Jewish widow may lead Guyana

Janet Rosenberg Jagan, 77, appears to be the frontrunner in the presidential race, based on a New York times story and early returns from the Dec. 15 election. She is the widow of Cheddi Jagan, a political hero of the majority Indian population who was president when he died earlier this year.

The Jagans met as students in Chicago in 1942 and went to Guyana to form the People's Progressive Party, with a Marxist, pro-Soviet ideology.

Guyana gained independence from Britain in 1966.

Jagan has spent 54 years in Guyana, often battling the British or U.S. governments. She was imprisoned under British rule and had her American citizenship yanked because U.S. officials feared that Guyana was becoming a communist state like Cuba. Later, when given a chance to recover her American citizenship, she declined, the Times said.

Her Jewish background does not appear to be an issue.

"She is an honest woman who does good for all classes and races of people," Abdool Sattaur, 61, a Moslem porter told the Times. "That she is Jewish does not bother me in the slightest. What matters is that she suffered with Cheddi and with us ever since British times."

If Jagan wins, she would become the first Jewish woman outside of Israel to be a head of state. Swiss Interior Minister Ruth Dreifuss could become the second in 1999.