Suriname


Suriname
/soor"euh nahm', -nam'/; Du. /syuu'rddee nah"meuh/, n.
a republic on the NE coast of South America: formerly a territory of the Netherlands; gained independence 1975. 443,446; 60,230 sq. mi. (155,995 sq. km). Cap.: Paramaribo.
Also, Surinam /soor"euh nahm', -nam'/. Formerly, Dutch Guiana, Netherlands Guiana.

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Suriname

Introduction Suriname -
Background: Independence from the Netherlands was granted in 1975. Five years later the civilian government was replaced by a military regime that soon declared a socialist republic. It continued to rule through a succession of nominally civilian administrations until 1987, when international pressure finally forced a democratic election. In 1989, the military overthrew the civilian government, but a democratically-elected government returned to power in 1991. Geography Suriname
Location: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between French Guiana and Guyana
Geographic coordinates: 4 00 N, 56 00 W
Map references: South America
Area: total: 163,270 sq km land: 161,470 sq km water: 1,800 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Georgia
Land boundaries: total: 1,707 km border countries: Brazil 597 km, French Guiana 510 km, Guyana 600 km
Coastline: 386 km
Maritime claims: exclusive economic zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: tropical; moderated by trade winds
Terrain: mostly rolling hills; narrow coastal plain with swamps
Elevation extremes: lowest point: unnamed location in the coastal plain -2 m highest point: Juliana Top 1,230 m
Natural resources: timber, hydropower, fish, kaolin, shrimp, bauxite, gold, and small amounts of nickel, copper, platinum, iron ore
Land use: arable land: 0.37% permanent crops: 0.06% note: there are 95,000 hectares of arable land, 7,000 hectares of permanent crops, and 15,000 hectares of permanent pastures (1998 est.) other: 99.57%
Irrigated land: 490 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: NA Environment - current issues: deforestation as timber is cut for export; pollution of inland waterways by small-scale mining activities Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: smallest independent country on South American continent; mostly tropical rain forest; great diversity of flora and fauna that, for the most part, is increasingly threatened by new development; relatively small population, mostly along the coast People Suriname -
Population: 436,494 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 31.1% (male 69,642; female 66,262) 15-64 years: 63.1% (male 140,745; female 134,494) 65 years and over: 5.8% (male 11,480; female 13,871) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.55% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 19.97 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 5.67 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -8.82 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/ female total population: 1.03 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 23.48 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.9 years female: 74.7 years (2002 est.) male: 69.23 years
Total fertility rate: 2.44 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 1.26% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 3,000 (1999 est.)
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 210 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Surinamer(s) adjective: Surinamese
Ethnic groups: Hindustani (also known locally as "East Indians"; their ancestors emigrated from northern India in the latter part of the 19th century) 37%, Creole (mixed white and black) 31%, Javanese 15%, "Maroons" (their African ancestors were brought to the country in the 17th and 18th centuries as slaves and escaped to the interior) 10%, Amerindian 2%, Chinese 2%, white 1%, other 2%
Religions: Hindu 27.4%, Muslim 19.6%, Roman Catholic 22.8%, Protestant 25.2% (predominantly Moravian), indigenous beliefs 5%
Languages: Dutch (official), English (widely spoken), Sranang Tongo (Surinamese, sometimes called Taki-Taki, is native language of Creoles and much of the younger population and is lingua franca among others), Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Javanese
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 93% male: 95% female: 91% (1995 est.) Government Suriname -
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Suriname conventional short form: Suriname local short form: Suriname former: Netherlands Guiana, Dutch Guiana local long form: Republiek Suriname
Government type: constitutional democracy
Capital: Paramaribo Administrative divisions: 10 districts (distrikten, singular - distrikt); Brokopondo, Commewijne, Coronie, Marowijne, Nickerie, Para, Paramaribo, Saramacca, Sipaliwini, Wanica
Independence: 25 November 1975 (from Netherlands)
National holiday: Independence Day, 25 November (1975)
Constitution: ratified 30 September 1987
Legal system: based on Dutch legal system incorporating French penal theory
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN (since 12 August 2000); Vice President Jules Rattankoemar AJODHIA (since 12 August 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: President Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN (since 12 August 2000); Vice President Jules Rattankoemar AJODHIA (since 12 August 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president from among the members of the National Assembly elections: president and vice president elected by the National Assembly or, if no presidential or vice presidential candidate receives a constitutional majority in the National Assembly after two votes, by the larger People's Assembly (869 representatives from the national, local, and regional councils), for five-year terms; election last held 6 May 2000 (next to be held NA May 2005) election results: Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN elected president by the National Assembly; percent of legislative vote - Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN 72.5%; Rashied DOEKHIE (NDP) 19.6%; total votes cast - Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN (New Front) 37 votes, Rashied DOEKHIE (NDP) 10 votes note: widespread demonstrations during the summer of 1999 led to the call for elections a year early
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Nationale Assemblee (51 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - NF 33, MC 10, DNP 2000 3, DA '91 2, PVF 2, PALU 1 note: widespread demonstrations during the summer of 1999 led to the call for elections a year early elections: last held 5 May 2000 (next to be held NA May 2005)
Judicial branch: Court of Justice (justices are nominated for life) Political parties and leaders: Democratic Alternative '91 or DA '91 (a coalition of the Alternative Forum or AF and Party for Brotherhood and Unity in Politics or BEP, formed in January 1991) [S. RAMKHELAWAN]; Democratic National Platform 2000 or DNP 2000 (coalition of two parties, Democratic Party and Democrats of the 21st Century) [Jules WIJDENBOSCH]; Independent Progressive Democratic Alternative or OPDA [Joginder RAMKHILAWAN]; Millennium Combination or MC (a coalition of three parties, Democratic Alternative, Party for National Unity and Solidarity, and National Democratic Party) [leader NA]; National Democratic Party or NDP [Desire BOUTERSE]; Naya Kadam or NK [leader NA]; Party for Renewal and Democracy or BVD [Tjan GOBARDHAN]; Party of National Unity and Solidarity or KTPI [Willy SOEMITA]; Pertjaja Luhur [Paul SOMOHARDJO]; Progressive Workers' and Farm Laborers' Union or PALU [Ir Iwan KROLIS]; The New Front or NF (a coalition of four parties Suriname National Party or NPS, Progressive Reform Party or VHP, Suriname Labor Party or SPA, and Pertjaja Luhur) [Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN]; The Progressive Development Alliance (a combination of three parties, Renewed Progressive Party or HPP, Party of the Federation of Land Workers or PVF, and Suriname Progressive People's Party or PSV) [Harry KISOENSINGH] Political pressure groups and General Liberation and Development
leaders: Party or ABOP [Ronnie BRUNSWIJK]; Mandela Bushnegro Liberation Movement [Leendert ADAMS]; Tucayana Amazonica [Alex JUBITANA, Thomas SABAJO]; Union for Liberation and Democracy [Kofi AFONGPONG] International organization ACP, Caricom, ECLAC, FAO, G-77,
participation: IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDB, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OIC, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Henry Lothar ILLES FAX: [1] (202) 244-5878 consulate(s) general: Miami telephone: [1] (202) 244-7488 chancery: Suite 460, 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Daniel
US: A. JOHNSON embassy: Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat 129, Paramaribo mailing address: Department of State, 3390 Paramaribo Place, Washington, DC, 20521-3390 telephone: [597] 472900 FAX: [597] 420800
Flag description: five horizontal bands of green (top, double width), white, red (quadruple width), white, and green (double width); there is a large, yellow, five-pointed star centered in the red band Economy Suriname
Economy - overview: The economy is dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounts for more than 15% of GDP and 70% of export earnings. Suriname's economic prospects for the medium term will depend on renewed commitment to responsible monetary and fiscal policies and to the introduction of structural reforms to liberalize markets and promote competition. The government of Ronald VENETIAAN has begun an austerity program, raised taxes, and attempted to control spending. The Dutch Government has restarted the aid flow, which will allow Suriname to access international development financing.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $1.5 billion (2000 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: -5.5% (2000 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $3,500 (2000 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 13% industry: 22% services: 65% (1998 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 59% (2000)
Labor force: 100,000 Labor force - by occupation: agriculture NA%, industry NA%, services NA%
Unemployment rate: 20% (1997)
Budget: revenues: $393 million expenditures: $403 million, including capital expenditures of $34 million (1997 est.)
Industries: bauxite and gold mining, alumina production, oil, lumbering, food processing, fishing Industrial production growth rate: 6.5% (1994 est.) Electricity - production: 1.407 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 35.82% hydro: 64.18% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 1.309 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: paddy rice, bananas, palm kernels, coconuts, plantains, peanuts; beef, chickens; forest products; shrimp
Exports: $399 million (f.o.b., 2000)
Exports - commodities: alumina, crude oil, lumber, shrimp and fish, rice, bananas
Exports - partners: US 23%, Norway 19%, Netherlands 11%, France, Japan, UK (1999)
Imports: $525 million (f.o.b., 1999)
Imports - commodities: capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, consumer goods
Imports - partners: US 35%, Netherlands 15%, Trinidad and Tobago 12%, Japan, UK, Brazil (1999)
Debt - external: $512 million (2000 est.) Economic aid - recipient: Netherlands provided $37 million for project and program assistance, European Development Fund $4 million, Belgium $2 million (1998)
Currency: Surinamese guilder (SRG)
Currency code: SRG
Exchange rates: Surinamese guilders per US dollar - 2,178.50 (2001), 2,178.50 (2000), 987.50 (1999), 401.00 (1998), 401.00 (1997); note - yearend rates note: beginning in July 1994, the central bank midpoint exchange rate was unified and became market determined; during 1998, the exchange rate splintered into four distinct rates; in January 1999 the government floated the guilder, but subsequently fixed it when the black-market rate plunged; the government currently allows trading within a band of SRG 500 around the official rate
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Suriname - Telephones - main lines in use: 64,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 4,090 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: international facilities are good domestic: microwave radio relay network international: satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 13, shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: 300,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 3 (plus seven repeaters) (2000)
Televisions: 63,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .sr Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2 (2000)
Internet users: 11,700 (2001) Transportation Suriname -
Railways: total: 166 km (single-track) standard gauge: 80 km 1.435-m gauge note: Suriname railroads are not in operation (2001) narrow gauge: 86 km 1.000-m gauge
Highways: total: 4,530 km paved: 1,178 km unpaved: 3,352 km (1996)
Waterways: 1,200 km note: most important means of transport; oceangoing vessels with drafts ranging up to 7 m can navigate many of the principal waterways
Ports and harbors: Albina, Moengo, New Nickerie, Paramaribo, Paranam, Wageningen
Merchant marine: total: 3 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 3,432 GRT/4,525 DWT ships by type: cargo 1, container 1, petroleum tanker 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 46 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 5 over 3,047 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 1 under 914 m: 4 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 41 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 5 under 914 m: 35 (2001) Military Suriname -
Military branches: National Army (including small Navy and Air Force elements), Civil Police Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 123,072 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 72,059 (2002 est.)
service: Military expenditures - dollar $NA
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.6% (FY97 est.)
GDP: Transnational Issues Suriname - Disputes - international: area disputed by French Guiana between Riviere Litani and Riviere Marouini (both headwaters of the Lawa); area disputed by Guyana between New (Upper Courantyne) and Courantyne/Koetari [Kutari] rivers (all headwaters of the Courantyne); territorial sea boundary with Guyana is in dispute
Illicit drugs: growing transshipment point for South American drugs destined for Europe and Brazil; transshipment point for arms-for-drugs dealing

