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Suriname - Introduction

The total area is 163,270 square kilometers, and with a population of about 540,000, it is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Officially the Republic of Suriname, the country was traditionally spelled Surinam by the English who founded the first colony. The country is spelled "Suriname" in most languages. It's spelled "Surinam" in Scandinavia, but not in German, it's also spelled "Surinam" in Spanish, but not in Italian or French.

Julie Schwietert Collazo pretty much summed it up "A president accused of murder and convicted for drug smuggling. Rogue gold miners and outlaw timber harvesters, most of them foreigners drawn to the lawlessness. Roads that end two hours outside the capital, leaving travelers with the choice of either taking handmade canoes through rivers infested with anacondas, piranhas, and giardia or flying on prop planes with alarming safety records.... the man responsible for the most disturbing chapter in modern Suriname is not just alive, but the president.... the country is headed by a cocaine-trafficking fugitive accused of murder ..."

Suriname – a country whose people are among the most ethnically and religiously diverse in the world. Its citizens of African, Asian, European and indigenous descent, practicing Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and indigenous religions, live peacefully and productively together. The people of Suriname are heirs to a vast rainforest and other natural areas that are contributing great economic and environmental benefits to Suriname and to the world. Efforts to combat the dangers posed by pollution and the risks of climate change are tied to the conservation and health of such ecosystems.

Surinam (Dutch Guiana) was the chief supplier to the United States of bauxite and was the site of a strategic base during World War II. It has huge timber resources which have not been well developed. The country is still basically agricultural in its economy, but farming is restricted to the coastal plain and not well developed even there although the rich clay-lands are suitable for producing such important export products as rice, coffee and cocoa. The only industry of export importance, other than mining, is sawmilling and the manufacture of plywoods.

Surinam is one of the least developed of the Caribbean DOTS although it has some of the greatest potentialities of the area. It has insufficient roads, adequate irrigation and sanitation, and soil erosion control. The Netherlands and Surinam Governments have worked out a ten-year development plan and the International Bank has recently surveyed the economic potentialities of Surinam and has stated that it would consider sympathetically requests for financial assistance in connection with Surinam’s economic development plans. United States technical assistance will supplement both Dutch and Surinam economic development plans.

The diversity of its population—mainly East Indian, West Indian, Javanese, Bush Negro and Amerindian (Arawak Indian) complicates both the economic and social picture. Although many of the factors that were present in British Guiana exist in Surinam, Communism had not gained a stronghold. Its government is stable and friendly to the United States.

First explored by the Spaniards in the 16th century and then settled by the English in the mid-17th century, Suriname became a Dutch colony in 1667. With the abolition of African slavery in 1863, workers were brought in from India and Java. The Netherlands granted the colony independence in 1975. Five years later the civilian government was replaced by a military regime that soon declared a socialist republic.

In 1980 the government was overthrown by a military coup, and the constitution was suspended. Although there have been several changes in government structure and leadership since 1980, the country continues to be ruled by military decree. In 1984 a Supreme Council, composed of representives of the military, labor federations, and business organizations and chaired by the army commander, Desire D. Bouterse, was established. Although ultimate authority resides in the commander and in the military, there is also a Council of Ministers, composed of labor and business leaders and headed by the Minister-President, L.F. Ramdat-Misier. The government exerts considerable control over the news media.

It continued to exert control through a succession of nominally civilian administrations until 1987, when international pressure finally forced a democratic election. In 1990, the military overthrew the civilian leadership, but a democratically elected government - a four-party coalition - returned to power in 1991. The coalition expanded to eight parties in 2005 and ruled until August 2010, when voters returned former military leader Desire Bouterse and his opposition coalition to power. President Bouterse was reelected unopposed in 2015.

Vehicle accidents are a very real safety threat. In general, roads and driving conditions, particularly outside Paramaribo, are well below U.S. standards. Drivers should be very cognizant of mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles, especially when making turns. These vehicles are common and always have the right-of-way (local law considers them pedestrians). Police sporadically enforce local traffic laws, so locals drive recklessly.

Anyone venturing into the interior is advised to have a seasoned guide and some form of communication. Services offered through major hotels and tourist agencies are usually safer and more reliable. Travel to the interior requires caution. There have been reports of tourists and foreigners being robbed while traveling in the countryside and occasional reports of bandits on rural roads.

Crime is a major concern. The police and press report that overall crime levels remain constant, but violent crimes are increasing. Murders, residential/business robberies, carjackings, burglaries, and muggings occurred regularly in 2015. Street crime (thefts of backpacks, purses, jewelry (especially necklaces), cell phones) are regular occurrences. Tourist areas are common targets for thieves and muggers who often work at night. There is a steep increase in these types of crimes during the December/January holidays.

While some areas of Paramaribo are safer than others, there are no areas that can be considered completely safe. Criminals move without restriction through neighborhoods where expatriates live, often utilizing scooters/motorcycles to evade police. Among the home burglaries in 2015, several high-level host-nation government officials and expatriates were victims, seeming to indicate the brazen determination of the burglars breaking into residences. Armed robberies and armed home invasions occurred within one block of Embassy residences. There are also reports of guard dogs being poisoned as a tactic to commit burglary.

Criminal activity in Suriname continues to increase. Crimes (particularly violent crimes against wealthy people and property) are becoming increasingly prevalent. Foreigners in general are viewed as targets of opportunity. In addition, poor neighborhoods and squatters are increasingly infringing on residential areas housing the expatriate communities. This enables criminal elements to reside in close proximity to their most frequent targets. Those who can afford guard services have 24-hour protection for their residences and places of business. These local guards, as well as commonly added physical security elements (lighting, perimeter fences, and grilles), have been instrumental in deterring many potential break-ins.





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