|Overseas region of France|
|• President||Rodolphe Alexandre (UMP)|
|• Total||83,534 km2 (32,253 sq mi)|
|Population (Jan 2012)|
|• Density||2.9/km2 (7.4/sq mi)|
|Time zone||GFT (UTC-03)|
|ISO 3166 code||GF|
|GDP/ Nominal||€3.2 billion (2008)|
|GDP per capita||€14,204 (US$ 20,904)(2008)|
French Guiana (pronounced // or //, French: Guyane française; French pronunciation: [ɡɥijan fʁɑ̃sɛz]; officially just Guiana, French:Guyane) is an overseas department and region of France on the north Atlantic coast of South America. It borders Brazil to the east and south, andSuriname to the west. Its 83,534 km2 (32,253 sq mi) area has a very low population density of less than 3 inhabitants per km2, with half of its 239,450 people in 2012 living in the metropolitan area of Cayenne, its capital. By land area, it is by far the largest overseas region of France. As an overseas region, it is inside the European Union, and its official currency is the Euro.
The addition of the adjective "French" in English comes from colonial times when five such colonies existed (The Guianas), namely from west to east: Spanish Guiana (now Guayana Region in Venezuela), British Guiana (now Guyana), Dutch Guiana (now Suriname), French Guiana, andPortuguese Guiana (now Amapá, a state in far northern Brazil). French Guiana and the two larger countries to the north and west, Guyana and Suriname, are still often collectively referred to as the Guianas and comprise one large shield landmass.
A large part of the department's economy derives from the presence of the Guiana Space Centre, now the European Space Agency's primary launch site near the equator.
French Guiana was originally inhabited by indigenous people. The French tried to create a colony there in the 18th century in conjunction with its settlement of some other Caribbean islands.
Bill Marshall wrote:
The first French effort to colonize Guiana, in 1763, failed utterly when tropical diseases and climate killed all but 2,000 of the initial 12,000 settlers. During its existence, France transported approximately 56,000 prisoners to Devil's Island. Fewer than 10 percent survived their sentence.
Its infamous Île du Diable (Devil's Island) was the site of a small prison facility, part of a larger penal system by the same name, which consisted of prisons on three islands and three larger prisons on the mainland, and which was operated from 1852 to 1953. In addition, in the late nineteenth century, France began requiring forced residencies by prisoners who survived their hard labor. A Portuguese-British naval squadron took French Guiana for the Portuguese Empire in 1809. It was returned to France with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Though the region was handed back to France, a Portuguese presence remained until 1817.
A border dispute with Brazil arose in the late 19th century over a vast area of jungle leading to the short-lived pro-French independent state of Counani in the disputed territory. There was some fighting between settlers. The dispute was resolved largely in favor of Brazil by the arbitration of the Swissgovernment..
The territory of Inini consisted of most of the interior of French Guiana when it was created in 1930. It was abolished in 1946, when French Guiana as a whole became an overseas department of France. During the 1970s, following the French withdrawal from Vietnam in the 1950s, France helped resettle Hmong refugees from Laos to French Guiana.
In 1964, French president Charles de Gaulle decided to construct a space-travel base in French Guiana. It was intended to replace the Sahara base in Algeria and stimulate economic growth in French Guiana. The department was considered particularly suitable for the purpose because it is near the equator and has extensive access to the ocean as a buffer zone. The Guiana Space Centre, located a short distance along the coast from Kourou, has grown considerably since the initial launches of the "Véronique" rockets. It is now part of the European space industry and has had commercial success with such launches as the Ariane 4 and Ariane 5.
French Guiana lies between latitudes 2° and 6° N, and longitudes 51° and 53° W. It consists of two main geographical regions: a coastal strip where the majority of the people live, and dense, near-inaccessiblerainforest which gradually rises to the modest peaks of the Tumac-Humac mountains along the Brazilian frontier. French Guiana's highest peak is Bellevue de l'Inini in Maripasoula (851 m (2,792 ft)). Other mountains include Mont Machalou (782 m (2,566 ft)), Pic Coudreau (711 m (2,333 ft)) and Mont St Marcel(635 m (2,083 ft)), Mont Favard (200 m (660 ft)) and Montagne du Mahury (156 m (512 ft)).
Several small islands are found off the coast, the three Îles du Salut (Islands of Health) which include Devil's Island, and the isolated Îles du Connétable bird sanctuary further along the coast towards Brazil.
The Petit-Saut dam(fr) hydroelectric dam in the north of French Guiana forms an artificial lake and provideshydroelectricity. There are many rivers in French Guiana, including the Waki River.
