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Dutch Guiana, unicameral parliament, popular vote, Paramaribo, abolition of slavery

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Suriname, country in northeastern South America that borders the Atlantic Ocean. Before 1975 Suriname was a dependency of the Netherlands and was called Dutch Guiana or Netherlands Guiana. Suriname has an area of 163,265 sq km (63,037 sq mi), making it the smallest independent country in South America. The capital and only major urban area is Paramaribo.

Suriname has an ethnically mixed population as a consequence of the colonial plantation system of past centuries. Plantations that grew sugarcane and other crops first relied on slave labor from Africa. After the abolition of slavery, laborers were brought in from India, Indonesia, and elsewhere in Asia. Today, more than half of Suriname’s people are of Asian ancestry. Creoles, of mixed African and European ancestry, also make up a large part of the population.

The economy of Suriname is based on the mining of bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is made. Much of the ore is processed in Suriname before shipment elsewhere, especially to the United States.

English, French, and Dutch traders first arrived in Suriname in the late 16th century. It became a Dutch colony later in the century. Shortly after independence in 1975, a military coup overthrew Suriname’s democratically elected government. Although democracy was restored in 1987, the military continued to wield power in the 1990s. An upturn in the economy in the early 2000s raised expectations that the democratic government would remain in power.


Until 1980 Suriname was governed under a constitution adopted in 1975. The government was headed by a popularly elected president, a council of ministers, and a unicameral parliament. Following a coup d’etat in 1980, the constitution was suspended, parliament was dissolved, and the Policy Center, a council dominated by the military, began ruling by decree.

A new constitution, adopted by referendum in 1987, established a 51-member National Assembly with the power to select the president. The president is elected to a five-year term. Members of the National Assembly are elected to five-year terms by popular vote.



Beatty, Noelle. Suriname. Chelsea House, 1997. Overview of the culture, history, economy, and people.

Lieberg, Carolyn S. Suriname. Children's Press, 1995. For younger readers.

Sedoc-Dahlberg, B., ed. The Dutch Caribbean: Old and New Connections. Gordon & Breach, 1990. Economic and political conditions of the Netherlands Antilles, including Suriname and Aruba.


Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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