the Caribbean inhabited the Atlantic coast along Central and
South America and then spread to the interior of the
continent. Some lived on the islands off the coast. They
were warlike and lived in small communities, engaged in
hunting, fishing and some form of farming.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the Dutch settled
in Guyana and began the slave trade.
In 1863 slavery was abolished in the Dutch colonies and
labor was replaced by a slave-like work by Indian and
Javanese immigrants. In Guyana, in this way, an intricate
ethnic structure was created with the Indian group - the
most stubborn in terms of racial unity and strongly linked
to its cultural traditions - in a relative majority, the
"Creoles" - descendants of the slaves -, the Javanese, the "cimarrones"
(people whose ancestors were slaves who fled into the
jungle), American Indians and a small European minority.
The ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences made the
development of a national identity difficult, and the
political organizations therefore developed predominantly
along racial divides - also because these were largely
coincident with the social boundaries. The Creole, assembled
in NPK (National Party Combination, a coalition of four
center-left parties), declared the independence struggle
after World War II, while Vatan Hitkarie - of Jaggernauth
Lachmon, who mainly represented traders and employers among
Indians - tried to postpone it.
In October 1973, the independence people won the election
and Henck Arron - a Liberal leader of the Surinamese
National Party (NPS) - became prime minister of the local
government, which already in 1954 had a degree of autonomy.
An embrace between Arron and Lachmon sealed the agreement
between them both and independence was finally proclaimed in
1975. Many middle-class Surinamese exploited their Dutch
citizenship to emigrate to the Netherlands. It was approx.
1/3 of the population, which triggered an extensive shortage
of technical, professional and administrative manpower. The
country lost the skilled labor which had made it work. The
exception was the two multinational corporations, Suralco
and Billiton, which monopolized bauxite extraction and thus
effectively the entire country's economy. Economic activity
declined and agricultural production fell to a very low
On February 25, 1980, the Prime Minister was overthrown
by a coup d'etat. An event known as the "Sergeant's
Revolution." The National Military Council convened
opposition leaders to rule, and several left wing leaders
held positions in the government.
The new administration was accused by a Military Council
of corruption and of inappropriate relations with the
Netherlands and the United States. On February 4, 1981, it
was overthrown and Colonel Desiré Delano (Desi) Bouterse
came to power. The new government established relations with
Cuba and was countered both from within - by the majority
parties - and from outside the United States and the
Netherlands. At the same time, Brazil repeatedly supported
the new regime - apparently to offset the Cuban influence.
In January 1983, Bouterse formed a new government with
civilian and military participation. He appointed the
nationalist Error Halibux of the Labor and Peasant Union as
prime minister. Following the US invasion of Grenada in
October 83, the government of Surinam changed radically its
relationship with Cuba, asked for its ambassador to be
withdrawn as well as the cancellation of all signed