Country Listing

Guyana Table of Contents


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 JosÚ MartÝ 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.

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The literature on Guyanese politics remains relatively limited and perhaps too narrowly focused. The dysfunctional nature of modern Guyanese governance has generated studies of race relations, ideology, and political economy. Lacking are analyses of the postBurnham period and, most notably, of the absence of progress toward democratization since the late 1980s.

The most current and balanced book-length overview is Chaitram Singh's Guyana: Politics in a Plantation Society, a work whose very title is suggestive of the environment the author addresses. In the same vein, but a bit older and less reliable, is Guyana: Politics, Economics and Society, by Henry B. Jeffrey and Colin Baber. In addition to the limited journal literature, any reader interested in Guyanese politics should consult, with care, a number of classics, including Leo A. Despres's Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in Guyana and The West on Trial by Cheddi Jagan, a fixture on the nation's political scene for almost half a century. Tying many elements together is Journey to Nowhere: A New World Tragedy, by well-known author Shiva Naipaul.

The nation's foreign relations are to a degree covered by the above titles. Guyana's nonaligned foreign policy and the border dispute with Venezuela have been the two key subjects. There is little to work with, except for a few journal articles. One exception is The Venezuela-Guyanese Border Dispute by Jacqueline Anne Braveboy-Wagner. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography).

Data as of January 1992