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The finding of a "significant" amount of oil in offshore wells puts the former Dutch colony in the footsteps of neighbouring Guyana.
The intuition has proved to be correct, and explorations carried out under Suriname's territorial waters, together with the successful hydrocarbon reserves that are being exploited in Guyana's maritime borders, have found abundant oil. The finding could be a decisive boost for the development of what is, after Guyana, the second poorest country in South America, but it could also be an opportunity, as with its neighbour, to accentuate the economic and political corruption that has been hindering the progress of the population.
Suriname's presidential palace in the country's capital, Paramaribo [Ian Mackenzie].
article / Álvaro de Lecea
So far this year, drilling in two offshore fields in Suriname has been positive result , confirming the existence of "significant" oil in block 58, operated by France's Total, in partnership with US-based Apache. Everything indicates that the same success could be obtained in block 52, operated by the also American ExxonMobil and the Malaysian Petronas, which were pioneers in prospecting in Surinamese waters with operations since 2016.
Both blocks adjoin the fields under the waters of neighbouring Guyana, where it is currently estimated that there are some 3.2 billion barrels of extractable oil. In the case of Suriname, exploration in the first viable field, Maka Central-1, discovered in January 2020, indicates 300 million barrels, but estimates from Sapakara West-1, discovered in April, and subsequent planned exploration, have yet to be added. It is estimated that some 15 billion barrels of oil reserves may exist in the Guyana-Suriname basin.
Until this new oil era in the Guianas (the former British and Dutch Guianas; the French Guianas remains an overseas dependency of France), Suriname was considered to have reserves of 99 million barrels, which at the current rate of exploitation left two decades to deplete. In 2016, the country produced just 16,400 barrels per day.
status political, economic and social
With just under 600,000 inhabitants, Suriname is the least populated country in South America. Its Economics is heavily dependent on the export of metals and minerals, especially bauxite. The fall in commodity prices since 2014 has particularly affected the country's accounts. GDP contracted by 3.4% in 2015 and by 5.6% in 2016. Although the trend then turned positive again, the IMF forecasts a 4.9% drop in GDP for 2020, as a result of the global crisis caused by Covid-19.
Since gaining independence from the Netherlands in 1975, its weak democracy has suffered three coups d'état. Two of them were led by the same person: Desi Bouterse, the country's president until this July. Bouterse staged a coup in 1980 and remained in power indirectly until 1988. During those years, he kept Suriname under a dictatorship. In 1990 he staged another coup d'état, although this time he resigned the presidency. He was accused of the 1982 murder of 15 political opponents, in a long judicial process that finally ended in December 2019 with a twenty-year prison sentence, which is now being appealed by Bouterse. He has also been convicted of drug trafficking in the Netherlands, for which the resulting international arrest warrant prevents him from leaving Suriname. His son Dino has also been convicted of drug and arms trafficking and is in prison in the United States. Bouterse's Suriname has come to be presented as the paradigm of the mafia state.
In 2010 Desi Bouterse won the elections as candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP); in 2015 he was re-elected for another five years. In the 25 May elections, despite some controversial measures to limit the options of the civil service examination, he lost to Chan Santokhi, leader of the Progressive Reform Party (VHP). He tried to delay the counting and validation of votes, citing the health emergency caused by the coronavirus, but the new National Assembly was finally constituted at the end of June and is due to appoint the country's new president in July.
Total's operations in Surinamese and Guyanese waters [Total].
Relationship with Venezuela
Suriname intends to use the prospect of the oil bonanza to strengthen Staatsolie, the state oil company. In January, before the Covid-19 crisis became widespread, it announced purpose to expand its presence in the bond market in 2020 and also, conditions permitting, to list its shares in London or New York. This would serve to raise up to $2 billion to finance the national oil company's exploration campaign over the next few years.
On the other hand, Venezuela's territorial claims against Guyana, which affect the Essequibo - the western half of the former British colony - and which are being studied by the International Court of Justice, include part of the maritime space in which Guyana is extracting oil, but do not affect the case of Suriname, whose delimitations are outside the scope of this long-standing dispute.
