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Context of '1964-1985: Guyana’s Foreign Debt Rises Sharply under Burnham; Human Rights Abuses also Occur'

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The US President’s Special Assistant Arthur Schlesinger has lunch with British politician Iain MacLeod and Colonial Secretary Reginald Maudling. Describing the event in an letter to the US ambassador to Britain, he writes: “1. [Dr. Cheddi] Jagan is not a Communist. He is a naive, London School of Economics Marxist filled with charm, personal honesty and juvenile nationalism. 2. The tax problem which caused the trouble was not a Marxist program. It was a severely orthodox program of a ‘Crippsian’ sort appropriate for a developed nation like Great Britain but wholly unsuited for an immature and volatile country like British Guiana. 3. If another election is held before independence Jagan will win. 4. Jagan is infinitely preferable to Burnham.” [White House, 2/27/1962]

Entity Tags: Reginald Maudling, Cheddi Jagan, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Iain MacLeod

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Guyana (1953-1992)

For the next 20 years, Guyana is governed by Forbes Burnham, who is later described by Kennedy’s special assistant Arthur Schlesinger in his book, A Thousand Days, as “an opportunist, racist and demagogue intent only on personal power.” He holds power through force and fraud until his death in 1985 and runs up a foreign debt totaling over $2 billion during this time—an amount representing over five times the country’s GDP. [New York Times, 10/30/1994; CJ Research Center, 1999] Burnham’s two decades of rule is marked by questionable elections; suppression of human rights, civil liberties, and union activities; corruption and economic stagnation. During this time there are two major political assassinations. Jesuit priest and journalist Bernard Darke is killed in July 1979 and the distinguished historian and Working People’s Alliance (WPA) party leader Walter Rodney is murdered in June 1980. President Burnham is widely believed to have had a hand in the killings. [GlobalEdge, 2005]

Entity Tags: Walter Rodney, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, Bernard Darke, Arthur M. Schlesinger

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Guyana (1953-1992)

Elections in Guyana are held and the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) gains 46 percent of the vote, while the People’s National Congress (PNC) receives 41 percent and the conservative United Force (TUF) ends up with 12 percent. But the TUF gives its votes in the legislature to the PNC and consequently PNC candidate Forbes Burnham becomes the prime minister. [US Department of State, 1/2006]

Entity Tags: Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Guyana (1953-1992)

Radical academic and leader of the Guyanese Working Peoples Alliance, Walter Rodney, is killed by a bomb as he prepares to run for office in upcoming presidential elections. Speculation immediately links Rodney’s death to the government of Forbes Burnham, although Rodney’s WPA colleague Dr Rupert Roopnaraine will later maintain that “In the days and months following the murder, WPA received credible information that the shaped explosive and the radio triggering mechanism had been brought in from the USA by a named individual. Virginia was mentioned.” [Stabroek News, 10/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Walter Rodney, Guyanese Working Peoples Alliance, Rupert Roopnaraine, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham

Timeline Tags: US-Britain-Guyana (1953-1992)

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