The US long considered Guyana as being geo-strategically important and that is why it has been involved in Guyana’s internal politics going back to 1950s and even before that in acquiring naval and military bases during WWII. During the war, Guyanese youths were paid a few cents a day to keep watch on the Georgetown coast area for German naval ships; German U boats were operating in the area.
After the war, the US presence was used to combat the rise of left wing politics in Guyana as the US played a leading role in installing and de-installing governments in accordance with its interests between 1953 and 2020. The US, concerned about the rise of the left in Guiana amidst the cold war, raised the issue of British Guiana with the UK government in 1953. The US was not very pleased with Guiana attaining self-government and becoming an independent nation under the left wing Cheddi Jagan triggering the suspension of the constitution in 1953 and destabilization of Jagan’s government in the 1960s.
Since the discovery of oil, there is a convergence of socio-economic and security interests of the US and Guyana over oil in Guyana waters. Those claiming parts of Guyana’s territory threaten the territorial integrity of the country. The U.S-Guyana relationship, long defined by cold war politics and strategic geo-political interests, is now being re-defined by this newly discovered oil interests. The US has risen in defense of Guyana. Bharrat Jagdeo has transformed Guyana’s relationship since he became leader of PPP in 2016. During the period he was not leader, the relationship was cold between 2012 and 2016.
The US toppled the PPP government in 1964 and installed the PNC that transofmed Guyana into a dictatorship. But there was a turn in 1992 with the US demanding restoration of democracy resulting in the PPP returning to power. But the PPP was ousted in May 2015 following the hostile behavior of the Ramotar Presidency (2011-2015).
The history would show that the US has been very kind to Guyanese after the 1965 Immigration Act that opened up immigration to non-Whites allowing Guyanese to immigrate, work, study, settle, and invest in America. Many Guyanese headed for the US shores after the coming to power of the PNC, once an ally of the US that pumped large amounts of aid of over US $20M annually to Guyana. Aid was severely reduced after Guyana became an ally of the Soviet Union and Cuba triggering an economic collapse in the 1970s. Facing starvation, tens of thousands began migrating annually in the late 1970s crossing over 20K annually during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of them headed for the US although hundreds of thousands also settled in Surinam, French Guiana, Venezuela, Brazil, the Caribbean islands, Canada, and Europe. An estimated 800K Guyanese and their American born live in USA – some half a million Indo-Guyanese and some 300K Guyanese of other ethnicities (Afros, Mixed, Amerindians, others).
I collected data in 2018 from Guyanese in field research on their views of the relationship between the US and Guyana. The findings gave a general view of ethnic groups’ attitudes towards America. These would not have changed much from 2018 to now even though there has been a change in administration from APNU (May 2015-July 2020) to PPP governance.
In the survey of 1530 individuals (41% Indians, 30% Africans, 18% Mixed, 10% Amerindians, and 1% others), 85% support closer relations with the US with Indians at 97% leading all groups, followed by Amerindians at 86%, Mixed at 75%, and Africans at 72%. In addition, some 93% feel Guyana should enter into some kind of strategic security alliance with America.
The survey showed that Guyanese in America and in Guyana held similar views about what are the most important aspects of U.S-Guyana relations: immigration, developmental assistance including loans, security and defense ties especially against threat from Venezuela, combating drug and human trafficking across the borders, money laundering, economics – investment and trade, and shared democratic values (protecting democracy), and cultural exchange, and petroleum.
But Guyanese showed some difference in terms of race on relations with America. For Indo-Guyanese, guaranteeing democracy and free and fair elections was/is the pre-eminent aspect of the relationship because of the history of rigged elections by the PNC (APNU). Africans and Mixed races were more interested in financial aid for Guyana and US support for the retention of power of the coalition APNU+AFC.
The US was primarily responsible for the installation of the APNU-led regime in 2015, but it has disappointed Washington with its handling of corruption, drug trafficking and Venezuela, its racist governance and finally the attempt to rig the 2020 election. The racially inspired violence against Indians in September would have further eroded confidence in APNU and AFC.
Guyanese in Guyana and Americans of Guyanese descent have had a very positive view of the relations between the two countries and would like to see improved relations in light of (security) challenges facing the country. Guyanese say there are cultural, economic (trade, business, investment, foreign aid), immigration, military security against border incursions and threats to oil explorations, political (democratic and humanitarian), drug trafficking, money laundering, and educational reasons, among others, for Guyana to have much closer relations with America.
The research reveals that Guyanese at home and in the diaspora fully support an alliance (particularly on security, business, trade, and private investment) with America. This conclusion is also supported by empirical observation and anecdotal evidence in this writer’s interactions with Guyanese Americans at countless community events in the US.The view of Guyanese on the relative importance of economic and security ties with US differ along racial and party partisan lines. Supporters of PPP are almost unanimous when it comes to the issue of developing strong economic ties with America their lives improving with stronger US linkage. Almost every Indian, Portuguese, and Amerindian want America to be more closely involved in the territorial security, policy matters, free and fair elections, and economic investment in Guyana. They want the US to help further institutionalize democracy in Guyana especially in guaranteeing free and fair elections in 2020.
Africans and Mixed and supporters of APNU are not very enthused about closer relationship with America. This feeling may have worsened with the US demanding that APNU accept the outcome the outcome of democratic elections.
Guyanese Americans feel that political parties in Guyana should work closely with US authorities to advance mutual interests and respect for each other’s views.
That same survey in 2018 found 62% had a favorable (and 35% unfavorable) view of then Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo who led then President David Granger who had 43% favorable rating and unfavorable of 53%.