How Guyana Was Made

How Guyana Was Made

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<b>[Music]</b> <b>If all goes to plan,</b> <b>Guyana is about to get rich.</b> <b>In 2015, ExxonMobil made one of the</b> <b>biggest oil strikes of the past 50 years</b> <b>in the waters off the coast of Guyana.</b> <b>Already the economy is twice as big as it</b> <b>was before the strike</b> <b>and Guyana is on track to become one of</b> <b>the western</b> <b>hemisphere's richest countries.</b> <b>But Guyana is also a country of deep,</b> <b>deep social fractures.</b> <b>It has the world's 20th highest homicide</b> <b>rate, almost three</b> <b>times the global average.</b>

<b>So how did this tiny</b> <b>paradise get this way?</b> <b>Like so many countries in the New World,</b> <b>the answer originates in</b> <b>its colonial experience.</b> <b>But compared to Brazil or Colombia or El</b> <b>Salvador, the story of</b> <b>Guyana is a little different.</b> <b>It's very different.</b>

<b>This video is about how the European</b> <b>Empire smashed together the people</b> <b>of three different continents to create</b> <b>this little colony of sugar.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>These videos tell</b> <b>stories of places and people,</b> <b>as I try to find the echoes of the past</b> <b>in the world of the present.</b> <b>So let's start with the story of Guyana.</b> <b>I've touched on the broader colonial</b> <b>history of the region</b> <b>in the previous video,</b> <b>but to recap, Christopher</b> <b>Columbus stopped by in 1498,</b> <b>then Sir Walter Raleigh charged through</b> <b>here searching for El</b> <b>Dorado almost 100 years later.</b> <b>Though Spain claimed it due to the Treaty</b> <b>of Tordesillas in which the Pope...</b> <b>The land which is the three modern</b> <b>Guianas was sliced and</b> <b>diced and traded back and forth</b> <b>for centuries between France, Britain and</b> <b>the Netherlands, all</b> <b>the while being attacked</b> <b>by the Spanish and</b> <b>Portuguese who still claimed it.</b>

<b>This all came to an end with the</b> <b>Convention of London in</b> <b>1814 which gave Britain what</b> <b>was then British Guiana, the Dutch what</b> <b>was then Dutch Guiana</b> <b>but is now Suriname and</b> <b>the French French Guiana or Guyane.</b> <b>While it was under Dutch control, Guyana</b> <b>was run by the Dutch</b> <b>West India Company, a</b> <b>private corporation for over 170 years</b> <b>although it was operated</b> <b>as three separate colonies,</b> <b>Essequibo, Berbice and Demerara which</b> <b>weren't unified until</b> <b>being joined together by the</b> <b>British.</b> <b>You can call this Dutch rule if you like</b> <b>but 96% of Guiana still</b> <b>remained unvisited and</b> <b>unexplored and was</b> <b>inhabited by Amerindian groups.</b> <b>The Dutch only truly controlled the</b> <b>fertile edge on the coast</b> <b>but out on that edge the</b> <b>landscape had been transformed by sugar,</b> <b>mile after mile of flat</b> <b>featureless grids of sugarcane,</b> <b>much of it below sea level and protected</b> <b>by their famous dykes,</b> <b>ten miles deep all along</b> <b>the coast.</b> <b>As the indigenous population was</b> <b>inconveniently dying of introduced</b> <b>diseases shortly after</b> <b>being enslaved for the plantations, they</b> <b>began the massive</b> <b>import of African slaves.</b>

<b>Under the Dutch,</b> <b>brutality knew no limits.</b> <b>Because the slaves owned nothing, it was</b> <b>difficult to punish them.</b> <b>All that could be taken</b> <b>from them was their body parts.</b> <b>Arms, feet, breasts and testicles would</b> <b>be sliced off as</b> <b>punishment, without trial and</b> <b>without anesthetic.</b> <b>For each amputation the colony doctor was</b> <b>paid £6 and through it</b> <b>all it was often Africans</b> <b>administering the punishment.</b>

