Shithole’ Nations Aren’t Born, They’re Made

Of the many blood-pressure raising moments in life under the Trump regime, the “shithole” debacle, in which the president reportedly denigrated immigrants from black and brown countries, has done the most to expose, in all its crass audacity, the shameless con job that is Western imperialism. Shitholes do not dig themselves. They do not appear out of thin air, and no nation is destined to be a “shithole.” Shitholes are dug by a global web of imperialists, scoundrels and profiteers — and made possible by people on all sides looking the other way.

There are few places where America’s imperialist tracks are better covered than Guyana, an unspoiled country covered in rainforests, bordering Venezuela and Suriname. Guyana is where my parents were born and is the setting for my latest book, about art and resistance, A Mouth Is Always Muzzled.  It is also the place where an American company, Exxon Mobil, recently struck oil worth hundreds of billions of dollars, which makes Guyana poised to join the ranks of the world’s top-oil producing countries. But as environmental watchdogs have pointed out, Guyana’s prospects are dire given the conflicts of interest in former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s State Department, which is supposed to be overseeing the deal.

Guyana used to be a British colony, and the U.S.’s interest in it began in earnest during World War II, with a man named Cheddi Jagan. Jagan was third-generation Guyanese, descended from indentured Indian sugar workers whom planters shipped in to replace African laborers after the abolition of slavery. During the war, the U.S. had a military base in then-British Guiana, and Jagan came to the U.S. to study dentistry at Howard University and Northwestern University. He fell in love with a white woman from Chicago, Janet Rosenberg; together they joined socialist study groups, and then wed in 1942. 

Keystone via Getty Images
Cheddi Jagan, the former prime minister of Guyana, with his wife, Janet, in 1953.

Jagan wanted to stay in the U.S., but, as he explains in his memoir, The West on Trial, he was denied under the policy later known as the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924 (the act was the racist immigration policy President Donald Trump now wants to bring back). That should have been the end of the U.S.’s interest in Jagan and the place he called home. But when the Jagans moved back to then-British Guiana they continued studying Marxism and got into politics.

Jagan was elected premier during the country’s first local election under universal suffrage. In 1953, under pressure from the U.S. and from British sugar firms, such as Booker, the British sent in troops to suspend the constitution. The Jagans, and many artists and writers, were jailed.

In the late 1950s, with an eye on Fidel Castro in Cuba, the U.S. pressured the British to stall Guyana’s independence. Meanwhile, the CIA caused mayhem in the capital, Georgetown: U.S. agents instigated fiery race riots between the Guyanese descendants of African and Indian sugar workers.

As the duly elected premier, Jagan was summoned to a 1961 White House meeting with John F. Kennedy in which Jagan made no secret of his socialist beliefs. That’s when JFK and consultant Henry Kissinger decided he had to go.

Britain finally agreed to grant Guyana its independence in 1966. But during the handover of power and in the decades after, the global community looked the other way while Jagan-ally-turned-rival Forbes Burnham, who was Afro-Guyanese, rigged the nation’s elections. It wasn’t until 1992, when former U.S. President Jimmy Carter oversaw Guyana’s first free and fair elections, that Jagan was finally elected president.

JEAN-LOUP GAUTREAU/AFP via Getty Images
Guyana President Cheddi Jagan at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in 1992. 

My book covers the period of the 2015 election when the late Jagan’s Indian-dominated party was seriously challenged for the first time, by a multiracial alliance of parties. It was a murderous election in which voters were once again racially divided. Indians and Africans are Guyana’s two largest ethnic groups, and plantation owners and U.S. and British imperialists pitted them against each other for more than a century.

Guyana is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, and striking oil could be a game changer. Think of all the infrastructure, the schools, the capital investments you could buy with all that oil money. But many Guyanese are skeptical, rightfully, that they will ever see a penny of that money.

Michaela Wrong’s book It’s Our Turn to Eat vividly illustrates the ethical rot and internecine warfare that cripples resource-rich developing countries, as in the case of Kenya. When natural resources are harvested, it’s Western corporations that get paid. Local political leaders are easily bribed and compromised in a desperate, winner-takes-all quest to survive. 

Jesse Coleman, an investigative journalist who authored the Guyana Greenpeace report, still has many concerns about Tillerson’s close ties to his old company, where he worked for over four decades. Under a Clinton-era program, the State Department helps to create a regulatory framework with developing countries and multinational corporations. It is highly unlikely that Tillerson would do anything to give advantage to this small country and its environment.

Drafts of the agreement, which Coleman shared with me, raised several red flags. He described it as “being on par with other really bad extractive deals in Africa.” Coleman notes that before Guyana profits from its own oil, Exxon Mobil must first recoup its investment, a process that could take as long as a decade. Then there are concerns about a lack of environmental and wildlife protections: The draft lacks a comprehensive plan for cleaning up after an oil spill or what to do with the wreckage when it’s done, a cleanup that could leave Guyana on the hook for millions.  

We’ve seen this film too many times already, and greedy people need to stop playing the same tired parts. After the West extracts their natural resources and rearranges their lives, the people of Guyana will try to find refuge in places like Europe and the U.S. to reunite with their wealth. They will then be greeted with exclusive immigration policies and cultural disdain, told to stay home in the “shitholes” that corporations have left behind. But just as this historical web is global, the consequences to the environment, to public health and to immigration patterns are global as well.

It is only ever a matter of time before the shit you thought you covered rises with a vengeance and spreads its stench over us all.


Natalie Hopkinson is the author of A Mouth Is Always Muzzled: Six Dissidents, Five Continents, and the Art of Resistance, out this month on The New Press.

