Surimane News - History

Surimane News - History



Surimane News

SURINAME

In The News


History of Suriname

Native groups have inhabited Suriname for millennia. Among the larger of these historically were the Arawak and the Carib peoples. The Surinen (from whom the country’s name derives) were also some of the area’s earliest known inhabitants. By the 16th century, however, the Surinen either had been driven out by other Indian groups or had migrated to other parts of the Guianas (the region including Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana). Europeans learned of Suriname (and other areas in the 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 Indians.


Oil exploration in Guyana-Suriname Basin heats up

Houston — Oil exploration drilling is heating up in an offshore area of northeastern South America traditionally known as "The Guianas," after Tullow Oil announced success recently at Jethro, its first Guyana oil find in modestly deep waters.

Guyana is not only active with oil exploration, and abuzz with plans for more, but first production is expected early next year by an ExxonMobil-led consortium at the deepwater Stabroek Block.

The group, as well as Tullow and other operators, have planned more wells in the country's offshore in the next 12 months.

Activity is also stirring in adjacent Suriname, which hopes to replicate its neighbor's success in one of the world's few emerging areas of large oil prospectivity. While there have been a number of Suriname dry holes in recent years, several operators have wells planned there on a bet that Guyana-type oil-rich rocks extend across the border.

The Guyana-Suriname basin was last assessed by the US Geological Survey in 2002 at about 13 billion barrels of oil. USGS oil and gas assessment chief Chris Schenk told S&P Global Platts the agency expects to reevaluate it next year.

"The whole area appears to be characterized by excellent quality reservoirs" in deep and also shallow waters, Tullow CEO Paul McDade said in a recent conference call, speaking chiefly of Guyana. "This should lead to relatively standard kind of . development options in the event of discoveries."

Guyana production is projected to average 40,000 b/d in 2020 and as much as 160,000 b/d in 2023, according to an Platts Analytics forecast.

Those figures chiefly stem from oil produced by ExxonMobil's partnership, which will bring the 120,000 b/d Liza Phase One project online in early 2020.

The group recently approved Phase Two, which would bring on another 180,000-220,000 b/d by mid-2022. A third development at another field, Payara, should be sanctioned in late 2019. Stabroek alone should produce more than 750,000 b/d by 2025 from five production facilities, the group has said.

MORE GUYANA WELLS SEEN IN COMING MONTHS

Tullow, which announced Jethro on the Orinduik block in early August, has quickly followed it with Joe, a well to be spudded this month further west on the block. After that comes Carapa, a Repsol-operated Guyana well planned on the Kanuku block to the south in September, with results expected by Q4.

Jethro, which contains about 100 million recoverable barrels of oil equivalent and is situated in the northeast corner of Orinduik, bordering Stabroek, is the first rival find in a region that appears abundant with crude even though Suriname has yet to prove itself as oil-saturated as its neighbor.

Tullow's McDade said further exploration is contemplated next year across Orinduik and Carapa.

Other wells are in progress, or will be soon.

The ExxonMobil-led group, which includes Hess and China's CNOOC, has so far made 13 of Guyana's 14 oil discoveries. They are now preparing to spud two to three exploration wells in the country by year-end 2019, starting with one called Tripletail this month. Hess, ExxonMobil and smaller partners will drill the Kaieteur block to the north next year.

In Suriname, where at least four non-commercial wells have been drilled in as many years by Kosmos Energy and Apache, the next 12 months nonetheless look busy.

Despite setbacks at two Suriname wells - Kolibri on Block 53 in 2017 and Popokai on its 1.44 million-acre Block 58 in 2015 - Apache next month will spud another well on Block 58. The tract borders some of Stabroek's most productive areas in Guyana and is near Haimara, the ExxonMobil group's southeasternmost find on, or very near, the two countries' maritime border.

But in recent remarks, Apache CEO John Christmann refused to say if his company's upcoming well, which should take 30 to 60 days to drill and is one of several more wells permitted in Suriname, would directly offset Haimara.

"When we look at the views across by kind of stitching together the 2-D and 3-D data [from Suriname] and taking into account Guyana activity going on next door, you'll find that the geologic setting is not changing much," Christmann said. "But it's exploration."

APACHE SURINAME BLOCK HAS SEVEN PLAY TYPES

Christmann added there are seven play types and over 50 large prospects in the block from which to select targets.

In addition, Tullow eyes drilling the Goliathberg-Voltzberg prospect in 2020 on Suriname's Block 47 in 1,900 meters of water with partners Pluspetrol and Ratio Exploration. And Kosmos, which drilled the non-commercial Pontoenoe well on Block 42 last October and the Anapai well in Block 45 in June 2018, still plans to push ahead with exploration in the country.

Earlier this year, Kosmos was mulling the Walker prospect for 2020 drilling on Block 42, which is also adjacent to the Turbot area of southeast Stabroek in Guyana. Hess especially sees Turbot as a target-rich area and said recently it is expected to become a major development hub.

Other companies hold acreage in Suriname, including Cairn Energy and Equinor and their respective partners, while in Guyana Anadarko Petroleum (which was absorbed into Occidental Petroleum in early August) and CGX each operate separate blocks with partners.