<b>Indigenous people were drawn into the</b> <b>economy as well and for each runaway</b> <b>slave they recovered</b> <b>they would receive 400</b> <b>gilders or 200 for an arm.</b> <b>The Dutch lived a life of</b> <b>relentless extravagant luxury.</b> <b>Europeans were outnumbered by slaves 11</b> <b>to 1 and only a quarter</b> <b>of the slaves were working</b> <b>the sugarcane.</b> <b>The rest were there to service the lives</b> <b>of the Dutch who sank</b> <b>into deeper and deeper</b> <b>depravity.</b> <b>But the thing was, many of these slaves</b> <b>were experienced</b> <b>warriors who had been captured</b> <b>by rivals in Africa then sold to the</b> <b>Europeans who brought them.</b>

<b>So they weren't in fact</b> <b>ready to simply be passive.</b> <b>The most famous of these uprisings was</b> <b>the Berbice slave</b> <b>uprising which began in February</b> <b>1763.</b> <b>At the time in Berbice there were only</b> <b>346 whites with almost 4,000 Africans.</b>

<b>In the entire Berbice colony there were</b> <b>only about two dozen soldiers.</b> <b>So on two plantations on the Canj River,</b> <b>enslaved Africans rose up.</b> <b>The rebels burnt mansions and hacked</b> <b>apart their overlords.</b> <b>The wife of one brutal manager was</b> <b>decapitated and her</b> <b>head spared on a stick.</b> <b>The European population fled.</b> <b>Coffy, or Cuffy, their leader and now a</b> <b>national hero of Guyana</b> <b>led an army of slaves that</b> <b>threatened European</b> <b>control over the entire Guianas.</b>

<b>But it didn't last long.</b> <b>The British and French both</b> <b>lent the Dutch their troops.</b> <b>After all, considering their own empires,</b> <b>a successful slave</b> <b>rebellion would be a dangerous</b> <b>precedent.</b> <b>Though the extra European firepower was</b> <b>important, much of the actual fighting</b> <b>was done by Amerindians</b> <b>hired by the Dutch.</b> <b>And with the Europeans now having shown</b> <b>up, the slaves that</b> <b>were still in the hands of</b> <b>the planters saw the writing on the wall</b> <b>and rallied to their masters.</b> <b>Many of them were mixed-race Creoles and</b> <b>perhaps saw their</b> <b>rebellion as an African war.</b>

<b>So the Berbice slave revolt was put down</b> <b>mostly by Amerindians and</b> <b>Africans, not Europeans.</b> <b>The rebellion collapsed into a patchwork</b> <b>of civil wars and was snuffed out.</b> <b>But the Berbice river would never again</b> <b>be lined with plantations.</b> <b>A third of the white population had fled</b> <b>or died as well as half the slaves.</b> <b>On 16th March 1764, 53 of</b> <b>the rebels were sentenced.</b> <b>15 were burned over slow fires, 16 tied</b> <b>to the rack and broken</b> <b>with hammers, and the</b> <b>rest were hanged.</b>

<b>Slavery in the Americas, at all times and</b> <b>in all places, was a brutal business.</b> <b>This revolt for many Afro-Guyanese</b> <b>remains the most</b> <b>important moment in their history.</b> <b>They still celebrate it</b> <b>with holidays and statues.</b> <b>Unlike emancipation or even independence,</b> <b>for many this was the</b> <b>point, perhaps the only</b> <b>point when they became</b> <b>agents in their own story.</b> <b>Unlike in Suriname, no substantial</b> <b>community of Maroons or</b> <b>runaway slaves was ever formed</b> <b>in Guyana.</b>

