CARIFTA, Communist nations, sugar companies, PNC, diplomatic relations
In 1965 the British Guiana Independence Conference met in London, England, and a new constitution was approved. On May 26, 1966, Guyana was declared an independent nation. It joined the United Nations in 1966. Guyana became a charter member of the Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) in 1968. Elections that year confirmed Burnham in office. On February 23, 1970, Guyana was proclaimed a republic.
Burnham moved to establish government control over most of the economy. In 1971 the government nationalized the Guyanese holdings of the Canadian multinational corporation Alcan Aluminum. In 1974 it took over the properties of the U.S.-owned Reynolds Metals Company, and in 1976 the government also nationalized sugar companies, chief among them the giant British firm Booker McConnell.
In the early 1970s Guyana established diplomatic relations with China and several other Communist nations. In the economic sphere, an investment plan was adopted in 1973, calling for expenditure of $1.15 billion by 1976. The country aimed to be self-sufficient in agriculture and to develop its oil resources. It also wanted to have a greater voice in the mining of its bauxite deposits and in controlling the profits from them. The government assumed control of all foreign trade in 1974.
In 1973 elections to the National Assembly gave a large majority to the PNC. However, fraud and violence were so flagrant that the PPP refused to take its allotted minority seats. The PPP ended its boycott of the assembly in 1976 to show support for Burnham's seizure of foreign-owned companies.
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