Guyana and Suriname are part of a region of northern South America called "The Guianas," involving three countries - Guyana, formerly known as British Guiana Suriname, formerly Dutch Guiana and French Guiana.

The region also includes parts of eastern Venezuela on the west and Brazil's Amapa state to the east. Those two areas were respectively known as Spanish Guyana and Portuguese or Brazilian Guiana.


Suriname celebrates 100 years of football history

Concacaf: MIAMI, Florida – It has been a week to remember for Suriname football.

In addition to taking part in the Draw for their first ever Concacaf Gold Cup, the Surinamese Football Association is celebrating its centennial on Thursday, commemorating 100 years since its founding on October 1, 1920.

Despite not being able to have a full celebration due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Suriname Head Coach Dean Gorre says it is nevertheless a very special day in the country.

“It is fantastic to celebrate a 100-year anniversary and it is special. The president of the country will come we’ll have a celebration that is within the Covid-19 protocols, but I would have liked it to have been open and free for everyone to enjoy,” said Gorre in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.

Born in Suriname, Gorre enjoyed great success as a player in the Netherlands and England before ultimately deciding to return home to Suriname to take the reins of the national team for a second time in 2018. Just being a part of its 100-year history fills Gorre with pride.

“Suriname is the country where I was born and two years ago, I made the decision to come and live in Suriname to prepare these amateur players to qualify for the Gold Cup. The hard work we’ve done in the last two years is something to look back on and say we done it. It’s special. My roots are here and now to reach this Gold Cup with my country where my heart is means a lot. I’ve never seen a group so emotional after our last game to clinch a Gold Cup place. I won cups in leagues in Holland, but that last game was something special,” said Gorre.

Drawn into Group C with Costa Rica and Jamaica for the 2021 Gold Cup, Gorre is looking forward to facing a pair of Concacaf stalwarts in next summer’s tournament.

“I think Costa Rica is a world class team. We have seen them play many times. It is special to play against Costa Rica for the players we are going to face. We have played Jamaica before. They beat us 2-1 in the Nations League [Qualifying] and that was a match we really enjoyed playing,” said Gorre.

For the Gold Cup, Gorre will also have the luxury of relying on some Netherlands-based players who are eligible to play for Suriname.

“Having players from our diaspora will make us stronger. We could actually be a surprise in the tournament with this new team. There’s no Gold Cup experience, but the quality we have will help us. We will enjoy the entire experience,” said Gorre.

The Suriname Football Association was a founding member of Concacaf in 1961. As the country begins a new century of football, it is Gorre’s hope that the country can soon develop a professional league and enrich the their decorated football history. Suriname were champions of the 1978 CFU Championship, and domestic clubs transcended on the international stage, with Robinhood and Transvaal each reaching five different Concacaf Champions Cups in the 1970s and 1980s, and Transvaal winning the 1973 and 1981 editions.

There is no doubt that the country brims with talent, and Gorre feels like with the proper development, Suriname football can shine on the international stage.

“In the 1970s we had top teams and top players playing for Suriname, with Robinhood and Transvaal. But there has been a gap and we didn’t grow. Our level is still amateur, so players like myself made ourselves known in the Dutch league. You can see Surinamese players have quality by past players like Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and current players like Virgil Van Dijk [who represent Holland]. I hope the future will be bright. We put a lot of effort into qualifying for the Gold Cup, and when you put in effort, there is a lot possible. I think with development, football in Suriname has a bright furfure,” concluded Gorre.


Return to civilian rule

1991 - Johan Kraag (NPS) becomes interim president alliance of opposition parties - the New Front for Democracy and Development - wins majority of seats in parliamentary elections Ronald Venetiaan elected president.

1992 - Peace accord reached with SLA.

1996 - Jules Wijdenbosch, an ally of Mr Bouterse, elected president.

1999 - Dutch court convicts Dési Bouterse for drug smuggling after trying him in absentia.

2000 - Ronald Venetiaan becomes president, replacing Mr Wijdenbosch, after winning early elections that followed protests against the former government's handling of the economy.

2002 April - State-owned banana company closes, its financial woes compounded by low market prices. A smaller, restructured company opens in March 2004.

2004 January - Suriname dollar replaces guilder. Government says move aims to restore confidence in economy.

2004 June - UN sets up tribunal to try to resolve long-running maritime border dispute between Suriname and neighbouring Guyana.


Guyana And Suriname: The Outlier Countries Of South America

Guyana and Suriname may be worth visiting, but they are not worth planting flags in… if I’m going to start off this blog post very frankly.

Let’s consider my experience at immigration. That was very telling. In Suriname it took me 3 hours to get through immigration after landing at the airport. Guyana wasn’t very fast either.

Later on, I learned it takes 694 days, or 99 weeks, to register a company in Suriname — the worst speed among all jurisdictions worldwide. And Suriname seems to be the more modern, civli of the two outlier South American states, at least from my short experience there.

Suriname’s flag is not very compatible with flag theory.

What makes Guyana and Suriname outliers?

Guyana and Suriname are effectively Caribbean countries that happen to be located on the South American continent. They have Caribbean cultures histories and are more connected to the Caribbean than South America from an air travel standpoint. In fact, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) headquarters are located in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown — not a very Spanish, sounding name, huh?

