The 8-December Murders in Surinam and United States Reactions

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The 8-December Murders in Surinam and United States Reactions

    The 8-December Murders in Surinam and United States Reactions During the Early 1980s

Date: 9 June 2006

Caroline Wentzel

    Student number: 9609059

MA Thesis English Language and Culture

    Specialisation: History of International Relations

    Supervisors: Dr. M. Kuitenbrouwer and Dr. P. Franssen


    Lida, Herman and Emmanuel

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Table of contents


Chapter 1:

    Political and Social Developments after the Coup d'état of

    February 1980

    ? 1.1 The Revolution of the Sergeants: How

    "Old Politics" Became New Politics-----------------------------5

     ? 1.2.1 A Promising Start---------------------------------------------------6

     ? 1.2.2 Unity Becomes Diversity------------------------------------------8

    ? 1.2.3 The Left-Wing Fraction Loses the Lead------------------------ 10

     ? 1.2.4 Left-Wing Politics Regain Influence-----------------------------12

    ? 1.3 Protest Arises against Bouterse's Politics------------------------13

    ? 1.4 Conclusion-----------------------------------------------------------17

Chapter 2:

    The 8-December Murders: The Actual Events and the

    Direct Outcome

     ? 1.1 The December Murders-------------------------------------------18

    ? 1.2.1 The Scenario and Its Contrivers---------------------------------18

    ? 1.2.2 The Victims-------------------------------------------------------- 21

    ? 1.2.3 The Execution of the Scenario-----------------------------------24

     ? 1.2.4 Determining the Level of Involvement-------------------------31

    ? 1.3.1 Surinam: The People Protest------------------------------------ 35

    ? 1.3.2 Surinam: Political Reorganisation------------------------------ 36

    ? 1.4.1 International Reactions: The Netherlands----------------------37

    ? 1.4.2 International Reactions: Latin-America

     and the United States----------------------------------------------39

    ? 1.4.3 International Reactions: International Organisations---------42

    ? 1.5 Conclusion-----------------------------------------------------------43

Chapter 3:

     United States Policy towards Latin America During the Early 1980s

     ? 1.1 Reagan and Latin America---------------------------------------46

    ? 1.2 United States Foreign Policy toward Latin America

     After World War II-----------------------------------------------46

    ? 1.3 South America-----------------------------------------------------51

    ? 1.4.1 Central America and the Caribbean ----------------------------54

    ? 1.4.2 Nicaragua-----------------------------------------------------------57

     ? 1.4.3 Grenada-------------------------------------------------------------60

    ? 1.5 Conclusion----------------------------------------------------------63

Chapter 4:

     United States Actions and Reactions to Political and Social

    Developments in Surinam

    ? 1.1 The United States and Surinam---------------------------------65

    ? 1.2 Four Stories--------------------------------------------------------66

    ? 1.3 American and Dutch Intelligence Activities------------------69

    ? 1.4 Surinam versus Grenada-----------------------------------------71

    ? 1.5 Conclusion---------------------------------------------------------74


    List of works cited-------------------------------------------------------------------79


     I------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 84

     II------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 85

     III----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 86

     IV----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 87

     V------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 88


    On 25 November 1975 Surinam became a sovereign state. Its former mother country, The Netherlands, made an agreement with Surinam concerning development aid. Surinam was to receive a golden handshake worth 3,5 billion Dutch guilders. Unfortunately, the received aid was invested in unrealistic and prestigious projects. Most of the financial aid fell prey to corruption. The Netherlands, as well as many other countries involved, lost their faith in the Surinamese government. Amongst the Surinamese themselves, the armed forces were the most dissatisfied with the government's policy.

     On 25 February 1980 sixteen sergeants led by sergeant-major Desi Bouterse carried out a coup d'état. The international community were willing to accept the change of power, hoping that the corruption which had developed during the previous period of the so-called old politics would come to an end. Nevertheless, a seemingly hopeful situation soon turned hopeless. The initially moderate-minded military leaders became divided amongst themselves. Desi Bouterse became increasingly interested in left-wing ideologies. Bouterse and his advisors expounded left-wing policies which encountered great resistance from both the people and the National Military Council. Bouterse and his supporters increasingly felt as though they were slowly being driven into a corner. This growing anxiety eventually led to the brutal murder of fifteen of Surinam's most prominent members of society. These murders took place during the night of 8 December 1982 and are therefore known as the December murders.

    The December murders were not just a local Surinamese concern. The political reorientation in Surinam and its attendant violence became an issue in international politics concerning not only the former mother country, The Netherlands, but possibly also the United


    States of America. During the 1980s, one of American president Ronald Reagan's biggest concerns was to eliminate communism throughout the world. Considering the Latin American continent, he had most to fear from communist influence from the isle of Cuba. Surinam can be regarded as Cuba's doorway to mainland Latin America. In order to protect the Latin American hinterland from Cuban influence, Surinam could not be allowed to fall prey to communism. However, shortly after the revolution of the sergeants had taken place, Desi Bouterse made contact with revolutionaries such as Grenada's Maurice Bisshop and Cuba's Fidel Castro; it was rumoured that Cuban soldiers were aiding the Surinamese military. To fully comprehend the United States motivation for showing interest in the Surinamese case, a closer look at the U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America during the 1980s is needed. The U.S. policy towards other revolutionary or communist countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Grenada and El Salvador should give some insight into America's perception of the developments in Surinam.

