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In May 2008, President Bharrat Jagdeo was a signatory to the UNASUR Constitutive Treaty of the Union of South American Nations. The territory controlled by Guyana lies between latitudes 1° and 9°N, and longitudes 56° and 62°W.
The country can be divided into five natural regions; a narrow and fertile marshy plain along the Atlantic coast (low coastal plain) where most of the population lives; a white sand belt more inland (hilly sand and clay region), containing most of Guyana's mineral deposits; the dense rain forests (Forested Highland Region) in the southern part of the country; the desert savannah in the southern west; and the smallest interior lowlands (interior savannah) consisting mostly of mountains that gradually rise to the Brazilian border.
The name "Guyana" is derived from Guiana, the original name for the region that formerly included Guyana (British Guiana), Suriname (Dutch Guiana), French Guiana, and parts of Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.
Although Christopher Columbus sighted Guyana during his third voyage (in 1498), and Sir Walter Raleigh wrote an account of its discovery in 1596, the Dutch were the first to establish colonies: Essequibo (1616), Berbice (1627), and Demerara (1752).In 1899 an international tribunal ruled the land belonged to Great Britain.The British territorial claim stemmed from Dutch involvement and colonization of the area also dating to the sixteenth century, which was ceded to the British.At the mouth of the Essequibo are several large islands, including the 145 km (90 mi) wide Shell Beach lies along the northwest coast, which is also a major breeding area for sea turtles (mainly leatherbacks) and other wildlife.The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, though moderated by northeast trade winds along the coast.The region known as "the Guianas" consists of the large shield landmass north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River known as the "land of many waters".Originally inhabited by many indigenous groups, Guyana was settled by the Dutch before coming under British control in the late 18th century.After the British assumed control in 1796, Since its Independence in 1824 Venezuela has claimed the area of land to the west of the Essequibo River.Simón Bolívar wrote to the British government warning against the Berbice and Demerara settlers settling on land which the Venezuelans, as assumed heirs of Spanish claims on the area dating to the sixteenth century, claimed was theirs.The four longest rivers are the Essequibo at 1,010 kilometres (628 mi) long, the Courantyne River at 724 kilometres (450 mi), the Berbice at 595 kilometres (370 mi), and the Demerara at 346 kilometres (215 mi).The Corentyne river forms the border with Suriname.