Venezuela and Suriname have maintained special relations during Chavismo and while Desi Bouterse has been in power. On occasions, a certain connection has been made between drug trafficking under the protection of the Chavista authorities and that attributed to Bouterse. The offer made by Bouterse's son to Hezbollah to have training camps in Suriname, for which he was arrested in 2015 in Panama at the request of the United States and tried in New York, can be understood in light of the relationship between Chavism and Hezbollah, to whose operatives Caracas has provided passports to facilitate their movements. Suriname has supported Venezuela in regional forums at times of international pressure against the regime of Nicolás Maduro. In addition, the country has increasingly strengthened its relations with Russia and China, from which in December 2019 it secured the commitment of a new credit .
With the political change of the last elections, Maduro's Venezuela has in principle lost a close ally, while gaining an oil competitor (at least as long as Venezuelan oil exploitation remains at a low level).
Venezuela's worsening crisis reduces vigilance at sea, increases official corruption and pushes coastal villages to seek subsistence
April 2018 saw the attack with the highest death toll in recent years issue : 15 Guyanese fishermen died in Surinamese waters
Increased attacks prompted Trinidad and Tobago authorities to create an elite air unit to fight piracy
Coast-wide alert as news broke in 2018 that the previous year's incidents had risen from 27 to 71, up 167 percent
▲ Coast of Guyana, whose fishermen have been affected by increased piracy.
report SRA 2019 / Manuel Lamela[PDF Version].
The significant increase in piracy in the Atlantic waters between Colombia and Suriname, with Venezuela at the center of this criminal activity, has fueled media headlines about "the new pirates of the Caribbean".
Although far from the scale of piracy recorded in and around the Gulf of Aden between 2008 and 2012, and then in the Gulf of Guinea, the issue of attacks in these other waters increased markedly in 2017, and 2018 saw the highest issue casualty attack.
The deterioration of maritime security, which mainly harms local fishermen and some pleasure boats, from which pirates steal gasoline, engines, fish and whatever valuables they can find on board, has gone hand in hand with the worsening of the Venezuelan status and also affects neighboring countries.
Suriname and Guyana
The attack on four boats on which twenty Guyanese fishermen were fishing, which occurred between April 27-28, 2018, turned out to be the piracy incident with the highest issue death toll in recent years. Suriname authorities recovered five bodies and reported ten fishermen missing, whose bodies were possibly left at the bottom of the sea, as the perpetrators of the attack forced the crew members to throw themselves into the water with the anchor or other weights attached to their feet, from agreement with the official report. Only five occupants of the fishing boats were able to save themselves, with at least one of them freeing himself from the ballast to which he was tied, according to his own testimony. Subsequently, a thirty-man group was arrested for these events.
Despite the fact that the status is not unknown to Guyana or Suriname the increase in both issue and violence of this subject of incidents in the last year is remarkable. At the beginning of 2018, a report published by the NGO One Earth Future, within its Oceans Beyond Piracy program, indicated that the issue of attacks recorded in Latin American waters increased in 2017 from 27 in the previous year to 71, an increase of 167%. Most of them (64) occurred in territorial waters, without affecting international routes as was the case with Somali pirates or happens in the Gulf of Guinea. While on these routes the main targets were merchant ships or large fishing vessel owners, including the hijacking of vessels and crews, in the case of what is occurring mainly in the waters of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname it affects small boat owners.
Gulf of Paria, Trinidad and Tobago
Particularly thorny is status in the Gulf of Paria, located between the coasts of the Venezuelan state of Sucre and the island of Trinidad, separated by only 10 nautical miles at their closest point. The geographical peculiarity of the area is a perfect scenario for illicit activities. The area was already known for the existence of several gangs dedicated to smuggling and trafficking of basic necessities, such as diapers and other items in high demand among the Venezuelan population. Given the shortage suffered by Venezuela, this is a relief for the demand of certain products and injects dollars to the already large Economics submerged. To the ineffectiveness and passivity of the governments of both countries when it comes to combating piracy, as reflected in their failed bilateral negotiations in 2017, is joined by a more than presumable cooperative relationship between officials and criminal gangs, as pointed out by the Venezuelan NGO association civil de Gente de Mar.
