Desmond Hoyte dies of heart attack The Trinidad Guardian - Monday 23rd December 2002

Opposition leader and former President Desmond Hoyte has died of an apparent heart attack at his home early yesterday. He was 73.

Hoyte, leader of the People’s National Congress party, had been feeling ill for the past three days and had not made any public appearances in more than a week, said Vincent Alexander, the party’s vice-chairman.

Hoyte had a history of heart trouble, including triple bypass surgery in New York in 1993 after collapsing in Georgetown, the capital, months after losing the general elections.

Hoyte, a British-trained lawyer, was Guyana’s president from 1985-1992, when his party lost to the governing People’s Progressive Party. Hoyte had served as ceremonial prime minister, vice-president and held several ministerial positions, including finance and economic planning minister, before becoming president. “His death is highly untimely given what is happening in the country when we are talking about things like power sharing,” Alexander said. “It is tough for us.”

Party leaders are discussing a recent proposal to divide Cabinet posts among members of both parties amid tense race relations in the South American country. Currently, only governing party members hold Cabinet positions.

Guyana’s population of nearly 700,000 is almost evenly divided between people of African descent, who support the opposition, and those of East Indian descent, who largely back the governing party. President Bharrat Jagdeo and Hoyte met in September for the first time in seven months to renew dialogue stalled amid the tense relations. No details of the meeting were announced and the two leaders hadn’t met since then. Guyana has seen dozens of carjackings, armed robberies and more than 150 killings this year — four times than of last year.

Many Guyanese believe the crimes are being committed by opposition supporters demanding an end to perceived discrimination against blacks. The government has denied the discrimination claims.

The People’s National Congress party was expected to meet in emergency session yesterday to determine Hoyte’s successor, Alexander said.

In recent years, Hoyte had been talking about passing the leadership to a younger generation given his age and fluctuating health.

Funeral arrangements for Hoyte will be announced later this week, party officials said.