Timeline: Surinam

BBC News Online, Thursday 29 March 2001, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK

A chronology of key events:

1498 - Christopher Columbus sights the coast of Surinam.

1593 - Spanish explorers visit the area and name it Surinam, after the country's earliest inhabitants, the Surinen.

1602 - Dutch establish settlements.

1651 - British planters and their slaves set up the first European settlement in Surinam.

Dutch rule

1667 - British cede their part of Surinam to the Netherlands in exchange for New Amsterdam (later called New York City).

1682 - Coffee and sugar cane plantations established and worked by African slaves.

1799-1802, 1804-16 - British rule reimposed.

1863 - Slavery abolished; indentured labourers brought in from India, Java and China to work on plantations.

1916 - Aluminium Company of America (Alcoa) begins mining bauxite - the principal ore of aluminium - which gradually becomes Surinam's main export.

1954 - Surinam given full autonomy, with the Netherlands retaining control over its defence and foreign affairs.

Independence, coups and civil war

1975 - Surinam becomes independent with Johan Ferrier as president and Henck Arron, of the Surinam National Party (NPS), as prime minister; more than a third of the population emigrate to the Netherlands.

1980 - Arron's government ousted in military coup, but President Ferrier refuses to recognise the military regime and appoints Henk Chin A Sen of the Nationalist Republican Party (PNR) to lead a civilian administration; army replaces Ferrier with Chin-A-Sen.

[Desi Bouterse]
1980s coup leader
Desi Bouterse
1982 - Armed forces seize power in a coup led by Lieutenant-Colonel Desire (Desi) Bouterse and set up a Revolutionary People's Front; 15 opposition leaders charged with plotting a coup and executed; Netherlands and US respond by cutting off economic aid.

1985 - Ban on political parties lifted.

1986 - Surinamese Liberation Army (SLA), composed mostly of descendants of escaped African slaves, begins guerrilla war with the aim of restoring constitutional order; within months principal bauxite mines and refineries forced to shut down.

1987 - Some 97% of electorate approve new civilian constitution.

1988 - Ramsewak Shankar, a former agriculture minister, elected president.

1989 - Bouterse rejects accord reached by President Shankar with SLA and pledges to continue fighting.

1990 - Shankar ousted in military coup masterminded by Bouterse.

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.

[Jules Wijdenbosch]
Former president Jules
1996 - Jules Wijdenbosch, an ally of Bouterse, elected president.

1997 - Dutch government issues international arrest warrant for Bouterse, claiming that he had smuggled more than two tonnes of cocaine into the Netherlands during 1989-97, but Surinam refuses to extradite him.

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

2000 - Venetiaan becomes president, replacing Wijdenbosch, after winning elections that were held one year early in the wake of widespread protests against the former government's handling of the economy.