Other areas of Trinidad and Tobago's territorial waters, in addition to those of the Gulf of Paria, are affected by piracy, which is contributed to by local gangs fed by the arrival of Venezuelans who find it difficult to find a job employment. In the last few years some 40,000 Venezuelans have migrated to the neighboring country, destabilizing the already precarious working conditions of Trinidadian society. With a population of just 1.3 million, the archipelago has a relatively high crime rate, which in 2018 manifested itself in the commission of close to 500 murders. These figures are starting to hurt tourism, which is one of the main economic assets. Trinidad and Tobago is at risk of being perceived as a successor to the infamous Tortuga Island, a haven for 17th century Caribbean pirates.
Faced with this status, the island authorities announced at the end of January 2019 the creation of an elite air unit within the Police to act against illegal migration, piracy, kidnapping and smuggling of weapons and drugs. The advertisement came immediately after six fishermen from Trinidad were kidnapped and taken to Venezuela by their kidnappers, who demanded a ransom of $200,000.
Venezuela: Sucre and Anzoátegui
The economic and social crisis in Venezuela is one of the main causes of the increase in piracy. This is carried out especially from the state of Sucre, which has already been mentioned, and from the coastal state of Anzoátegui.
The criminals operating in the area can be divided into two types. On the one hand, there are well-trained, well-armed attackers who are part of a criminal organization and related to the drug trafficking that controls the Paria peninsula (the eastern end of Sucre). Specifically, there are two different criminal gangs fighting for control of the area. These drug trafficking groups are based in the towns of San Juan de Unare and San Juan de las Galdonas, in the municipality of Arismendi. Through violence and extortion, they have managed to take over the most important maritime routes, driving away all fishermen who might witness their actions. Their activity is mainly focused on drug and arms trafficking. written request Regarding the former, the merchandise is obtained from Colombia and after crossing Venezuela is shipped to the coasts of Trinidad and Tobago to be transported to the European market, sometimes with a stopover in West Africa. As for the arms, the shipments are obtained in Venezuela itself, coming from theft and smuggling (corruption and lack of security also affect the national factories that produce armament; in 2019 it is foreseen the entrance operation of a factory with capacity to produce 25,000 AK 103 rifles per year).
On the other hand, piracy activity is also carried out by simple thugs, of a lesser criminal profile and with less equipment and resources. Despite this, they are the ones that create the greatest alarm, given their proliferation among a population with hardly any sources of income and coordinates of action that are less specific than those of organized crime, which makes their attacks more unpredictable.
Chavista mismanagement in the fishing industry is another of the main factors that have generated this increase of criminals coming from the local population, mostly dedicated to fishing. With the arrival of Hugo Chavez to power in 1999, a great process of nationalization of this sector was carried out, with the expropriation of shipyards, boats, ports... Following this process of reforms and further strengthening its relationship with Cuba, in 2008 a binational public business called business Joint Socialist Joint Industrial Fisheries of the Bolivarian Alliance (PESCALBA) was created with the goal to make the product more accessible to the social strata with less purchasing power. All this contributed to the fact that between Chávez's ascension to the presidency and 2017, the catch decreased by 60%, with a flight of ships to other countries, such as Panama or Ecuador, the cessation of activity of processing plants, the mooring of ships due to lack of maintenance and the increase of unemployment. As a result, the state of Sucre has result with a broken society, with no means of subsistence, which finds in crime its only way to survive.
After centuries of Caribbean orientation, the enclave accentuates its relationship with its neighbours on the continent
Two years ago, Suriname and Guyana became part of the South American football federation, leaving the federation of North, Central America and the Caribbean to which they belonged. It is a clear symbol of the change in geographical orientation that is taking place in this northeastern corner of South America which, as in the case of football, sees the potential for a greater relationship with its southern neighbours.
article / Alba Redondo
As vestiges of the colonial past of the great European naval powers of the seventeenth century – England, Holland and France – we find in the northeast of South America the three Guianas: Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. In addition to the natural barriers that isolate the region and hinder its connection with the rest of the South American continent – it is more closely related to the Caribbean, although its Atlantic coast is outside that sea – there are also social, cultural and language barriers that complicate its integration into the continent.
Located in the northeast of the South American continent, the region was called Guyana or "land of many waters" by its original inhabitants, the Arawaks. The area It is bordered to the west by Venezuela and to the south by Brazil, countries that also include lands that are part of the Guiana natural region. The humid terrain and coasts dense with mangroves and swamps are combined with the tropical climate of the interior, particularly for its virgin forests, its high plateaus and its great mountain ranges such as the Guiana Shield. Its population, which ranges from indigenous people to European descendants, is located in the area coastal beaches and river valleys.
