Guyana has long had close ties to the Soviet
Union and other socialist states. When state corporate
ownership and plan management were leading the country
toward economic collapse, at the end of the 1980s, a
rapid change in market economy was made. In parallel,
the political climate became freer, but the
contradictions between Indians and blacks persisted.
The "Indian" left-radical People's Progress Party
(PPP) won the third election in a row in 1961. It was
followed by riots and unrest between the PPP and the
"black" Party of the People's National Congress (PNC).
Guyana's independence was approaching, but Britain's
colonial power did not want to allow Guyana to become
independent under a Marxist government. Although PNC
leader Forbes Burnham claimed to be a socialist, the
British hoped he was not as radical as PPP leader Cheddi
Jagan. Despite the PPP winning the 1964 election, the
British governor commissioned Burnham to form a new
government, which sparked protests from the PPP. With
Burnham as prime minister, Guyana became an independent
state within the Commonwealth on May 26, 1966.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Guyana. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
In 1970, a "cooperative republic" was proclaimed, in
which the state would own the means of production,
citizens would be organized in cooperatives or trade
unions, for example, and where the economy would be
governed by national plans. A president was elected, but
Burnham retained the executive power as prime minister.
A number of domestic and foreign companies, including
the important bauxite industry, were nationalized. Close
ties were made to the Soviet Union, Cuba and Eastern
The President gains more power
During the second half of the 1970s, demand for
Guyana's sugar and bauxite (from which aluminum is
extracted) decreased. The country was hit by a severe
economic downturn exacerbated by strictly regulated
production and strict currency controls. The latter
paved the way for black exchange trading, including
smuggling. Guyana was also hit by an extensive brain
drain when many of the best educated and most
competent residents left the country. The attempts to
borrow from the financial hardship laid the foundation
for a gigantic debt burden.
A strongly contested referendum in 1978 paved the way
for a new constitution two years later. It gave the
president greater powers of power. Burnham became
president of a party boycotted by most parties that
year, and he remained president until his death in 1985.
He had, after accusations of systematic election fraud,
held power in a firm grip for two decades, and in effect
prevailed party system.
Vice President and Prime Minister Desmond Hoyte
succeeded Burnham and won an election shortly after his
death. Hoyte started as surprising as the total
turnaround of politics. In collaboration with
international lending institutions, the economy was
liberalized: government assets were privatized, foreign
investment encouraged and price controls were removed.
Freedom of the press was strengthened and a cautious
approach to the United States was initiated.
Hoyte's course change also prepared the way for the
first truly democratic election of Guyana. It was held
in 1992, after two years of disagreement about the
electoral system, and broke the PNC's grip on power.
However, there were major flaws in the arrangements and
the results were delayed, leading to suspicions of
cheating and triggered violent protests from PNC
supporters. PPP won in coalition with Civic ("PPP-C",
see Political system), a movement dominated by black
businessmen and academics, and PPP's founder Cheddi
Jagan became president. Despite his Marxist background,
he continued Hoyte's reform program, and the economy
The widow Jagan takes over
In March 1997, 78-year-old Jagan died in a heart
attack. His widow Janet Jagan - white and born in the
United States - became the PPP presidential candidate
and won the election later that year. The racial issue
once again made its mark on the election and PNC's
supporters again protested against what they saw as
widespread cheating, which they later received support
In August 1999, Janet Jagan resigned for health
reasons. She was replaced by indiscriminate Bharrat
Jagdeo, former finance minister. Jagdeo, as president,
continued to privatize and implement public sector
In 2000, Parliament passed new electoral laws and
revoked the President's criminal immunity. The Supreme
Court subsequently declared the 1997 election invalid
due to irregularities. In the election held in March
2001, the ruling, Indian-dominated alliance PPP-C
received just over half the votes and its own majority
in Parliament. President Jagdeo was re-elected for a
The 2001 election was accompanied, as was the
previous election of demonstrations and violence. Again,
it was mainly deficiencies in the arrangements that
triggered suspicions of cheating. One month after the
election, Jagdeo and PNC leader Desmond Hoyte agreed to
start a political dialogue to reduce tensions.
A year later, Hoyte interrupted the collaboration in
protest against the government's "racist politics". The
PNC-R (as the PNC now called itself, see Political
system) left its seats in Parliament. The situation was
made worse by reports of ethnically motivated violent
Crime becomes a matter of choice
At the end of 2002, Desmond Hoyte died. His successor
Robert Corbin decided in early 2003 to end the
parliamentary boycott and resume cooperation with the
government. After a year, in April 2004, the PNC-R
jumped again from the collaboration after reports that
Interior Minister Ronald Gajraj and police officers were
in contact with a death squad that was behind a long
line of murders of suspected criminals. When an
investigation released Gajraj from the charges in April
2005, the protests became extensive. Sharp criticism
also came from the US and the EU, and Gajraj resigned in
May despite being released.
Parliamentary elections would have been held in April
2006 but postponed until August, mainly due to problems
with voting lengths. The high crime rate, including drug
smuggling, was a central issue. Guyana was suspected of
being a transit country for smuggling cocaine from
Colombia to the United States.
In the election, as expected, PPP-C won, with over
half the votes. The newly formed Alliance for Change
(AFC), which sought to reach both Indian and black
voters, received 8 percent of the vote. Some
irregularities were reported but were not considered to
have affected the election result.
Thread leader killed
The focus on crime increased further in 2008 when
Guyanese police shot dead the country's most notorious
criminal gang leader in a firefight. For a while
thereafter, serious crime decreased. In July 2009,
however, the Ministry of Health's building was destroyed
in an assassination fire. President Jagdeo suspected
that political motives were behind, and several
activists with ties to the PNC-R were interviewed.
PNC-R leader Corbin, after a while, counter-attacked
by giving the police a list of 450 alleged victims of
illegal executions. Corbin also demanded an
international investigation into the death patrols he
claimed existed in the country. Two days later, the
Supreme Court Office and two police stations in the
capital Georgetown were attacked by a group of armed
men. According to the police, there was a connection
between this attack and the previous fire attack against
the Ministry of Health. Both attacks were linked to a
drug smuggler who was recently sentenced to a long
prison sentence in the United States.
In the same vein, Britain withdrew from a planned
cooperation to improve security in Guyana due to
disagreement with the country's government.
Ramotar forms government
Despite continued good growth, the PPP-C reversed
somewhat in the 2011 election and lost its majority, for
the first time since the 1992 power change. when Jagdeo
was restrained by the constitution to re-elect. Ramotar
formed a minority government.
The overall opposition's takeover in the National
Assembly had its effect in April 2012, when Parliament
voted down the government's budget proposal and instead
adopted a budget with significantly lower spending
The government continued its efforts to lead the
economy in a market economy direction and began, among
other things, to gradually reduce subsidies on
electricity prices. This led to protests in the city of
Linden in the summer of 2012, which ended with three
protesters losing their lives and many being injured.
In December 2012, the government submitted a report
to the regional cooperation organization OAS with
warnings about political instability in the country.
According to the report, the opposition engaged in
"constant undermining" of parliamentary democracy. The
government also accused opposition leader David Granger
of exploiting racial contradictions in the country for
his political purposes.
In 2014, the opposition accused the government of
illegally investing money on projects that the
opposition-controlled National Assembly said no to, and
planned a vote of no confidence. But Ramotar succeeded
in preventing the vote by banning MEPs, through legal
technology. It triggered a warning from the UK that the
Commonwealth could bring up Guyana and the uncertain
political situation for discussion. The president then
announced an early election in May 2015.