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Guyana - Introduction

Guyana is a micro-state of three quarter of a million people, with land-space larger than England and with bountiful natural resources. Guyana, officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and, for over 200 years, the British. It is the only state of the Commonwealth of Nations on mainland South America, and the only one on that sub-continent where English is the official language. It is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which has its secretariat headquarters in Guyana's capital, Georgetown.

Guyana achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 26 May 1966, and became a republic on 23 February 1970. In 2008, the country joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member. Guyana and China established diplomatic relations on 27 June 1972, making Guyana the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean region that has diplomatic relations with China.

Guyana is known as the "Land of many waters". Historical Guyana is made up of three Dutch colonies: Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice. Modern Guyana is bordered to the east by Suriname, to the south and southwest by Brazil, to the west by Venezuela, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean.

Political violence has occurred in Guyana. Political protests in Guyana have a history of turning violent. In April 2015, police used mild force to clear political activists, parliamentarians, and the mayor of the capital city as they protested against the government’s investment in a private hotel enterprise (the Georgetown Marriott). Kaieteur News, a newspaper in Guyana, even reported that the former Minister of Health – who was dismissed from his position after the incident – threatened violence against a female protestor should she continue to protest. No one was hurt as a result of the standoff between the protesters and the police. As of May 2016, there have been no reported incidents of political violence since the change in government in May 2015.

Increased violence between the Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese communities has historically occurred at the time of national elections. The 2015 national elections, however, were the third successive iteration in which there was no significant communal violence. The 2015 election period saw a few isolated incidences of unrest, but no one was seriously injured and the police did not resort to the use of force.

Criminal activity, including murder and armed robbery, is common in Guyana. Armed robberies can occur in businesses, shopping districts, and in hotels. Petty crimes such as pick pocketing, purse snatching, assault, and robbery can occur in all areas of Georgetown, but, particularly, in the general area of Stabroek Market and behind Bourda Market.

Medical care in Guyana is sparse, low in quality, and inconsistent. Emergency care and hospitalization for major medical illnesses or surgery are limited due to lack of trained specialists and poor sanitation.

Yellow fever vaccine is mandatory throughout the Guyana plateau. Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted by mosquito bites requires the use of personal protective measures (long clothing, mosquito repellents for use on skin and clothing, electrical diffusers, mosquito nets, etc.).

whole of the region, dengue is a risk to be taken into account. A chikungunya epidemic has been spreading in the Caribbean since December 2013. Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It is characterized by flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle and joint pain). Guyana is affected by the Zika virus. This disease is transmitted by the bites of Aedes type mosquitoes. Cases of sexual transmission of the virus have also been reported.

The main means of transportation for most Guyanese is the minibus. The price for traveling around central Georgetown by minibus is GY$100 (about 50 cents), and special taxi service for the same area costs GY$400 (about $2). The cost for traveling longer distances and along the coast land varies according to the distance and the location. Many communities are accessible only by river. Corials (paddleboats), speedboats, and jet boats are widely used for this purpose.

Travel among counties is also highly dependent upon the rivers. While the Demerara Harbour Bridge links West Demerara to Demerara and Georgetown, ferry service exists for crossing the Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice rivers and for transport to Bartica and other river communities. Traveling by air is the major form of transportation to areas in the interior of Guyana and to the rest of the world.

The interior of Guyana is underpoliced, emergency services are generally not available, and there is no cellular phone reception in many places. Travelers visiting the interior should consider bringing their own safety gear, such as life jackets, first aid kits, and communications equipment, e.g., satellite phone.

Provincial travel by road should be organized with professionals. It is strictly forbidden to be on the road after dark. The interior of the country, especially the Berbice region, remains globally at risk for the untrained traveler.

The acts of piracy sometimes violent are frequently reported along the coast, and in particular in the border area with Surinam (mouth of Corentyne). It is not recommended, except for imperative reasons, to navigate the area.

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