Guyanese and other Americans mourned the passing of its 41st President George Herbert Walker Bush who died a week ago. The late President shaped Guyana’s modern democratic history in the 1990s. The former President Bush (Sr.) will best be remembered for restoring democratic governance in Guyana after the long period of fascist apartheid like dictatorship (1966-92). The Americans have wielded enormous global powers “to giveth and taketh democracy” especially in the Americas. In the Americas, the America administration made it a habit of removing and installing governments based on their interests. They also possess powers to install and remove governments as they did in Guyana in 1953(PPP), 1964 (PPP), 1992 (PNC), and 2015 (PPP).
Although Bush was not responsible for foisting the repressive Forbes Burnham PNC regime on Guyana (in December 1964), he served as director of Central Intelligence Agency (1971-72) that propped up the Burnham dictatorship in order to prevent the rise of a communist (Jagan) pro-Soviet government. Forbes Burnham and the PNC that he founded worked closely with the American CIA to thwart progressive governance in Guyana and to keep out the socialist PPP from office. It was the US, through the CIA, according to the New York Times, London Times and so many other media that installed the Burnham dictatorship in December 1964. And it was also the US, as reported in several media outlets, which restored democratic rule in Guyana in October 1992 during the tenure of Bush Sr.
President Bush was fond of foreign affairs and spent much of his time addressing international issues including in the Caribbean and Latin America. In 1990, after the first Gulf War, addressing a joint session of Congress, Bush committed to promoting democracy abroad. Myself, Ravi Dev, Baytoram Ramharack, Vassan Ramracha, and other Guyanese (including organizations such as Jaguar Committee for Democracy) wrote to or lobbied the President urging him to end repressive rule and to help restore democratic rule in Guyana. We also wrote to President Ronald Reagan (1981 to 1989) under whom Bush was Vice President. We lobbied both Presidents Bush and Reagan and Members of Congress, on humanitarian grounds, to help end tyranny and the sufferings of Guyanese and pressure the dictator Desmond Hoyte to open up the economy and allow the people to choose their government in a free and fair election. President Bush would issue a sternly worded letter to the dictator Desmond Hoyte urging a restoration of democratic rule and free and fair elections. Bush was very firm in his directive for free and fair election in Guyana. He warned of consequences. Not too long before that, he sent 10K troops (joined by 13K already stationed in Panama) to remove the dictator Manuel Noriega of Panama from office and restored democratic governance. The authoritarian Hoyte acquiesced to Bush’s demands to liberalize the politics allowing political parties to function without sending thugs to terrorize their meetings and rain violence on the political leaders.
Former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran, last year on the occasion of the 25th anniversary since the restoration of democratic governance in Guyana, in front of a large audience at a public forum in New York, suggested there was a quid pro quo between the Americans and Soviets relating to Nicaragua and Guyana. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had a good working relationship having cooperated to remove Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait and reducing missiles facing each other. This warm relationship helped to facilitate the restoration of democratic rule in Guyana. Bush and Gorbachev met and agreed that Soviets would ensure free and fair elections in their ally state of Nicaragua in exchange for the Americans ensuring free and fair elections in its ally state of Guyana. It was long commented upon by scholars that Guyana was “a client state” of the Americans not dissimilar from the relationship of several client states in the region (including Augusto Pinochet in Chile). Burnham and Hoyte did the bidding of the US. Elections were held in both Nicaragua and Guyana and were observed by the Jimmy Carter Center. The incumbents (dictatorships) lost giving way to democratic rule.
Clearly, Bush was responsible for restoring democracy and free and fair elections in Guyana. A case can also be made that Bush was responsible for the opening up of the Guyanese economy in 1989 that saw the removal of bans on imported goods and an end to price controls. Guyanese breathed a sigh of relief that they could have access to their cultural diet that was prohibited during the period of the dictatorship. Guyanese Americans acknowledge the contributions of the late President. The Guyanese people are grateful to President Bush for restoring democracy in their homeland!