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officially Republic of Suriname formerly Dutch Guiana

Country, north-central South America.

Area: 63,251 sq mi (163,820 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 436,000. Capital: Paramaribo. The population includes East Indians, Creoles, Javanese, and smaller groups of Africans, Chinese, South American Indians, and Dutch. Languages: Dutch (official), English, Sranan (a creole), Hindi. Religions: Christianity; also Hinduism and Islam. Currency: Suriname guilder. The country has a low, narrow coastal plain, with inland savannas, a forested plateau region, and mountain ranges. Seven major rivers, including the Courantyne, Maroni, and Suriname, cross it to empty into the Atlantic. Bauxite mining, aluminum production, and agriculture are the largest sectors of the economy. Exports include rice, bananas, sugarcane, oranges, and shrimp. Suriname is a republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. It was inhabited by various South American Indian peoples prior to European settlement. Spanish explorers claimed it in 1593, but the Dutch began to settle there in 1602, followed by the English in 1651. It was ceded to the Dutch in 1667, and in 1682 the Dutch West India Company introduced coffee and sugarcane plantations and African slaves to cultivate them. Slavery was abolished in 1863, and indentured servants were brought from China, Java, and India to work the plantations, adding to the ethnic mix of the country. Except for brief interludes of British rule (1799–1802, 1804–15), it remained a Dutch colony. It gained internal autonomy in 1954 and independence in 1975. A military coup in 1980 ended civilian control until the electorate approved a new constitution in 1987. Military control resumed after a coup in 1990. Elections were held in 1992, and civilian democratic government returned. The economy languished throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century.

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▪ 2009

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 516,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
President Ronald Venetiaan, assisted by Prime Minister Ram Sardjoe

      Although GDP growth figures were lowered during the final quarter of 2008, Suriname enjoyed a modestly successful year in both political and economic terms. Pres. Ronald Venetiaan, an experienced political navigator, managed to keep his querulous seven-party coalition intact. Tensions were eased following the decisions by two former leaders of the country—dictator and accused murderer Dési Bouterse and the infamously inept president Jules Wijdenbosch—to withdraw from the presidential campaign, opening the door for the opposition parties to coalesce into a new coalition, the National Democratic Platform. Bouterse's trial was again delayed.