As of 2007, the Amazonian forest, located in the most remote part of the department, is protected as theGuiana Amazonian Park, one of the nine national parks of France. The territory of the park covers some 33,900 square kilometres (13,090 sq mi) upon the communes of Camopi, Maripasoula, Papaïchton, Saint-Élie and Saül.
|[hide]Climate data for French Guiana (Cayenne)|
|Record high °C (°F)||32|
|Average high °C (°F)||27|
|Average low °C (°F)||23|
|Record low °C (°F)||19|
|Rainfall mm (inches)||380|
|Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm)||20||16||22||21||26||23||18||9||4||4||11||18||192|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||155||113||124||120||124||180||217||248||270||279||240||186||2,256|
|Source: BBC Weather|
French Guiana is home to many unique and important ecosystems: tropical rainforests, coastal mangroves, savannahs, inselbergs and many types ofwetlands. French Guiana has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in terms of both flora and fauna. This is due to the presence of old-growth forests(i.e., ancient/primary forests), which are biodiversity hotspots. The rainforests of French Guiana provide shelter for many species during dry periods and terrestrial glaciation. These forests are protected by a national park (the Guiana Amazonian Park) and six additional nature reserves. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the European Union (EU) have recommended special efforts to protect these areas.
Following the Grenelle Environment Round Table of 2007, the Grenelle Law II was proposed in 2009, under law number 2010-788. Article 49 of the law proposed the creation of a single organization responsible for environmental conservation in French Guiana. Article 64 proposes a "departmental plan of mining orientation" for French Guiana, which would promote mining (specifically of gold) that is compatible with requirements for environmental protection. The coastal environment along the N1 has historically experienced the most changes, but development is occurring locally along the N2, and also in western French Guiana due to gold mining.
5,500 plant species have been recorded, including more than a thousand trees, along with 700 species of birds, 177 species of mammals, over 500 species of fish including 45% of which are endemic and 109 species of amphibians. The micro-organisms would be much more numerous, especially in the north, which competes with the Brazilian Amazon, Borneo and Sumatra. This single French department has at least 98% of vertebrate fauna and 96% of vascular plants as found in all of France and its overseas territories.
The threats to the ecosystem are habitat fragmentation by the roads, which remains very limited compared to other forests of South America, impacts of immediate and deferred Petit-Saut dam(fr) of EDF, of gold mining, poor control of hunting and poaching facilitated by the creation of many tracks, and the appearance of all-terrain vehicles. Logging remains moderate due to the lack of roads, on both the difficulty of climate and terrain. An ordinance of 28 July 2005 extended the Forest Code at French Guiana, but with important exceptions and modifications. In an approach that will be sustainable, concessions or free transfers may be granted by local authorities or other entities for use by persons traditionally deriving their livelihood from the forest, but the means no longer always used traditional means, and the Guianese ecosystem being vulnerable, the impacts of logging or hunting may be important.
The beaches of the natural reserve of the Amana, the joint Awala-Yalimapo in the west, is an exceptional marine turtle nesting site. This is one of the largest worldwide for the leatherback turtle.
French Guiana has some of the poorest soils in the world. The soil is low in nutrients (e.g., nitrogen, potassium) and organic matter. Soil acidity is another cause of the poor soils, and it requires farmers to add lime to their fields. All of these soil characteristics have led to the use of slash and burnagriculture. The resulting ashes elevate soil pH (i.e., lower soil acidity), and contribute minerals and other nutrients to the soil. Sites of Terra preta(anthropogenic soils) have been discovered in French Guiana, particularly near the border with Brazil. Research is being actively pursued in multiple fields to determine how these enriched soils were historically created, and how this can be done in modern times.
As an integral part of France French Guiana is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; its currency is the euro. .gf is the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for French Guiana, but .fr is generally used instead.
In 2008, the GDP of French Guiana at market exchange rates was US$4.72 billion (€3.21 billion), ranking as the largest economy in the Guianas, and the 11th largest in South America.
French Guiana is heavily dependent on mainland France for subsidies, trade, and goods. The main industries are fishing (accounting for three-quarters of foreign exports), gold mining and timber. In addition, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou accounts for 25% of the GDP and employs about 1,700 people.
There is very little manufacturing. Agriculture is largely undeveloped and is mainly confined to the area near the coast – sugar and bananas are two of the maincash crops grown. Tourism, especially eco-tourism, is growing. Unemployment is a major problem, running at about 20% to 30%.
In 2008, the GDP per capita of French Guiana at market exchange rates, not at PPP, was US$20,904 (€14,204), the highest in South America, but only 47% of metropolitan France's average GDP per capita that year.