<b>But Guyana wouldn't be in</b> <b>Dutch hands much longer.</b> <b>And one morning I left Georgetown,</b> <b>Guyana's capital, to</b> <b>explore the Essequibo, Guyana's</b> <b>biggest river, in search of</b> <b>what was left of Dutch rule.</b> <b>Throughout the Guianas I was travelling</b> <b>with my friend Dan, who</b> <b>had joined me for the trip.</b>

<b>We left for the Essequibo</b> <b>River early one Sunday morning:</b> <b>Market day.</b> <b>We went along the coast, past towns</b> <b>called Rotterdam, Mary &</b> <b>Harlem, and Waller's Delight.</b> <b>We arrived in Parika.</b> <b>On the dock we found a party boat, where</b> <b>the festivities were</b> <b>just getting started.</b>

<b>The Essequibo runs for some thousand</b> <b>miles, making it</b> <b>Guyana's largest river, and the</b> <b>third largest in all of South America.</b> <b>It flows around 365 different islands.</b> <b>Where it meets the</b> <b>Atlantic, its mouth is 32km wide.</b> <b>Here the banks of the Essequibo were once</b> <b>the richest farmlands in the world.</b> <b>This map from 1796 shows how the banks of</b> <b>the Essequibo were once</b> <b>covered in sugar plantations.</b>

<b>As measured by what the Europeans were</b> <b>willing to trade in</b> <b>their treaties, this area was</b> <b>given the same value as vast areas of</b> <b>West Africa, or the</b> <b>Indian city of Madras.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>It wasn't long before we got ourselves a</b> <b>ride, heading up river to Bartica.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>The banks of the river</b> <b>are now clad in jungle.</b> <b>Almost all of this used</b> <b>to be from plantations.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>Bartica is a gold mining town, sitting</b> <b>between the Essequibo and the Maseruni.</b>

<b>You can see gold everywhere in Bartica.</b> <b>It is, surprisingly, the largest town in</b> <b>the Guyanese interior.</b> <b>Most of the miners</b> <b>I've read are Brazilians.</b> <b>There's a shadow economy here as well,</b> <b>and I've read that plenty of the gold</b> <b>sneaks out through back channels, passing</b> <b>cocaine on its way out.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>In Bartica, all the</b> <b>streets are sponsored by Pepsi.</b>

<b>[Music]</b> <b>It's hard to really wrap your mind around</b> <b>the fact that this isn't a muddy lake.</b> <b>It's a river.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>It's Sunday afternoon</b> <b>and the beach is busy.</b>

<b>And Dan can't resist a swim.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>Bartica is a quiet town and on a Sunday</b> <b>night almost everything was closed.</b> <b>We found a Chinese place and got a</b> <b>vegetable chow mein each for about $4.</b>

<b>[Music]</b> <b>The next morning we're back in the boat</b> <b>to go to Fort Island.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>Fort Island was once the capital of the</b> <b>Dutch colonies of Essequibo and Demerara.</b> <b>It protected Dutch</b> <b>interests against European rivals.</b>

<b>The center of this was Fort Zealandia,</b> <b>built of course by African slaves.</b> <b>The shape of the fort, like a lozenge, is</b> <b>modelled on similar West African forts</b> <b>from the same period.</b> <b>It was from here that the Dutch</b> <b>administered the colony of cruelty.</b>

<b>[Music]</b> <b>After checking out the</b> <b>fort, it started to rain.</b> <b>A man invited us to</b> <b>shelter under his roof,</b> <b>and when the rain stopped, he</b> <b>showed us around his garden.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>So what are these</b> <b>palms? Will they be coconut?</b> <b>Yeah, they are coconut.</b> <b>I got this, soursop tree.</b> <b>Sweet corn. Next week I get corn.</b>

<b>Ah, it'll come next week. Cool.</b> <b>Hot po.</b> <b>Yeah, you eat it all.</b>

<b>Never eaten anything like that before.</b> <b>Well, it grows also wild.</b> <b>Yeah, no, it's not wild</b> <b>really. We planted it.</b>