That is because Guyana is part of the British West Indies and is an English speaking country. Suriname, on the other hand, is a former Dutch colony (remember my visit to the Dutch Caribbean?), and Dutch is still its official language. But both countries have their own English-based creole language that serves as the lingua franca.

The land of many waters

Once upon a time there was British Guiana (now Guyana) and Dutch Guiana (now Suriname), all part of the Guiana region that also included parts of what are now Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.

Guyana, or “the Guianas”, means “land of many waters” in an indigenous American language. While South America is famous for the Amazon River, and secondarily for the Orinoco River, this land of many waters is home to the Essequibo, Berbice and Demerara rivers. The Essequibo is South America’s third largest River behind the Amazon and Orinoco.

Land of many jungles, as well as waters

While the time I spent in this region was light on touristic activity — largely due to these countries not really appealing to me — I did venture out into the jungle to get a look at some breathtaking falling water that flows into yet another river. Actually, this waterfall is the largest of its kind in the world and much taller than Niagra Falls. So even if Guyana and Suriname are quite boring countries, there is reason for you to keep reading.

Getting to Guyana from Venezuela, or at least trying to

You may recall that my recent Venezuela trip ended with a fiasco. I made it out, but barely. And in the process I had to rearrange my Guyana travel plans, which ended up impacting my Suriname stay as well.

I wanted to head directly from Venezuela to Guyana, but of course, my flight was canceled and no one even bothered to notify me until 30 minutes before the departure time. So I ended up flying to Medellin, Colombia and spending a night there before flying to Guyana with a stopover in Panama.

This trip was kind of exhausting. I did not go to sleep in Medellin, instead going straight from partying to the airport. I wasn’t going to miss another flight after what happened in Curacao and Aruba.

Finally arriving in Guyana

I slept a little on the flight to Panama, then a little more at the airport in Panama and then a little more on the plane to Guyana. Finally, upon arriving at my hotel in Guyana, I took another nap. By the time I woke up, it was already dark. I just stayed in the hotel and ordered dinner to my room.

Getting acquainted with Guyana

But, as a I took a taxi from the airport to the hotel, riding alongside the Demerara River, I started getting acquainted with Guyana, thanks to my taxi driver who wanted to play tour guide. We had plenty of time to talk since it’s a 1 hour ride from the airport into town — that being the Guyanese capital of Georgetown. And along the way, we hit 6 or 7 police controls.

Other than getting a crash course in how slow-paced and uninviting Guyana can be, I did learn a fair amount about the country from my driver. For starters, in Guyana people drive on the left side of the road — a remnant of British rule. Actually, people drive on the left in Suriname, too, but not so in all other South American countries.

The Dutch were the first Europeans to establish colonies in the Guianas, but the British took took control of the region around 1800. In 1831, they united three colonies into British Guiana. Guyana (with a “y”) did not become an independent country until 1966.

12 years later, Guyana gained international notoriety for being the place where cult leader Jim Jones killed hundreds of his American followers in his jungle compound called Jonestown. It was there where the “drinking the kool-aid” expression originated, as Jones got hundreds of his cult members to drink cyanide laced powdered beverages.

Nowadays, Guyana is known as the only country in South America with English as the official language. It is also a surprisingly resource-rich country. Guyana is rich in bauxite, a rock that is the world’s main source of aluminum. In addition to bauxite mining, there is also gold mining in Guyana. I even saw a gold mine while flying into Georgetown. Additionally, there have been recent oil discoveries off the Guyanese coast, and the country is hoping to get rich quick. But for now, Guyana is considered to be a corrupt country with a lot of poverty and politicians who are willing to sell out to China to be part of Beijing’s worldwide infrastructure development network. My taxi driver vouches for this. ?

Low season in a flat country

The world isn’t flat but Guyana is. Guyana is one of the lowest lying mainland countries in the world. I had a good picture of this from hotel room in Georgetown. I was staying at the Guyana Marriott Hotel. My room was on the top floor of the Marriott. Actually it was also on the top floor of the entire country of Guyana. This gave me a good vantage point of Georgetown, as well as its flat natural surroundings.

My view from the Marriott, aka the top of Guyana

So what is there to see in this flat country? As alluded to, there are jungles and rivers. The day after I arrived I was planning on doing an Essequibo River tour. That didn’t work out because I was too late. The following day there were no tours because, apparently, it was low season and there were not many tourists in Guyana.

I gave up on the Essequibo River tour, but I was set on paying a visit to the Kaieteur Falls, a not-so-flat site that is the country’s top landmark. Booking a Kaieteur Falls tour was also problematic.

Getting to the falls requires flying from Georgetown into the jungle, and the tour I wanted to take was canceled because not enough people signed up. Having made up my mind that I would visit this huge waterfall, I extended my stay in Guyana by two full days, postponing my trip to neighboring Suriname and shortening my stay in likewise nearby Belem, Brazil.

Shady Georgetown

With my travel plans rearranged, I returned to the Marriott and did nothing but work, take consulting calls and hang out in the hotel because the Guyanese capital is a sketchy, if not boring, city. Well… not exactly.

