United States Department of State
Bureau of Public Affairs
Nationality: Noun-Surinamer(s). Adjec-
tive-Surinamese. Population (1984 est.):
400,000. Annual growth rate (1972-80):
-7.3%. Ethnic groups: Hindustani (East In-
dian) 37%, Creole 31%, Javanese 15.3%,
Bush Negro 10.3%, Amerindians 2.7%,
Chinese 1.7%. Religions: Hindu, Muslim,
Roman Catholic, Dutch Reformed, Moravian
and several other Christian groups, Jewish,
Baha'i. Languages: Dutch (official), English,
Sranang Tongo (lingua franca). Education:
Compulsory-ages 6-12. Literacy-65%.
Health: Infant mortality rate-23/1,000. Life
expectancy-68 years. Work force (100,000):
Agriculture-29%. Industry and com-
Area: 163,265 sq. km. (63,037 sq. mi.); slight-
ly larger than Georgia. Cities: Capital-
Paramaribo (pop. 180,000). Other cities-
Nieuw Nickerie, Albina, Moengo. Terrain:
Varies from coastal swamps to savanna to
hills. Climate: Tropical.
Type: Military-civilian executive. Constitu-
tion: Suspended. Independence: November
rules by decree. Legislative-suspended.
Judicial-Court of Justice with no power to
review government decrees.
Administrative subdivisions: 9 districts.
Political parties: Banned. No elections
scheduled. Suffrage: None.
Central government expenditures
(1983): $454.7 million.
Flag: Green, white, red, white, green
horizontal stripes with yellow star in the mid-
dle of the red bar.
GDP (1983): $1,062 million. Annual nominal
growth rate (1981 est.): 7.9%. Per capital
GDP (1983): $2,870. Average inflation rate
last 3 years: 7.2%.
National resources: Bauxite, iron ore,
and other minerals; forests; hydroelectric
potential; fish and shrimp.
Agriculture: Products-rice, palm oil,
bananas, timber, shrimp, sugarcane, and
citrus fruits. Arable land-2 million hectares.
Cultivated land-80,000 hectares.
Industry: Types-aluminum, alumina,
processed food, lumber, bricks, cigarettes.
Trade (1982): Exports-$366 million:
bauxite, alumina, aluminum, wood and wood
products, palm oil, rice, bananas, and shrimp.
Major markets-US, Netherlands, EC, and
other European countries. Imports-$449
million: capital equipment, petroleum, iron
and steel products, agricultural products. Ma-
jor suppliers-US, Netherlands, EC, Brazil,
Official exchange rate (Aug. 1984): 1
Suriname guilder (S.F1)=US $0.56.
Fiscal year: Calendar year.
Membership in International
UN and affiliated agencies (WHO, ILO, FAO,
UNESCO, UNCTAD, World Bank, IMF),
Organization of American States (OAS),
Economic Commission for Latin America
(ECLA), CARICOM (observer), International
Bauxite Association, associated with the EC
through the Lome Convention, Inter-
American Development Bank (IDB), Interna-
tional Finance Corporation (IFC).
Republic of Suriname
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Most Surinamers reside in the narrow,
northern coastal plain. The population is
one of the most ethnically varied in the
world, but Surinamers live together
peacefully, each ethnic group preserving
much of its own culture. Before the
February 25, 1980 coup, political parties
were based mainly along ethnic lines.
One stated goal of the military leaders is
to diminish the importance of ethnic
identity and to foster the growth of a
new national unity. For this reason, cur-
rent statistics on ethnic groups are not
According to the prior data,
however, the major ethnic groups are
Hindustani (37%), Creole (31%),
Javanese (15.3%), Bush Negro (10.3%),
Amerindians (2.7%), Chinese (1.7%), and
Europeans (1%). The Creoles and Bush
Negros are descendants of African
slaves. The Hindustanis, Javanese, and
Chinese are descendants of contract
agricultural laborers brought to
Suriname between 1855 and 1930. The
Amerindians were originally from the
Arawak and Caribe tribes.
Located on the north-central coast of
South America, Suriname is bordered by
Guyana, French Guiana, and Brazil. The
country is divided into three zones.
The northern most zone is at sea
level, where diking is necessary to save
the land for agriculture. The country's
agriculture is concentrated in this area
at the mouths of the Suriname,
Saramacca, Coppename, Commewijne,
and Nickerie Rivers.
