The gigantic land area of Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world, also provides a huge border area with most of the continental countries of South America, with the exception of Chile and Ecuador.
Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay participate in Mercosur with Brazil. Bolivia also has an important relationship with the national economy thanks to the export of gas. Colombia and Peru are two of the favorite destinations for Brazilians on the continent, while Brazil became a haven for Venezuelans during the country’s economic crisis.
But what about Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname? Why is there no relationship between these two countries and the French overseas territory with Brazil and the Brazilian people?
According to professors at UFRR (Federal University of Roraima), there are many reasons why these regions, despite being neighbours, are so far away from the rest of the continent.
Colonized by France, Holland and England, the language barrier with South America, mostly Portuguese and Spanish, is one of many obstacles.
According to UFRRR Professor of International Relations Américo Alves de Lyra Júnior, the three countries north of Brazil are closer to the Caribbean nations, despite the geographical barrier created by the Atlantic Ocean.
“The eyes of these countries focus more on the Caribbean. Just remember that the headquarters of Caricom, the Caribbean group of nations, is located in Guyana’s capital, which is Georgetown,” Lyra Jr. explained in an interview with R7.
A large part of the population of these regions, which together have a total population of about 1.5 million people, lives in the coastal region, far from the Brazilian border and closer to the Caribbean. According to UFRR Master’s Degree Professor in Society and Frontiers, João Carlos Jaroczynski Silva, the Amazon rainforest 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] located geographically. They are in the north of the Amazon rainforest, in a very densely forested area with a small population,” he explains.
Ignorance is reflected in Google searches
The Internet makes it easier to access information through search engine optimization. With one click, Internet users can learn about the world, including Guyana and Suriname, as well as the territory of French Guiana.
An exclusive survey sent by Google to R7 It 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.
Thus, the countries where most people search for information about regions on Google are those that border the region. Amapá residents conduct six times more research on Suriname and 30 times more on French Guiana than in the rest of Brazil. Roraima, Guyana’s neighbor, seeks up to 51 times more land area than the Brazilian average.
Although residents of these two northern states do most of the research on their neighbors, the distance between most of the region’s residents is the same as in the rest of Brazil, according to Ellira Jr.
“The perception of the Brazilians in the southern region of this distance is our perception as well, in the region of the north. We have something very timid there, something more purposeful on the part of Suriname in terms of educational cooperation.”
The little relationship that Brazil’s population has with these countries is with 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 decline in mining activity, that is, fighting mining activity in the northern region of Brazil, a portion of those populations devoted to this type of activity end up heading to Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname,” explains Silva.
Expensive and difficult tourism
One of the tools that can bring Brazilians closer to these three regions in the north of the continent is tourism. However, the beaches in the area do not capture the beautiful picture of the Caribbean coast.
“There is no very strong tourism because there is difficulty in movement from a structural point of view. Tourism in the Caribbean is related to the issue of beaches and [no norte da América do Sul] You have a predominance of a coast where mangroves are forming,” Silva highlights.
a R7 We conducted a search to find the cheapest flights departing 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 flight, ranged from R$1,359 to R$14,100, with stops in as many as two countries.
To Georgetown, the cheapest flight costs R$4,289 and requires a 35-hour pilgrimage and two stops. The passenger takes off from Guarulhos airport, lands in Bogota, Colombia, waits 12 hours and flies to Miami, United States. After another nine hours between terminals, the flight finally reached its final stop with arrival at Chedi Jagan International Airport in Guyana.
Traveling from Sao Paulo to Paramaribo is easier and cheaper. With 1,359 R$, the passenger takes off from Congonhas and lands in Brasilia, where he waits for five hours for the flight that will take him to Belem, Barra. Another hour of waiting, and the tourist arrives at the last leg of the flight, to Paramaribo-Zanderej International Airport.
Using Google’s flight search tool, a file R7 Cannot find flights to Caen. Silva warns that it will be easier to travel for tourism to France, on the other side of the Atlantic, than to travel to the capital of French Guiana.
“In France, you can enter with a tourist visa, but not in French Guiana. You have more control, you need a permit from the French state to be able to reside there or even do tourism in this space.”
Geographical limitations caused by the Amazon rainforest, linked to territorial disputes between countries, are hampering Brazilian efforts to build a road network that connects the region more easily.
“We have a problem with the construction of the roads themselves. You have an area in Guyana that is still disputed by the Venezuelans and in which many Brazilian attempts to invest in highways have been thwarted due to the position of the Venezuelan state,” confirms Lira Junior.
The Prefeito Olavo Brasil Filho Bridge is one of the few land links between the last city of Roraima (Bonfim) and the first city of Guyana (Lithem), known as the Takuto River Bridge. The curiosity of this act is that it forces Brazilian drivers to change to the right lane on the Guyana side, as the country adopts the English hand, a legacy of the British colonial past.
“The lack of meaningful dialogue more from the point of view of diplomacy makes these places unattractive to Brazilians, and in a way, to them too. [do outro lado da fronteira]’ says Lyra Jr.
Silva concludes, “We ended up being more interested in countries that are seen as more powerful and more relevant to the international system, and even within South America, countries with which we have a more intense relationship, whether it’s economic or political disputes.”
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