Foreign policy and defense
The English-speaking Guyana is in many ways
closer to the Caribbean than South America and also has
close contacts with other Commonwealth countries, which
bring together Britain and the former British colonies.
In 1967, a year after independence, Guyana, together
with Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados, formed a free
trade area that became the foundation of the Caribbean (Caricom)
community headquartered in Georgetown. Guyana was also a
member of the South American cooperative organization
Unasur but joined the new Prosur in 2019.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Guyana for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Relations are generally good with Commonwealth
countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada.
However, attempts from 2007 to get the UK to take a
great responsibility in protecting Guyanese forests were
unsuccessful. Instead, Guyana signed an agreement with
Norway in 2009, which with financial assistance for five
years would help Guyana protect forests and reduce
greenhouse gas emissions.
Relations with the United States were strained during
the 1970s, when Guyana formed close ties with Cuba and
other socialist countries, but it became essentially
friendly from the 1980s. In 2005, relations deteriorated
temporarily when Interior Minister Ronald Gajraj was
released from charges of conspiracy with a death patrol
(see Modern History) and the United States threatened to
withdraw support. The United States is still a
significant donor, but has criticized Guyana's ever
closer cooperation with Iran. Among other things, Iran
has helped Guyana to map its mineral resources, which
include uranium. The United States has also claimed that
Iran is trying to build up a terrorist network in South
America based on, for example, Guyana.
Venezuela blasts dredging
Guyana has a problematic relationship with two of its
three closest neighbors. Venezuela claims two-thirds of
Guyana - all land west of the Essequibo River - and a
vast area off the coast where oil is now found (see
Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment). The UN
has been trying to mediate since the 1980s. In 2004,
Venezuela's then-President Hugo Chávez promised not to
impede Guyanese activity in the disputed area west of
Essequibo, but in 2007 Venezuelan soldiers blasted two
dredges belonging to Guyana as a reminder that the
problems were not resolved. Only after a conversation
with Brazil's then-President Luiz Inácio da Silva did
Chávez make a reluctant apology.
In October 2013, the Guyanese government accused
Venezuela of "seriously threatening peace in the
region", after a US-owned vessel was seized on Guyanese
territorial waters, in the disputed Essequibo region.
According to the Venezuelan government, the vessel
remained illegally in Venezuelan waters. The vessel was
taken to the Venezuelan island of Isla de Margarita, but
the vessel and the entire crew were allowed to leave
Venezuelan water after a few days.
The day after President David Granger took office in
2015, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced that
Venezuela had unilaterally moved its border into the sea
after new oil discoveries were discovered outside
Guyana. President Granger accused the neighboring
country of violating international law. In September,
Granger warned of a "dangerous escalation" and said
Venezuela placed troops along the border. According to
Venezuela, these were military exercises. At the end of
the month, however, Granger and Maduro met in New York,
along with then-UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, and agreed to
resume relations and send the ambassadors back to their
However, in early 2018, the new UN chief António
Guterres announced that the Essequibo conflict should be
referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Granger welcomed the message while the Venezuelan
government opposed it. In March, Guyana formally turned
to the ICJ, whereupon Venezuela again dismissed all
thoughts of arbitration. The ICJ is holding negotiations
on the matter in March 2020.
Border conflicts with Suriname
The dispute between Guyana and Surinam has mainly
concerned the sea border on the continental shelf, with
probable oil deposits, but also the Corantijn (Corentyne)
border river. In 2007, the UN International Court of
Justice for the Law of the Sea, Itlos, Guyana, granted
65 percent and Surinam 35 percent of the off-shore area.
Surinam also claims a smaller land area in southeastern
Relations with the third neighbor, Brazil, are good.
Both countries want to improve road connections from the
border to Georgetown and establish a deep-water port for
export from both Guyana and Northern Brazil.
For historical and cultural reasons, Guyana and India
have always had friendly relations. Guyanese students
have the opportunity to receive scholarships to study in
India and many Guyanese cricket players have been
recruited to the Indian professional league.
The defense forces are poorly equipped and comprise
just over 1,000 people in active duty and about 1,500
men in semi-military forces. The military service is
voluntary for both men and women from the age of 16.
FACTS - DEFENSE
3,000 men (2017)
The air Force
200 men (2017)
200 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
1.4 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
4.6 percent (2017)