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On This Day
Last Updated: Friday, 14 March, 2003, 09:18 GMT
Timeline: Guyana
A chronology of key events:

1498 - Christopher Columbus sights Guyana.

1580 - Dutch establish trading posts upriver.

Former president Janet Jagan
Ex-president Janet Jagan, who succeeded her husband
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.

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 military 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; 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 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 cult commit mass suicide.

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.

Former president Cheddi Jagan
Former president Cheddi Jagan
1992 - The first completely free parliamentary elections since independence result in victory for the PPP; Cheddi Jagan becomes president and embarks on a programme of privatisation.

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

1998 - Government declares state of emergency in the capital, Georgetown, in response to violent riots amid allegations of discrimination by the PPP against people of African descent.

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

2000 - Guyana's long-running dispute with Surinam over their offshore border comes to a head when Surinam gunboats evict an oil exploration rig from the area. Guyana had approved the exploration in the oil-rich disputed zone.

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


Compiled by BBC Monitoring

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