Independent republic, former autonomous territory under the Dutch Crown, on the Atlantic Ocean in N South America. Its capital is Paramaribo. First permanently settled by the English under Lord Willoughby of Parham in 1650, it then capitulated to the Dutch and was ceded to them under the Treaty of Breda in 1667 in exchange for New Netherland (New York). The British and French again sought to establish claims here, and it was held by the British from 1799 to 1802 and from 1804 to 1816, but the Congress of Vienna in 1815 reaffirmed Dutch possession.
Suriname was granted a parliament in 1866 and full autonomy in 1954. Its independence came in 1975. In 1980 the government was ousted by a military coup led by Sargent-Major Desire Bouterse, and the soldiers’ civilian allies were installed in office. Bouterse assumed complete control of the country in 1987.
A number of rebel guerrilla groups formed in the mid-1980s and did considerable damage to the country’s infrastructure and major industries. Democracy was restored in 1988, but in 1990 another military coup was led by Bouterse, who again installed his political allies. New elections in 1991 gave the opposing four-party New Front for Democracy coalition, control of parliament, and NFD leader Ronald Venetiaan became president. Bouterse resigned as army chief in 1992, and was later convicted in absentia in the Netherland s of drug trafficking. Jules Wijdenbosch of the National Democratic Party won the presidency in 1996, but in 2000, Venetiaan’s New Front returned to power.