Suriname - Leadership

Venetiaan assumed the office of president for the second time in 2000 under challenging conditions. The country's treasury was nearly bankrupt, the civil service was overstaffed and inefficient, the economy was stagnating, and relations with neighboring Guyana were strained. He ran his campaign on his past reputation as a respected educator and staunch supporter of democracy. He promised stability, an end to government secrecy and corruption, and economic growth. "During the campaign we emphasized the need to address the troubles in the economy that the country had been facing during the past three to four years," Venetiaan noted. He was banking on the resolve of the Suriname citizenry to endure the austerity measure that would be necessary to turn the economy around. At the same time, he looked for support from the legislature to pass legislation to fight government corruption. The vice president, Jules Ajodhia, told a reporter, "In his [Venetiaan's] address to the national assembly, the president announced that he wanted the anti-corruption act passed as soon as possible. Investors need to have confidence in the law enforcement institutions."

Ventiaan's coalition was firm in its resolve to thwart any early coup attempts by former military dictator Désiré Bouterse, who had staged coups in both 1980 and 1990 and was reportedly hiding out in the forests of Suriname in late 2000. The government called on military leaders to publicly declare their support for the incumbent government in a move to force the military to solidify military allegiance to the elected government. Bouterse was convicted of cocaine trafficking by a court in The Hague in July 1999, where a judge sentenced him in absentia to 16 years in prison, and fined him US $2.18 million.

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