Relations with the United States
Guyana's relations with the United States have ranged from cordial to cool. For the United States, Burnham's policies from 1964 to 1969 were nonthreatening. Burnham assured the United States that he had no intention of pursuing Jagan-style socialism or of nationalizing foreign-owned industries. The United States felt there was little chance of Guyana becoming a second Cuba.
Relations between the two nations cooled significantly after 1969, when Burnham began to support socialism both domestically and internationally. He established the cooperative republic in 1970 and nationalized the sugar and bauxite industries in the mid-1970s. Guyana also became active in the Nonaligned Movement (NAM). Burnham attended the NAM conference in Zambia in 1970 and hosted the conference in Georgetown in 1972. In 1975 the United States accused Guyana of allowing Timehri Airport to be used as a refueling stop for planes transporting Cuban troops to Angola. United States aid to Guyana virtually stopped, and acrimonious rhetoric emanated from both sides.
Under the administration of President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), United States-Guyana relations improved somewhat. The United States ambassador to the United Nations (UN) told the Guyanese government that the region's leaders could expect greater understanding of their alternative development strategies from the Carter administration. When the assistant secretary of state said that the United States did not feel threatened by Guyana's political philosophy, it seemed that the two countries had reached an understanding. This rapprochement led to resumption of United States aid to Guyana.
Relations cooled again with the succession of Ronald Reagan to the United States presidency in 1981. United States aid to Guyana was again halted, and Guyana later was excluded from the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Relations reached their lowest point after the United States invaded Grenada in 1983. Burnham had ties to Grenada's New Jewel Movement and was vocal in his opposition to the invasion. He criticized the United States and chastised fellow regional leaders who supported intervention in a speech at the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom).
After Burnham's death in 1985, United States-Guyanese relations improved under the more market-oriented administration of President Hoyte. The new president welcomed Western aid and investment, and the government stopped its anticapitalist, anti-Western, and socialist rhetoric. The United States responded by resuming wheat shipments in 1986. Frictions remained over the Guyanese electoral process, however.
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