French Guiana's population of 239,450 (January 2012 est.), most of whom live along the coast, is very ethnically diverse. At the 2010 census, 56.8% of the inhabitants of French Guiana were born in French Guiana, 9.3% were born in Metropolitan France, 3.0% were born in the French Caribbeandépartements (Guadeloupe and Martinique), and 30.8% were born in foreign countries (primarily Suriname, Haiti, and Brazil).
Estimates of the percentages of French Guiana ethnic composition vary, a situation compounded by the large proportion of immigrants.
Mulatto (people of mixed African and French ancestry) are the largest ethnic group, though estimates vary as to the exact percentage, depending upon whether the large Haitian community is included as well. Generally the Creole population is judged to be about 60 to 70% of the total population if Haitians (comprising roughly one-third of Creoles) are included, and 30 to 50% without.
Roughly 14% of the population is of European ancestry. The vast majority of these are of French heritage, though there are also people of Dutch, British, Spanish and Portuguese ancestry.
The main Asian communities are the Chinese (3.2%, primarily from Zhejiang province in mainland China and Hong Kong) and Hmong from Laos (1.5%). There are also smaller groups from various Caribbean islands, mainly Saint Lucia as well as Dominica. Other Asian groups include East Indians, Lebaneseand Vietnamese.
The main groups living in the interior are the Maroons (formerly called "Bush Negroes") who are from African descent, and Amerindians. The Maroons, descendants of escaped African slaves, live primarily along the Maroni River. The main Maroon groups are the Saramaca, Aucan (both of whom also live in Suriname), and Boni (Aluku).
The main Amerindian groups (forming about 3%–4% of the population) are the Arawak, Carib, Emerillon, Galibi (now called the Kaliña), Palikur, Wayampi and Wayana. As of late 1990s, there was evidence of an uncontacted group of Wayampi.
The dominant religion of French Guiana is Roman Catholicism; the Maroons and some Amerindian people maintain their own religions. The Hmong people are also mainly Catholic owing to the influence of missionaries who helped bring them to French Guiana.
|Official figures from past censuses and INSEE estimates.|
|Born in the|
French West Indies
|Born in the|
rest of Overseas France
|Born in foreign|
countries with French
citizenship at birth¹
|¹Persons born abroad of French parents, such as Pieds-Noirs and children of French expatriates.|
²An immigrant is by French definition a person born in a foreign country and who didn't have French citizenship at birth. Note that an immigrant may have acquired French citizenship since moving to France, but is still listed as an immigrant in French statistics. On the other hand, persons born in France with foreign citizenship (the children of immigrants) are not listed as immigrants.
The total fertility rate in French Guiana has remained high and is today considerably higher than in metropolitan France, and also higher than the average of the French overseas departments. It is largely responsible for the high population growth of French Guiana.
|Four overseas departments||2.32||2.45||2.42||2.35||2.38||2.40||2.46||2.48||2.48||2.46||2.42||2.39||2.39|
The official language of French Guiana is French, but a number of other local languages exist. Regional languages include French Guiana creole, six Amerindian languages (Arawak, Palijur,Kali'na, Wayana, Wayampi, Emerillon), four Maroon dialects (Saramaka, Paramaccan, Aluku, Ndyuka), as well as Hmong Njua. Other languages spoken include Portuguese, Hakka, Haitian Creole, Spanish, Dutch and English.
French Guiana, as part of France, is part of the European Union, the largest landmass for an area outside of Europe (since Greenland left the European Community in 1985), with one of the longest EU external boundaries. Along with the Spanish Autonomous Cities in Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, it is one of only three European Union territories outside Europe that is not an island. As an integral part of France, its head of state is the President of the French Republic, and its head of government is the Prime Minister of France. The French Government and its agencies have responsibility for a wide range of issues that are reserved to the national executive power, such as defense and external relations.
The President of France appoints a prefect (resident at the prefecture building in Cayenne) as his representative to head the local government of French Guiana. There are two local executive bodies: the 19‑member general council and the 34‑member regional council, both elected. They will soon be reunited into only one council, since they have authority on exactly the same territory.
French Guiana sends two deputies to the French National Assembly, one representing the commune (municipality) of Cayenne and the commune ofMacouria, and the other representing the rest of French Guiana. This latter constituency is the largest in the French Republic by land area. French Guiana also sends two senators to the French Senate.
Politics in French Guiana are dominated by the Guianese Socialist Party.
