Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Guyana and the Union of South American Nations

Alex M. Balgobin
Topics in Ethnology
October 4, 2011

Guyana and the Union of South American Nations

The Co-operative Republic of Guyana is a small developing country located on the northern coast of South America. Guyana was originally founded by Great Britain as British Guiana. The territory had been traveled on and disputed over by the Spanish, Dutch, and French prior to becoming an official British colony. Guyana is landlocked on each side except for the north where the Atlantic Ocean resides. To the south is Brazil—whose official language is Portuguese, Venezuela to the west—a former Spanish colony, and Suriname—a Dutch-speaking country—to the east. Not only is Guyana the only country in South America where English is the official language, but it borders three countries which each have their own official language.
Within the country itself, Guyana is composed of a population of about 50% of East Indian descent, 36% of African descent, up to 7% indigenous, up to 7% mixed, and the rest being from various European countries plus China (Funk & Wagnalls). Most of the population lives along the eastern and northern coasts of Guyana, as the inland is largely occupied by forestry and water. The religious denominations of Guyana include about 50% Christians, 33% Hindus, & 9% Muslims (Funk & Wagnalls). The estimated population of Guyana in 2003 was 765,000, giving the country an overall population density of about 9 people per square mile—which does not signify much as a vast amount of Guyana’s land is unused (Funk & Wagnalls). The largest city in Guyana is the capital of Georgetown, and holds 280,000 citizens (Funk & Wagnalls).
Some of the organizations that Guyana is a member of are the Commonwealth of Nations, United Nations, Organization of American States, World Trade Organization, Caribbean Community and Common Market, and also the Union of South American Nations (Funk & Wagnalls). Being a former British colony, Guyana shares many cultural similarities and is under spheres of influence of other nearby former British colony islands residing in the Caribbean—especially from Trinidad and Tobago (the closest Anglo-Caribbean island to Guyana) and also Jamaica (which arguably holds the most prominent mainstream Anglo-Caribbean culture in the West Indies). These similarities can be seen in music, food, and especially in language—as the same similar Caribbean English Creole dialect can be found spoken across the West Indian islands, plus Guyana. Guyana also shares certain cultural aspects with nearby non-English speaking countries, but there are subtle similarities that could have been detained due to language barriers.
Economy-wise, Guyana is the poorest country in South America, coming close behind Suriname and Paraguay (Funk & Wagnalls). The main economic catalysts of Guyana include agriculture (mainly of sugar cane and rice), mining, and services (Funk & Wagnalls). Other agricultural products, mostly of tropical fruits, are mostly not used for exports. Abundant natural resources in Guyana include bauxite—a primary source of aluminum—trees, fish and shrimp, and also gold and diamonds (Funk & Wagnalls). Guyana’s productivity usually falls short of demand, which contributes to the failing economy; however, the country has great hydroelectric potential due to the vast amount of rivers (Funk & Wagnalls). Main imports are petroleum, machinery, food, tobacco, cotton, clothing, and shoes (Funk & Wagnalls). Guyana’s main trade partners are the United States, Great Britain, and Trinidad and Tobago.
            According to an article about Political Risk in Guyana by Business Report, Guyana’s recent GDP Growth rate is higher than most South American countries, which is not very significant as of yet since Guyana’s GDP is still one of the lowest in the UNASUR (8). Similar to many democratic republics, Guyana’s government has held decades of political unrest between feuding parties, mainly between the governing People’s Progress Party-Civic (PPP-C) and the People’s National Congress-Reform (PNC-R) (Business Report 11). These disagreements have only withheld the growth of Guyana’s economy and will continue to do so until all political parties are in equilibrium.
In December, 2004, the Union of South American Nations (then known as the South American Community of Nations), or USAN (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas in Spanish, abbreviated as UNASUR), was started among almost all South American nations, except for French Guiana (who is still a colony of France) (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas). Due to its members, the official languages of the union have been established as Spanish, Portuguese, English, and Dutch. The union was created to be modeled after the European Union and to boost integration and trade within South America, “…la integración física, energética y de comunicaciones; la armonización de políticas de desarrollo rural y agroalimentario; la transferencia de tecnología en materia de ciencia, educación y cultura…”, not only of economy but integration of science, education, and culture (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas). In November, 2010, President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana took office as the new and current President of UNASUR at the union’s fourth summit meeting in Georgetown, Guyana (Xinhua). President Jagdeo acknowledges that this union will increase imports and exports between Guyana and other South American nations; Xinhua’s article goes on to explain that Jagdeo himself, since his election in 1999, has worked on developing Guyana by utilizing hydroelectric energy and building highways and bridges.
President Jagdeo has taken many initiatives in revitalizing Guyana’s economy, many of which includes strengthening international ties to various countries including Norway and Denmark, who have made investments in Guyana’s economy (Business Report 15-16). Interestingly enough, President Jagdeo is a man of many cultures himself, as he had previously studied in Moscow, Russia, for his degree in Economics. In light of Global Warming and climate change, many countries are capitalizing on Guyana’s rich forestry by paying Guyana to preserve its rainforests (Guyana happens to be the only country in the world that has not gone through deforestation) (Business Report 21). Unfortunately, due to Guyana’s high abundance of natural resources, there are also disputes between neighboring countries on ownerships of certain mining areas and oil reserves, both of which are very crucial to Guyana’s economy (Business Report 22).
Reassuring confidence in UNASUR, President Jagdeo stated that the efforts of South American countries combined have created more jobs at a higher rate than that of Europe or North America, who are both suffering from a failing economy (Caribbean News Now). Jagdeo and many other South American presidents agree that the developing success of UNASUR is due in part of their unorthodox policies, separate than that of similar unions, “…we are looking for our own answers, our own solutions to our problems” (Caribbean News Now).

