British Guiana gains independence from the United Kingdom on this day and became a republic on 23 February 1970, remaining a member of the Commonwealth.
The United States State Department and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), along with the British government, played a strong role in influencing who would politically control Guyana during this time. They provided secret financial support and political campaign advice to Guyanese of African descent, especially Forbes Burnham’s People’s National Congress to the detriment of the Cheddi Jagan-led People’s Progressive Party, mostly supported by Guyanese of Indian descent.
In 1978, Guyana received considerable international attention when 918 almost entirely American members of the Jim Jones-led Peoples Temple died in Jonestown — a settlement created by the Peoples Temple. An attack by Jim Jones’ body guards at a small remote airstrip close to Jonestown resulted in the murder of five people, including Leo Ryan, the only Congressman murdered in the line of duty in US history.