344. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Bowdler) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Newsom)1


  • Instructions to The Hague to Make Demarche on Suriname


Whether we should instruct our Chargé at The Hague to express to the Dutch Foreign Ministry our growing concerns over the situation in Suriname and to suggest that the Dutch take the lead in using their influence to encourage a return to constitutionalism and democracy.


The Dutch are painfully slow in deciding on what course of action to take regarding the NCO coup d’état in Suriname. Currently, the Dutch plan to debate the issue in the Parliament on March 4.2 The Cabinet is to reach a policy decision on February 29. The Dutch have the principal influence because Suriname was a former colony and the Dutch keep the economy afloat with a $1.5 billion aid package. The U.S. does not provide assistance, but has substantial influence because of close, friendly ties and a $500 million ALCOA investment.

Contrary to the junta’s early statements of favorable attitudes toward the democratic process and human rights, recent events indicate backsliding on the part of the National Military Council (NMC). The NMC has imposed local press censorship and has posted guards at media offices. It continues to maintain an all-night curfew and to search vehicles. Recent unverified NMC statements indicate that elections may be postponed up to four years. Suriname previously had scheduled a national election on March 27, at which time it was likely that the current government would have been voted out of office. Previously, Suriname had been the model of democracy, constitutionality and moderation in international affairs.

In view of the Dutch influence and continued responsibilities, we should indicate to them that we look toward the Netherlands Govern[Page 852]ment to take the lead in encouraging a return to democracy.3 Dutch officials have expressed their serious concerns, particularly over the apparent civilian leadership of the opportunistic and corrupt former Economic Minister, Eddie Bruma. The situation, however, remains fluid and a broad-based government may emerge. Nevertheless, the Dutch agree with us that the lack of a commitment to hold elections is very serious because of the GON’s public commitment to the continuation of a democratic government in Suriname.


That you approve the enclosed instructions to our Charge at The Hague to indicate our serious concern over developments in Suriname and to seek a Dutch leadership role in moving the junta toward the democratic process.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P800054–0933. Confidential. Drafted by Warne; cleared in L/ARA, HA, EUR/NE, and by Pastor.
  2. During the Parliamentary session, officials expressed general disagreement with the coup and urged a return to constitutional government, but vowed that there would be no halt to developmental funds to Suriname. (Telegram 1455 from The Hague, March 5; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800114–0077)
  3. On March 12, Warne met with Dutch officials. Warne reported that the Dutch were hesitant to use their aid program as leverage to restore democracy, because the “current Hague government is too weak politically to take such a controversial step.” (Telegram 65267 to The Hague, March 12; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800126–0825)
  4. Newsom checked the approve option. The cable is attached but not printed. The final version of the démarche was sent on February 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P800054–0935)