French Guiana, Land and Population
universal adult suffrage, Litani, French National Assembly, Maroni, extreme south
French Guiana lies in the equatorial forest zone of South America. It is separated from Brazil by the Tumuc-Humac mountain range on the south and by the Oiapoque River on the east. The Maroni (Dutch Marowijne), Litani (Itany), and Awa rivers mark its boundary with Suriname on the west. The land rises from the low marshy coastal areas in the north, called the terres basses, through the broad central plateau, covered by dense tropical forest, to the terres hautes, or highlands, which ascend from foothills to the Eureupoucigne and Oroye ranges in the extreme south. The territory is well watered by numerous rivers that rise in the mountains and course northward to the Atlantic. The climate of French Guiana is tropical, with a mean annual temperature of 26.7° C (80° F). Cool, onshore breezes in the coastal zone fail to mitigate the effects of the high humidity. The dry season from June to November is succeeded by torrential rains achieving maximum intensity in April and May. The average annual rainfall at Cayenne is about 3,200 mm (about 126 in).
French Guiana had a 2002 population of 182,333; giving an average density of 2.1 persons per sq km (5.5 persons per sq mi). Most of the residents are Creoles, people of mixed white, Native American, and black African descent. Native Americans, descended from the aboriginal Arawak, Carib and Tupi-Guarani groups, inhabit the remote interior of French Guiana. Virtually untouched by Western civilization, they have preserved their traditional customs. Along the waterways are the settlements of the Saramancas, Boeschs, and Bonis, whose forebears were fugitive black slaves.
French Guiana is administered by a prefect, who is assisted by a 19-member general council and a 31-member regional council, each elected by universal adult suffrage. The department is represented in both houses of the French National Assembly.
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