<b>Interesting.</b> <b>So you guys could like take</b> <b>how much you want, you know.</b> <b>You want, right?</b> <b>Yeah.</b> <b>Listen to me. Take it, man.</b> <b>Fruit's good by fruit.</b> <b>Yeah, thank you so much.</b>

<b>It's really nice.</b> <b>You're welcome. Anytime</b> <b>you come back, Guyana.</b>

<b>Now only about 70 people live on the</b> <b>island, down from some to 100.</b> <b>There's a small museum on the island and</b> <b>set in cold metal on the floor,</b> <b>an insignia that perhaps accurately</b> <b>commemorates Dutch rule in Guyana.</b> <b>As well as the fort in the museum, they</b> <b>have a small school and a shop.</b>

<b>The lady in the shop</b> <b>offered us a ride back to Parika.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>This entire coast is below sea level</b> <b>protected by an impressive sea wall,</b> <b>another legacy of the Dutch and their</b> <b>engineering expertise.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>From the playground we headed back to</b> <b>Georgetown for a dinner of Creole food,</b> <b>Indian curry, flavors filtered through</b> <b>generations spent on</b> <b>the edge of South America.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>Meanwhile, back in Bartica, the light is</b> <b>fading over the river.</b> <b>This little gold mining town in the</b> <b>interior was the scene of an event that</b> <b>is sadly representative of the crime and</b> <b>social fracture that is all</b> <b>too common in Guyana today,</b> <b>another part of the legacy of the</b> <b>violence of colonialism.</b>

<b>On the night of February 17th, 2008, some</b> <b>20 masked, camouflaged gunmen,</b> <b>led by a man named Rondell 'Fineman'</b> <b>Rawlins, arrived on speedboats and landed</b> <b>at the Transport and Harbour's Wharf.</b> <b>They attacked the police station first,</b> <b>stealing guns, cash,</b> <b>ammunition and a vehicle.</b> <b>They then rode around Bartica, shooting</b> <b>at civilians and attacking the offices of</b> <b>a mining company,</b> <b>stealing more cash and gold.</b> <b>At the Wharf, ready to</b> <b>depart, they executed six more.</b> <b>After the hour-long</b> <b>rampage, twelve people were dead.</b>

<b>The whole thing is shady.</b> <b>A few weeks earlier, the gang had</b> <b>murdered another dozen people in just 20</b> <b>minutes in the village of Lusignan.</b> <b>Once again, the police</b> <b>were slow to respond.</b> <b>Rawlins, who was already wanted for the</b> <b>assassination of the</b> <b>agriculture minister in 2006,</b> <b>was later killed by the</b> <b>Guyanese security forces.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>Guyana, it has to be</b> <b>said, is not for beginners.</b> <b>Anyone that has spent any time in</b> <b>Georgetown can tell you</b> <b>that, and can feel that.</b>

<b>We haven't finished the story about how</b> <b>Guyana became the way that it is.</b> <b>And the last piece of the demographic</b> <b>puzzle was yet to fall into place.</b> <b>For that, we need to turn to the British.</b> <b>[Music]</b> <b>So the next phase in Guyana's history</b> <b>starts with the French</b> <b>Revolution and the ensuing</b> <b>Napoleonic Wars. France occupied the</b> <b>Netherlands, Britain</b> <b>declared war on France, and in 1796</b> <b>took over these three little sugary</b> <b>colonies on the South American coast.</b> <b>Guyana was briefly returned to the Dutch,</b> <b>but when war broke out once</b> <b>again, the British regained</b> <b>them. And in 1814, at the London</b>

<b>Convention, Demerara,</b> <b>Essequibo, and Berbice were all</b> <b>formally ceded to Britain. In 1831,</b> <b>Britain united them into</b> <b>what was then called British</b> <b>Guyana. And those, more or less, are the</b> <b>borders we have today.</b>

