Guyana has a developing market economy with both public and private ownership. Major exports are sugar, rice, bauxite, and refined aluminum. It is a multiparty republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. It was colonized by the Dutch in the 17th century. The British occupied the territory during the NAPOLEONIC WARs and afterward purchased the colonies of Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo, which were united in 1831 as British Guiana. The slave trade was abolished in 1807, but emancipation of the 100,000 slaves in the colonies was not complete until 1838. From the 1840s East Indian and Chinese indentured servants were brought to work the plantationsby 1917 almost 240,000 East Indians had migrated to British Guiana.
It was made a crown colony in 1928 and granted home rule in 1953. Political parties began to emerge, developing on racial lines as the People's Progressive Party (largely East Indian) and the People's National Congress (PNC; largely black). The PNC formed a coalition government and led the country into independence as Guyana in 1966. In 1970 Guyana became a republic within the COMMONWEALTH; in 1980 it adopted a new constitution. Venezuela has long claimed land west of the Essequibo River, and the UN has been arbitrating the issue.
Guyana is a tough place to travel with lit infrastructure and high prices. Most visitors come on business, trolling for gold timber. Still, the country has been trying boost tourism into its less touched rain forest areas and high waterfalls and adventure guides and resorts are on the increa. The capital, Georgetown, is dirty, expense and can be dangerous.
The single most spectacular attraction is Kaieteur Falls, which are much more majestic than the more ephemeral (yet higher) Angel Falls in neighboring Venezuela. No visit to Guyana should be considered complete without a wildlife viewing excursion to Karanambu (or one of the other local ranches) in the Rupununi Savanna. For more adventurous types, the overland trek from Georgetown to Lethem on the back of a truck during the dry season is an unforgettablejourney.