Original Post

” Coleman notes that before Guyana profits from its own oil, Exxon Mobil must first recoup its investment, a process that could take as long as a decade. Then there are concerns about a lack of environmental and wildlife protections: The draft lacks a comprehensive plan for cleaning up after an oil spill or what to do with the wreckage when it’s done, a cleanup that could leave Guyana on the hook for millions.  

"Shithole countries", that term would never shock leaders of those countries to do better for their citizens. Instead, there are opiniated individuals who would carry their countires to the shithole regardless of the consequences. Jagan was such a man. He singlehanded destroyed a beautiful place.

Imperialism will never be done away with, and we must know how to co-exist with it. Rise to the challenge to make it work for the citizens. In CBJ case, he complained more than being challenged for solutions to a better life for Guyanese. The sum total of the kind of man he is, is Bharrat Jagdeo. The suppresion of Democracy, surrounded by fools and real leadership is a personal threat.

Cheddie gave Guyana all forms of misery, he came from America with Pandora who had within her all forms of misery. 

Siggyyyyy you were missed banna. I was even shedding a couple tears the other day when someone mentioned you mighta got a call from the big dude above and forgot to tell us...but hope it wasn't so.

Come home come home its suppertime, the shadows lenghten fast.

Come home come home its suppertime, we're going home at last.

seignet posted:

Was in the hospital for about 5 weeks before surgery. Recovering from By-pass surgery 3 weeks now. 

It is nice to know that you are recovering and should therefore be back to normal before much longer. I respectfully suggest you follow the doctor's instructions and take it easy; 'hisaab se' or one day at a time' as we say in Guyana.

seignet posted:

Was in the hospital for about 5 weeks before surgery. Recovering from By-pass surgery 3 weeks now. 

Wish you well. Start an exercise  program  and adjust your diet. You should feel more energetic  but take it easy.

Prashad posted:
Mitwah posted:

Mitwah why you don't welcome those refugees into your house?

Many, many thanks for posting this song, Prash ! Not only was it great to hear the voice of Mohamed Rafi, undoubtedly the greatest male playback singer India has ever had; the message of the song remains pertinent in every community and every country !

Prashad posted:
Mitwah posted:

Mitwah why you don't welcome those refugees into your house?

As of January 2017, we have settled over 40,000 refugees and the number is growing. Why don't you get off your soapbox and get involved with the Coalition for the Homeless and help the poor colored in your hood?

Keffer posted:
Prashad posted:
Mitwah posted:

Mitwah why you don't welcome those refugees into your house?

Many, many thanks for posting this song, Prash ! Not only was it great to hear the voice of Mohamed Rafi, undoubtedly the greatest male playback singer India has ever had; the message of the song remains pertinent in every community and every country !

Mr. Keffer, it's your dost Mitwah who posted the song. Thanks for listening eh. 

Mitwah posted:
Keffer posted:
Prashad posted:
Mitwah posted:

Mitwah why you don't welcome those refugees into your house?

Many, many thanks for posting this song, Prash ! Not only was it great to hear the voice of Mohamed Rafi, undoubtedly the greatest male playback singer India has ever had; the message of the song remains pertinent in every community and every country !

Mr. Keffer, it's your dost Mitwah who posted the song. Thanks for listening eh. 

Thank you for pointing out my error and for the song as well !

seignet posted:

"Shithole countries", that term would never shock leaders of those countries to do better for their citizens. Instead, there are opiniated individuals who would carry their countires to the shithole regardless of the consequences. Jagan was such a man. He singlehanded destroyed a beautiful place.

Imperialism will never be done away with, and we must know how to co-exist with it. Rise to the challenge to make it work for the citizens. In CBJ case, he complained more than being challenged for solutions to a better life for Guyanese. The sum total of the kind of man he is, is Bharrat Jagdeo. The suppresion of Democracy, surrounded by fools and real leadership is a personal threat.

Cheddie gave Guyana all forms of misery, he came from America with Pandora who had within her all forms of misery. 

First, please do tell us which planet were you residing on during Jagan's tenure as head of the Guyana government ! It would be really so nice if you would share your wisdom by elaborating on what specifically Cheddi Jagan did that must now be classified as 'destruction of a beautiful place'. While you are at it, please tell us about the great and historic prosperity that Burnham and his PNC delivered via the never-ending years of shortages of gasolene, diesel, kerosene, lubricants, greases, every imaginable building, industrial, agricultural and food commodity and even school books for primary school students. O wise one, please do enlighten us fools about the great virtues and benefits of 'party paramountcy' and how dire the need for that was in Guyana! We beg you to educate us less intelligent plebes about great gains that accrued to Guyanese from 'Guy-Lines' which frequently stretched down roads and streets for longer than half of a mile as ordinary people had to withstand endless hours in the scorching tropical sun or pouring rain so that, hours later, they were eventually able to buy a few ounces of butter; if they were so lucky on that day ! Do share the merits and never-ending benefits of Knowledge Sharing Institute through which food galore was distributed only to government 'big-wigs' and those who were in possession of PNC membership cards. We beg you to unveil the story of the rice industry and how everything within it miraculously 'boomed' during the Burnham years with zero availability of fertilizers, weedicides, pesticides, gasoline and diesel, spare parts for tractors, combines etc., and eventually the deliberate destruction by fire of the Guyana Rice Marketing Board. Do educate us dunces so that we can truly appreciate Burnham's great vision and wisdom, how unbelievably beneficial the endless and monumental amounts of waste and theft that resulted from KSI, were to the select few who carried a PNC membership card ! Do indeed elaborate on how endlessly grateful we should now all be to Burnham and his visionary PNC cohorts. When you are done educating us, we can then deal with that wicked guy Jagdeo ......

Add Reply

Likes (0)

×
×
×
×
×