In Search of a Path

An Analysis of the Foreign Policy of Suriname from 1975 to 1991


Author: Roger Janssen
The foreign policy of small states is an often neglected topic, which is particularly the case when it comes to Suriname. How did the young Republic deal with its dependency on the Netherlands for development aid after 1975? Was Paramaribo following a certain foreign policy strategy or did it merely react towards internal and external events? What were the decision making processes in defining the foreign policy course and who was involved in these processes? And why was a proposal discussed to hand back the right of an independent foreign and defence policy to a Dutch Commonwealth government in the early 1990s?

These questions are examined here in depth, in the first comprehensive analysis of Suriname’s foreign policy from 1975 to 1991. The book provides readers interested in Caribbean and Latin American affairs with a detailed account of Suriname’s external relations. Moreover, the young Republic may stand as a case study, as it confronted the difficulties and challenges that small developing states often face.
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Roger Janssen (1967), born in the Dutch-German border region of Cleve, migrated to Australia in 1989. He received his education as a historian at the University of Western Australia where he obtained a Ph.D. in 1999. During his graduate and post-graduate studies, the main focus of his research was directed towards the social-economic and political developments of the Dutch Caribbean after the Second World War. Currently he lives and works in the Netherlands.
Acknowledgements vii
List of abbreviations ix
Introduction xv

I. Colonial rule 1
The arrival of the Dutch 2
Emerging socio-economic structures 6
The winding path towards political independence 11

II. Independent in name only 25
Creation of the Surinamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs 26
Regional integration; A failed opportunity 32
The migration issue 38
Under the thumb of international capital 42
The ‘golden handshake’ or ‘golden handcuffs’ 48
The coup d’état of February 1980 54
Escalating internal and external tensions 60

III. David versus Goliath 69
The Netherlands becomes the ‘enemy’ 69
The gloves are off 80
The termination of Dutch aid and its socio-economic
consequences 90

IV. Standing amongst giants 103
The push towards regional integration 104
Suriname feels the heat of the Cold War 110
Paramaribo under pressure from intergovernmental
organizations and multinationals 123
The Libyan connection 127

V. The quest for international solidarity 135
A Surinamese perspective on world politics 136
Faced with international isolation 143
Paramaribo’s diplomatic counteroffensive 151
Human rights abuses and Suriname’s international image 157
The search for funds 163

VI. Suriname on its knees 173
The Revolution’s failure 174
The emerging dialogue with the Netherlands 178
Going around in circles 184
Deadlocked relations 188
The civil war 191
Another diplomatic breakdown 195
Return to democracy 199

VII. Return to the patron-client relationship 207
Suriname under civilian rule 208
Dutch-Surinamese rapprochement 210
Suriname’s descent into obscurity 216
The civil war and its international impact 222
Dutch-Surinamese relations, 1989-1990 228
The Christmas coup 238

VIII. Towards a Commonwealth? 245
An idea emerges 246
The case for a Commonwealth 251
The case against a Commonwealth 255
The Commonwealth’s collapse into oblivion 259
Conclusion 265
Epilogue 277
Appendices 295
Bibliography 331
Index of names 345
Readers interested in Caribbean and Latin American affairs.