The central zone, a belt 48-64
kilometers (30-40 miles) deep, is
forested and broken intermittently by
scattered savannas. The government's
agricultural experiments there have met
with limited success because the soil is
primarily of quartz and loam and there
is no infrastructure or market.
The southern zone is hilly with
savannas, rising gradually to an eleva-
tion of about 1,255 meters (4,120 feet)
above sea level in the Wilhelmina Moun-
tains. This area makes up about 75% of
the country; however, only a few
Amerindians and Bush Negroes live in
the thick jungle terrain.
Suriname's climate is tropical, with
an average annual rainfall at
TT~Z I- 1el
LuC"~b:l ~-- ii2 I
"Amoksie" meaning "mixture," is symbolic of Suriname society.
Paramaribo of 320 centimeters (90 in-
ches). Temperatures are high throughout
the year-21C to 320C (70F to
90F)-with little seasonal change ex-
cept for short dry seasons between the
two periods of heavy rainfall. The hot-
test month is September.
Suriname lies outside both an earth-
quake zone and the Caribbean hurricane
zone, escaping serious wind damage.
However, sudden wind twisters have
caused extensive damage in the jungle
Christopher Columbus sighted the coast
of the area formerly known as Guiana
(Berbice) in 1498, but it was unattractive
to later Spanish and Portuguese ex-
plorers because of the limited presence
of gold. The first successful European
settlement was established in 1651 by
British Lord Willoughby coming from
Barbados. He welcomed people from un-
successful West Indian and other South
American colonies who brought capital
and skills to the new settlement. Notable
among these were Sephardic Jews from
Brazil, who, in 1665, erected the first
synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.
The colony prospered as a plantation
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i:V P. J LIN
economy-cocoa, coffee, sugar, and cot-
ton-based on slave labor from Africa.
By terms ot the Treaty of Breda
(1667), the Netherlands acquired
Suriname from Great Britain in ex-
change for Dutch rights in Nieuw
Amsterdam (Manhattan, New York) and
the Gold Coast in Africa. The 18th and
early 19th centuries saw Suriname in
economic and political turmoil stemming
from Indian and slave uprisings and
Dutch preoccupation with its East In-
dian territories. Also during this period,
as a result of the Napoleonic wars and
treaties, sovereignty of the country was
passed among England, France, and the
Netherlands. The Netherlands finally
regained control of Suriname under the
Treaty of Vienna of 1815. When slavery
was abolished in 1863, Suriname, facing
a labor shortage, brought contract
workers from China, India, and Java.
In 1952, an amendment to the Dutch
constitution stipulated that relations be-
tween the Netherlands, the Netherlands
Antilles, and Suriname should be laid
down in a charter and should be
recognized as constitutional law. With
the signing of the charter on December
15, 1954, the reconstruction of the
Kingdom of the Netherlands was com-
pleted, making Suriname an autonomous
part of the Kingdom and granting it
equality with the Netherlands and the
Netherlands Antilles. This relationship
continued until Suriname's independence
on November 25, 1975.
The newly independent nation func-
tioned as a parliamentary democracy un-
til February 25, 1980, when a military
coup by a group of noncommissioned of-
ficers overthrew the government. On
August 13, 1980, the Parliament was
dissolved and the constitution suspend-
ed. A six-member Policy Center-three
civilians and three military-headed by
an appointed civilian president was
established to rule the country by
decree. In February 1982, the military
forced the president's resignation. A
new government headed by a civilian
Prime Minister, Henri Neijhorst, was ap-
pointed in March 1982. The supreme ex-
ecutive body remained the Policy
Center, this time headed by Army Com-
mander Lt. Col. Desire Bouterse.
