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Guyana Table of Contents


Guyana-Suriname Dispute

Suriname reaffirmed a claim to an area in southeastern Guyana, the New River Triangle, after achieving independence from the Netherlands in November 1975. Despite renewed efforts by Guyana and Suriname to reach an agreement, border incidents occurred repeatedly in the late 1970s. In September 1977, Guyana seized a Surinamese trawler for fishing illegally in Guyana's 200-nauticalmile Exclusive Economic Zone. Suriname retaliated in January 1978 when it withdrew licenses from Guyanese fisherman who worked the Courantyne River, which formed the border between the two nations. Allegations were made that Suriname also used gunboats to harass Guyanese loggers on the river. Renewed talks in 1978 resolved the fishery dispute and led to the Surinamese trawler's return.

In 1979 Guyana's prime minister, Linden Forbes Burnham, and Suriname's prime minister, Henck Arron, signed an agreement establishing fishing rights and reopening the border. However, in 1980 a military coup overthrew Arron's government and relations deteriorated. Although tensions between Guyana and Suriname improved slightly after Hugh Desmond Hoyte became Guyana's president in 1985, the border dispute remained unresolved in mid1991 .

In 1992 the GDF remained a small politicized force concerned primarily with internal security. As the border dispute with Venezuela edged closer to resolution, Guyana's principal external threat and the defensive role of the GDF diminished. The problems facing the GDF in the 1990s were more internal organizational dilemmas: to define a new mission in a world less ideologically divided and with less belligerent neighbors, and to deal with the legacy of ethnic polarization that two and a half decades of PNC rule bequeathed to the GDF and to Guyana.

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As of mid-1991, scholarly literature on Guyana's armed forces and other aspects of national security remained limited. Two excellent sources stand out: Guyana: Politics in a Plantation Society, by Chaitram Singh, and Guyana: Politics, Economics, and Society, by Henry B. Jeffrey and Colin Baber. Current order-of-battle information is available in the International Institute for Strategic Studies' annual, The Military Balance. Jacqueline Anne Braveboy-Wagner's The VenezuelaGuyana Border Dispute is the definitive reference on Guyana's primary regional problem. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of January 1992