News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. May 15, 2020: Just weeks prior to the March 2, 2020 elections in the South American CARICOM nation of Guyana, headlines such as ‘Global Oil’s New King Of The Heap,’ ‘The World’s Largest Oil Producing Country Per Person In The 2020s,’ and ‘No Longer Frontier Country,’ emerged in global publications like Forbes, The Economist and oil and gas publications, while the tagline: “The Dubai Of The Caribbean,’ emerged in some local political and Caribbean regional circles.
All thanks almost completely to the discovery of massive amounts of fossil fuel in Guyana by Exxon Mobil in May 2015.
International investors, global banks and institutions rushed to do business with the tiny nation of less than 800,000 people, as the International Monetary Fund, (IMF), forecasted economic growth of 86 percent this year. Once dismissed and ignored by even its regional neighbors, suddenly, business leaders from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados were flocking to Guyana to set up companies to suction their piece of the world’s new black gold empire.
One creative Guyanese singer, Tyron Parke, even crafted an entire song that spoke to this new ‘black gold rush,’ that was simply titled: the “Guyana Oil Song.” As Parke succinctly put it in the Guyanese vernacular: “Guyana gat oil and everybody want smile with we. Everybody want be fuh we friend.”
Guyana’s normally dormant travel and tourism industry began buzzing, with features of Best Places To Travel In 2020 in National Geographic, Good Morning America, the New York Times and even with top chef Gordon Ramsey. And a country, where air travel was once a scarce commodity, soon secured interest from global airlines as American Airlines, which began flying there as Jet Blue announced flights would commence in May 2020.
Guyana looked poised for take-off, and many Guyanese in its overseas Diasporas – regardless of ethnic identity or political affiliation – were gushing and united with pride. No one seemed concerned about ethnicity. For once, many seemed happy saying they were simply “Guyanese.”
To many, it seemed that Guyana was finally leaving behind the international stigma of the Jonestown massacre of 1978, and poverty and dictatorship that had marked most of its independent years and led to a huge exodus of human capital around the world. It looked like the so-called El Dorado of the Americas was finally taking its place as the new ‘Golden Child.’
But all that changed almost overnight – or to be exact – two days after the results of the elections of the March 2, 2020 vote were delayed, and kept being delayed by the Guyana Election Commission, (GECOM), until it was announced in controversy – and all hell broke loose amid allegations of fraud from opposition parties and international observers.
In a country, where racial distrust has been a hallmark ever since colonizers hijacked the country from its first people, The Amerindians and introduced African slaves and then Indian indentured servants into the equation, the elections of 2020 swiftly turned back the hands on any racial and political progress.
In a nation of six races and a growing number of mixed race Guyanese, the ‘UFC’ main event was again a showdown between the incumbent coalition, A Partnership For National Unity + Alliance for Change, (APNU+AFC), and the main opposition Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), which sadly became one that pitted the descendants of slaves and indentured servants against each other, based largely on political affiliation or racial identity. The drama is still being played out on social and international media for all the world to see.
The glorious headlines have been quickly replaced by ones that now scream of voter fraud, rigging, chaos and political crisis as privately, investors worry about sanctions and pass on investment opportunities.
And it has only gotten worse, as Guyanese voters keep on waiting for the results of their March vote – more than two months later. Amid lawsuits, nasty politicking, and a recount two months overdue, Guyana has scorched the millions it had generated in positive publicity, as Western and US leaders continue almost weekly to threaten sanctions; as a bipartisan group of several US senators and congress members reiterate the need for a free, fair and transparent recount and election results, and as former Jamaica Prime Minister, Bruce Golding and Head of the OAS observer mission to Guyana’s March 2nd elections, told the world this week he has “never seen a more transparent effort to alter the results of an election.”
Speaking at a virtual regular meeting of the OAS on Wednesday to present the preliminary report of the observer mission, Golding shocked many by citing specific ballot box numbers to demonstrate the fixing of numbers by the GECOM District Four Returning Officer in favor of the APNU+AFC party.
The revelation has undoubtedly cast Guyana backwards to a dark time in its election history that many felt they had moved way beyond. Without an accurate and transparent recount now, there is no doubt that the country – oil rich or not – will be in prime position for harsh economic sanctions – much like their neighbor Venezuela; obliterating the budding business and economic trust that was peeking up from the hard ground of decades of corruption, racism and mismanaged economic policies.
Guyana – the newly lauded ‘Golden Child’ on the world stage – has sadly returned back to wearing the crown of ‘Pariah’ – all in 73 days.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Felicia J. Persaud is a US-based Guyanese-born entrepreneur and the founder of News Americas, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean, the global private sector investment agency of the Caribbean.