U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Guyana
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Guyana, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4840.html [accessed 31 March 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
GUYANAThe Co-operative Republic of Guyana is a small, developing democracy with a unicameral 65-member parliament chosen by direct elections in a multiparty political system. The President appoints a Prime Minister and a cabinet. In March President Cheddi Jagan of the Peoples' Progressive Party (PPP), who had been elected in 1992 in the first democratic election since 1965, died suddenly. Prime Minister Samuel Hinds was sworn in as President that month in an orderly and peaceful transition. On December 15, citizens voted in free, fair, and nonviolent national elections. The PPP won a parliamentary majority, and PPP candidate Janet Jagan, widow of the late president, was sworn in as President on December 19. However, the major opposition party refused to accept the election results and initiated court action; at year?s end, arrangements were made for a high-level Caribbean Community team to mediate the dispute. There is a constitutionally independent, albeit somewhat inefficient, judiciary. The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) are under civilian control. The GPF has the authority to make arrests and maintains law and order throughout the country. The GDF is a professional military responsible for national defense, internal security, and emergency response. The President deployed the GDF on occasion to support police efforts to control crime. Members of the police committed human rights abuses. Guyana is a very poor country. The economy, which for years was centrally planned and controlled, is based on a mix of private and state enterprises. Rice, sugar, bauxite, and gold are the major exports. Although annual economic growth has averaged more than 6 percent over the past 4 years, the standard of living for most citizens is very low. More than half live in poverty, and per capita gross domestic product is estimated at about $760. External debt is high. There are severe shortages of skilled labor, and the economy is constrained by an inadequate and poorly maintained infrastructure for transportation, power distribution, flood control, and communications. The Government's human rights record remained the same. Extrajudicial killings by police were a serious problem, but the authorities took steps to investigate and punish some of the perpetrators. Police continued to abuse suspects, and prison conditions were poor. The inefficient judicial system results in long delays in trials and lengthy pretrial detention. Other human rights problems included societal violence against women and children, and discrimination against women, minorities, and indigenous Amerindians. Some limitations on worker rights persist, but trade union activity was generally free of political interference.