Date: Mon, 31 May 1999 00:19:50 -0500 (CDT)
Bernie Lowenstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: (en) Anti-government protests in Suriname
PARAMARIBO, Suriname (Reuters)—Thousands of anti-government protesters marched through the Surinamese capital Thursday as embattled President Jules Wijdenbosch faced mounting calls for his resignation amid a deepening economic crisis.
The crowd of about 20,000 people banged pots, pans and empty oil cans and shouted slogans calling for Bosje, as Wijdenbosch is called, to step down.
Police, who fired warning shots and tear gas during similar protests over the past week, did not intervene and no incidents were reported.
The former Dutch colony on the northern shoulder of South America has been rocked for a week by anti-government protests over steep price rises and a plunging local currency.
The protests have brought the sparsely populated country virtually to a standstill with most shops, gasoline stations and schools closed and many civil servants on strike.
Wijdenbosch, who took office in September 1996 for five years, has resisted calls for his resignation and political and diplomatic sources said he might declare a state of emergency.
If the president wants to declare the state of emergency ... he has
to explain why it is necessary, former president Ronald Venetiaan
said during Thursday's march.
A state of emergency would allow the president to rule by decree with a suspension of most civil liberties.
Foreign Minister Errol Snijders hinted at the prospect when, according
to diplomatic sources, he told members of the diplomatic corps
Wednesday that the government would take
measures necessary to maintain public order.
Suriname, a multiethnic country of 400,000, has seen its economy hit by poor prices for key exports like bauxite, shrimps, bananas and gold.
While Wijdenbosch blames these external factors and heavy foreign currency demand by drug traffickers for the current crisis, local economists argue the economy has been mismanaged.