Friday, April 25, 2008

Human Rights in Suriname

I'm going to be forward - like nearly every other Latin Americanist, I know virtually nothing about Guyana, French Guyana, or Suriname. Despite being part of the continent, we simply don't include them as part of "Latin America" for whatever reasons (gaining independence relatively late; having colonial reigns that resembled European colonization in Africa more than Latin America, for speaking English and Dutch; etc.). I always wished this weren't true, but I wasn't going to waste my career becoming the first "Surinamist" and then trying to get a job (and learning Dutch on top of Spanish and Portuguese just doesn't seem that thrilling to me).

That said, I was rather surprised to learn that Suriname had a military coup in the 1980s, followed by repression, culminating in the state's murder of 15 opposition members in 1982. My surprise is matched only by my satisfaction of seeing that D├ęsi Bouterse, the former de facto president during the dictatorship, is facing trial in military court for these murders (along with 22 co-defendants). Due to my forestated ignorance on all matters Surinamian (Surinamese?), I couldn't begin to predict how this will turn out. The fact that Bouterse is currently in Parliament makes me inclined to think he may not be punished severely, but that's 100% guessing with no evidence to support that conclusion whatsoever. I don't even know if Bouterse's claim that he was not involved with any step of the killings is false (though given that everybody, from Pinochet to Idi Amin to Saddam Hussein have said the same thing when they knew and often ordered this style of killings makes me think Bouterse is guilty too). But the fact that there is a trial at all definitely seems to be good news for Suriname. It will definitely be worth trying to find out more about it.