A chronic issue affecting French Guiana is the influx of illegal immigrants and clandestine gold prospectors from Brazil and Suriname. The border between the department and Suriname is formed by the Maroni River, which flows through rain forest and is difficult for the Gendarmerie and the French Foreign Legion to patrol. There have been several phases launched by the French government to combat illegal gold mining in French Guiana, beginning with Operation Anaconda beginning in 2003, followed by Operation Harpie in 2008, 2009 and Operation Harpie Reinforce in 2010. Colonel François Müller, the commander of French Guiana's gendarme, believes these operations have been successful. However, after each operation ends, Brazilian miners, garimpeiros, return. Soon after Operation Harpie Reinforce began, an altercation took place between French authorities and Brazilian miners. On March 12, 2010, a team of French soldiers and border police were attacked while returning from a successful operation, during which "the soldiers had arrested 15 miners, confiscated three boats, and seized 617 grams of gold... currently worth about $22,317". Garimpeiros returned to retrieve the lost loot and colleagues. "The soldiers fired warning shots and rubber “flash balls” but the miners managed to retake one of their boats and about 500 grammes of gold. “The violent reaction by the garimpeiros can be explained by the exceptional take of 617 grammes of gold, about 20 percent of the quantity seized in 2009 during the battle against illegal mining”, said Phillipe Duporge, the director of French Guiana’s border police, at a press conference the next day."
French Guiana's main international airport is Cayenne – Félix Eboué Airport, located in the commune of Matoury, a southern suburb of Cayenne. There are two flights a day to Paris (Orly Airport), served by Air France and Air Caraïbes. The flight time from Cayenne to Paris is 8 hours and 25 minutes, and from Paris to Cayenne it is 9 hours and 10 minutes. There are also flights to Fort-de-France, Pointe-à-Pitre, Port-au-Prince, Miami and Belém.
French Guiana's main seaport is the port of Dégrad des Cannes, located on the estuary of the Mahury River, in the commune of Remire-Montjoly, a south-eastern suburb of Cayenne. Almost all of French Guiana's imports and exports pass through the port of Dégrad des Cannes. Built in 1969, it replaced the old harbour of Cayenne which was congested and could not cope with modern traffic.
An asphalted road from Régina to Saint-Georges de l'Oyapock (a town by the Brazilian border) was opened in 2004, completing the road from Cayenne to the Brazilian border. It is now possible to drive on a fully paved road from Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni on the Surinamese border to Saint-Georges de l'Oyapock on the Brazilian border.
Following a treaty between France and Brazil signed in July 2005, the Oyapock River Bridge over the Oyapock River (marking the border with Brazil) has been built and, as of April 2013, is due to open in December 2013. This bridge is the first land crossing ever opened between France and Brazil, and indeed between French Guiana and the rest of the world (there exists no other bridge crossing the Oyapock River, and no bridge crossing the Maroni River marking the border with Suriname – there is a ferry crossing to Albina, Suriname). When the bridge is opened, it will be possible to drive uninterrupted from Cayenne to Macapá, the capital of the state of Amapá in Brazil.
Main settlements (2007)
- Cayenne 58,369
- Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni 34,336
- Kourou 25,918
- Matoury 25,191
- Remire-Montjoly 18,947
- Mana 8,322
- Macouria 8,386
- Apatou 6,360
- Maripasoula 5,584
- Saint-Georges 3,692
- Grand-Santi 3,430
- Sinnamary 3,137
Military, police and security forces
The commander of the French armed forces in French Guiana since July 2009 has been General Jean-Pierre Hestin. The military there is currently 1,900 strong, expected to increase enrollment in 2014–2015.
Among the military, police and security forces in French Guiana, are the following:
- The 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment (3e REI) of Kourou (Legion).
- The 9th Marine Regiment (9e RIMa) of Cayenne, the Madeleine.
- The gendarmerie and the police, divided into 16 brigades. These serve Cayenne, Remire-Montjoly, Cacao, Régina, Saint-Georges-de-l'Oyapock, Camopi, Macouria, Kourou, Sinnamary,Iracoubo, Mana, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, Apatou, Grand-Santi, Papaïchton, Maripasoula and Matoury.
- The RSMAG Regiment (Adapted Military Service) of Guyana, located in Saint-Jean-du-Maroni, with a detachment in Cayenne.
- Various detachments corps:
In popular culture
The novel, Papillon, by the French convict Henri Charrière, is set in French Guiana. It was first published in France in 1969, describing his escape from a penal colony there. Becoming an instant bestseller, it was translated into English from the original French by June P. Wilson and Walter B. Michaels for a 1970 edition, and by author Patrick O'Brian. Soon afterward the book was adapted for a Hollywood film of the same name.