Developments at the Centre Spatial Guyanais (Guyanese Space Center) in Kourou tend to dominate the news in French Guiana, not least when the entire complex was taken over by a group of protestors in 2017 and a rocket launch was delayed. The group, calling itself 500 Frères (500 Brothers), was protesting both the low quality and the high cost of life in the overseas department, under the slogan 'pou lagwiyann dekole' (Creole for 'let Guiana take off'). Many locals feel that despite huge sums of money going into the space center here, there's very little concern for the average inhabitant of French Guiana, something made awkwardly apparent when President Emmanuel Macron referred to the region as an island, a gaffe that astonished and angered locals.
In a referendum in 2010, the population voted against increased autonomy from France, confirming French Guiana's long-term status as an overseas department. While this meant that European funds continued to flood in and that the region's position as the wealthiest and best developed of the Guianas was cemented, this was in stark contradiction to how many locals saw the situation. Industrial relations in French Guiana have been fraught ever since, with intermittent strikes, demonstrations and protests against social exclusion, poor education and joblessness.
Gold mining has become more prevalent around the country, particularly along the eastern Brazilian border. The government has been battling a massive illegal gold-mining industry – which involves the dumping of tons of polluting mercury into French Guiana's once-pristine rivers – with some success, but the logistics of managing so much jungle and the long, lonely borders of Suriname and Brazil make it an extremely challenging task.