<b>Economically, not a huge amount</b> <b>changed. Political, economic, and social</b> <b>life continued to be</b> <b>dominated by the Plantocracy.</b> <b>Below them was a small number of freed</b> <b>slaves, many of mixed</b> <b>African and European heritage,</b> <b>with some Portuguese merchants. At the</b> <b>bottom, of course, was the</b> <b>great mass of African slaves.</b> <b>On the periphery of all this were the</b> <b>Amerindians, living in small</b> <b>concentrations in the interior.</b> <b>Though the slave trade was abolished in</b> <b>the British Empire in</b> <b>1807, that was just the</b> <b>transportation part, and in Guyana,</b> <b>slavery ground on, evolving in</b> <b>increasingly perverse ways.</b>

<b>Some slaves even had their own slaves.</b> <b>With no more slaves able to be imported,</b> <b>in Guyana they were encouraged to breed.</b> <b>One of the agricultural</b> <b>societies in Stabroek offered a</b> <b>medal to the plant who raised the</b> <b>greatest number of baby slaves. In other</b> <b>words, it was the farming</b> <b>of human beings. There was another</b> <b>rebellion in 1823, in which over 10,000</b> <b>slaves rose up in the</b> <b>Demerara and Essequibo regions. Hundreds</b> <b>were executed and their</b> <b>heads stuck on poles to be</b> <b>displayed in the gardens. And yet 15</b>

<b>years later, in 1838, they</b> <b>were all free. What followed</b> <b>emancipation was an immediate exodus from</b> <b>the plantations, as the</b> <b>former slaves moved to the</b> <b>towns and villages.</b> <b>To this day, urban Guyana is largely</b> <b>dominated by Afro-Guyanese.</b>

<b>So now, with an acute shortage of labour,</b> <b>the ethnic composition of the colony</b> <b>would change once again.</b> <b>The British authorities turned to</b> <b>elsewhere in the empire, and nowhere had</b> <b>a surplus of people quite like India.</b> <b>They were coming not as slaves, but as</b> <b>indentured workers, signing contracts to</b> <b>work for a period of time</b> <b>in return for their transport and the</b> <b>provision of food,</b> <b>shelter and basic necessities.</b>

<b>In theory, at the end of their contract,</b> <b>they would return to India</b> <b>with savings from their work.</b> <b>In practice, however, workers often</b> <b>received little or no pay and worked long</b> <b>hours in difficult conditions.</b> <b>The coolies, as they became known,</b> <b>weren't much better off</b> <b>than the Africans before.</b> <b>They were confined to their plantations,</b> <b>and without knowing it had signed up to</b> <b>being fined and flogged,</b> <b>it didn't take long before</b> <b>they were revolting as well.</b> <b>In the hundred years until 1950, there</b> <b>were at least 16 major revolts.</b> <b>It has to be said, though, that unlike</b> <b>the Africans, they weren't stripped of</b> <b>their names, their</b> <b>languages, or their religions.</b>

<b>However, just like the Africans, most</b> <b>never ended up making it home.</b> <b>Between 1838 and 1917, when a shortage of</b> <b>wartime shipping and opposition inside</b> <b>India bought the traffic to an end,</b> <b>almost a quarter of a</b> <b>million Indians arrived in Guyana.</b> <b>Now, Indo-Guyanese are the single largest</b> <b>ethnic group in the country.</b> <b>Nearly 40% of the population today</b> <b>descends from people</b> <b>bought here from India.</b>

<b>Meanwhile, changes were afoot.</b> <b>The planters were beginning to</b> <b>lose their hold on the colony.</b> <b>A new Afro-Guyanese middle class had</b> <b>started to build up and</b> <b>was demanding changes.</b> <b>In 1909, Afro-Guyanese became for the</b> <b>first time a majority of eligible voters.</b> <b>This wasn't a full democracy,</b> <b>of course, but it was a start.</b>