      The external debt ratio was the third lowest in the Caribbean area. Production from onshore oil fields reached the level of domestic consumption. Agriculture, with the exception of the troubled rice industry, performed well. Investment in the key mining sector was mixed. BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, withdrew its major plan to develop bauxite extraction from western Suriname. This might be offset, however, by a potential new investment by the Canadian-based enterprise IAMGOLD Corp. Despite the work of a competent justice minister, long-entrenched narcotics-empowered organized crime and illegal gold mining maintained their grip on the underground economy.

      In the realm of foreign affairs, friction persisted with neighbouring Guyana over a long-standing border dispute regarding the Courantyne River. The level of tension had been reduced significantly, however, following the settlement in 2007 of a more contentious maritime zone dispute with Guyana.

John W. Graham

▪ 2008

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 510,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
President Ronald Venetiaan, assisted by Prime Minister Ram Sardjoe

      Suriname received the verdict in September 2007 of the UN Law of the Sea tribunal with widespread dismay, including calls from opposition leaders for Pres. Ronald Venetiaan's resignation. The tribunal awarded neighbouring Guyana most of the legal points at issue and 65% of the contested maritime area containing potentially valuable oil and natural gas deposits. The judgment arose from the expulsion of a Canadian rig from the disputed waters by Surinamese gunboats seven years earlier.

      Otherwise, Suriname enjoyed comfortable, if unspectacular, progress on many fronts, with improvements in its credit rating, tax revenue, and trade surplus. Aid flows continued from donors generally satisfied with President Venetiaan's stewardship. Revenue from oil, bananas, and alumina was up, while profits from rice were down, along with other agricultural production adversely affected by serious flooding in April.

 President Venetiaan continued to successfully finesse the seven fractious parties that constituted his Nieuw Front coalition. The country's GDP increase was just above 5%, slightly higher than the average for Latin America. Transparency International promoted Suriname to 72nd position from 90th out of 180 countries on its corruption index. The endemic challenges related to money laundering and narcotics linked to organized crime remained, however. Tensions rose in Paramaribo at year's end with the approach of the long-awaited murder trial of former dictator and opposition leader Dési Bouterse.

John W. Graham

▪ 2007

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 502,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
President Ronald Venetiaan, assisted by Prime Minister Ram Sardjoe

      Pres. Ronald Venetiaan continued in 2006 to steer a prudent course through a difficult political landscape in Suriname. Buoyed by high earnings from bauxite, gold, and offshore oil as well as improving returns from several state enterprises, GDP sustained 5% growth. The state looked increasingly to offshore and onshore oil exploration to offset negative expectations for the rice industry. The prospect of significant new oil exploration drew closer with the approaching settlement under United Nations auspices of a long-standing maritime-zone dispute with Guyana. Pleased with Venetiaan's stewardship, external investors and donors made substantial contributions and commitments to economic development.

      Modest success did not come easily. Wage demands from a bloated public-service sector threatened to release inflationary pressures. Severe flooding in May and June seriously affected Bush Negro settlements in the interior. A large underground economy continued to flourish. Controlled largely by organized crime syndicates, the central activity was the export of cocaine to Europe and North America. Gold smuggling remained a “traditional” activity.

      A further challenge to President Venetiaan's management was the composition of his governing coalition, which comprised seven parties, each drawing on separate ethnic and labour constituencies. This intrinsically fragile coalition was kept intact by presidential skill and the prospect of the political alternative—former dictator Dési Bouterse, an indicted narcotics trafficker and accused murderer.

John W. Graham

▪ 2006

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 493,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
President Ronald Venetiaan, assisted by Prime Ministers Jules Rattankoemar Ajodhia and, from August 12, Ram Sardjoe

      The dominant event of 2005 in Suriname was the reelection of Pres. Ronald Venetiaan to a third term in office. His solid record included an increase in GDP and a significant decline in inflation, which had been reduced from 82% to 9% during the previous five years. Growth and a favourable trade balance were attributed to bauxite receipts, a prosperous Canadian gold mine, and an increase in tourism. In addition, stable financial management and the privatization of several agricultural enterprises encouraged increased foreign investment.

 Less encouraging was the paper-thin margin by which Venetiaan was returned to office. His New Front coalition lost one-third of its seats, mostly to the New Democratic Party of former police sergeant and dictator Desi Bouterse, and governed with an enlarged but less-cohesive coalition. Though Bouterse faced murder charges for having assassinated political opponents in 1982, he controlled approximately 30% of the legislature. Gains were also made by the party representing the Bush Negroes (descendants of escaped slaves), including the election of Ronnie Brunswijk, the former Bush Negro commander in the civil war and convicted drug smuggler.

      The outlook for settlement of the long-standing offshore border dispute with Guyana improved, with arbitration scheduled to terminate in 2007. Less promising was resolution of an additional dispute with Guyana involving the border demarcation along the Courantyne River. Another dark note was the magnitude of the drug-trafficking trade. Suriname remained a major transshipment base for South American cocaine destined for Europe.

John W. Graham

▪ 2005

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 437,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
President Ronald Venetiaan, assisted by Prime Minister Jules Rattankoemar Ajodhia

      In 2004 Suriname enjoyed another good year, with growth near 5%. This was the second buoyant year in a row after prolonged periods of maladministration that had followed the civil conflict of the 1980s. A flourishing underground economy, a Chinese-backed palm-oil project, and a new gold mine, funded by Canadian entrepreneurs, fueled the economy, along with steady returns from the staple bauxite industry.

      Pres. Ronald Venetiaan's skill, together with uncharacteristic trade-union restraint, helped contain spiraling wage demands and corrosive inflation levels. Equally successful was the conversion of the Suriname guilder to the Suriname dollar, which reinforced foreign-exchange-rate stabilization. The government of The Netherlands, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other donors responded positively with development programs.

      Despite a much-improved outlook for Suriname, problems remained. The government was unable to cut back thriving criminal industries in drugs, gold smuggling, and human trafficking; no solution was in sight for the maritime boundary dispute with Guyana that was blocking Guyana's oil exploration; and polls suggested that President Venetiaan's two major rivals for the 2005 presidential elections had overtaken him in popular support. This news was galling for Venetiaan; the two contenders were former military dictator Dési Bouterse and former president Jules Wijdenbosch, both of whom had managed corrupt and incompetent administrations.

John W. Graham

▪ 2004

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 435,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
President Ronald Venetiaan, assisted by Prime Minister Jules Rattankoemar Ajodhia

      Showing resolve and unusual fiscal discipline, Pres. Ronald Venetiaan in 2003 lifted Suriname out of the largely self-inflicted slump of 2002. Holding the line on civil-service wages was a key factor in an environment in which pressures from the public sector had traditionally led to destabilization. This policy was reinforced by measures to raise taxes and introduce rules to strengthen the regulatory framework of the country's banks. Continued support was provided by the principal donors, the Inter-American Development Bank and the government of The Netherlands. Moreover, Venetiaan's loose four-party coalition continued to hold together. A contract for the industrialized extraction of gold was expected to divert income to the government from a largely informal and tax-resistant sector.