A recent collection of article, entitled “Mundo Nuevo: Revista de Estudios Latinoamericanos”, written by students of the University of Simon Bolivar in Veneuzuela, grasps almost exactly what I have been trying to connect with Guyana and its importance in the development of UNASUR. The articles included in this collection discuss mostly integration within Latin America and the Caribbean in general; two articles focus on UNASUR specifically, entitled “UNASUR y las Transformaciones del Nuevo Regionalismo Sudamericano” by Jose Briceno-Ruiz, and also “UNASUR: Aspiraciones y Frustraciones” by Elias R. Daniels H. One of the main concerns within these articles is the presence of Guyana and Suriname (the only two non-Latin countries within UNASUR) and how nearby countries are affected by their differing cultures.
Because this article is written entirely in Spanish, I will need to be extra careful in the examples I pull from it as I will be paraphrasing quotes in my own words. The article itself draws from many organizations outside of UNASUR and points out the positive and negative aspects, as can be seen in this example, “Apreciamos que UNASUR es un hibrido…un proceso innovador que incluye todos los logros y lo avanzado por los procesos de MERCOSUR y la CAN… El problema se presenta cuando se trata de alcanzar consenso sobre los logros de esas experiencias integracionistas” (Mundo Nuevo 235), where integration problems arise out of cultural differences with Guyana and Suriname relative to the rest of South America.
Another approach taken to developing South America’s economy is the “Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA)”, funded by three institutions separate from UNASUR. This development plan divides South America into ten axes of integration for which to link their economies through transportation, energy, and telecommunications projects (Mundo Nuevo 39). The axis that includes Guyana, el “Eje del Escudo Guayanés”, also includes Venezuela, Brazil, & Suriname, the only axis to incorporate countries of all four official languages of UNASUR.
A study done on mangrove vegetation in Guyana by C. Allan, Ph.D., grasps the socio-economic values behind harvesting and using the abundance of mangroves in Guyana; this article is titled “The Socio-Economic Context of the Harvesting and Utilisation of Mangrove Vegetation”. This study brushes on relations with bordering Brazil and Venezuela and finishes off concluding with a successful outlook on the future of mangrove utilization within Guyana.
I believe Guyana has the potential to rebuild its economy, not only on its own but also with the help of UNASUR. The nations of UNASUR may not be able to solve all of their problems together because I believe each country should focus on its own main problems and work with other countries with similar problems. Even within the richest country of UNASUR, Brazil, there is a plethora of social inequality and slums that mirror those of the poorest UNASUR nation of Guyana. The differing cultures can be seen as both a problem and a solution, depending on how they are applied; but I believe I can prove my theory that an integration of culture would benefit UNASUR as a whole with studies of both projects within industrial Guyana and also the indigenous peoples that reside on its borders.


"GUYANA." (n.d.): Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. EBSCO. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            This article states important economic and demographic facts about Guyana necessary for my background discussion of Guyana. These factors include and are not limited to: ethnic groups, religion, population, economic resources and exports, and also a brief history of Guyana which I will not be using as much as I already know the general background of Guyana’s founding and history. Other important details I may be taking from this article are facts about the governmental system.

"Guyana president confident of economic stability of UNASUR member states." Caribbean News Now (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands) 30 Nov. 2010: Newspaper Source Plus. EBSCO. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            I believe this article is important and relevant to my project as it is a groundbreaking point in both Guyana and UNASUR’s history as the current president of Guyana was recently appointed president of UNASUR. This article shortly compares UNASUR’s progress to that of Europe and North America. Although not detailed, I will be using this article to reflect the importance of this moment and the optimism that the UNASUR leaders share in regards to the future of their development.