An example of Guyanese architecture

Georgetown is both sketchy and quite boring, but I did take some time to explore the city. The architecture in Georgetown is not very nice. The city is known for having many wooden buildings. The buildings also tend to be quite short, as you could see from my hotel room view.

I walked aways along the seawall, which is basically a dike that runs along the entire country, keeping it above, rather than below sea level. I also checked out a very uninviting beach and Guyana’s state house, or green house, which is the president’s residence.

Guyana’s green state house

The architectural highlight was the world’s largest wooden church, St. George’s Cathedral. Of course the church is an Anglican cathedral.

St. George’s Cathedral, the world’s largest wooden church

Unfortunately, I just missed the celebration of 49 years of Guyanese independence. Had I come a day earlier and caught the Independence Day festivities, that could have spiced up my stay in Georgetown.

Just Missed Guyanese Independence Day

In general, Georgetown is pretty spread out, and as I have repeated, shady. I did not feel very comfortable walking around the city. So I spent most of my time in the city inside the cozy confines of the Marriott.

Flying over the jungle

At last Guyana gets exciting. At Ogle airport, which is located in Georgetown, not some jungle, I boarded a very interesting aircraft. The Britten-Norman Trislander is a turboprop with three propellers that has been out of production for three decades. This British-designed piston-powered aircraft that I boarded is one of the last of its kind still operating worldwide.

The Britten-Norman Trislander

Guyana’s Roraima Airways is either the only airline still using Britten-Norman Trislanders or one just a couple of airlines still operating flights on this aircraft. The Britten-Norman Trislander is long and slick and seats about 16 passengers. I think there were 12 people on my flight.

Lucky for me, just like on my Vanuatu volcano eruption mission, I was seated directly behind the cockpit with a view of everything the pilot was doing.

The Britten-Norman Trislander cockpit

In this case, somehow there happened to be a Google Fi connection throughout the flight. In fact, the internet at 2,000 m above the Guyanese jungle was better than in most places in Germany. I livestreamed our Britten-Norman Trislander taking off and flying over Georgetown. Take a look:

As the plane flew over the jungle, for 30 minutes, pretty much all we saw were trees. There were also some patches where there were gold or bauxite mines. And there was one dirt road going through the jungle that leads to Brazil.

The flat jungle landscape disappeared after 40 minutes. We then saw some rather high — for Guyana — plateaus or mesas.

Up to this point, something I have failed to mention is that, despite it being such a flat country, there are mountains in Guyana. The tepui tabletop mountains or mesas stretch across Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela. The famous Mount Roraima, the namesake of the airline with which I was flying, is the highest point in Guyana. The mountain is also the tripoint where Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela meet. Additionally, Mount Roraima is believed to have served as inspiration for Conan Doyle’s science fiction novel, The Lost World.

Guyana is actually quite unique geologically. It is right in the middle of the Guiana Shield, a geological formation that is 1.7 billion years old and is home to tepuis and incredible waterfalls, like…

Kaieteur Falls

We already got a view of Kaieteur Falls as our plane was descending. The view from above is very impressive. For that matter, how could it not be? Kaieteur Falls is the larges single-drop waterfall in the world.

The pilot carried out a maneuver in which he made a loop and landed on a very short runway in the middle of the jungle. The pilot was very competent, and although this seemed a bit dangerous, he was in control of the aircraft and safety really wasn’t a concern.

It was then time to hike to the falls. We quickly linked up with our local guide and were on our way. Our guide was a tiny man from a local indigenous tribe.

Kaieteur Falls is very culturally significant to local indigenous tribes. The waterfall is named after a chief named Kai. The story goes that Kai’s tribe was at war with another tribe. A god or great spirit called on Kai to take a plunge off the massive waterfall. Kai paddled off the top of the waterfall, sacrificing himself in order to save his tribe. Kai then transformed into a rock. And to this day there is a rock next to the waterfall that looks like the chief. Also, nowadays the waterfall is known to be a place for some high-profile suicides, usually involving Guyanese people jumping to their deaths.

A tiny Kaieteur Golden Rocket Frog

While following our guide on a small hike, we learned all about the tank bromeliad, a plant that is found all over the jungle and actually serves as a house for the Kaieteur Golden Rocket Frog. The tank bromeliad is filled with water on the inside, and this golden frog lives its life inside the plant.

A frog inside a tank bromeliad

Our hike brought us to three different viewpoints of Kaieteur Falls. From each vantage point the waterfall is an amazing sight. The water falls into a river that cuts through a deep valley surrounded by tepui mountains. Kaieteur is a 226 meter sheer drop to the ground. The only taller waterfall is Angel Falls, which is located just a few miles over the Venezuelan border.

Unlike Niagra Falls and many other tourist attractions, there are no security fences at the top of the waterfall — even though it is a popular suicide spot. At one location I almost fell and plunged to my death. Had I fallen, do you think I would have morphed into a rock?

Standing on the edge but I survived

Actually if I fell, I probably would have transformed into another waterfall. That is because waterfalls are just like me. They are always moving, and they are so immensely powerful despite being made up of a soft element at their core. ?