      Other sectors were less resilient. Bauxite production was down, and the public-service sector remained extravagantly bloated. In addition, the government supported 110 parastatal corporations, of which only 4 showed a profit.

      Of equal long-term concern was the political ambition of former dictator Dési Bouterse, who, although convicted by a Dutch court on narcotics charges and facing charges for crimes against humanity, demonstrated that he was Suriname's only charismatic leader and that he had retained widespread political support.

John W. Graham

▪ 2003

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 436,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
President Ronald Venetiaan, assisted by Prime Minister Jules Rattankoemar Ajodhia

      The modest successes that had characterized Pres. Ronald Venetiaan's first two years in office became mostly wistful memories in 2002. Key to a disquieting range of political and economic difficulties was the government's failure to curb a sharply rising fiscal deficit. Substantial pay increases fueled inflation, increased depreciation of the Suriname guilder, and apparently provoked the IMF into seeking the preparation of a revised government budget. Agriculture—traditionally important for both employment and foreign exchange—suffered owing to the closure of the commercial banana industry and the loss of the key Jamaican market for rice. The vast informal economy of narcotics smuggling and ecologically corrosive mining, fish poaching, and timber cutting continued to resist government control measures while creating hazards for potentially productive new industrial-scale bauxite and gold projects.

      Although Venetiaan's faltering stewardship shook the confidence of citizens and members of his four-party New Front Coalition, the coalition's parliamentary majority appeared solid and almost attractive when viewed against the mismanagement of former president Jules Wijdenbosch and former military dictator Dési Bouterse.

      Though bright spots were few, positive signs included mining and palm-oil enterprises, continuing and significant disbursements by major donors, and slow but ongoing discussions with Guyana to open up joint exploration for oil and gas.

John W. Graham

▪ 2002

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 434,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
President Ronald Venetiaan

      Into his second year of government in 2001, Pres. Ronald Venetiaan brought some improved fiscal and economic stability to Suriname, which was still recovering from the 1986–92 civil conflict that destructively polarized the coastal and interior cultures. He wrestled too with the chaotic economic legacy of his predecessor, Jules Wijdenbosch. Under Venetiaan's guidance, the currency had responded to corrective measures, inflation had been reduced, the armed forces had been largely depoliticized, and loans to underpin health, education, and social programs had been negotiated with The Netherlands and the Inter-American Development Bank. Disruptive frontier disputes with neighbouring Guyana had been positively addressed, while an expansion of oil production was anticipated.

      Key to Venetiaan's modest success was his ability to keep his fragile New Front coalition of four political parties intact in the face of major challenges, notably a towering fiscal deficit, a robust informal economy of illegal mining and narcotics smuggling, a swollen and diet-resistant public service, and the pressures of an accelerating global downturn on traditional export earnings, including bauxite and rice.

      Although issues such as land rights and natural resources in the interior remained unresolved, the country marked a formal celebration in Paramaribo in July to commemorate the successful eight-year Organization of American States mission to assist Suriname in finding “durable peace” and strengthening “institutions and democratic order.”

John W. Graham

▪ 2001

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 431,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
Presidents Jules Wijdenbosch and, from August 12, Ronald Venetiaan

      The political and economic landscape in Suriname brightened with the victory of Ronald Venetiaan's New Front (NF) in the May 25, 2000, legislative elections. A critical two-thirds majority victory enabled NF members in the National Assembly to elect Venetiaan president on August 4. Venetiaan, who had served as president from 1991 to 1996, would have to deal with high inflation, a deteriorating economy, and the fallout from a succession of political crises.

      A long-term and intractable problem was the powerful drug trade, which had corrupted many in business, government, and the security forces. Although some drug charges against 1980 coup leader Dési Bouterse were dismissed on appeal, a court in The Netherlands confirmed a cocaine-smuggling conviction. Bouterse, who headed the largest opposition group in the National Assembly, had not been extradited. Other challenges for Venetiaan included illegal gold and lumber extraction and two ongoing border-dispute stalemates with neighbouring Guyana. On the positive side were the expected renewal of Dutch aid, high prices for alumina (semiprocessed bauxite), and promising onshore oil fields.

      Surinamese politician Henck Arron, who led the nation to independence from The Netherlands, died on December 4. (See Obituaries (Arron, Henck ).)

John W. Graham

▪ 2000

Area:
163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 415,000
Capital:
Paramaribo
Head of state and government:
President Jules Wijdenbosch

      Politics, economics, and cocaine dominated the headlines in Suriname in 1999. Consumer prices soared, and the value of the Suriname guilder worsened from about 1,400 to 1,700 to the U.S. dollar. Officials blamed the local drug lords; in early May, after Dutch police intercepted 700 kg (about 1,540 lb) of cocaine shipped from Suriname, the traffickers were desperate to acquire dollars to cover their losses.

      In mid-July Dési Bouterse, the former (1980–87) military dictator, was convicted in absentia by a court in The Hague and sentenced to serve 16 years in prison and pay fines of more than $2 million for having led an international cocaine-smuggling ring during and after his tenure. Bouterse nonetheless remained the most powerful politician in the country and had been reelected earlier in the year to head the National Democratic Party, the senior partner in the ruling coalition. Bouterse fell out with Pres. Jules Wijdenbosch, however, and withdrew his support for the coalition. Wijdenbosch fired his Cabinet on May 28 but lost a vote of confidence in the National Assembly on June 1. The National Assembly called for Wijdenbosch to resign, but he insisted that the legislature lacked authority to force him out. Instead, he called for an early general election, no later than May 25, 2000.

Editor

▪ 1999

      Area: 163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 418,000

      Capital: Paramaribo

      Head of state and government: President Jules Wijdenbosch

      On May 5, 1998, details from a report by the International Monetary Fund, previously kept secret by the Suriname government, were leaked. In the report Suriname was declared to be "practically bankrupt."

      Legal proceedings began on May 5 against the suspects in the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government on Oct. 25, 1997. The defendants were mainly low-ranking soldiers who felt they had been underpaid throughout the civil war, but motives for the coup attempt remained unclear. The soldiers were found guilty and on August 14 received prison sentences.

      Protest marches against the government of Pres. Jules Wijdenbosch took place on June 24. The protesters were reacting to a government decision to privatize the state-owned oil companies. Workers at the oil companies also staged strikes.

      In June Suriname announced plans to establish a nature reserve carved out of its vast Amazonian rain forest. The reserve covered 16,000 sq km (4,000,000 ac), roughly 12% of Suriname's territory. A Washington, D.C.-based environmental group, Conservation International, worked in conjunction with Suriname to develop the preserve. The group also raised $1 million for management costs. Suriname hoped that industries such as ecotourism and sales of forest products would boost its ailing economy and improve its image abroad.