During 1982 there was growing
public pressure for an end to military
rule and for a return to civilian govern-
ment. In December 1982, 15 opposition
leaders, including prominent journalists,
lawyers, and a trade union leader, were
killed without trial while in government
custody, prompting the Netherlands and
the United States to suspend economic
and military assistance to Suriname. The
Nijhorst cabinet resigned and was
replaced by a military-appointed civilian
cabinet headed by Liagat Ali Errol
Alibux. Labor unrest in December 1983
and January 1984 led to the replacement
of the Alibux government by an interim
cabinet with limited mandate nominated
by Commander Bouterse and leaders of
organized business and labor. This
cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Wim
Udenhout, includes representatives of
the military, labor unions, and the
business community and was tasked
with developing new "democratic struc-
tures" and resolving Suriname's
economic problems. It is scheduled to be
replaced not later than December 31,
The Policy Center was abolished and
a Supreme Council (Topberaad) com-
posed of top representatives of military,
labor, and business was established in
April 1984 to give policy direction to the
government. Commander Bouterse is
chairman of the Supreme Council. He
and the military maintain absolute
power over the decisionmaking process.
A Supreme Council, chaired by the army
commander, with representatives from
the three "social partners" (the military
authority, the four labor federations,
and two business organizations)
establishes general policy guidelines for
the Council of Ministers to implement.
In theory, Suriname is governed by the
Council of Ministers, five of whose nine
members are appointed by the military
authority; four others are nominated by
representatives of labor and business.
The Council of Ministers is headed
by the Minister-President (prime
minister) and is responsible for develop-
ing proposals for consideration by the
SSupreme Council. By decree, the man-
date of the present cabinet cannot last
beyond December 31, 1984. No an-
nouncement has yet been made as to
what form of government will replace
the current Council of Ministers. In any
event, ultimate authority rests with
Commander Bouterse and the military.
The role of the country's President,
L.F. Misier-Ramdat, is largely
Broadcast media are government
controlled. In May 1984, some media
controls imposed in December 1982 were
lifted. One private newspaper resumed
publication to join another that had re-
Smained in operation under government
direction. However, the military con-
tinues to exercise its authority over
what may and may not be published.
The highest judicial body is the
Court of Justice, the members of which
are appointed by the president upon ap-
proval by the military.
Suriname is divided into nine
districts, each administered by a
Principal Government Officials
Acting President-Mr. L. F. Ramdat-
Head of Government and "Leader of the
Lt. Col. Desire D. Bouterse.
Council of Ministers
Prime Minister (Minister-President);
Minister of General and Foreign
Finance and Planning-Marcel Chehin.
Natural Resources and Energy, Public
Works, Telecommunications, and
Construction-Erik Tjon Kie Sim.
Transportation, Trade and Industry,
Mosque under construction-of the Amadja sect.
Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and
Forestry-Imro Fong Poen.
Education, Science, and Culture-Allen
Lie Fo Sjoe.
Labor, Housing, and Social Affairs-
Internal Affairs and Justice-Frank
Health-Dr. Robert E. Van Trikt.
Police and Army-Wilfred Maynaard.
Ambassador to the United States-
Donald A. McLeod.
Ambassador to the United Nations-
Suriname maintains an embassy in
the United States at 2600 Virginia
Avenue NW., Suite 711, Washington,
D.C. 20037 (tel. 338-6980-84). There is
a consulate general at 6555 NW 36th
St., Suite 201, Miami, Florida 33166 (tel.
Surinamese armed forces consist of the
National Army and the civil police. In
addition, so-called People's Militia and
Anti-Intervention Committees exist,
which were formed in 1983 to organize
the population against alleged mer-
cenary invasion threats by Surinamese
exiles and others.
The Surinamese National Army con-
sists of about 2,000 personnel divided
into army, navy/coast guard, and air
force components. The ground forces
are organized to perform internal securi-
ty duties and some civil functions. Their
mission is to safeguard, protect, and
uphold the values of the February 1980
revolution; to protect the country
against aggression; to assist with develop-
ing an infrastructure; and to augment
and assist the local police force during
fires, disturbances, and demonstrations.
The air force has four Britten-Norman
Defender planes. The army is equipped
with light infantry weapons and ar-
mored cars; the navy has three modern
ocean-going patrol boats and six smaller
The Netherlands and the United
States suspended military assistance to
Suriname following the events of
December 1982. Brazil provides some
military assistance and training.
Suriname's bauxite deposits have been
among the world's richest-though they
are not nearly as accessible as deposits
in Guinea and Australia. Mining, proc-
essing, and exporting bauxite, alumina,
and aluminum are the backbone of the
economy. Sites of the two major bauxite
deposits-Moengo and Paranam-are
accessible to navigable rivers that empty
into the Atlantic. The Suriname
Aluminum Company (SURALCO), a sub-
sidiary of the Aluminum Company of
America (Alcoa), and the Royal Dutch
Shell-owned Billiton Company produce
and export the bauxite ore. Alcoa built a
$150 million dam for the production of
hydroelectric energy at Afobaka (south
of Brokopondo), which created a 1,550
These titles are provided as a general indica-
tion of material published on this country.