One of the Kaieteur Falls viewpoints was very close by, another was close and the third was relatively far away. From the different vantage points, we got different looks at the beautiful colors of the waterfall, its sheer drop and the surrounding jungle, including the bromeliads and other plants.

How’s this for a viewpoint of a deadly waterfall?

At one of the viewing spots we also got to see a bright-colored native bird that similarly to the frog also has a cool name. This red bird is called the Guianan cock of the rock. The cock of the rock is a shy bird, but we still managed to photograph it.

Cock of the rock sightings

After seeing Kaieteur Falls in all of its glory, we hopped back on the Britten-Norman Trislander and flew back to Georgetown. If you, too, are interested in visiting this magnificent waterfall, I can certainly recommend using Roraima Airways. In addition to operating a classic aircraft, the airline is very professional.

Roraima Airways can bring you here

My stay in Guyana concluded with a short night at the Marriott, most of which I spent working. By 4 am it was already time to head to the airport for my flight to Trinidad and Tobago — a Caribbean island nation/wild Carnival destination that you will hear about in an upcoming blog post.

Suriname is basically the Dutch version of Guyana.

After flying in from Trinidad and Tobago — coming directly from Carnival — I got stuck at immigration for three hours, as you already know. How did that happen? When I landed I needed to get a tourist card — kind of like a visa on arrival. But it took an hour before immigration officers handed out tourist cards. As I was filling out my card, a large KLM plane arrived from Amsterdam, and about 400 people got off. These KLM passengers got in the immigration line just before I finished filling out the tourist card, forcing me to wait for all of them to get through, even though I landed well before them.

Finally, after getting though immigration and driving into town, Suriname’s capital of Paramaribo, I settled into the Courtyard by Marriott. There I enjoyed a very nice dinner, something much needed after eating underwhelming food in Trinidad and Tobago. Thanks to the Courtyard by Marriott Paramaribo, my initial meal in Suriname consisted of some Carpaccio (raw meat), steak, goose liver pate (foie gras) and chocolate cake. With my stomach sufficiently filled, I slept well that night.

The following day was my only full day in Suriname. As with my time in Georgetown, I spent a large chunk of my day in Paramaribo working. But I took some time to explore the city.

The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul in Paramaribo

Like Georgetown, Paramaribo has a lot of wooden houses. But the architecture in Paramaribo is a lot nicer. There are ornate wooden Dutch colonial buildings in the city center. It’s a bit reminiscent of the Dutch colonial buildings in Curacao, though not strikingly impressive like the Willemstad waterfront. The structures in Paramaribo are a bit on the shabby side, though the atmosphere surrounding them is nice. There is a big bridge over the Suriname River, as well as an old fort that the Dutch captured and held for a few hundred years. It almost feels like the Netherlands.

Suriname is flat and water-rich like the Netherlands.

As for other sites, I stopped by the parliament building and the presidential palace.

Suriname’s presidential palace

I also saw a synagogue next to a mosque. It didn’t seem like anything to extraordinary. But the locals claim this is the only place in the world where Jews and Muslims pray in peace right next to each other. I think they are making this claim based on some technicality, but Suriname really has a very ethnically diverse and tolerant society.

Muslims and Jews, peace and love

The main ethnic groups are Surinamese Indians (as in people of Indian/South Asian descent) and Maroons (descendants of African slaves brought to the Americas). Many Maroons escaped plantations and formed their own settlements. Some Maroons had children with indigenous peoples, creating a local creole ethnicity. Additionally, there is a Javanese ethnic group in Suriname. Javanese are people who originally come from the Indonesian island of Java.

There are even some Chinese people in Suriname, as well. And as with Guyana, there is growing Chinese influence. The Chinese are reportedly dominating Suriname’s wood trade (extracting trees from the forests).

As you can tell, Suriname has a large Asian population. In fact by percentage of the population, Suriname is the most Asian country in the world outside of Asia. Yet Dutch culture is still very prominent in Suriname, at least in the Paramaribo old town, or Historic Inner City. I soaked in the Dutch feel by going for a walk along the river promenade and eating some Dutch pancakes.

The benefits of Marriott status

The jungle/waterfall trip in Guyana aside, I was not enamored with either Guyana or Suriname. Having status at Marriott hotels really salvaged my stays in both countries. The Marriott was the best hotel in town in both Georgetown and Paramaribo. In addition to good food, views and work environments at both hotels, I had the privilege of meeting a host of diplomats and bureaucrats. Yes, even though I am an anarchocapitalist, I like talking to those people. ?

It so happened that while I was in Suriname there was a UN event in town. Diplomats and bureaucrats from all UN countries were in Paramaribo discussing development aid etc. And they were staying at the Courtyard by Marriott. I had some nice conversations with these bureaucrats at the hotel bar. They were interested in hearing about what I’m doing and not doing.

At Christoph.today you get to hear all about what I am doing. As for what I am not doing, I’ll leave that to your imagination. ?

Wrapping up the Americas

Speaking of UN countries and documenting my travels, by stepping foot in Suriname, I completed the Americas. I have now visited every UN country in the Americas. I have not yet been to French Guiana, for instance, and other territories that have not achieved independence. But I will get to them.

