Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname: the forgotten frontiers of northern Brazil – News

The gigantic territorial area of ​​Brazil, which places it as the fifth largest country in the world, also provides a huge border region with most continental countries in South America, with the exception of Chile and Ecuador.

Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay participate in Mercosur together with Brazil. Bolivia also has an important economic relationship for the national economy, thanks to the export of gas. Colombia and Peru are two of Brazil’s favorite destinations on the continent, while Brazil has become a refuge for Venezuelans during the country’s economic crisis.

But what about Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname? Why do these two countries and the overseas territory of France have little or no connection with Brazil and the Brazilian people?

According to professors at UFRR (Federal University of Roraima) there are many reasons why these territories, despite being neighbors, have a huge distance from the rest of the continent.


Colonized by France, Holland and England, the language barrier with South America, predominantly Portuguese and Spanish, is one of the many obstacles.

According to the professor of international relations at UFRR Américo Alves de Lyra Júnior, the three nations to the north of Brazil are closer to the Caribbean countries, despite the geographic barrier created by the Atlantic Ocean.

“The eyes of these countries are more focused on the Caribbean. Just remember that the headquarters of Caricom, which is the Caribbean community of nations, is in the capital of Guyana, which is Georgetown”, explained Lyra Júnior in an interview with R7.

A good part of the population of these territories, which together add up to about 1.5 million people, live in the coastal region, farthest from the Brazilian border and closer to the Caribbean. According to the professor of the master’s degree in Society and Borders at UFRR João Carlos Jarochinski Silva, the Amazon Forest itself is a factor that separates the region from Brazil.

“The first element that leads to this ignorance is the fact of where [os territórios] are geographically located. They are in the north of the Amazon Forest, in a region of very dense forest and with little population presence”.


Ignorance is reflected in Google searches


The internet facilitates access to information with the improvement of search engines. At the distance of a click, internet users can learn more about the world, and that includes Guyana and Suriname, as well as the overseas territory of French Guiana.

An exclusive survey sent by Google to the R7 shows that the main searches of Brazilians related to the three northern neighbors are: location, capital and currencies. There are also surveys to see if Guyana and Suriname are safe.

The states that most search for information about territories on Google are, consequently, those that border the region. The population of Amapá searches six times more for Suriname and 30 times more for French Guiana than the rest of Brazil, respectively. Roraima, Guyana’s neighbor, searches up to 51 times more for the country than the Brazilian average.

Although the inhabitants of these two northern states are the ones who most search for their neighbors, the distance between most residents of the region is the same as in the rest of Brazil, according to Lyra Junior.

“The perception that Brazilians in the South region have of this distance is also ours in the North region. We have something very timid there, something more purposeful on the part of Suriname, in terms of educational cooperation.”

The little relationship that the Brazilian population has with these countries is due to the sacoleiros who cross the border in search of lower prices and the miners, who have moved from the Brazilian Amazon to the three northern territories in recent years.

“When you have a decrease in mining activity, a fight against the mining activity in the northern region of Brazil, part of this population that was dedicated to this type of activity ends up heading to Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname”, explains Silva.


Expensive and difficult tourism


One tool that could bring Brazilians closer to these three territories in the north of the continent is tourism. However, the beaches in the region do not carry the beautiful image of the Caribbean coasts.

“There is not a very strong tourism because there is a difficulty in circulation, from a structural point of view. Tourism in the Caribbean region is linked to the issue of beaches and [no norte da América do Sul] you have a predominance of a coast with formation of mangroves”, highlights Silva.

O R7 did a search to find the cheapest flights from Sao Paulo to Cayenne (French Guiana), Georgetown (Guyana) and Paramaribo (Suriname) between July 28 and August 28. Tickets, which do not include the return trip, ranged from R$1,359 to R$14,100, with stops in up to two different countries.

To Georgetown, the cheapest flight costs R$4,289 and a 35-hour pilgrimage and two stopovers. The passenger takes off at Guarulhos airport, lands in Bogotá, Colombia, waits for 12 hours and flies to Miami, United States. After another nine hours between stops, the journey finally has its final leg with arrival at Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana.

The life of those who leave São Paulo for Paramaribo is easier and cheaper. With R$1,359, the passenger takes off from Congonhas and lands in Brasília, where he waits for five hours for the flight that will take him to Belém, Pará. Another hour of waiting and the tourist makes the final leg of the trip, to the international airport Paramaribo-Zanderij.

Using Google’s flight search tool, the R7 could not find flights to Cayenne. Silva warns that it would be easier to travel to France for tourism, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, than to the capital of French Guiana.

“In France you can enter with a tourist visa, but not in French Guiana. You have greater control, you need an authorization from the French State to be able to reside there or even do tourism in that space.”


land border


The geographic limitations caused by the Amazon Forest, linked to territorial disputes between countries, hamper Brazilian efforts to build a road network that connects the region more easily.

“We have a problem with the construction of roads itself. You have an area in Guyana that is still contested by Venezuelans, and that several Brazilian attempts to invest in highways were thwarted by the Venezuelan State’s stance”, emphasizes Lyra Junior.

One of the few land connections between the last city of Roraima (Bonfim) and the first city of Guyana (Lethem) is the Ponte Prefeito Olavo Brasil Filho, better known as Ponte do Rio Tacutu. The curiosity of this work is that it forces Brazilian drivers to change to the right lane on the Guyana side, as the country adopts the English hand as a legacy of the British colonial past.


“The very lack of a more purposeful dialogue from the point of view of diplomacy makes these places unattractive for Brazilians and in some way for them as well. [do outro lado da fronteira]”, says Lyra Junior.

“We end up being more concerned with the countries that are seen as more powerful, more relevant in the international system, and even within the scope of South America, countries with which we have a more intense relationship, whether economically or because of political disputes”, concludes Silva.


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