making of the West Indies. London: Longmans, 1960.

Avebury, and the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group.
     "Guyana's 1980 Elections: The Politics of Fraud,"
     Caribbean Review, 10, Spring 1981, 8-11, 14.

Burnham, Forbes. A Great Future Together. Georgetown:
     Government Printery, 1968.

Burrowes, Reynold A. The Wild Coast: An Account of Politics in
     Guyana. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Schenkman, 1984.

Clementi, Sir Cecil. A Constitutional History of British
     Guiana. London: Macmillan, 1937.

de Caires, David. "Guyana after Burnham: A New Era? Or Is President
     Hoyte Trapped in the Skin of the PNC?" Caribbean
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Despres, Leo A. Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in
     Guyana. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1967.

Deveze, Michel. Antilles, Guyanes, La Mer des Caraïbes de 1492
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"Dr. Jagan's Address," Sunday Mirror [Georgetown], August
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Glascow, R.A. Guyana: Race and Politics among Africans and East
     Indians. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1970.

Hope, Kempe Ronald. "Electoral Politics and Political Development
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Inter-American Development Bank. Economic and Social Progress
     in Latin America: 1982 Report. Washington: 1982.

Jeffrey, Henry B., and Colin Baber. Guyana: Politics,
     Economics, and Society--Beyond the Burnham Era. Boulder,
     Colorado: Rienner, 1986.

Latin America and Caribbean Contemporary Record, 7: 1987-
     88. (Ed., James M. Malloy and Edwards A. Gamarra.) New
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MacPherson, John. Caribbean Lands: A Geography of the West
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Mandle, Jay R. The Plantation Economy: Population and Economic
     Change in Guyana, 1838-1960. Philadelphia: Temple
     University Press, 1973.

Manley, Robert H. Guyana Emergent: The Post-Independence
     Struggle for Nondependent Development. Cambridge,
     Massachusetts: Schenkman, 1982.

Moore, Brian L. "The Retention of Caste Notions among the Indian
     Immigrants in British Guiana During the Nineteenth Century,"
     Comparative Studies in Society and History
     [Cambridge, United Kingdom], 19, No. 1, January 1977, 96-107.

Nath, Dwarke. A History of Indians in British Guiana.
     London: Nelson, 1950.

Neuman, Stephanie G. (ed.). Small States and Segmented
     Societies. New York: Praeger, 1976.

Premdas, Ralph R. Party Politics and Racial Division in
     Guyana. (Studies in Race and Nations Series, No. 4.)
     Denver: University of Colorado Press, 1973.

Ragatz, L.J. The Fall of the Planter Class in the British
     Caribbean, 1763-1833. London: Oxford University Press,

Rodney, Walter. A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881-
     1905. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981.

Singh, Chaitram. Guyana: Politics in a Plantation Society.
     New York: Praeger, 1988.

Spinner, Thomas J., Jr. A Political and Social History of
     Guyana, 1945-1983. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press,

Swan, Michael. British Guiana: The Land of Six Peoples.
     London: HMSO, 1957.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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