KLAAS J. HOEKSEMA

▪ 1998

      Area: 163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 424,000

      Capital: Paramaribo

      Head of state and government: President Jules Wijdenbosch

      On April 28, 1997, The Netherlands declared that it would prosecute the former military dictator of Suriname, Dési Bouterse. At the time, Bouterse was the president of the main government party, the National Democratic Party, to which Pres. Jules Wijdenbosch also belonged, and was considered by most to be the power behind the throne in Suriname. Bouterse was suspected of being one of the leaders of the so-called Suriname Drug Cartel and was to be charged for trafficking in cocaine on a large scale. Interpol issued a request for his arrest. Probably as a reaction to this accusation against Bouterse, President Wijdenbosch created for him the position of adviser of the state, which gave him a diplomatic passport. On August 25 President Wijdenbosch discharged his minister of finance, Motilal (Atta) Mungra, for refusing to adhere to the policy of increasing government spending and inflationary financing. In response, the Hindustan Party of Mungra withdrew from the government coalition, which then held only 22 seats of the 51 in the National Assembly. Many feared that this crisis could be a prelude to the formal return to power of Bouterse as the so-called rescuer of the country.

      On October 26 Wijdenbosch announced that the police and the army had foiled an attempted coup. Arrested were 5 civilians and 12 low-ranking soldiers disgruntled with economic, not political, conditions.

KLAAS J. HOEKSEMA

▪ 1997

      The republic of Suriname is in northern South America, on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi), not including a 17,635-sq km area disputed with Guyana. Pop. (1996 est.): 436,000. Cap.: Paramaribo. Monetary unit: Suriname guilder, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 410 guilders to U.S. $1 (645.87 guilders = £1 sterling). Presidents in 1996, Ronald Venetiaan until May 23 and, from September 5, Jules Wijdenbosch; chairman of the Council of Ministers from September 21, Pretaap Radhakishun.

      General elections for the National Assembly were held on May 23, 1996. The main opposition party in the elections was the National Democratic Party (NDP), led by former military dictator Dési Bouterse. The outcome of the election was inconclusive. The New Front, a coalition of four parties that formed the government, won 45% of the vote and 24 seats in the Assembly, 6 fewer than in 1991 and 10 seats short of the two-thirds needed to appoint a president and to form a government. The NDP won 16 seats (a gain of 4 and 26% of the votes). Immediately after the election Pres. Ronald Venetiaan rejected an offer from Bouterse to form a coalition with the NDP, and he began coalition talks with some smaller parties.

      On August 1 the buildings of the National Assembly and the Office of Foreign Affairs burned down. In this disaster almost all national political and historical archives were lost. This was the fifth destructive fire of an important government building since 1990.

      On August 7 and 8 the new Assembly did not succeed in two elections to appoint a president. Venetiaan each time got only 23 of the 51 votes, and Jules Wijdenbosch, Bouterse's right-hand man, got 24. On September 5 Wijdenbosch was elected the new president of Suriname by a convention of representatives of all districts (such a convention becomes necessary when the Assembly, after two efforts, has not been able to elect a president).

      (KLAAS J. HOEKSEMA)

▪ 1996

      The republic of Suriname is in northern South America, on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi), not including a 17,635-sq km area disputed with Guyana. Pop. (1995 est.): 430,000. Cap.: Paramaribo. Monetary unit: Suriname guilder, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 492 guilders to U.S. $1 (777.80 guilders = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Ronald Venetiaan; prime minister, Jules Adjodhia.

      On Jan. 10, 1995, information was leaked that Dési Bouterse, former military leader and president of Suriname, had shared in the bribes from Dutch trade companies that in 1993 had cost several high-ranking officials their jobs. Despite these charges, Bouterse announced in February that he was preparing for a political comeback in the presidential elections of 1996.

      For the first time after a long period of recession, signs of economic recovery were seen in June. The new president of the central bank, Andre Telting, received much of the credit for this. By ending inflationary financing, he succeeded in reducing the inflation rate, which in the previous year had reached a record 470%.

      A meeting of Amerindian and Bush Negro leaders took place in August; both groups lived in the interior of Suriname. Two items were on the agenda: the disturbance of the environment by a Canadian gold-mining company and by an Indonesian logging firm and the lack of a welfare policy for the two generally impoverished groups. During the meeting a new organization, the Higher Authority in the Rural territories (HGB), was formed. The HGB demanded that no more concessions for gold mining and logging be granted in the interior region.

      On November 25, Suriname celebrated 20 years of independence from The Netherlands. (KLAAS J. HOEKSEMA)

▪ 1995

      The republic of Suriname is in northern South America, on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi), not including a 17,635-sq km area disputed with Guyana. Pop. (1994 est.): 423,000. Cap.: Paramaribo. Monetary unit: Suriname guilder, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a floating rate (introduced July 11) of 183.49 guilders to U.S. $1 (291.85 guilders = £ 1 sterling). President in 1994, Ronald Venetiaan; prime minister, Jules Adjodhia.

      On Jan. 3, 1994, a high-ranked officer of the army was arrested for suspicion of trafficking in cocaine. Two days later he was released for lack of proof. It was not the first indication of the involvement of the Suriname military with the cocaine trade. In May and June a Dutch antidrug team organized 81 house searches throughout the world in an effort to gain evidence of criminal activities by a former president of Suriname, Dési Bouterse. No action against Bouterse was initiated in Suriname because a treaty with The Netherlands had not been ratified by Suriname Pres. Ronald Venetiaan.

      On March 21 rebels of unclear affiliation occupied the Afobaka Dam and threatened to destroy it. Destruction of the dam could cut off power to Paramaribo, housing half of the country's population. The occupation was generally considered a consequence of the desperately poor living conditions in the rural regions. The rebels demanded the resignation of the government, better education for the rural areas, and decentralization of power. On March 25 government troops drove the rebels from the dam.

      (KLAAS J. HOEKSEMA)

▪ 1994

      The republic of Suriname is in northern South America, on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 163,820 sq km (63,251 sq mi), not including a 17,635-sq km area disputed with Guyana. Pop. (1993 est.): 405,000. Cap.: Paramaribo. Monetary unit: Suriname guilder, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a par value of 1.79 guilders to U.S. $1 (free rate of 2.72 guilders = £1 sterling). President in 1993, Ronald Venetiaan; prime minister, Jules Adjodhia.

      On April 5, 1993, Minister of Defense Siegfried Gilds appointed Col. Arthy Gorré as commander of the national army in an effort to restore discipline and democratic values in the army. The appointment led to mutiny and a threat of a new coup by some military factions. On May 12 the National Assembly sanctioned the appointment of Gorré and at the same time asked rebellious officers to resign. A few days later deputy commander Ivan Graanoogst, Badrissein Sital, and Chas Mijnals announced their resignation. All three had been important participants in the military regime of Dési Bouterse.

      On August 1 The Netherlands stopped its financial support to Suriname. This action followed a European Community report concluding that the government of Pres. Ronald Venetiaan had failed to restructure the economy and had caused a high rate of inflation.