"Guyana." Political Risk Yearbook: Guyana Country Report (2011): PRI-1-15. Business Source Alumni Edition. EBSCO. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            This article discusses the economic growth and decline of Guyana, both in the past and for future forecasts. Also included are details of problems and corruptions within the Guyanese government and how these problems affect the economy. Recent policies are given to show how Guyana is taking an initiative towards development. This article will help me greatly in determining the best possible solutions towards a positive outlook in Guyana’s economy as this article is very detailed and contains important economic facts I can use to measure development changes over time.

“Guyana takes office as Unasur president.” Xinhua, 27 Nov. 2010. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            This news article briefly discusses the inauguration of President Jagdeo as the new president of UNASUR and states a few of the development projects he has made in Guyana since his presidency in 1999. I believe the policies that President Jagdeo makes in Guyana is important to those he will bring up within UNASUR and I plan on using this article to contrast his presidency on both a national and international scale.

“Incumbent UNASUR Chairman optimistic of a better South America.” Government Info Agency, 26 Nov. 2010. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            This article mentions, in general detail, paraphrased quotes from President Jagdeo about his plans on how UNASUR will be run. Future prospects are mentioned in regards to the world’s population and development on a global scale. The importance of this article is not only about economic change for UNASUR but also the well-being of its citizens. I will be using this article for its mentions of Jagdeo’s plans of bettering the way of life for his citizens through energy projects and the long term changes he can bring to global development as well.

Sitio Oficial de la Unión de Naciones Suramericanas. Unión de Naciones Suramericanas. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            The official site of UNASUR contains media statements about recent policies made by UNASUR and contains published articles about important changes within the union. Publications include future goals of UNASUR in regards to several aspects not limited to education, society, energy, and armed forces. This website will prove useful to me as I will be pulling many policy changes from here to show UNASUR’s initiatives towards progress.

Banuet, Jose; Serna, Hernando; et al. “Mundo Nuevo: Revista de Estudios Latinoamericanos.” Universidad Simón Bolívar. (2010).
            This very detailed article discusses UNASUR’s socio-economic effects on many of its individual nations as well as cultural barriers within UNASUR and how those will prove to be both binding and useful towards UNASUR’s international relations. Guyana is mentioned in many sub-articles as a notable country within UNASUR as it is the only English-speaking nation in the continent. This article will probably be my most used source because of its elaborate detail and the way it uses culture in regards to UNASUR’s development.
Allan, C. “The Socio-Economic Context of the Harvesting and Utilisation of Mangrove Vegetation.”  (2002). Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
            This ethnographic study of Guyana draws upon the lack of legislation Guyana has upon utilizing the abundance of mangroves in Guyana and why they should be preserved. This article is important because it mentions the Amerindians that reside near these mangrove forests and how they are affected by legislation of these forests. The relation between these Amerindians and traders plays a huge role in Guyana’s economy and how resources will be used in future development.

Mantini, L. "Human Trafficking Of Amerindian Women In Guyana: Challenges And Strategies." International Nursing Review 55.3 (2008): 341-348. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
            This ethnographic study captures development in Guyana on a micro scale. Discussed within this article are policies that were passed to provide health care, education, and other human rights to the indigenous groups within Guyana. This article is mainly about empowering indigenous peoples and their communities so that they can fight against human trafficking among their women. This will be a vital example of how development is occurring in Guyana at a human level rather than at a national scale.

Cordero, Omar. Unasur and Its Future Impact on the Americas. Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, 2009. Print.
            This article addresses the political, social, and economic issues regarding UNASUR. Unresolved issues are a main concern within this discussion, at regional and international scales. This article will prove useful in helping me connect the cultural impacts of UNASUR on individual nations as well as the relations that will rise among them.


Allan, C. “The Socio-Economic Context of the Harvesting and Utilisation of Mangrove Vegetation.”  (2002). Web.

Banuet, Jose; Serna, Hernando; et al. “Revista de Estudios Latinoamericanos.” Mundo Nuevo. (2010). Web.

Cordero, Omar. “Unasur and Its Future Impact on the Americas.” (2009). Web.

"Country Forecast." Political Risk Yearbook: Guyana Country Report (2011): 2-40. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 

Funk & Wagnalls. "Guyana." (n.d.): Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Web.

GINA. “Incumbent UNASUR Chairman optimistic of a better South America.” Government Info Agency 26 Nov. 2010. Web.

"Guyana president confident of economic stability of UNASUR member states." Caribbean News Now (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands) 30 Nov. 2010: Points of View Reference Center. Web.

Mantini, L. "Human Trafficking Of Amerindian Women In Guyana: Challenges And Strategies." International Nursing Review 55.3 (2008): 341-348. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web.

Sitio Oficial de la Unión de Naciones Suramericanas. Unión de Naciones Suramericanas. Web.

Xinhua. “Guyana takes office as Unasur president.” Xinhuanet 27 Nov. 2010. Web.

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