U.S. should back freedom movements


THE protests, mostly by young people desiring freedom, that brought down the dictatorship in Tunisia and similar protests in Egypt that have the potential of bringing down its dictator, have brought back memories of protests in Guyana and New York geared towards bringing down the Guyanese dictatorship. Similar protests in several countries — Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Iran, etc. brought down dictatorships and installed democracies. But in Guyana during the dictatorship era from 1966 through 1992, the opposition organized protests, led by the PPP, were not successful in toppling the dictatorship because the US did not give a helping hand unlike in other countries where the US forced the dictators to leave office. Modelled after similar protests by nationals of other countries settled in the U.S., a handful of us organized ongoing protests (picketing exercises) during the 1970s through 1992 and lobbied American politicians to use their power to force democratic changes in Guyana. This would not come about until the US felt the opposition would not be threat to its interests although the opposition was not anti-American. The first democratic election in October 1992 removed a dictatorship that oppressed the nation for too long.
Although it was the US that was largely responsible for the restoration of democracy in Guyana, it was the US (and Britain) that installed and propped up the Burnham dictatorship. And as it was for Guyana, it is the US that has been propping up the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and that has provided military aid to the dictatorships in Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen, and so many other nations that have been oppressing their people. In dictatorial Guyana as in the Arab dictatorships, corruption and nepotism ran deep. But the US closed its eyes on the altar of security to keep out what the U.S. labelled as communist alternatives in Guyana. And today, the U.S. is backing dictatorships on the political expediency of “security” to prevent the rise of Al Qaeda Islamic militancy. But Islamic militancy came about because of a lack of liberal democracy which the U.S. failed to support in allied countries in the Middle East and Pakistan. It would have been much better for the US to encourage and back democratic movements instead of supporting dictators to suppress democratic aspirations. Guyana would not have become a communist outpost had the U.S. and Britain allowed democracy to flourish. We would have remained the liberal democracy we were during the 1960s had the US backed free and fair elections in 1968 and thereafter. And Guyana would have made a lot of progress in terms of economic development since that time instead of playing catching up now.
The US experience of Iran of backing dictator Reza Shah Pahlavi from 1956 till 1979 and the problems that resulted by backing a dictator in Guyana from 1964 till 1990, should be an eye opener for them to quit its partnership with dictators around the world. The US approach is a short sighted goal.
The U.S. cannot expect to win friends by adopting a double standard of calling for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan but closing its eyes on all her dictatorial allies in the Middle East and Central Asia.
As in Guyana during the dictatorship, people today want freedom. And the US should support them.