The Department of State does not endorse
Bruyning, C.F.A. and Lou Litchtveld. Suri-
name-A New Nation in South America.
Paramaribo: Radhakishun, 1959.
Dew, Edward. The Difficult Flowering of
Suriname: Ethnicity and Politics in a
Plural Society. The Hague: Martinus
Mitchell, Sir Harold. Europe in the Carib-
bean. London: Chambers, 1963.
Mitrasing, F.E.M. Suriname: Land of Seven
Peoples. Paramaribo: H. van den Boomen,
Naipul, V.S. The Middle Passage-The
Caribbean Revisited. New York: Mac-
Oltmans, Willem. An Interview with Desi
Price, Richard, ed. Maroon Societies. New
York: Anchor Press, 1973.
Van Poll, Willem. Suriname. The Hague:
Van Hoeve, 1959.
More information can be obtained from the
Suriname Tourist Bureau, Rockefeller Plaza,
New York, NY 10020.
square kilometer (600 sq. mi.) lake, one
of the largest artificial lakes in the
Suriname is an exporter of its major
staple food crop, rice, and also exports
shrimp, timber, bananas, palm oil, and
vegetables. It produces enough coconuts
and citrus fruits for domestic consump-
tion. Wheat (for flour milling), some
dairy products, onions, and potatoes
must be imported.
At independence, Suriname signed
an agreement with the Netherlands pro-
viding for about $1.5 billion in develop-
ment assistance grants and loans over a
10-15 year period. Following the events
of December 1982, the Netherlands
suspended indefinitely this assistance
program, which had amounted to ap-
proximately $100 million per year.
Limited development assistance in the
form of loans and grants is provided by
the European Community (EC) Develop-
ment Fund for projects in the transport
and agricultural sectors. The United Na-
tions furnishes some technical
assistance, as do Brazil and Belgium.
The government negotiated agree-
ments with the bauxite producers,
SURALCO and Billiton, significantly in-
creasing company payments to the state
through a bauxite levy.
Developments plans, aside from in-
frastructural improvements, center on
the expansion of bauxite mining and
processing, agriculture, and export-
oriented and import-substitution in-
The principal ocean port is
Paramaribo. With Suriname having
4,580 kilometers (2,850 mi.) of water-
ways throughout the country, trans-
portation is primarily by boat. Roads
total about 2,400 kilometers (1,500 mi.),
about 350 kilometers (217 mi.) of which
are paved. Except for the mining and in-
dustrial lines, Suriname has only 20
kilometers (12 mi.) of operating
railroads. Paramaribo is regularly
served by Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM),
Suriname Airways (SLM), Antillian
Airlines (ALM), Guyana Airways, and
Cruzeiro do Sul.
Suriname continues to have a pre-
dominantly free market economy, with
growing state control or influence ex-
erted principally through regulation and
allocation of import licenses and scarce
foreign exchange. Since the 1980 coup
and subsequent changes of government,
national policy has emphasized a mixed
economy with increasing state participa-
tion in industrial and agricultural enter-
prises. The Government of Suriname is
reviewing its foreign investment policy.
Foreign participation in development of
natural resources has been adopted on a
contract joint venture basis. There are
few restrictions on individual, small-
scale domestic enterprises.
Suriname traditionally enjoyed a
strong balance-of-payments position.
This was reversed in 1981 because of
reduced bauxite export earnings. The
situation worsened when the
Netherlands suspended its large develop-
ment assistance program in December
1982. The suspension of Dutch aid has
had a major impact on the Surinamese
economy since the government trans-
ferred financing of development projects
to its regular budget during 1983 and
1984, leading to an overexposure and
depletion of foreign exchange reserves
by August 1984. The Government of
Suriname has sought other external
sources of assistance but so far with
limited success. To save foreign ex-
change, the government enforces import
licensing and exchange controls, and in
March 1984 the routine issuance of let-
ters of credit was suspended.