      On August 8 Arti Jesserun, deputy chairman of the Suriname National Party, and Dilip Sardjoe, treasurer of the Progressive Reform Party (PRP; a Hindustani party), resigned their offices after they were accused of having taken bribes from Dutch trade companies. On November 8 Jaggernath Lachmon of the PRP escaped an attack, and shortly thereafter Sardjoe's property suffered damage. (KLAAS J. HOEKSEMA)

* * *

Introduction
officially  Republic of Suriname , Dutch  Republiek Suriname 
Suriname, flag of  country located on the northern coast of South America. Suriname is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the east by French Guiana, on the south by Brazil, and on the west by Guyana. It claims two disputed territories totaling some 6,800 square miles (17,612 square kilometres) in the southwest and southeast, bordering on Guyana and French Guiana, respectively. The capital is Paramaribo.

 Suriname is one of the smallest countries in South America. Formerly known as Dutch Guiana, it was a plantation colony of The Netherlands. Suriname gained its independence on Nov. 25, 1975.

The land

Relief and drainage
 The narrow coastal zone, some 226 miles (364 kilometres) long, consists of sandbanks and mudbanks deposited by the southern equatorial currents from the area surrounding the mouth of the Amazon River. South of the mudbanks begins the New Coastal Plain, also formed from sand and clay from the mouth of the Amazon. The region, covering some 6,600 square miles, consists of swampland. The soil of the swamps is clay, in which a great deal of peat has formed. The region is traversed by sandy ridges that run parallel to the coast. Suriname's most fertile soils occur in the inundated lands reclaimed by diking and drainage (polders), which are principally in the New Coastal Plain.

      South of the New Coastal Plain is the Old Coastal Plain, which covers some 1,550 square miles. It consists largely of fine clays and sands and contains a variety of topographies, including old ridges, clay flats, and swamps.

      South of the Old Coastal Plain is the Zanderij formation, a 40-mile-wide landscape of rolling hills. This formation rests on bleached sand sediments, rich in quartz. Most of the region is covered by tropical rain forest, but swamps and areas of savanna grassland are also found.

      Farther to the south is an area, covering some 80 percent of the country, that consists largely of a central mountain range, its various branches, and scattered hilly areas. The southern four-fifths of the country is almost entirely covered with tropical rain forest. In the southwest near the Brazilian border is the Sipaliwini Plain, another savanna area. The highest summit, at 4,035 feet (1,230 metres), is Juliana Top, in the Wilhelmina Mountains.

      Suriname's major rivers flow northward into the Atlantic. They include the Courantyne, which forms part of the boundary with Guyana, the Coppename, the Suriname, and the Maroni, which forms part of the border with French Guiana.

Climate
      Suriname has a tropical climate. The populated area in the north has four seasons: a minor rainy season from early December to early February, a minor dry season from early February to late April, a major rainy season from late April to mid-August, and a major dry season from mid-August to early December. Daytime temperatures in Paramaribo range between 73° and 88° F (23° and 31° C), with an annual average temperature of 81° F (27° C). In the interior, diurnal temperature extremes can vary by as much as 18° F (11° C). The range in average temperatures between the warmest month, September, and the coldest, January, is only 3° F (2° C). Rainfall is highest in the central and southeastern parts of the country. Annual rainfall averages 76 inches (1,930 millimetres) in the west and 95 inches in Paramaribo.

Plant and animal life
      The flora of the coastal area is better known than that of the interior. It consists of some 4,000 species of ferns and seed plants and a large number of mosses, weeds, and mildews. About 90 percent of Suriname's area is covered with heterogeneous tropical forest consisting of more than 1,000 species of trees. The baboen (Virola surinamensis), which grows in the coastal area, is used to make plywood. The kapok (Ceiba pentandra) reaches a height of more than 150 feet.

      There are some 150 species of mammals, including monkeys, wild pigs, deer, manatees, jaguars, ocelots, armadillos, sloths, and anteaters. The tapir is the largest land mammal. Reptiles include caimans, iguanas, and the boa constrictor. The beaches on the eastern part of the coast are breeding grounds for marine turtles, which are protected by law. About 650 species of birds, including hummingbirds, vultures, and parrots, have been identified. Some 350 species of fish occupy coastal and inland waters.

Settlement patterns
      Some 80 percent of the total population is concentrated in Paramaribo and the surrounding area. Small urban centres include Nieuw Nickerie, in the northwest near the Guyanese border; Albina, in the northeast on the border with French Guiana; Moengo, in the centre of the bauxite-mining region in northeastern Suriname; and Paranam, in the bauxite-mining and bauxite-processing region on the Suriname River south of Paramaribo. Small settlements of Bush Negroes (descendants of escaped African slaves) and South American Indians make up almost the entire population of the interior. Some Indian villages are located in the coastal area, and nomadic Indian tribes live along the Brazilian border in the south.

The people (Suriname)
      The so-called Hindustanis, or East Indians, descendants of contract labourers from India, are the largest ethnic group, with more than a third of the population. The second major ethnic group is the Creoles, people of African or mixed European and African descent, who make up about a third of the population. The descendants of Javanese contract labourers make up about 14 percent of the population. Bush Negroes constitute less than 10 percent of the population, and American Indians make up about 3 percent. Minor ethnic groups include descendants of Chinese, Jewish, Lebanese, Portuguese, and Dutch immigrants; Creoles from the West Indies; and a few North Americans.

      Dutch is the official language, but the extent to which members of the various ethnic groups are able to use the language differs. Most of the population learns Dutch as a second language. English is widely spoken. Additional languages include Sranan (Taki-Taki) and other creole languages; Sarnami, which originated from Hindi and Urdu; Javanese; and a number of American Indian languages.

      The principal religion is Christianity, imposed on the population by European colonizers. About a third of the Creoles are Protestant, and another third are Roman Catholic. The East Indians are predominantly Hindu. Most of the Javanese and a small East Indian group are Muslim. Judaism, present in Suriname since the early 16th century, is still practiced, and many of the Chinese are Confucians. African and native Indian religions are still widely practiced.

      The population has a relatively high rate of natural increase. Birth and death rates have decreased since the 1960s. About 40 percent of the population is under 15 years of age, and about 75 percent is under 30. After 1973, when it was announced that Suriname would become independent, a large number of people emigrated to The Netherlands. By 1980, according to some estimates, one-third of the population had left the country; many of those who left were professionals and skilled workers.

      With the rise in 1986 of a guerrilla movement, based in northeastern Suriname and enjoying widespread support among Bush Negroes, the National Army has carried out raids in the Bush Negro villages. The killing and detaining of a large number of Bush Negroes has resulted in the flight of some 10,000 to 12,000 of them to French Guiana.

The economy
      Suriname has a higher standard of living than many Latin-American countries. During the 1980s the economy experienced a decline, resulting mainly from falling export prices for bauxite and from a reduction in development aid from the United States and The Netherlands. This decline was marked by inflation, a growing budget deficit, and unemployment. Government expenditures account for almost half of total consumption. The civil service employs about 45 percent of the work force.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      Less than 1 percent of Suriname's land is arable, and about half of this is cultivated. Most of the farmland is on the New Coastal Plain. In this region drainage is necessary most of the year, owing to a surplus of precipitation. During dry periods evaporation exceeds precipitation, and irrigation is necessary.

