The Guyana Co-operative is a union of the former nations of Guyana and Suriname.
Guyana and Suriname were initially inhabited by the warring Arawak and Carib Amerindian tribes. They were both sighted by the British explorer Sir Walter Raleigh in the 1500's. Raleigh believed that Guyana was the location of the mythical city of El Dorado, and as a result Guyana's most famous rum company still goes by the name "El Dorado Rum." Despite its discovery by Raleigh, the first European settlers were the Dutch.
In the early 1800's, the UK purchased Demerara (home of the world-famous Demerara sugar), Berbice, and Essequibo counties from the Dutch, forming the territory of British Guiana. The remaining Dutch-owned lands to the east became known as Dutch Guiana (and later as Suriname).
The territory of British Guiana was filled with sugar cane plantations that were used to cultivate the region's famous Demerara sugar in order to make rum. The plantations were farmed by African slaves. After the abolition of slavery in the 1830's, British plantation owners began importing indentured servants from India into British Guiana. Eventually, the Indo-Guyanese became the majority, outnumbering the Afro-Guyanese population (the Amerindian population mostly remained isolated in the rain forests in the territory's southern region). Suriname was also home to many indentured servants from India, as well as former slaves from Africa. The two nations shared a musical tradition, and both were part of the general Caribbean culture despite being located on the coast of mainland South America.
British Guiana was moving towards independence after World War II, but was faced with racial tension between the Indo-Guyanese, who held a slight majority, and the Afro-Guyanese. The Indo-Guyanese leader Cheddi Jagan, of the People's Progressive Party (PPP), was initially elected to become the leader of an independent Guyana (the new spelling proposed for the nation), but his ties to the Soviet Union led the Kennedy administration to pressure the British to support his Afro-Guyanese opponent, Linden Forbes Burnham of the People's National Congress (PNC), instead.
In 1966, Guyana became independent from the UK, although it remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Burnham turned out to be a communist as well, but opted not to align with the Soviets, so NATO left him alone. Burnham became a dictator who initiated racist policies towards the Indo-Guyanese, and was utterly despised by them. Racial tensions remained high as Burnham's regime kept feeding into racial divisions.
In 1978, the nation received international attention when 918 American members of the Jim Jones-led Peoples' Temple cult committed mass murder/suicide in their makeshift settlement known as Jonestown. The majority of Guyanese civilians had no idea the group was even in their country (although Burnham's government did).
As of 1983, Burnham's reign was increasingly unpopular, as Indo-Guyanese citizens resented him. Claims of election fraud persisted. And a massive economic crisis had resulted in much of the nation's population emigrating to New York, Toronto, and London. Still, Burnham remained in power. Then, on September 26, 1983, the world changed forever.
Guyana and Suriname were not targeted by any missiles on Doomsday. However, the event did result in a sudden loss of contact with much of the outside world. Local radio stations provided the news that nearby radio stations in Trinidad and Tobago could still be reached, but all contact with the US and UK were lost.
Gradually, reports trickled in from across the Caribbean that indicated that Cuba had been the site of at least two atomic detonations and that a battle between U.S. and Cuban forces at Guantanamo was underway.
Upon realizing that World War III had finally arrived and that there would be massive civil unrest, Burnham quickly declared martial law. However, the impoverished population quickly took to the streets, raiding markets and shops for supplies, as they realized that no more British foods would be imported anytime soon.
Suriname remained mostly stable. There was some looting in the markets for food and supplies, but Desi Bouterse's military regime quickly mobilized to make sure that there were no major internal disturbances in Suriname, quashing any troublemakers immediately.
Guyana, however, was about to face the greatest crisis of its history. Shortly after Doomsday, Venezuela invaded Guyana to enforce its old claim over Guayana Esequiba, the part of Guyana west of the Essequibo river. Nationwide the structures crumbled and chaos spread.
Burnham mobilized his army to the nation's western territory to fend off the Venezuelan military, but he found himself fighting on two fronts at once, as the Indo-Guyanese, resentful of the regime's racist policies towards them, began widespread riots against him.
Burnham's advisors in the PNC's upper echelon pleaded with him to realize the seriousness of the situation, and begged him to enter a power-sharing agreement with Cheddi Jagan, the Indo-Guyanese leader, and his People's Progressive Party. But Burnham refused, his deeply-held racist beliefs still in place even in the midst of national crisis.
Desperate PNC leaders finally took matters into their own hands: they quickly staged a coup, and shot Burnham in his own office. The PNC then quickly declared Vice President Desmond Hoyte the nation's new leader.