Since independence, Suriname has
joined the United Nations, the Organiza-
tion of American States (OAS), and the
Non-Aligned Movement, and has ob-
tained observer status in the Caribbean
Community and Common Market
Suriname is associated with the
European Community through the Lome
Convention and is a charter member of
the International Bauxite Association.
Revolutionary Suriname has made
nonalignment the centerpiece of its
foreign policy and has recently put em-
phasis on expanding and improving rela-
tions with its neighbors in the Western
Hemisphere, including the United
States. Suriname's relations with the
Netherlands have been strained since
December 1982 when the Dutch
suspended their assistance program.
Suriname has embassies in the
Netherlands, the United States, Brazil,
Venezuela, Mexico, Guyana, and in
Belgium where its Ambassador is also
accredited to France and the European
Community. Suriname maintains
diplomatic relations with many other
countries, including 10 communist
governments, but has embassies in none
of the communist countries. Of the 10,
only the USSR and the People's
Republic of China have resident am-
bassadors in Suriname. Cuba was a third
such country until October 1983 when 1
the Government of Suriname downgrade
ed relations by asking for withdrawal of
) Climate and clothing: Paramaribo and the
littoral are warm and humid all year.
Lightweight, wash and wear clothing is
Customs: A visa is required for US citizens.
Tourists may be asked to show onward
tickets, necessary travel documents, or suffi-
cient funds for their stay.
All foreign exchange being carried must
be declared on arrival and departure, except
for diplomats assigned to the post. Each
adult nonresident of Suriname must exchange
US $280 at the port of entry in Suriname.
Children under 12 must exchange US $140.
Those who intend to remain only briefly may
) be allowed to exchange US $23 for each day
they will be in Suriname.
Health: Medical services are adequate for
most purposes, although some essential
medicines are no longer readily available.
Malaria and other tropical diseases are
endemic but occur more frequently outside
the capital. Paramaribo's tapwater is potable.
Telecommunications: Domestic and interna-
tional telephone and telegraph connections
are fair but expensive. Paramaribo is two
hours ahead of eastern standard time.
Transportation: Overland travel is
restricted because there are few roads and
bridges, and large parts of the country out-
side the littoral are accessible only by light
) plane and canoe. Several flights a week con-
nect Paramaribo with other Caribbean and
Latin American centers. There are four
weekly flights to Amsterdam during peak
vacation periods and two weekly flights
otherwise. Paramaribo has bus and taxi
almost all embassy personnel. Cuba
subsequently closed the embassy,
although diplomatic relations were not
broken. In the United States, Suriname,
in July 1984, closed its Consulate
General in New York, replacing it with a
Consulate General in Miami.
Suriname has longstanding but cur-
rently dormant border disputes with its
eastern and western neighbors, French
Guiana and Guyana. The Suriname-
Brazil border has been amicably de-
Historically, the United States has had
friendly relations with Suriname dating
back to 1792, when a consulate was
opened in the Dutch colony. However, as
a result of human rights concerns, U.S.
economic and military assistance to
Suriname was suspended in December
1982. The United States is Suriname's
largest trading partner, normally pro-
viding 30% of Suriname's imports and
taking 40% or more of its exports.
Through each country's embassies as
well as in international forums, the
United States and Suriname maintain a
continuing dialogue on bilateral and
multilateral issues. Suriname is eligible
to participate in the Caribbean Basin Ini-
tiative (CBI) but has not applied for
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Robert E. Barbour
Deputy Chief of Mission-T. Patrick
Defense Attache-LTC Dragan
Chief, Economic Section-Bruce L.
Chief, Political Section-Harlan K.
Chief, Commercial and Consular Sec-
tions-Kevin J. Harris
Chief, Administrative Section-Richard
A. Garrison (after November 1984)
Public Information Officer-William
The U.S. Embassy in Suriname is
located in Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat
129, P.O. Box 1821, Paramaribo (tel.
72900, 76507; telex 373 AMEMSU
Published by the United States Department
of State Bureau of Public Affairs Office
of Public Communication Editorial Divi-
sion Washington, D.C. November 1984
Editor: Juanita Adams
Department of State Publication 8268
Background Notes Series This material is
in the public domain and may be reproduced
without permission; citation of this source
would be appreciated.
For sale by the Superintendent of Docu-
ments, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402