      More than half of the cultivated land in Suriname is planted with rice, the basic food staple. There are two rice harvests every year, the principal one in the spring and a second crop in the autumn. Some rice is exported, as are bananas, citrus fruits, coconuts, and palm oil. Sugar, coffee, and cocoa, formerly important export items, are produced mainly for domestic consumption.

      Suriname has great timber resources, but they have not been fully exploited. Plywood and timber are exported. There is a small fishing industry, centred in Paramaribo, that exports shrimp to North America.

Industry
      The main industry in Suriname is the mining and processing of bauxite. Mines exist near Moengo, Paranam, and Overdacht. There are aluminum smelter and an alumina refinery in Paranam.

      The Brokopondo Dam and a hydroelectric power plant on the Suriname River produce electricity for the bauxite-refining operations in Paranam. The dam impounds the 600-square-mile W.J. van Blommestein Lake. The Suriname State Oil Company (Staatsolie) produces a limited amount of oil from wells in the Tambaredjo area.

      Apart from the bauxite and wood-processing industries, manufacturing is limited to small import-substitution enterprises. Processed foods, clothing, cigarettes, and construction material are produced for the domestic market.

Finance and trade
      Local banks and insurance companies either are subsidiaries of or cooperate with foreign companies, mostly from The Netherlands and the United States. Monetary policy is controlled by the minister of finance and the president of the Central Bank of Suriname (established 1957), the bank of issue.

      Bauxite, alumina, and aluminum account for almost three-fourths of total exports. Imports consist mostly of fuels, food products, capital goods, industrial products, and industrial raw materials. Suriname's main trade partners are the United States and The Netherlands.

Transportation
      Surface transport systems are for the most part limited to the coastal area. The East–West Highway connects Paramaribo with Albina on the eastern border and with Nieuw Nickerie on the western border. There is a road from Paramaribo to Afobaka near the Brokopondo Dam. Only one-fourth of the roads are paved. Rivers and canals are an important means of transport. The lower courses of the larger rivers are accessible to oceangoing vessels. Paramaribo is the chief port. Zanderij, the international airport, began operation in 1934.

Administration and social conditions

Government
      Under the 1987 constitution, legislative power is exercised by an elected 51-member National Assembly, which elects a president and vice president. The president, vice president, and members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms. The president is the chairman of a nonelective, military-influenced Council of State, which ensures that the government's actions conform to the law. It has constitutional powers to annul laws passed by the National Assembly. The judicial system consists of a Court of Justice and three cantonal courts.

Education
      Suriname's system of education is modeled on that of The Netherlands, and Dutch is the language of instruction. School attendance is compulsory for children up to age 12, and education at all levels is free. More than 90 percent of the children in the coastal areas attend primary school. Suriname has secondary schools, junior colleges, a teacher's college, and vocational and technical schools. The University of Suriname in Paramaribo, founded in 1968 and renamed the Anton de Kom University in 1980, has faculties of law, medicine, social science and economics, engineering, and natural resources.

Health and welfare
      Health conditions are relatively good in Suriname. Most tropical diseases are being combated effectively. Medical care in the interior is provided by the Foundation for Medical Mission of the Evangelical Brethren in Suriname, which operates medical centres in the main Bush Negro and American Indian settlements.

      Most of the population has health insurance. All collective labour agreements include medical care. The unemployed and workers in the informal sector, however, must obtain a “certificate of poverty” from the government to receive free medical care. Unemployment benefits and other social provisions are almost nonexistent.

Cultural life
      Suriname is a culturally divided society, with contact between its ethnic groups largely limited to the economic sphere. Fine arts, such as painting and sculpture, are primarily middle-class concerns dominated by Western—primarily Dutch—cultural standards.

      There is one government-owned television station (with one channel), as well as a government-owned radio station and a number of small commercial radio stations. There are a few government-owned publications and two privately owned daily newspapers.

History
      The Surinen (from whom the country's name derives) were the area's earliest known inhabitants. By the 16th century, however, the Surinen had been driven out by other American Indian groups. Europeans learned of Suriname (and other areas in the Guyana region) from Christopher Columbus, who sighted its coast in 1498. A Spanish expedition led by Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda sailed along the coast of Suriname in 1499, and the Spanish explorer Vicente Yáñez Pinzón visited the region in 1500. Settlements attempted by the Spanish, Dutch, British, and French during the first half of the 17th century all failed, in part because of resistance by the native Indian inhabitants.

      The first permanent settlement of Europeans in Suriname was established by a group of British planters and their slaves in 1651. In 1667 Suriname was seized by a Dutch fleet, and that year it was ceded to The Netherlands in exchange for Nieuw Amsterdam (New York). Except for the years 1799–1802 and 1804–15, when it was under British rule, Suriname remained part of The Netherlands until its independence in 1975.

      Suriname developed into a flourishing plantation colony after Dutch planters, driven out of Brazil from the mid-17th century, settled in the area. Sugar was the main export, and the production of coffee, cacao, cotton, indigo, and wood gained importance during the 18th century.

      Until the mid-19th century the majority of the population were slaves (slavery), mostly from the west coast of Africa. The small white population was mainly of Dutch origin. Jews, who had come from Portugal, Spain, and Italy, mainly by way of Brazil, made up one-third of the whites, and the remainder came mostly from France, Germany, and Great Britain.

      In 1853 Chinese and Madeiran contract labourers were brought to Suriname to work on the plantations. Many of these workers eventually became small-scale merchants. On July 1, 1863, slavery was abolished in Suriname. The former slaves, however, were placed under government supervision for a period of 10 years in order to perform labour under contract. Contract labourers from India (called East Indians) were recruited to replace the former slaves, and workers also came to Suriname from Java, Indon.

      Despite efforts to preserve plantation production, Suriname's position as an agricultural supplier declined. In 1916 Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America) began mining the country's newly discovered reserves of bauxite, the principal ore of aluminum. Later, especially after World War II, Dutch interest in Suriname revived, seen first in the arrival of the Dutch mining company Billiton in 1939. The Netherlands began to provide development aid to Suriname in 1948, the year in which talks on Suriname's internal political autonomy began.

      After World War II the issue of universal suffrage served as a catalyst for political mobilization. Political parties were set up, most of them organized along ethnic lines. The light-skinned Creole elite, who opposed universal suffrage, set up the Suriname National Party (Nationale Partij Suriname; NPS). The Progressive Suriname People's Party (Progressieve Suriname Volkspartij; PSV) organized the working-class Creoles. The East Indians and Indonesians were eventually grouped within the United Hindu Party (VHP; later called the Progressive Reform Party) and the Indonesian Peasants' Party (Kaum-Tani Persuatan Indonesia; KTPI), respectively. Universal suffrage was instituted in 1948.