As soon as he assumed office, Hoyte addressed the nation by radio and immediately offered a power-sharing deal with Jagan's PPP, on the condition that Jagan call off the riots. Jagan quickly agreed, and he and a PPP delegation entered the State House (the Presidential residence), and Jagan and Hoyte soon appeared on the balcony together, begging the rioters to stand down. Seeing Jagan and the PPP in power convinced most Indo-Guyanese to lay down their arms, while the fact that Hoyte remained in power alongside Jagan convinced most Afro-Guyanese to give the new administration a chance, though Burnham loyalists were still furious at Hoyte for leading the coup that resulted in Burnham's assassination.
The racial civil war was over, but the war with Venezuela still raged in Essequibo county. In a desperate attempt to fend of the invasion, Guyanese authorities sought help from Suriname. Military dictator Desi Bouterse of Suriname, though not formally speaking in charge surely the 'strong man' of the country at the time, sent his military to the east bank of the Essequibo river. Since the Venezuelans were not interested in conquering the east bank and did not bother crossing it, the Surinamese troops met little, if any, resistance. Bouterse exploited the situation by claiming this to be a 'tremendous military victory'.
Birth of the Guyana Co-operative: Racial reconciliation in Guyana, and the union of Guyana and Suriname
Guyana and Suriname were now close allies, and Guyanese Co-Presidents Desmond Hoyte and Cheddi Jagan invited Bouterse to Georgetown to discuss closer ties between Guyana and Suriname. The talks went well, and the two nations signed a mutual protection agreement. In time, the ties would grow even stronger.
Meanwhile, in Guyana, Hoyte and Jagan worked to mend the racial tensions that Burnham had exacerbated. During the mid-1980's, the joint PPP-PNC administration began appointing Indo-Guyanese community members to political positions alongside the Afro-Guyanese who were already there from Burnham's time. These new Indo-Guyanese politicians included Donald Ramotar, who joined the National Assembly, Harry Ramcharan, the new mayor of Rose Hall town, and many others. The result was a more racially-balanced government, which served to ease racial tensions.
Meanwhile, Guyana and Suriname began openly discussing the possibility of political union, in order to provided a united front against Venezuela's aggression, as well as because of the strong cultural ties between the two nations. The atmosphere created after the invasion brought the two countries together, paving the way towards the union between them. They saw that by uniting they could guarantee a better and more secure future. On May 26, 1987, Cheddi Jagan, Desmond Hoyte, and Desi Bouterse signed the Declaration of Unification in a public ceremony in Paramaribo. The two nations' militaries were unifed under General Bouterse's command, Jagan was declared President, and Hoyte was declared Prime Minister. Thus, the three leaders formed a sort of triumvirate, in the hopes that this would allow the new nation to remain stable. Political intrigues and tensions remained, but for the triumvirate system, with power jointly invested in a President, Prime Minister, and General, has remained the system of executive power in the Guyana Co-operative, while legislative power is invested in the National Assembly.
A tense but peaceful stalemate between the GC and Venezuela has more or less lasted over the years.
In the early 2000s, the nations of South America began earnestly discussing the creation of the South American Confederation, which became a reality in 2004. During these years, Guyana saw the advantages that the SAC would offer and attempted to join both the preliminary talks and the Confederation itself. However, because of the circumstances of its foundation, Venezuela claimed that the country was not legitimate and blocked every initiative admitting it to the SAC. Still, Brazil, Guyane, and other states maintain friendly relations with the GC.
In the early 2000s the GC split into two camps, one favoring continuing the ongoing effort to develop closer ties with the SAC, the other proposing a radical change by joining the neutral, economically rising neighbour French Guiana. In 2006, the pro-neutrality faction gained the upper hand, pointing out that despite being in South America, Guyana and Suriname had never had strong ties with the rest of the continent, as they were the only English-speaking (Guyana) and Dutch-speaking (Suriname) territories in South America, and formally made an proposal of unification to French Guyana and began to intensely discuss forming a triple state. They added a third star to the flag of the GC to represent the hope of a future union. The move created some turmoil both within the GC and in French Guyana, since the proposed unification would change the power balance in the region. It has put pressure on the GC's South American allies, who would prefer the GC's joining to the Confederation to an enlarged French Guyana.
Guyana is still a quite unstable country and its economy is less developed than its neighbours. Politically it is still split between a pro-SAC faction and a larger faction favoring neutrality.
The region was extremely diverse to begin with, and post-doomsday-immigration from the Caribbean has made Guyana the most ethnically diversified, though unstable, country in South America.
In recent years, the situation has become a little more positive, as trade relations with the Caribbean nations have slowly grown stronger, and the nation has received economic aid packages from New Britain. The GC is now using its vast sugar cane plantations to be the basis of the rebuilt economy, exporting rum and Demerara sugar throughout the Caribbean and to New Britain.
