Guyana profile - Timeline

  • Published

A chronology of key events:

1498 - Christopher Columbus sights Guyana.

1580 - Dutch establish trading posts upriver.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Much of southern Guyana is covered by Amazonian rainforest

1620 - Dutch West India Company establishes a foothold in Guyana, including armed bases, and imports slaves from Africa to work on the sugar plantations.

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

British rule

1814 - Britain occupies Guyana during the Napoleonic Wars.

1823 - Major non-violent slave rebellion crushed in Demerara.

1831 - Guyana officially declared a British colony.

1834 - Slavery abolished; many slaves leave plantations to set up their own freeholdings and are replaced by indentured workers mainly from India.

1879 - Gold is discovered in Guyana and is followed by an economic boom.

1889 - Venezuela lays claim to a large portion of Guyana west of the Essequibo river.

1899 - International arbitration tribunal rules in favour of Guyana (then called British Guiana) in the territorial dispute with Venezuela.

British intervention

1953 - Britain suspends Guyana's constitution, sends in troops and installs an interim administration after democratic elections for parliament produces a result not to its liking - a victory for the left-wing Indo-Guyanese Progressive People's Party (PPP).

1957 - Britain restores Guyanese constitution; PPP splits along racial lines, with Cheddi Jagan leading a mostly Indian party and Forbes Burnham leading a party of African descendants, the People's National Congress (PNC).

1961 - Guyana granted full autonomy, with Britain retaining control over internal and defence matters; Jagan of the PPP becomes prime minister.

1962 - Venezuela revives its territorial claims on Guyana; Cheddi Jagan introduces austerity programme, sparking off violent riots and a general strike; British troops sent in to restore order.

1963 - Racial violence between people of African origins and Indian supporters of Jagan.


1966 - Guyana becomes independent with Forbes Burnham as prime minister.

1970 - Guyana becomes a republic within the British Commonwealth with Raymond Arthur Chung as titular president.

1978 - Nine hundred members of a religious sect commit mass suicide at Jonestown, a community established by sect leader Jim Jones.

1980 - Guyana gets a new constitution and Burnham becomes the country's first executive president.

Economic decline, elections

1985 - Desmond Hoyte (PNC) becomes president following the death of Burnham; economy begins to deteriorate.

1992 - PPP wins first completely free parliamentary elections since independence; Cheddi Jagan becomes president.

1997 - Jagan dies and is replaced by his wife, Janet, after elections.

1998 - Government declares state of emergency in Georgetown in response to violent riots amid allegations of discrimination by PPP against Afro-Guyanese.

Image caption,
Cheddi Jagan served as prime minister before independence - 1961-4 - and later as president - 1992-7

1999 - Bharrat Jagdeo becomes president after Janet Jagan resigned for health reasons.

2000 - Long-running dispute with Suriname over the offshore border comes to a head when Surinam gunboats evict an oil exploration rig from the area. Guyana had approved the exploration.

2002 July - TV presenter Mark Benschop charged with treason. Court says he encouraged protest in which presidential complex was stormed by demonstrators, who were complaining of discrimination against Afro-Guyanese.

2003 April - US embassy employee is kidnapped and released after a ransom is paid. The abduction is part of a wave of violent crime; the murder rate in 2002 quadrupled to more than 160.

2004 May - Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj steps down to allow an inquiry into allegations that he is linked to a death squad accused of executing hundreds of suspected criminals.

2004 June - UN sets up tribunal to try to resolve long-running maritime border dispute between Guyana and neighbouring Suriname.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
President Jagdeo campaigned for action on climate change and in 2007 called for slavery reparations

2004 December - Jury at trial of TV presenter Mark Benschop, charged with treason in 2002, fails to deliver unanimous verdict, necessitating re-trial.

2005 January - Government declares the capital a disaster zone as severe flooding follows days of continuous rain. More than 30 people are killed. UN estimates loss to the economy to be $500m.

2005 April - Ronald Gajraj reappointed as interior minister after inquiry clears him of direct involvement in killings of known and suspected criminals. He resigns in May.

2006 April - Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh is shot dead. The murder is part of a string of gun crimes. The ruling party says the killing is intended to incite pre-election violence.

2006 August - President Bharrat Jagdeo wins another five-year term in general elections.

2007 June - Former Guyanese MP Abdul Kadir is arrested in Trinidad on suspicion of involvement in a plot of blow up New York's JFK airport.

2007 September - A UN tribunal rules in the Guyana-Suriname dispute over maritime territory, giving both a share of a potentially oil-rich offshore basin.

2008 July - President Bharrat Jagdeo accuses the EU of using its economic might to 'bully' developing nations into accepting its terms in negotiations with 16 Caribbean countries over a trade agreement.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Artistic traditions testify to many Guyanans' African or Indian origins

2008 October - President Jagdeo signs trade agreement with EU.

2010 October - Parliament abolishes mandatory death penalty for murderers, unless they have killed members of security forces.

2011 November - Donald Ramotar is elected as president. Ruling People's Progressive Party loses majority at parliamentary elections, but remains largest party.

2012 July - Three die as police clash with demonstrators protesting against electricity price hikes.

2014 November - President Ramotar suspends opposition-dominated parliament just before it debates no-confidence motion in his government. Opposition accuses him of undermining democracy.

2015 May - Former senior army officer David Granger of the Afro-Guyanese Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change wins presidential election by slim margin, ending 23 years of rule by Indian-dominated People's Progressive Party.

ExxonMobil announces "significant" oil discovery off Guyana in waters claimed by Venezuela, which repeats its claim. Guyana seeks UN mediation.

2018 December - Coalition government loses parliamentary majority, raising possiblity of early elections.