      After Suriname was granted autonomy in its internal affairs in 1954, development aid from The Netherlands increased steadily. From 1964 onward Suriname, as an associate member of the European Economic Community (EEC), also received aid from the EEC's development fund. In spite of this aid, Suriname's rate of economic growth was strong only during the mid-1960s, when there were dramatic increases in the production of alumina and aluminum.

      The 1958 elections produced a coalition government of the NPS and the VHP. In 1961 the left-wing Nationalist Republican Party (Partij Nationalistische Republiek; PNR) was established. Among the East Indian population the Action Group (Aktie Groep) became active. A split occurred in the NPS–VHP coalition after the 1967 elections, which led to a coalition of the Action Group and the NPS, but in 1969 that government fell. A coalition was then formed by the VHP and the Progressive National Party (Progressieve Nationale Partij; PNP), which was set up by a group of intellectuals who had left the NPS.

      The National Party Alliance, a coalition of the NPS, the PSV, the KTPI, and the PNR, won the 1973 election. The PNR and most of the younger party leaders within the NPS favoured independence, as did the ruling socialist party in The Netherlands. Despite resistance from East Indians, who feared increased Creole domination, Suriname became independent on November 25, 1975.

      In the late 1970s Suriname's economy continued to stagnate. Unemployment was high, and most of the population had incomes at the minimum subsistence level. On February 25, 1980, after the government's refusal to sanction trade union activity within the armed forces, a group of noncommissioned army officers seized control of the government. The coup was welcomed by most of the population. The National Military Council (Nationale Militaire Raad; NMR), installed after the coup, called on the moderate wing of the PNR to form a Cabinet composed mostly of civilians. After the new Cabinet proclaimed that Suriname would return to democracy in two years, the Dutch government agreed to finance an emergency development program.

      After the military coup in 1980, government expenditures rose dramatically, particularly defense spending. The economy, moreover, steadily deteriorated, as a result of the suspension of foreign aid, the stagnation of private foreign investment, and the decline of the export (especially bauxite) sector. The country's domestic affairs continued to be strained, reflecting an uncertain and tense relationship between the military, with de facto power, and the nominal civilian government led by a president. The military leaders, initially without a clear political ideology, began to take a conciliatory approach toward left-wing radical factions close to the NMR, which led to the formation in August 1981 of the Revolutionary Front, headed by Lieutenant Colonel Dési Bouterse. The Front included the Revolutionary People's Party (Revolutionaire Volkspartij; RVP), the PNR, and some of the trade and farm workers' unions. By the following year, however, as military leaders showed few signs of willingness to surrender control, trade unions, business associations, and professional groups began to proclaim their discontent. The conflict reached a climax in December 1982 when 15 prominent civilians were executed. The Netherlands and the United States immediately suspended development aid. In February 1983 a left-wing coalition was able to form a government, but a strike in the vital bauxite industry and the threat of a general strike led to its dismissal by the military within one year.

      Raids by the Surinamese Liberation Army, a guerrilla group better known as the Jungle Commando (JC; consisting mainly of Bush Negroes), disrupted bauxite mining and led to the killing of many Bush Negro civilians by the National Army; thousands of Bush Negroes fled to French Guiana. The deteriorating economic and political situation forced the military to open a dialogue with the leaders of the principal political parties that had operated before the coup. In 1985 a National Assembly was formed; a new Cabinet of Ministers was installed the following year, and a new constitution was approved in a referendum on September 30, 1987. Elections held on November 25, 1987, resulted in the defeat of the political wing of the military. The Front for Democracy and Development (Front voor Democratic en Ontwikkeling; FDO), a coalition of the VHP, NPS, and KTPI, formed a new government.

      In 1988 the Suriname and French governments (the latter as the sovereign of neighbouring French Guiana) began peace negotiations with the JC on the repatriation of the Bush Negroes and the incorporation of the JC in the police force. An agreement signed in July 1989 was opposed by the military as well as by the Tucayana Amerindians, a group of native Indians armed by the military. On December 24, 1990, military leaders once again seized control of the government.

Henk E. Chin
      In response to political pressure from the United States, The Netherlands, France, and the Organization of American States, elections were held on May 25, 1991. The New Front for Democracy and Development, which included the old Front and the Suriname Labour Party (Surinaamse Partij van de Arbeid; SPA), won a majority of seats in the National Assembly and elected Ronald Venetiaan president. The new government quickly passed an act that officially deprived the military of all political power and in 1992 signed an agreement with the JC and the Tucayana regarding repatriation of Bush Negroes from French Guiana. Venetiaan sought to rein in both inflation and the budget deficit, but his reform efforts were hampered by a bloated bureaucracy and by cocaine trafficking, in which the Suriname military and former president Bouterse were implicated. Bouterse had retained broad appeal in Suriname; he served as president of the National Democratic Party (Nationale Democratische Partij; NDP) and was widely viewed as the real power behind Jules Wijdenbosch, who was elected president of the country in 1996.

      In 1997 the government of The Netherlands issued an arrest warrant for Bouterse on charges of drug smuggling, but Suriname failed to extradite him; in 1999 he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 16 years in prison. During Wijdenbosch's administration (1996–2000) Suriname was beset with economic problems—an International Monetary Fund report declared the country “practically bankrupt”—and a deterioration of social services. Facing protests, Wijdenbosch called early elections, and in 2000 Venetiaan returned to the presidency. Under his guidance, the economy improved, the armed forces were depoliticized, and loans were negotiated with The Netherlands and the Inter-American Development Bank to finance health, education, and social programs. Venetiaan was reelected president in 2005 in a special session of the National Assembly after no candidate claimed a two-thirds majority in the general elections. Tensions within the SPAstalled legislative progress, however. Moreover, in the early 21st century Suriname faced several seemingly intractable problems—among them a vast criminal economy that included drug trafficking and gold smuggling. The country also lost a longstanding maritime border dispute with neighbouring Guyana, which gained promising oil-rich zones from Suriname in the ruling.

Ed.

Additional Reading
An overview is provided by Henk E. Chin and Hans Buddingh', Surinam: Politics, Economics, and Society (1987). Radjnarain Mohanpersad Nannan Panday, Agriculture in Surinam, 1650–1940: An Inquiry into the Causes of Its Decline (1959), is a succinct analysis. Edward Dew, The Difficult Flowering of Surinam: Ethnicity and Politics in a Plural Society (1978), examines political history. Essays on Suriname's culture are collected in Albert Helman (ed.), Cultureel mozäiek van Suriname (1977). See also Gerard A. Nagelkerke, Suriname, a Bibliography, 1940–1980 (1980).Historical works include R.A.J. van Lier, Frontier Society: A Social Analysis of the History of Surinam (1971; originally published in Dutch, 2nd ed., 1971); and Cornelis Ch. Goslinga, A Short History of the Netherlands Antilles and Surinam (1979). See also Gerard A. Nagelkerke, Suriname, a Bibliography, 1940–1980 (1980).Henk E. Chin

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Universalium. 2010.

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