In his literary masterpiece fictionalizing the final months of the life of Simon Bolivar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez takes us on at times harrowing journey of the famed and fading liberator of South America into irrelevance, obscurity and exile. This portraiture of Bolivar at his decline is antithetical to the iconography that remains, the renowned generalissimo either standing erect or astride a rampant steed, in the form of innumerable statues and illustrations.
For this sad portrayal of the man who liberated much of the continent from Spanish colonial occupation, Marquez would spend many months of research, and many more of sheer imagination, resulting in one of foremost interrogations of power and its loss.
Guyanese today need not engage in so much effort. The country is presented today with a real time spectacle of the decline of a previously historical leader into what will be recorded as one of the most tarnished legacies in regional political history. When Brigadier David Granger was elected to office in 2015, it was hailed – and rightfully so – as an historical achievement.
Entering national politics late in life, at least formally, Granger was able to emerge at the head of not just one but two coalitions. The initial coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) was perhaps more in tune with George Bush’s Iraq invasion ‘Coalition of the Willing’ in that it was made up of fairly insignificant players around a central satellite. Still, the inclusion of Walter Rodney’s Working People Alliance with Forbes Burnham’s People’s National Congress could be seen as a good sign for the possibilities of national reconciliation – we, after all, can only make peace with our enemies.
When the Cummingsburg Accord was signed on Valentine’s Day of 2015, between APNU and the Alliance For Change (AFC), a certain hope was kindled that the politics of hegemony, of ethnic domination, would give way to the politics or partnership, of equity, of integration and of reconciliation. Guyanese were told that “It is time” and enough believed it and so this invested in it, both hopes and votes.
What happened in the past five years will be the subject of a great deal of historical interrogation for some time to come. For the purposes of this editorial, it would be enough to examine where we are at this present moment under the rule of the Brigadier.
Another South American literary giant, Borges, who notably lived under the autocracy of another dictator, General Juan Peron, said once in a speech that:
“Dictatorships breed oppression, dictatorships breed servility, dictatorships breed cruelty; more loathsome still is the fact that they breed idiocy. Bellboys babbling orders, portraits of caudillos, prearranged cheers or insults, walls covered with names, unanimous ceremonies, mere discipline usurping the place of clear thinking.”
And that is where we are in Guyana today. Intermixed within the creeping oppression upon the will of the people and the cruelty of an increasingly crushing economic circumstance, we have the absurd fiasco, what has been rightfully referred to as a political circus, of the incessant babbling of low-tier coalition operatives online; the leering and increasingly eerie and ironic billboards of the caudillo proclaiming with Orwellian simplicity and irony, “Honesty Integrity Decency”.
In the middle of a record-breaking electoral process, artificially prolonged by subterfuge, temporizing and brazen attempts at cheating conducted by a machinery headed by David Granger himself, we are seeing the real time portrait-creating of a lesser Bolivar. Like Bolivar, the once historically popular Brigadier has suffered a remarkable descent in personal reputation in a very short time, most notably – as the national recount shows – losing his first incumbent election by 25,000 votes.
Regionally and internationally, once celebrated as a refreshing change to his predecessors in the PPP, Granger’s entire government has achieved the remarkable feat of uniting CARICOM, the OAS, the Commonwealth, the European Union, and the UN, in addition to our key Western allies against him. It is unprecedented in this country’s history, even during both the excesses of Burnham and the excesses of Jagdeo, that the entire executive government of Guyana, or most of them, would be subject to visa sanctions from the United States.
In the next week, Guyana faces censure not only from the OAS but CARICOM as well. From a mortar of lies, of flaunting of the constitution, of the very corruption he vowed to fight against, of impunity and of sheer obstinacy when it comes to relinquishing power, the Brigadier has built himself a labyrinth from which it is apparently impossible to emerge. In the days to come, the rest of the country, including those few of his closest remaining allies who are still untainted, need to decide whether they will remain in it with him.
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