<b>Guyana's economy had also gradually</b> <b>become less dependent on sugar and more</b> <b>on rice and bauxite,</b> <b>creating new power</b> <b>centers aside from the planters.</b> <b>By the end of World War II, Guyana's</b> <b>political system had</b> <b>expanded political awareness.</b> <b>Independence was on the horizon.</b> <b>This is when the structure of Guyana's</b> <b>politics that would determine</b> <b>its modern history was formed</b> <b>around two political parties and two</b> <b>peculiar characters.</b> <b>The first was the People's Progressive</b> <b>Party, or PPP, founded in 1950.</b> <b>It started as a multi-ethnic, center-left</b> <b>party with support from both</b> <b>Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese.</b>

<b>The party chairman was an Afro-Guyanese</b> <b>called Linden Forbes Burnham.</b> <b>He had won a scholarship to study in</b> <b>Britain as British</b> <b>Guyana's brightest student,</b> <b>getting a law degree from the London</b> <b>School of Economics.</b> <b>The PPP's leader in</b> <b>parliament was called Cheddi Jagan.</b> <b>His parents were born in India, and he</b> <b>had studied to be a</b> <b>dentist in the United States,</b> <b>where he met Janet Rosenberg, a</b> <b>Jewish-American</b> <b>communist who became his wife.</b>

<b>She's going to pop up a little later in</b> <b>the story, so remember the name.</b> <b>These two brilliant men, Burnham and</b> <b>Jagan, would shape independent Guyana.</b> <b>So the PPP gained momentum, uniting both</b> <b>African and Indian</b> <b>voters in sweeping elections.</b> <b>But the British, who still controlled the</b> <b>colony, were worried about their</b> <b>anti-capitalist message,</b> <b>as were the colony's business interests.</b>

<b>Soon Burnham and Jagan began to struggle</b> <b>for power within the party,</b> <b>and support for each of them quickly</b> <b>began to fall mostly, though at this</b> <b>point still not entirely</b> <b>along ethnic lines, with Afro-Guyanese</b> <b>supporting Burnham and</b> <b>Indo-Guyanese supporting Jagan.</b> <b>That is when Burnham broke away to form</b> <b>the second of our two</b> <b>important political parties,</b> <b>the People's National Conference, or PNC.</b> <b>The fault line running through Guyana's</b> <b>society was beginning to crack open.</b> <b>Meanwhile, for Guyana, there was no</b> <b>struggle for independence.</b>

<b>Britain, reeling from World War II,</b> <b>couldn't wait to get rid of the colony.</b> <b>But in the 1950s, what worried them, and</b> <b>its ally the United</b> <b>States, was communism.</b> <b>Now crucially, as he broke away, Burnham</b> <b>moved towards the political center,</b> <b>while Jagan stayed on the left.</b> <b>This would change everything.</b>

<b>Jagan, leader of the PPP, was now</b> <b>sounding a lot like a communist.</b> <b>Into London Airport comes the man around</b> <b>whom revolves the grave</b> <b>situation in British Guyana.</b> <b>Dr. Chedi Jagan, the deposed Prime</b>

<b>Minister of the colony,</b> <b>is here to protest against the</b> <b>government's claim that he</b> <b>and his American-born wife</b> <b>led a plot to make Guyana</b> <b>a communist control state.</b> <b>World attention focuses on Georgetown,</b> <b>as the British government takes action to</b> <b>halt the growth of</b> <b>communism in the country.</b> <b>From the headquarters, papers and</b> <b>pamphlets are removed for closer scrutiny</b> <b>by police authorities,</b> <b>and a portrait of Stalin</b> <b>goes with them as evidence.</b> <b>The British government claims that such</b> <b>strict measures have been taken</b> <b>to forestall a threatened,</b> <b>red-directed revolt in Guyana.</b>