     Next to the United States and Surinam there is a third party that needs to be taken into consideration: The Netherlands. The Netherlands maintained strong political ties with Surinam after its independence. The political change in Surinam led to a debate within the Dutch government concerning the assigned development aid. Especially the December murders strained the relationship between the two countries. It is not unlikely that The Netherlands and the United States have interacted on several occasions to discuss the Surinam case and devise a political strategy that would contain or put an end to revolutionary activities. Insinuations about covert CIA operations have been made. It is uncertain whether plans for such operations really existed and whether they actually were carried into execution. The main question I will try to answer in this thesis is whether, and if so, on what grounds, the United States undertook political, military and CIA action against Surinam during the years


    1980-1983, the period during which the December murders and radical political and social developments took place in Surinam.

     The December murders are paramount in this thesis, because they signify an imported stage in Surinamese history which is sometimes referred to as Surinam's black page in history. It is imported to understand which circumstances led to the murders and what the effects were afterwards. Therefore the period from 1980 up to and including 1983 is discussed.

    The first two chapters of this thesis deal primarily with Surinamese issues. The first chapter deals with the changes brought about by the sergeants‟ revolution of February 1980. The revolution resulted in a period of rapid political and social developments. The outcome was a predominantly left-wing military authority. The aim of this chapter is to outline this development process and to provide a better understanding of the parties involved. The second chapter discusses the actual events on the days surrounding the December murders. It deals with questions such as: who were the actual perpetrators, who were the victims, why did it take place and what impact did these events have on Surinam's image as perceived by international society.

    The final two chapters have the United States as their main subject. The third chapter gives an outline of United States foreign politics during the period 1980-1983, specifically with regard to Latin America. This will help us understand in what light the United States would perceive Surinam's political climate and the December murders. The fourth and final chapter deals with the U.S. actual plans, actions, policies and political interactions relating to Surinam. This chapter describes which political, military and CIA action the United States undertook against Surinam during the early 1980s.

    The research material that has been used consists of Dutch as well as Surinamese and English, or American, sources. Literature, books and texts, formed the base of the research. Furthermore, newspaper articles from several Dutch newspapers were used. Most of the


articles were taken from online sources. Official U.S. state documents, American foreign

    policy;current documents, were added to the material. Finally, audio-visual material provided extra information. Surinam was very rarely mentioned in the American sources. The first two chapters are therefore based upon primarily Dutch and Surinamese research information. Altogether, these sources gave a well rounded picture of the mutual relations between the United States, Surinam and The Netherlands during 1980-1983.


    Chapter 1. Political and Social Developments after the Coup d'état of February 1980

? 1.1 The Revolution of the Sergeants: How "Old Politics" Became New Politics

    Sixteen paltry armed sergeants of the Surinamese army seized power on 25 February 1980. The group was led by sergeant-major Desiré Delano Bouterse, an army sports instructor. At first, the transfer of power received a great welcome from the Surinamese people as well as the Dutch government. Both were highly unsatisfied with the "old politics" which had confronted the Surinamese with acts of corruption since Surinam's independence from The Netherlands in 1975. The revolution was expected to clear the way for fresh ideas and political change (Boerboom and Oranje 18).

     Initially, several positive developments took place. The Surinamese constitution remained in force. Subsequently, President Johan Ferrier, who already enjoyed the confidence of the Surinamese people and the Dutch government, continued in office. His task was to establish a civilian administration which would be placed under the leadership of Prime Minister Henk Chin A Sen and his vice-chancellor André Haakmat (Budding 322). The Dutch government felt they had little to fear from Bouterse, for the Dutch military mission, affiliated with the Dutch embassy, described him as an easy to influence man with a moderate political mindset. Therefore, it could be expected that Bouterse would be susceptible to Dutch wishes. In good faith, the Dutch government promised an amount of 500 billion Dutch guilders for an economic priority project (Buddingh 323).

     Within two years, however, a seemingly stable situation converted into disorder and political instability. During this period Desi Bouterse managed to manoeuvre himself in a very powerful position. The political change was set off by the removal of President Ferrier from office. Subsequently, Haakmat was relieved from his office and Chin A Sen was forced


    to vacate his seat and hand over power to the military authorities (Haakmat, Herinneringen 91-92). The reason for Chin a Sen's dismissal was a difference of opinion within the government on which political line to follow (Buddingh 328).

    Politics were becoming more and more socialist. A socialist revolution seemed at hand and this led to discord within the military forces and the government. Furthermore, the people also disapproved of the left-wing intentions which resulted in open resistance against the military authorities. A culmination of events led to the murder of 15 prominent members of Surinam's society. The main question here is which political and social developments and conflicts eventually resulted in the so-called December murders.

? 1.2.1 A Promising Start

    The coup was the result of a variety of issues of concern. In the first place, there was the question of the military's mission in and for Surinamese society. Several Dutchmen and Surinamese shared the vision of the military becoming some sort of development army that would stimulate the countries social, economic and structural development. One such advocate was Chas Mijnals, a military officer who received his training in The Netherlands. According to him and his peers the military would have to be reorganized, for now the army‟s principal mission was to provide border patrol and reinforcement for the police during crises (Dew 40). A second issue was the discrepancy of income among the corps‟ officers. Those who had received training in The Netherlands were given special salary inducements to return to Surinam, yet all new recruits were paid much less (Dew 40). Thirdly, a barracks army is a show army, and therefore requires an emphasis on discipline and appearance. By numerous accounts a kind of extremely harsh discipline was being exercised. Recruits could be locked


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