By: Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq.
March 5, 2021
The name Guyana comes from the indigenous word “Guiana,” that translates to “land of many waters.” Guyana and the surrounding South American countries (Venezuela, Suriname, and French Guiana) are filled with many rivers and streams.
The first people migrated to Guyana from the Asian continent around 35,000 years ago. In recent history, the Arawaks and Caribs were the dominant tribes until the warring Caribs overtook the more-peaceful Arawaks.
The Dutch were the first European settlers in Guyana in 1616. Remnants of their Fort Kyk-Over-Al still stand today. After a few shifts in power between a few countries, the British colonized Guyana to harvest sugar via enslaved Africans and Indian indentured servants.
For centuries, explorers also attempted to locate the infamous El Dorado, or city of gold. Some miners were successful in finding large amounts of gold off of the Essequibo River. Many freed Africans also explored the interior in search of gold. They were less inclined to stay in their villages because work was scarce with the decline of the sugar market in Guyana.
After sugar prices fell, the British were not as invested in the region but still refused to grant independence. “The British, at the suggestion of the Kennedy Administration, delayed [Guyana’s] scheduled independence and changed its electoral system in October 1963. [T]he electorate had to vote for parties instead of people, and a still popular but politically weakened Dr. Jagan fell from power. Once he fell, the British granted independence to the new republic of Guyana.” “They made a mistake putting Burnham in,” Janet Jagan said of one example of foreign interference in Guyanese politics.
There has been much interest in Guyana recently for black gold (oil). A few months ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the country to open doors for American investors. Mark Cuban, of the Dallas Mavericks and Shark Tank, then sent his team on a private jet. The details of that trip were not released but it likely relates to the international interest in securing deals around the expected/impending oil boom in Guyana.
In 2020, the PPP, led by President Dr. Irfaan Ali, assumed power after many months of delayed election results in Guyana. The party promised to review and renegotiate an Exxon oil contract that supposedly robbed Guyana of $55 billion. One hopes that the PPP upholds its position to renegotiate the Exxon deals and avoid the fate that outside influence to control has had on (1) Guyana previously, and (2) countries in the Middle East currently regarding oil.
For more info on oil in the Middle East, you can read:
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