The Guianas are spoken of as a whole, not only because they form a common territory for the natives, but also because they are outside the continental division made by the two great empires of the Iberian Peninsula. Being a territory not easily accessible from the rest of the continent, the lack of presence of Spaniards and Portuguese led other European powers of the time to seek to set foot there, in exploration campaigns carried out during the seventeenth century. British Guiana gained independence in 1970 and Dutch Guiana won independence in 1975. French Guiana remains a department and an overseas region of France and thus an outermost territory of the European Union in South America.
The Three Strangers
To the west of the region is Guyana, officially known as the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. The country has a population of around 773,000, mostly located in Georgetown, its capital. Hislanguage is English, bequest of its colonial past. The political and social reality of Guyanese is marked by the conflictive coexistence between the two major ethnic groups: the Afro-Guyanese and the Indo-Guyanese. Its domestic policy is characterized by the bipartisanship between the PNC (People's National Congress), made up of Afro-descendants concentrated in urban centers; and the PPP (People Progressive Party), with greater influence in rural areas, made up of descendants of immigrants from India who arrived during the British Empire and who work on sugar plantations.
Despite a recent surge in foreign investment, Guyana is the poorest country with the highest rates of crime, violence and suicide on the continent. In addition, its international image is conditioned by its perception as a area It is a benchmark in the international distribution of cocaine and its high rate of corruption. However, the country's future points to an entry into the world's major oil powers after the finding of one of the largest oil and gas deposits discovered in our decade.
Like Guyana, the political life of the Republic of Suriname is subject to a great ethno-cultural mosaic. The former Dutch colony, with its capital in Paramaribo, is the smallest and least populated country in South America, with just 163. 821 inhabitants. After its independence in 1975, more than a third of the population emigrated to the metropolis (Holland). This produced a major structural crisis due to the lack of human capital in the country. Suriname is made up of descendants from almost every continent: Africans, Indians, Chinese and Javanese, aborigines and Europeans. Its domestic policy is marked by the influence of Desiré Bouterse and by the democratic aspirations of society. With regard to its foreign policy, Suriname is committed to better control of exports of its resources, mainly aluminium, and to progressive integration in the regional and international sphere, in most cases, together with its neighbouring country, Guyana.
Unlike the other two Guianas, French Guiana is not an independent country, but is an overseas region of France, from which it is more than 7,000 km from France. The capital of this territory is Cayenne. For a long time it was used by France as a penal colony. It has the highest homicide rate in the entire French-speaking territory and is known for its high level of crime. How department It is part of the European Union and home to the Guiana Space Center, hosting one of Europe's main satellite launch stations in Kourou. French Guiana is facing rising unemployment, a lack of resources for Education and the dissatisfaction of its population, which has led to numerous protests.
Change of orientation
Due to the strong historical relationship with their respective metropolises and their late independence, there has traditionally been a significant barrier between the Guianas and South America. Geographically, they are cornered on the northern coast of South America, with difficulty developing contacts to the south, due to the orography of the Guiana massif and the Amazon rainforest. But there have also been cultural and linguistic reasons that contributed to a rapprochement between this region and the western Caribbean, where England, Holland and France had – and still have in some cases – island possessions.
However, after a long period of relative isolation, with little contact with southern neighbours, the republics of Suriname and Guyana have begun to join the dynamics of economic and political integration in South America.
Traditionally, the two states have had a closer relationship with the Caribbean: both are full members of CARICOM, Georgetown being the seat of this community of Caribbean countries, and are part of the association of Caribbean States (ACS), with the peculiarity of the presence of French Guiana as an associate. In recent years, Suriname and Guyana have begun to look more towards the continent itself: they have participated in the creation of UNASUR and are observer countries of Mercosur. A symbol of this change in orientation was the entry in 2016 of these two countries into Conmebol, the South American football federation, leaving the federation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean to which they belonged.
This greater relationship with its continental neighbours and participation in the South American integration process should serve to resolve some outstanding border issues, such as the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana: Caracas has historically claimed the territory that extends between its border and the Essequibo River, which runs through half of Guyana. However, as other Latin American territorial disputes are resolved in international courts, the Essequibo dispute threatens to perpetuate itself for the time being.