More of the Guiana Shield jungle left to explore?

And as for my final words on Guyana and Suriname, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Kaieteur Falls (so long as you are not suicidal). But the Dutch were better colonizers than the British.


Suriname celebrates 100 years of football history

MIAMI, Florida &ndash It has been a week to remember for Suriname football.

In addition to taking part in the Draw for their first ever Concacaf Gold Cup, the Surinamese Football Association is celebrating its centennial on Thursday, commemorating 100 years since its founding on October 1, 1920.

Despite not being able to have a full celebration due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Suriname Head Coach Dean Gorre says it is nevertheless a very special day in the country.

&ldquoIt is fantastic to celebrate a 100-year anniversary and it is special. The president of the country will come we&rsquoll have a celebration that is within the Covid-19 protocols, but I would have liked it to have been open and free for everyone to enjoy,&rdquo said Gorre in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.

Born in Suriname, Gorre enjoyed great success as a player in the Netherlands and England before ultimately deciding to return home to Suriname to take the reins of the national team for a second time in 2018. Just being a part of its 100-year history fills Gorre with pride.

&ldquoSuriname is the country where I was born and two years ago, I made the decision to come and live in Suriname to prepare these amateur players to qualify for the Gold Cup. The hard work we&rsquove done in the last two years is something to look back on and say we done it. It&rsquos special. My roots are here and now to reach this Gold Cup with my country where my heart is means a lot. I&rsquove never seen a group so emotional after our last game to clinch a Gold Cup place. I won cups in leagues in Holland, but that last game was something special,&rdquo said Gorre.

Drawn into Group C with Costa Rica and Jamaica for the 2021 Gold Cup, Gorre is looking forward to facing a pair of Concacaf stalwarts in next summer&rsquos tournament.

&ldquoI think Costa Rica is a world class team. We have seen them play many times. It is special to play against Costa Rica for the players we are going to face. We have played Jamaica before. They beat us 2-1 in the Nations League [Qualifying] and that was a match we really enjoyed playing,&rdquo said Gorre.

For the Gold Cup, Gorre will also have the luxury of relying on some Netherlands-based players who are eligible to play for Suriname.

&ldquoHaving players from our diaspora will make us stronger. We could actually be a surprise in the tournament with this new team. There&rsquos no Gold Cup experience, but the quality we have will help us. We will enjoy the entire experience,&rdquo said Gorre.

The Suriname Football Association was a founding member of Concacaf in 1961. As the country begins a new century of football, it is Gorre&rsquos hope that the country can soon develop a professional league and enrich the their decorated football history. Suriname were champions of the 1978 CFU Championship, and domestic clubs transcended on the international stage, with Robinhood and Transvaal each reaching five different Concacaf Champions Cups in the 1970s and 1980s, and Transvaal winning the 1973 and 1981 editions.

There is no doubt that the country brims with talent, and Gorre feels like with the proper development, Suriname football can shine on the international stage.

&ldquoIn the 1970s we had top teams and top players playing for Suriname, with Robinhood and Transvaal. But there has been a gap and we didn&rsquot grow. Our level is still amateur, so players like myself made ourselves known in the Dutch league. You can see Surinamese players have quality by past players like Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and current players like Virgil Van Dijk [who represent Holland]. I hope the future will be bright. We put a lot of effort into qualifying for the Gold Cup, and when you put in effort, there is a lot possible. I think with development, football in Suriname has a bright furfure,&rdquo concluded Gorre.


Guerrilla Leader, Drug Baron, Gold Magnate … and Now Social Reformer?

Suriname’s vice president, Ronnie Brunswijk, has been many things. Now, he wants to be known as the man who will spread the country’s newfound oil wealth equitably.

MOENGOTAPOE, Suriname — A cavalcade of black sport utility vehicles pulled up at a small village in a jungle clearing in a remote corner of South America. A tall, heavyset man with thick gold chains hanging over a tight shirt emerged from the largest car to a chorus of cheers.

The man, Ronnie Brunswijk, the child of subsistence farmers, had left the village of Moengotapoe in eastern Suriname in search of a better life 50 years ago. He was returning now as one of Suriname’s richest, most powerful and popular men, to bring electricity to his long-neglected community composed of the descendants of people who escaped slavery, known as Maroons.

Mr. Brunswijk last year became the first Maroon to reach the post of vice president of this small South American nation, perched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon rain forest. Along the way, he had been an elite paratrooper, a soccer player, a wanted bank robber, a guerrilla leader, a gold baron and a father to at least 50 children.

His mother has said he has so many offspring that unknown people sometimes ask to hug her, claiming to be her grandchildren.

Mr. Brunswijk has been convicted of drug trafficking in Europe but has helped to bring democracy to his homeland. His generosity has earned him the nickname of Robin Hood and the worship of supporters, but has left many Surinamese questioning the source of his wealth and his political motives.

In many ways, Mr. Brunswijk epitomizes the contradictions of Suriname’s small, insular society, where lines between heroes and villains are in flux, where history instantly becomes myth and the people have learned that to keep social peace it pays not to ask too many questions.