<b>These two, say the colonial office, have</b> <b>strengthened their links with Moscow</b> <b>since the doctor came to power, and have</b> <b>used the People's Progressive Party</b> <b>to spread the communist doctrine through</b> <b>the British colony they</b> <b>adopted as their home.</b> <b>So the British</b> <b>suspended the constitution,</b> <b>imposed an interim government, and sent a</b> <b>warship and an army to occupy Guyana.</b> <b>In 2011, Britain's MI5 declassified</b> <b>documents that showed that</b> <b>Prime Minister Winston Churchill</b> <b>had the elected government of Guyana</b> <b>overthrown, because he was afraid that</b> <b>Jagan was going to lead the country into</b> <b>alliance with the Soviet Union.</b> <b>Even though MI5 also found there was no</b> <b>evidence of them receiving</b> <b>outside support from any communist</b> <b>organization, MI5 tapped Jagan's phone</b> <b>and read his letters.</b> <b>Churchill wrote to</b> <b>his colonial secretary,</b> <b>"We ought surely to get American support</b> <b>in doing all that we can to break the</b> <b>communist teeth in British Guyana." How</b> <b>much of an ideologue</b> <b>Jagan was is debatable.</b>

<b>While it was true that he expressed</b> <b>support for Stalin,</b> <b>Mao, and Fidel Castro,</b> <b>Jagan did always say that Marxism would</b> <b>have to be adapted to</b> <b>Guyana's particular situation.</b> <b>Make of that what you will.</b> <b>The British locked up the Jagans,</b> <b>sending Chedi to a penal</b> <b>colony in the interior.</b> <b>And for the next three years, Guyana was</b> <b>ruled under emergency powers.</b> <b>But the problem was,</b> <b>Jagan's party wasn't going away.</b> <b>In 1960, Indo-Guyanese outnumbered</b> <b>Afro-Guyanese at 43% of the</b> <b>population, compared to 38%.</b>

<b>The PPP kept winning elections, and in</b> <b>1961 Jagan was back in power.</b> <b>And with each election, the ethnic</b> <b>division was hardening.</b> <b>With the PPP becoming more Indo-Guyanese</b> <b>and the PNC becoming more Afro-Guyanese,</b> <b>the politics of 'Apan jhat', Hindi for "vote</b> <b>for your own kind" was</b> <b>becoming the rule in Guyana.</b> <b>In 1958, a West Indies Federation, which</b> <b>is something I had never heard of,</b> <b>was created as a political union to join</b> <b>the various Caribbean</b> <b>islands of the British Empire</b> <b>into one unit on independence.</b> <b>But Jagan vetoed Guyana's inclusion</b> <b>because in the Federation,</b> <b>those of Indian descent would be greatly</b> <b>outnumbered by those of African descent,</b> <b>unlike in Guyana itself, which would</b> <b>almost certainly mean an</b> <b>erosion of Indo-Guyanese</b> <b>influence.</b> <b>This move went against a previous pledge</b> <b>the PPP had made and</b> <b>led to the final loss of</b> <b>Afro-Guyanese support.</b>

<b>Burnham, on the other</b> <b>hand, had learned to listen.</b> <b>He couldn't win if only supported by</b> <b>lower class and urban Afro-Guyanese.</b> <b>He needed the middle class as well.</b>

<b>Socialism wouldn't bind the two groups</b> <b>together, so he chose something else.</b> <b>Race.</b> <b>And so, like that, the</b> <b>PNC abandoned their Marxism.</b> <b>Or, at least for a while.</b> <b>Now the racial tension became</b> <b>strikes, which became riots.</b> <b>The Indo-Guyanese were a</b> <b>majority in the countryside,</b> <b>while the</b> <b>Afro-Guyanese dominated the city.</b>

<b>Strikes would paralyze one or the other.</b> <b>Whole neighborhoods of</b> <b>Georgetown were burned.</b> <b>The colony was grinding to a standstill.</b> <b>Jagan's government</b> <b>asked for help from Cuba.</b> <b>And so, in turn, the United States</b> <b>supported Burnham and the PNC.</b>

