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The usage of the words of Pablo Neruda above does not mean that I agree with the ideology embraced by this left-leaning intellectual. I simply found it to be tailor-made for the reflections I wish to highlight here. I am still waiting to see a successful country that is based on a pure Communist or Marxist model. My differing ideological stance did not prevent me from being in admiration of the beautiful concept contained in the writings of the Chilean poet, diplomat and politician who I came across while completing some research on the Pinochet regime. It is evident to me, the quote above presents a botanical metaphor of a scenario where regardless of what governments or regimes do, they cannot stop change. The spring is inevitable.
In consideration of that thought, I was particularly struck by developments in Peru this week. The surprising triumph of Pedro Castillo and his party has influenced me to reflect on those poetic words and simultaneously apply that train of thought to our local circumstances.
Despite Guyana’s seemingly intractable political orthodoxy, could the day of spring come regardless? I say no, Guyana is not a real place but history and economic factors would not necessarily agree with me.
LESSONS FROM PERU
On April 16, Peruvian ex-President Vizcarra was banned from holding office over a vaccine scandal. His predecessor was also sacked for corruption. Transparency International ranks the Andean nation as 94th on the corruption perception index. Amid the worst economic crisis in modern times and a complete lack of confidence in the political system, the people of Peru were fed up and sure that nothing will change but even their despair and apathy could not stop the spring.
It seems the great mind and great man theories did not have their finest moments when it was reported that Pedro Castillo Terrones of the Free Peru Party, had secured a majority of the votes and was set to become Peru’s next President. In a field of elite candidates, the indigenous former elementary school and trade union leader emerged victorious based on current unofficial final results of the concluded elections. The shock results reverberated throughout Latin America and the world. It seems, good old social and economic factors have proven yet again to be the key drivers of history. Mr. Castillo ran a campaign with a key message: take away the wealth from capitalists and foreign companies. All the marketing and political sloganeering aside, spring came to Peru. Years of political and economic stagnation produced the unstoppable spring. That development begs the question, does Guyana have a coming spring, whether imminent or in the long term?
The question which I just posited has to be answered with due regards for the fact that Peru’s sociology does not mirror Guyana’s reality. Reference is specifically being made to this country’s ethnic makeup. Any coming spring has to negotiate with our intractable tribalism. But insofar as those negotiations may go well, it might be due to the social and economic impact of our newfound black gold. I have this nagging feeling that the economic effects of the oil and gas economy, might bring a watershed moment that might significantly shake the foundation of Guyana’s political orthodoxy. There might come a time when ethnicity may be dwarfed by economic considerations. With inflation, stagnant wages, classism, unfettered capitalism with a ruling local and foreign elite, the spring might respond to history’s customary invitation. As I type, there is evidence to suggest that Guyana is ripe for a successful political message which speaks to the economic redistribution of wealth. It simply needs a credible messenger and a formidable vehicle. For the first time, maybe, the revolutionary capital and the mad rush of profiteering and privateering brought by this new oil and gas reality might upturn the political firmament. What do I mean? I am thinking: there might come a time when the people will see their destiny not through the lens of ethnic considerations but via their economic survival. In this, Neruda’s spring may come.
PEACEFUL OR DISRUPTIVE SPRING?
The key matters addressed here thus far have been put this way by the English political leader John Pym: ‘The form of government in any state cannot be altered without apparent danger of ruin to that state’. Pym is the view that spring only comes after a revolutionary overthrow of the status quo, seemingly violent. Nobody wants such a scenario but historians would feel the need to warn: when factors combine and reach their apogee, the spring is inevitable. The ushering of a peaceful change usually comes from heroic leaders who get epiphanies and follow the leadership example of the likes of George Washington. However, it is safe to say that Guyana’s political orthodoxy is not made up of such sophisticated leaders, they can only be moved by historical factors.