“Everything I have, I give it to the people,” Mr. Brunswijk, 59, said in an interview in his office in a former colonial office overlooking Suriname’s staid capital of Paramaribo last month. “Ever since I was a child, I wanted to help others. I now have the chance to help the whole country.”

Dressed in a sumptuous suit and tie, Mr. Brunswijk projects the aura of an imposing statesman, guiding his impoverished nation to oil riches from newly discovered offshore deposits and improving the lives of Suriname’s marginalized Maroon minority.

It is a stark makeover for a man who used to shower supporters with money from a helicopter and whose mug shot was displayed in wanted posters across the country during the years of Suriname’s military dictatorship, which officially ended in 1988.

His unlikely life story is in many ways the story of Suriname’s turbulent journey through economic crisis and political violence since it emerged from Dutch colonial rule in 1975.

“Mr. Brunswijk has his history. We could look at his history and see that as a barrier,” said Suriname’s president, Chan Santokhi, a former police officer who tracked Mr. Brunswijk as a fugitive in the 1980s before asking him to form a coalition government last year. “We’re looking forward to a better future, because we are two leaders who have been entrusted to lead this nation together,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Brunswijk was born into a family of 10 surviving children, in one of Suriname’s poorest regions. The family lived mostly on the rice, cassava and bananas they managed to coax from the thin, sandy soil. The occasional meat came from the wild animals Mr. Brunswijk and his brothers stalked with cutlasses.

“Life was not great,” Agnes Brunswijk, the vice president’s mother, said in an interview outside her home near Moengotapoe. “We had to struggle.”

She said the family’s large size and meager resources taught Mr. Brunswijk at an early age to share with others, a quality that would become his hallmark. He was a “mischievous” boy, she said, who fought with neighboring children but also cut firewood for older people.

Mr. Brunswijk’s life changed when a Roman Catholic priest picked him, the only one among his siblings, to attend a boarding school in a nearby town at age 10.

“I didn’t see electricity until I went to the boarding school,” recalled Mr. Brunswijk.

Further studies eventually brought Mr. Brunswijk to Paramaribo, where in 1980 he said he was drafted into Suriname’s budding national army by Desiré Bouterse, the military dictator who had recently seized power with a promise to sweep away the corruption of post-colonial rulers.

Singled out for his strength, Mr. Brunswijk became one of Suriname’s first 12 paratroopers and was sent for military training to Cuba, before being handpicked by Mr. Bouterse as his bodyguard.

The two men grew close, but Mr. Brunswijk said their relationship soured as the dictator began murdering political opponents and cracking down on the independent-minded Maroon communities.

“Maroon people don’t like being pressured,” Mr. Brunswijk said. “One day I said, ‘This is wrong.’ I had enough.”

The ensuing split has defined Suriname’s history ever since.

Mr. Brunswijk left the military in 1984, went on the run and began building his enduring Robin Hood myth, earning a conviction for bank robbery and armed theft and a reputation among Maroon villagers for generous handouts.

Mr. Brunswijk has denied committing the crimes, saying the convictions were part of Mr. Bouterse’s effort to discredit a rival. Without offering details, he said his gifts came from the money he made at a gold mine.

He was eventually captured, but managed to escape and fled to the Netherlands, where he joined Surinamese political exiles plotting Mr. Bouterse’s overthrow.

He returned to Suriname in 1986 and triggered an armed uprising, commanding a force that grew to 1,200 men in a civil war that lasted six years. What he lacked in military experience and strategic vision he compensated for with sheer force of will, war veterans have said.

“He had a strong spirit in him,” Petrus Adam, a former rebel commander, said in an interview. “He didn’t need to pay people. They came to him, they obeyed him.”

The motley force managed to fight the government to a standstill and helped initiate Suriname’s return to democracy. But the political compromise came at the cost of hundreds of deaths and the destruction of Suriname’s economy, from which the young nation never fully recovered.

The war was also the start of accusations that Mr. Brunswijk was involved in the drug trade, as both sides turned to cocaine to finance the conflict, Dutch historians have said.

In 1999, a Dutch court convicted Mr. Brunswijk in absentia of running a cocaine smuggling ring. A similar conviction followed in France a year later, but he has steadfastly denied any involvement in drug trafficking.

He said his fortune came instead from timber and gold-mining concessions he obtained after the war. His first venture was a sawmill, which he set up with a business grant from the Dutch government.

He used the money to go into politics, capturing the small but crucial Maroon vote share and becoming the kingmaker in Suriname’s parliamentary electoral system. He was re-elected to Parliament last year and formed a coalition government with Mr. Santokhi, the president.

As a politician, Mr. Brunswijk continued to help Surinamese in need, paying for medical bills, funerals and houses and earning the devotion of Maroon communities.

The aid ranges from the extravagant to poignant. He has bought new cars for the entire squad of a local soccer team that he owns. But he also helped many refugees return to their villages after the war.

His detractors say the handouts merely keep Mr. Brunswijk’s constituents dependent without offering a real path to self-improvement. But his supporters say the charity is a lifeline in a country without real social protections, and petitioners from across Suriname flock to his office every day.

