Jagan, Cheddi

Jagan, Cheddi chĕdˈē jäˈgän [key], 1918–97, prime minister of British Guiana (1961–64) and president (1992–97) of independent Guyana. Of South Asian descent, he was trained at Northwestern Univ., Chicago, Ill. as a dentist. In 1950 he founded, with Forbes Burnham, the country's first formal political party, and he was chief minister from April to Oct., 1953. His Marxist views antagonized the British government, which, in the wake of strikes and riots, suspended the constitution and established an interim government. Jagan launched a civil disobedience campaign and was jailed (Apr.–Sept., 1954). He also clashed with Burnham, who formed his own party in 1955. In 1957 elections, Jagan's party received a plurality, and he served in the cabinet. In 1961 he became prime minister. Jagan attempted to impose a rigid austerity program, pushed social and economic reform, and worked for independence. His authority was threatened by labor unrest that was later found to have been fomented by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. After the 1964 elections, Burnham became prime minister of a coalition government; Jagan subsequently led the opposition. In 1992, in a political comeback, Jagan was elected president of Guyana, defeating incumbent Desmond Hoyte. Following his death, Jagan's wife, Janet Rosenberg Jagan, 1920–2009, b. Chicago, who had served four terms in the parliament, became prime minister and first vice president, and subsequently was elected (1997) president, serving until 1999, when she resigned for health reasons.

See C. A. Palmer, Cheddi Jagan and the Politics of Power (2010).

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