However, there is still a long way to go, and political corruption remains an extremely rampant problem.
Politics in the GC are full of intrigue, and corruption remains a rampant problem.
Legislative power is invested in the National Assembly.
Since Guyana and Suriname merged in the mid 1980's, executive power was invested in a triumvirate of political officials in order to maintain some semblance of balance: A High General, who is invested with military power, a President, and a Prime Minister.
The First Triumvirate, formed on May 26, 1987, consisted of President Cheddi Jagan, Prime Minister Desmond Hoyte, and High General Desi Bouterse. The First Triumvirate came to an end on March 6, 1997 when President Jagan died of heart failure.
After the death of Cheddi Jagan, who remained extremely popular until his death, Hoyte, Bouterse, and the National Assembly offered the Presidency to Jagan's widow, the Jewish-American-born Janet Jagan, nee Rosenberg, to the Presidency until the next election could be held. Janet Jagan accepted the offer, and the Second Triumvirate was formed.
After Janet Jagan stepped down, along with Desmond Hoyte (due to his poor health) in the late 1990's, the next election swept in Bharrat Jagdeo as President and Sam Hinds as Prime Minister. Together, President Jagdeo, Prime Minister Hinds, and (as always) High General Bouterse formed the Third Triumvirate, which continues to hold executive power to this day.
High General Bouterse has remained a constant force in GC politics, and has been present in all three Triumvirates.
The culture of the Guyana Co-operative is based largely on the culture of the Caribbean. Although Guyana and Suriname had been located on the continent of South America, their presence on the Caribbean coast and extremely strong cultural ties to the islands led to a general shared culture.
Chutney music (the Indo-Caribbean ethnic majority in the region had named it after the Indian condiment in order to signify its "spiciness") had originated in Trinidad, but an enormous number of chutney artists were Guyanese, and the genre also had some early roots in Suriname with the music of artist Ramdeo Chaitoe. Chaitoe's music still remains very popular in the GC and in the ECF (particularly in Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica). One of the most popular artists from the Guyana Co-operative is chutney performer Terry Gajraj of Fyrish town, famous for his anthem "Guyana Baboo". Many other chutney artists popular in the GC hail from Trinidad & Tobago in the ECF. Perhaps the biggest of these singers is Rikki Jai, famous for his song "Mor-Tor", a perpetual favorite at weddings both in the GC and the ECF. Soca music is also extremely popular, as is calypso music.
When it comes to sports, cricket is by far the most popular sport in the Guyana Co-operative, and the GC has produced world-class players such as Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Popular foods include roti, dhal, and curry due to the heavy Indo-Caribbean population, which is descended from indentured servants brought by the British from India. Other local dishes include pepperpot, Surinamese bakmi, chow mein (there is a small but culinarily influential Chinese population in the area), black eyed cake, cheese rolls, red cake, black cake (rum-filled cake popular at weddings), puri, cookup rice, cassava, and local fish such as hassa.
Christianity is the largest religion in the Guyana Co-operative (the denominations include Pentacostal, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and others).
Hinduism is the second largest religion in the Guyana Co-operative, due to the presence of Indo-Caribbeans in both Guyana and Suriname, descended from indentured laborers from India.
Islam is the third largest religion, also due to the presence of Indo-Caribbeans.
East Indian: 43.5%
After the Falkland Islands joined the United American Republic, many of the British residents there moved to the Guyana Co-operative, as it was one of the closest former British territories in the area. This small but significant influx of British refugees has resulted in the foundation of "Little England" neighborhoods in Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Rose Hall, and Port Mourant.
The Co-operative's flag combines elements from the old flags of Guyana and Suriname. The three stars represent the hope of uniting all three Guyanas.
The Guyana Co-operative is a member of the League of Nations. It is recognized by Brazil, French Guyane, and most other South American nations, but not by Venezuela or by the SAC as a whole. Unification talks with French Guyane have so far not produced any actual results.
The Guyana Co-operative was recently granted observer status in the Commonwealth of British Nations.
The Guyana Co-operative has extremely strong diplomatic ties with the East Caribbean Federation, as Guyana had shared a common Anglophone-Caribbean culture with the nations that formed the ECF, especially Trinidad & Tobago. Early on, the GC and the ECF signed a free trade agreement, as their economies and cultures were already extremely intertwined before Doomsday and continued to be afterwards.
The GC has also pursued strong diplomatic ties with New Britain. NB has sent economic aid packages, and in return the Guyana Co-operative has sent its signature exports of Demerara sugar and rum to New Britain.
The Surinamese population in the GC also tends to be very interested in pursuing a trade relationship and stronger diplomatic relations with the Netherlands Antilles.