Guyana sees politics behind US loan veto

The United States has long frowned on the socialist inclinations of English-speaking Guyana, an impoverished enclave on South America's northeast coast.

Now the Reagan administration appears to be turning that frown into rejection. The US has voted against a $43 million Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) loan to Guyana for a water project to stimulate rice production.

The US was the only country among 43 IADB members to vote no on the loan, but under the IADB charter, the US's weighted share of the vote was so large as to effectively block the loan.

Guyana now must seek funds at interest rates higher than those offered through the IADB. Guyanese President Linden Forbes Burnham promised after the vote that ''we will finish the project, and on schedule, even if we have to dig the canals and finish the access roads with our fingernails.''

Guyana says the vote shows the US is trying to force Guyana to reject its socialist program and adopt a free enterprise system.

Leslie Robinson, a top Guyana diplomat in Washington, says the US position is part of a broad attempt ''to privatize the economic arrangements'' in the Caribbean region.

The US, however, says it ''does not feel that the loan's objective of increased production will be possible.'' That view runs counter to an array of expert opinion backing the project as entirely feasible. These experts include IADB specialists and the British consulting firm, Sir Wm. Halcrow & Partners. They note that the project would help feed some 5 percent of Guyana's 850,000 people.

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