Mr. Brunswijk now hopes to use his high office to build a real social safety net in Suriname and to bring basic infrastructure to the remote communities that have been ignored by the country’s rulers for centuries.

“This is a historic moment, when the village of my birth can finally have constant electricity,” a visibly moved Mr. Brunswijk said after turning on a power plant in Moengotapoe in December to the joyful chanting of residents. “I always wanted to make this a reality, and now that I’m the vice president, I finally can.”


What are the Causes of Poverty in Suriname?

The smallest country in South America, Suriname is one of the world’s poorest countries, with over 70% of its population living under the poverty line. While the country has seen some economic growth in recent years, its tumultuous political history explains many of the current causes of poverty in Suriname.

Having been a Dutch colony for a number of centuries, Suriname’s relationship with the Netherlands is a complicated one. For a long time after its independence it relied on Dutch aid to propel its economy however, relations deteriorated in the late 1990s, and in 2014 Suriname was dropped as a recipient of Dutch development aid.

The government of Jules Wijdenbosch ended Suriname’s structural adjustment program in 1996 in an attempt to make taxation more equitable for the country’s large poor population. As a result, tax revenues fell and the government was unable to implement an alternative. Mining, construction and service sectors declined and, combined with increased government spending, a bloated civil service and reduced foreign aid, the country faced a massive fiscal deficit, estimated at around 11% of the GDP. Eventually, this led to a long period of inflation, where consumer prices skyrocketed and it took the average Surinamese citizen more than two years to register a business.

The causes of poverty in Suriname began with Dutch colonization and continue to suffer from structural shortcomings and poor governance, as is common with many postcolonial nations in the global South.

Suriname and the Netherlands maintain a strained relationship after Desi Bouterse’s military government rose to power. He is currently convicted on a number of drug and corruption charges in the Netherlands but was re-elected as the president of Suriname in 2010. Under his regime, the nation’s political climate became saturated with ethnic polarization and corruption.

The economy of Suriname became more diversified and independent once Dutch aid stopped. Bauxite is the primary source of revenue, as well as agricultural exports and oil and gold extraction. These improvements are, in many ways, a double-edged sword, since the environmental fallout of such extraction is incredible. It has also led to a spike in forced child labor, with more children being recruited into the mining industry. Education rates have dropped, health problems and malnutrition have increased and high poverty rates continue to run rampant.

However, almost 80% of Suriname’s landmass is untouched rainforest and protected bioreserves, which have attracted many tourists over the years. With a rise in eco-tourism and diversification of exports, the potential for Suriname’s economy to improve is high. A large number of local and international organizations are working to provide educational services and health facilities, particularly to children in need. A number of groups focus on empowerment and legal advocacy as a way to bring about grassroots change. With an increase in foreign investment and local change to tackle corruption, some of the problems faced by the Surinamese can be addressed.


Good Practice: the history of Casa Blanca as an online experience

In January DutchCulture published Turn and Face the Strange, an overview of outstanding international cultural exchange practices that took place in 2020. The overview contains examples of good practices during the past pandemic year in the 23 focus countries of the International Cultural Policy framework 2021-2024, capturing the state of play at the various embassies and consulates. Today we spotlight artist and film maker Magda Augusteijn’s documentary Casa Blanca, which she made in close collaboration with editor and film maker Sam Jones and narrator Furgill Raafenberg.

Casa Blanca tells the story of the inhabitants of the former mining town of Moengo, about a hundred kilometres East from Parimaribo, Suriname. The Maroon community currently living in Moengo, descend from enslaved people who once fled the plantations nearby and settled on the hills close to the river Cottica. In 1915, the American company Alcoa discovered a high amount of bauxite in the surroundings, which resulted in large-scale mining practices, of which the Americans and Dutch took advantage from.

The title of the project derives from the beautiful Casa Blanca building, built in 1927 as a director’s residence for the mining company, later used as a staff club, and currently abandoned and dilapidated. The white building also forms the central node in this interactive audio-visual work. Locals and former residents of Moengo, from Suriname and the Netherlands, share sweet memories, harsh realities and dreams for the future around this place.

This production wasn’t the first trip to Moengo for Augusteijn. In 2017 she took part in an artist in residence programme in Suriname. She noticed how many different population groups and communities live close together but do not interact much in their social and cultural lives. Thus Augusteijn decided to take a closer look into the differences, similarities and the purposes and meanings of the prevalent rituals in the area of Moengo. The research, in collaboration with anthropologist Tina Lenz and students from the Nola Hatterman Art Academy Parimaribo, resulted in the film Moving Moengo.

Augusteijn’s return to Suriname in 2019, thus made further research and the exciting form of an interactive web documentary possible, that was launched in November 2020. The 24 short videos, starring former workers from the mining company and the Casa Blanca staff club and visual artist Marcel Pinas, plus additional online features offer a broad and vivid image of the history of Moengo, Casa Blanca and their protagonists. The interactive documentary Casa Blanca is still and cost-free available online, in lower resolution suitable for slow internet connections.

Check out the complete overview of Dutch cultural activities in Suriname in our database. If you are a cultural professional interested in an international collaboration with Suriname, feel free to contact our Suriname Advisor Ashley Swagers.


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