French Guiana

Basic Data

French Guiana

Official Country Name: Department of Guiana
Region (Map name): South America
Population: 172,605
Language(s): French
Literacy rate: 83%

French Guiana, which sits between Brazil and Suri-name on the northeastern coast of South America, has a colorful history. It boasts the speech and press freedoms of France and supports two major newspapers, France-Guyane (appears daily) and La Presse de Guyane (publishes four times per week). Both titles are French-language and are printed in the capital city of Cayenne. Neither maintains a presence on the Internet.

There are 16 radio stations operating in French Guiana (two AM and 14 FM) and three television stations, serving 104,000 radios and 30,000 televisions. There are two Internet service providers.

Originally inhabited by Carib and Arawak Indians, control of the country has shifted between France, Britain, the Netherlands, Brazil, and Portugal until it was finally confirmed as French in 1817.

Soon after, France established a notoriously brutal penal colony on Devil's Island, which lies in shark-infested waters about nine miles from shore. The prison operated until the 1950s. In 1946, French Guiana was officially declared an oversees department of France.

Accordingly, the chief of state is the French president, who operates through a prefect appointed by officials in Paris. Local administration is handled through a 19-member general council and a 31-member regional council. The population of French Guiana is approximately 175,000, and the literacy rate is 83 percent. The official language is French but Creole is widely spoken.

The economy is closely linked with France through subsidies and imports and most of the country is an undeveloped, tropical rain forest. In 1964, France established the Kourou Space Center that contributes significantly to the gross domestic product. Fishing and forestry also play important roles in the economy.

Benn's Media. Vol. 3, 147th Edition, p. 297.1999.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). World Factbook 2001 . 2001. Available from . . 2002. Available from .

Jenny B. Davis

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