<b>And in this hemisphere, it's really the</b> <b>Americans you want on your side.</b> <b>Now Guyana was being sucked into the</b> <b>whirlpool of the Cold War.</b> <b>As writer John Gimlette put it,</b> <b>"British Guyana had become a little</b> <b>sugary pawn in a much bigger game."</b>

<b>We now know from declassified documents</b> <b>that the British</b> <b>government allowed CIA agents</b> <b>to use all their methods to make sure</b> <b>that the first leader</b> <b>of independent Guyana</b> <b>would not be Cheddi Jagan.</b> <b>So the CIA-funded opposition, who</b> <b>organized riots and disturbance,</b> <b>violence ripped apart the country.</b> <b>There were ambushes and grenades thrown</b> <b>on buses, and several</b> <b>cinemas were blown up.</b>

<b>In 1964, 18,000</b> <b>Afro-Guyanese attacked Wismar,</b> <b>Guyana's second city with</b> <b>petrol bombs and knives.</b> <b>The entire Indo-Guyanese population of</b> <b>1300 was expelled to Georgetown.</b> <b>Eight women were raped on the way.</b> <b>One man was decapitated,</b> <b>and another burnt alive.</b> <b>They renamed the town after their leader,</b> <b>Linden Forbes Burnham.</b>

<b>Violence was ripping apart the country.</b> <b>Thousands of homes were destroyed, and</b> <b>hundreds were killed.</b> <b>The British government declared a state</b> <b>of emergency and assumed full powers.</b>

<b>But now, the British and Americans had</b> <b>decided that Burnham,</b> <b>while still technically identifying the</b> <b>socialist, was preferable to Jagan,</b> <b>and they would help to bring him to</b> <b>power, meaning Afro-Guyanese rule.</b> <b>But with Indo-Guyanese being close to</b> <b>half the population,</b> <b>Jagan was the only plausible head of</b> <b>state of an independent Guyana.</b> <b>Putting their foot on the scale, Britain</b> <b>tweaked the electoral system,</b> <b>so that by uniting their Afro-Guyanese</b> <b>voters with the small</b> <b>numbers of Portuguese and</b> <b>Amerindians, the PNC could</b> <b>force the PPP out of power.</b> <b>Now it was the turn of the Indo-Guyanese</b> <b>to fight the injustice.</b> <b>They blew up the US consulate, injuring</b> <b>bystanders who included Miss Guyana.</b> <b>But it didn't change anything, and like</b> <b>this, British Guiana</b> <b>hurtled towards independence.</b>

<b>With the Americans receiving assurances</b> <b>from Burnham, Guyana</b> <b>was ready to be freed.</b> <b>The PNC won the elections of 1964 in</b> <b>coalition with a conservative party.</b> <b>The socialist and mainly Afro-Guyanese</b> <b>PNC had joined forces</b> <b>with the capitalists</b> <b>to force out the socialist</b> <b>and mainly Indo-Guyanese PPP.</b> <b>Burnham became Prime</b> <b>Minister on December 14th, 1964.</b> <b>He would be there for a while.</b>

<b>Two years later, the British were finally</b> <b>ready to leave, and the</b> <b>colony was renamed Guyana.</b> <b>It was now on its own.</b> <b>As John Gimlette describes it,</b> <b>"So began the next 28 years,</b> <b>an African dictatorship in</b> <b>the margins of South America."</b> <b>And it's here the</b> <b>story gets really weird.</b> <b>A socialist dictatorship, a</b> <b>rebellion on the savannah,</b> <b>a mass suicide of an American cult, and</b> <b>finally, a flood of sweet, sweet oil.</b> <b>The next video is</b> <b>about independent Guyana.</b>

<b>[Music]</b> <b>When the music and dancing stops,</b> <b>the Guyanese will return to the serious</b> <b>job of nation-building.</b>

2024-03-10 09:59

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