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Suriname Gov’t. Resignations Sought

May 20, 1999

PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) _ Shopkeepers hurriedly shut their doors Wednesday as angry gangs roamed the streets of Suriname’s capital demanding that the government resign.

Union leaders threatened tougher action this week to force out the government of President Jules Wijdenbosch, which they blame for the South American nation’s mounting economic woes and rapidly increasing cost of living.

``The fight has now taken another dimension. It will become only worse,″ said Robby Narrendorp, chairman of the federation of teachers’ unions that shut schools down Wednesday.

Demonstrators blocked the entrance to the building where the Cabinet meets, jostling and yelling at Cabinet ministers, whom police steered with difficulty through the crowd.

Suriname has suffered sporadic protests and strikes for months that have increased since the year began with a 45 percent increase in fuel prices, but nothing as dramatic as this week’s events. There have been only minor incidents of violence.

On Tuesday, thousands of protesters stormed a session of the National Assembly and demanded that legislators force Wijdenbosch to resign.

Protesters are angry at prices that have soared as the Surinamese guilder has plummeted. The guilder, which was trading at 400 to the dollar when Wijdenbosch’s military-based party won elections and formed a coalition three years ago, slumped to 2,000 to the dollar last week. It was trading Wednesday at about 1,750.

In parliament on Tuesday, demonstrators blamed Wijdenbosch’s government for lack of aid from the Netherlands, the former colonial power in Suriname.

Dutch aid had kept Suriname relatively prosperous but was cut in 1982 when the military dictatorship of Desi Bouterse gunned down 15 political opponents. Wijdenbosch had served as prime minister and then adviser to that government.

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