Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Thursday, 16 August 2012 15:39 UK

Timeline: Guyana

A chronology of key events:

1498 - Christopher Columbus sights Guyana.

1580 - Dutch establish trading posts upriver.

1620 - Dutch West India Company establishes a foothold in Guyana, including armed bases, and imports slaves from Africa to work on the sugar plantations.

Cheddi Jagan
Cheddi Jagan was succeeded as president by his wife, Janet

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 intervention

British troops on their way to Guyana in 1953
Britain sent troops after blaming unrest on "communists"

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.

Jim Jones, founder of People's Temple sect
Over 900 members of Jim Jones' sect committed mass suicide

1970 - Guyana becomes a republic within the British Commonwealth with Raymond Arthur Chung as titular president.

1978 - Nine hundred members of a religious sect commit mass suicide at Jonestown, a community established by sect leader Jim Jones.

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.

1992 - PPP wins first completely free parliamentary elections since independence; Cheddi Jagan becomes president.

Guyana election poster
Guyanese politics reflects racial divisions

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

1998 - Government declares state of emergency in Georgetown in response to violent riots amid allegations of discrimination by PPP against Afro-Guyanese.

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

2000 - Long-running dispute with Suriname over the offshore border comes to a head when Surinam gunboats evict an oil exploration rig from the area. Guyana had approved the exploration.

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

2003 April - US embassy employee is kidnapped and released after a ransom is paid. The abduction is part of a wave of violent crime; the murder rate in 2002 quadrupled to more than 160.

A family leave their flooded home in Georgetown, January 2005
Floods in 2005 forced thousands from their homes in Georgetown

2004 May - Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj steps down to allow an inquiry into allegations that he is linked to a death squad accused of executing hundreds of suspected criminals.

2004 June - UN sets up tribunal to try to resolve long-running maritime border dispute between Guyana and neighbouring Suriname.

2004 December - Jury at trial of TV presenter Mark Benschop, charged with treason in 2002, fails to deliver unanimous verdict, necessitating re-trial.

2005 January - Government declares the capital a disaster zone as severe flooding follows days of continuous rain. More than 30 people are killed. UN estimates loss to the economy to be $500m.

2005 April - Ronald Gajraj reappointed as interior minister after inquiry clears him of direct involvement in killings of known and suspected criminals. He resigns in May.

2006 April - Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh is shot dead. The murder is part of a string of gun crimes. The ruling party says the killing is intended to incite pre-election violence.

2006 August - President Bharrat Jagdeo wins another five-year term in general elections.

2007 June - Former Guyanese MP Abdul Kadir is arrested in Trinidad on suspicion of involvement in a plot of blow up New York's JFK airport.

2007 September - A UN tribunal rules in the Guyana-Suriname dispute over maritime territory, giving both a share of a potentially oil-rich offshore basin.

2008 July - President Jagdeo accuses the EU of using its economic might to 'bully' developing nations into accepting its terms in negotiations with 16 Caribbean countries over a trade agreement.

2008 October - President Jagdeo signs trade agreement with EU.

2010 October - Parliament abolishes mandatory death penalty for murderers, unless they have killed members of security forces.

2011 November - Donald Ramotar is elected as president. Ruling People's Progressive Party wins parliamentary election, but loses its majority.

2012 July - Three die as police clash with demonstrators protesting against electricity price hikes.

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