Guyana country profile


Sandwiched between Venezuela and Suriname, the former British colony of Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America.

Since independence from the UK in 1966, Guyana has seen fierce political rivalry between the two main ethnically-based parties.

Most of the country is covered in tropical rainforest and, despite having rich reserves of bauxite, gold and timber, it has struggled to overcome poverty and attract investment to bolster its economy.

A century-old border dispute with Venezuela has revived after the discovery of offshore oil reserves.


Co-operative Republic of Guyana

Capital: Georgetown

  • Population 773,000

  • Area 214,969 sq km (83,000 sq miles)

  • Major languages English, indigenous languages, Creole, Hindi, Urdu

  • Major religions Christianity, Hinduism, Islam

  • Life expectancy 64 years (men), 69 years (women)

  • Currency Guyanese dollar

Getty Images


President: David Granger

image sourceGetty Images

Retired army general David Granger beat incumbent President Donald Ramotar by a narrow margin in the May 2015 election, ending 23 years of rule by the Indian-dominated People's Progressive Party.

He forged a multi-ethnic coalition of his Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change, with a pledge to end the racial divisions that have dominated Guyana's politics since independence in 1966.

He pledged to tackle corruption, nepotism and the waste of resources, but has been hampered by his coalition's slender parliamentary majority.


The constitution guarantees free speech, although officials are apt to resort to defamation laws, says Reporters Without Borders.

A bill passed in 2017 was criticised for requiring private broadcasters to carry a daily quota of government-chosen output.

Around 39% of Guyanese citizens were online by 2017.


Some key dates in Guyana's history:

image sourceGetty Images
image captionSome Guyanese trace their ancestry to freed slaves and others to workers from India

1300s - Area is first inhabited by semi-nomadic Amerindian tribes, notably Warraus. Christopher Colombus sights Guyana in 1498.

1580 - The Dutch gain a foothold and set up trading posts. From 1620, the Dutch West India Company imports African slaves to work on its sugar plantations.

1780-1813 - Guyana changes hands between the Dutch, French and British.

1814 - Britain occupies Guyana during the Napoleonic Wars and later makes it a the Colony of British Guiana.

1834 - The abolition of slavery leads to indentured workers being brought in from India.

1889 - Venezuela lays claims to two-thirds of Guyana west of the Essequibo river, but international arbitration rules in favour of Guyana in 1899.

1953 - Britain suspends a new constitution and installs an interim administration after the Indo-Guyanese PPP party's success in the first free elections.

1960 - A new constitution provides full internal self-government, but in 1964 a revolt leads to racial strife and violent riots

1966 - Guyana gains independence.

1978 - Jonestown massacre: Mass suicide by more than 900 members of the People's Temple religious sect led by Jim Jones.

2015 - Guyana's multiracial opposition coalition led by David Granger wins the general election, ending 23 years of rule by the Indo-Guyanese PPP party.

image sourceGetty Images
image captionGuyana's spectacular Kaieteur Falls drop for about 220m

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