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Country Overview:
Originally a Dutch colony in the 17th century, by 1815 Guyana had become a British possession. The abolition of slavery led to black settlement of urban areas and the importation of indentured servants from India to work the sugar plantations. This ethnocultural divide has persisted and has led to turbulent politics. Guyana achieved independence from the UK in 1966, and since then it has been ruled mostly by socialist-oriented governments. In 1992, Cheddi JAGAN was elected president in what is considered the country’s first free and fair election since independence. After his death five years later, his wife, Janet JAGAN, became president but resigned in 1999 due to poor health. Her successor, Bharrat JAGDEO, was reelected in 2001 and again in 2006.

Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Suriname and Venezuela

Geographic coordinates:
5 00 N, 59 00 W

Total: 214,970 sq km, land: 196,850 sq km, water: 18,120 sq km

Area – Comparative:
Slightly smaller than Idaho

Land boundaries:
Total: 2,949 km, border countries: Brazil 1,606 km, Suriname 600 km, Venezuela, 743 km

459 km

Tropical; hot, humid, moderated by northeast trade winds; two rainy seasons (May to August, November to January)

Mostly rolling highlands; low coastal plain; savanna in south

Elevation extremes:
Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

Highest Point:
Highest point: Mount Roraima 2,835 m

Natural Resources:
Bauxite, gold, diamonds, hardwood timber, shrimp, fish


Guyanese (singular and plural)

Adjective: Guyanese

Ethnic groups:
East Indian 43.5%, black (African) 30.2%, mixed 16.7%, Amerindian 9.1%, other 0.5% (2002 census)

Hindu 28.4%, Pentecostal 16.9%, Roman Catholic 8.1%, Anglican 6.9%, Seventh Day Adventist 5%, Methodist 1.7%, Jehovah Witness 1.1%, other Christian 17.7%, Muslim 7.2%, other 4.3%, none 4.3% (2002 census)

English, Amerindian dialects, Creole, Caribbean Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Urdu

Country Name:

Government Type:

Capital Name:

26 May 1966 (from UK)

National Holiday:
Republic Day, 23 February (1970)

6 October 1980

Legal System:
Based on English common law with certain admixtures of Roman-Dutch law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Executive Branch:
Chief of state: President Bharrat JAGDEO (since 11 August 1999); note – assumed presidency after resignation of President Janet JAGAN and was reelected in 2001, and again in 2006

Head of Government:
Prime Minister Samuel HINDS (since October 1992, except for a period as chief of state after the death of President Cheddi JAGAN on 6 March 1997)

Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president, responsible to the legislature

President elected by popular vote as leader of a party list in parliamentary elections, which must be held at least every five years (no term limits); elections last held 28 August 2006 (next to be held by August 2011); prime minister appointed by the president election results: President Bharrat JAGDEO reelected; percent of vote 54.6%

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Staff Writer