BY: DR. VISHNU BISRAM
I Concur with your front-page headline of September 16 that Secretary of State Pompeo’s trip is “a celebration of our democracy.” The secretary played a key role in the defeated coalition’s decision to accept the outcome of the results of the March 2 elections and Guyanese ought to welcome his endorsement of our democracy that he rescued in 2020 and that America restored in 1992.
It is internationally known that for five months, the then incumbent APNU+AFC coalition defied the will of voters and international pressure to accept the outcome of the democratic elections. Only when Pompeo cancelled visas and applied other sanctions to some of the riggers did they decide to cave in. They thought the secretary was bluffing. Some would have been placed on that special list of gangsters and terrorists prepared by the U.S. State Department and could have been extradited to face trial in America as happened to some dictators and election-riggers.
Had it not been for U.S. assistance in 1992, demanding from Hoyte that he restore democracy and open the economy, Guyana would have remained a dictatorship till this day. And had it not been for U.S. intervention from March 3 through August 1, 2020, Guyana would have become a dictatorship and there might have been a civil war; or we would still be determining who won the elections.
In the 1980s, after installing Burnham in office in December 1964 and after Burnham betrayed them with a blend of communism and fascism, “Uncle Sam” came down hard on the Burnham and later Hoyte dictatorships, triggering economic collapse and forcing Hoyte to undertake economic and political reforms. A handful of individuals who included Baytoram Ramharack, Vassan Ramracha, Ravi Dev, and myself, among others, lobbied Washington to promote democracy in Guyana. The U.S. agreed to spread democracy in Guyana after the collapse of the Soviet Union that no longer posed a threat to America’s interests in Guyana, resulting in the return of PPP governance. After 23 years of PPP rule and blunders by Donald Ramotar in relations with the U.S., the Obama administration engineered his ouster, replacing him with David Granger. And afterthe errors of Granger, the U.S. insisted that Guyana hold free and fair elections, resulting in the Irfaan Ali presidency.
We should be honoured with the presence of Secretary Pompeo to celebrate the triumph of democracy over rigging. Guyanese Americans want a cementing of ties; I penned such a report from a survey two years ago. Almost every supporter of the PPP in the USA and those I spoke with in Guyana are in favour of closer relations with America and are pleased that Secretary Pompeo is coming to Guyana. They feel that the PPP-led government should attempt to forge some sort of practical security cooperation arrangements with America, including in the greater Caribbean Region; support America’s policy to democratise the Region and combat international crimes. Supporters of APNU are not very enthused about Pompeo’s visit, feeling it would help to consolidate relations between the PPP and U.S. administrations.
Suddenly, there are many U.S. foreign policy experts among Guyanese, including those who never studied foreign policy. U.S. foreign policy is a course taught in American politics that is a mandatory sub-field (for PhD students) in Political Science. I taught the topic in American government courses for over two decades. The U.S. Secretary of State conducts foreign policy on behalf of the President who is Chief Diplomat. The secretary is the counter equivalent of Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister. The secretary carries out the policies of the U.S. government. He travels regularly all over the globe on behalf of the President, promoting U.S. interests and helping to secure international peace and security. His visit to Guyana and hours before that to
Suriname is a reward for staying the democratic course.
The secretary’s trip will help to deepen the U.S.’ relationship with Guyana and the Region, something that a large majority of Guyanese-Americans and over half the population in Guyana support. One must not forget that the U.S. provided sanctuary to Guyanese from the 1960s onwards especially during the 28 years of dictatorship; there are more Guyanese and their descendants in America than in Guyana. Also, the U.S. provided over a billion dollars in foreign assistance between 1965 and 1992. The U.S. fed starving Guyanese under the PL 480 programme that shipped flour to Guyana; flour that was banned by Burnham. Tens of thousands of Guyanese obtained tertiary education and employment in America, sending over US$400M annually in remittances from the 1980s to now. From the U.S., there were tens of millions of visits to Guyana over the last years, pumping billions of U.S. dollars into the economy.
Discussions with the secretary and his team should address mutual interests pertaining to national security: military assistance to counter border threats and oil exploration; cooperation against drug trafficking, human trafficking, and money laundering; trade expansion; increased cultural and educational exchanges; the presence of a base in Guyana; widening sanctions (and visa cancellations) against riggers to include those who were involved in racial violence in West Berbice; greater support for democracy; forensic assistance to investigate the three killings in Cotton Tree; grants for economic recovery; combating high-tech crimes, including cyber security; modernising Guyana’s security forces and their collaboration with the USA; diaspora linkage in America; sharing of appropriate technology to combat cross-border crime; establishing a DEA office in Guyana; joint U.S.-Guyana defence patrols on the border and on the coast.
The Ali presidency should use the secretary’s presence to deepen relations with America, including protection of our fragile democracy and combating international crimes.