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Cablegate: (C) Subject: Briefing Information for October 6

VZCZCXRO4705
RR RUEHAO
DE RUEHPO #0510/01 2641926
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 211926Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9697
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 1494
RUEHAO/AMCONSUL CURACAO 1172

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARAMARIBO 000510

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES FROM AMBASSADOR LISA
BOBBIE SCHREIBER HUGHES

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV NS
SUBJECT: (C) SUBJECT: BRIEFING INFORMATION FOR OCTOBER 6
COURTESY CALL BETWEEN DEFENSE SECRETARY GATES AND
SURINAMESE PRESIDENT VENETIAAN

REF: A. REFTELS: (A) PARAMARIBO 501

B. (B) PARAMARIBO 509

Classified By: Ambassador LBSH for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

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Preview
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1. (C) President Venetiaan has agreed to a short (15 minute)
courtesy call late in the afternoon of Saturday, October 6,
immediately following your visit to the USNS Comfort. Venue
for the meeting will be either the Presidential Palace or the
President's Cabinet Office, both in Paramaribo. At that same
venue, and immediately following your courtesy call, we
propose (and are attempting to confirm with the Office of the
President) that Venetiaan participate with you in a brief (15
minute) ceremony to officially close the Comfort mission.
--------------------------------------------- --------
President of the Republic of Suriname, H.E. President Runaldo
Ronald Venetiaan (phonetic: FENEchiyan): a Biography
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (C) Three-term President Venetiaan (1991-1996;
2000-present) has a relatively long history in Surinamese
politics. Originally a mathematics professor, he became
chairman of the National Party of Suriname (NPS) in 1993, and
was elected a member of the National Assembly in 1996. He is
married and the father of four grown children. Relations
between the 71-year-old Venetiaan and Post are cordial, but
not warm. Nor is the distant Venetiaan an especially popular
leader with the Surinamese population.

3. (SBU) Venetiaan is, however, a canny politician whose
strategy of non-confrontation has enabled him to hold
together a multi-party governing coalition that is riven with
infighting yet clings to a 4-seat majority in the 51-seat
parliament. In Suriname's Dutch-model consociational
politics, parties laboriously reach consensus with the goal
of dividing up available resources, ministries,
ambassadorships, and other spoils of power, and delivering
them to their (often ethnically-based) constituencies.



--------------------------------------------- -----
Background Information and Issues: Gates/Venetiaan Courtesy
Call
--------------------------------------------- -----

(SBU)

4. Issue 1: Despite biases to the contrary, Suriname should
consider the United States a strong partner.

Background Information: President Venetiaan's north-south
bias with respect to the United States is evident in his
public statements. In August 2007, media reported
Venetiaan's comments that in the post-Cold War period the
United Nations has had a difficult time realizing its goals
because the United States has a monopoly on power and
determines the fate of the rest of the world. In June
2007, Venetiaan was the only CARICOM Head of State or
Government to decline an invitation to meet President Bush
during the Conference on the Caribbean in Washington. The
reason: Conference timing conflicted with his birthday.

The President is enthusiastic about regional integration and
Suriname has shown a tendency to downplay relations with the
United States and Europe in favor of ties with CARICOM, Cuba,
and Venezuela (and also outside of the region with China,
India, and Indonesia). He met with Hugo Chavez on his return
trip from the 2006 UN General Assembly and called him our
brother when I presented my credentials to him in September
2006. Despite Venetiaan's biases, he should recognize that
the United States is committed to Suriname, and to the
region. The USNS Comfort, ongoing IMET and past FMF support,
MEDRETES, and New Horizons provide tangible evidence of our
value as a partner.

5. (U) Issue 2: The United States has demonstrated its
commitment to work with Suriname as it further
professionalizes its armed forces, and strengthens
civil-military relations, democracy, and the rule of law.


PARAMARIBO 00000510 002 OF 002


Background Information: Through the United States Southern
Command (SouthCom), Suriname's Ministry of Defense (MOD) and
its armed forces have developed a strong, multifaceted
partnership that, through example, has helped Suriname on the
road to stronger civil-military relations and a more
professional military. This in turn is critical to the
furtherance of democracy and the rule of law in Suriname
where, since military rule ended in 1992, there has been a
strained relationship between the civilian government and the
armed forces. Venetiaan likely harbors some residual
antipathy towards the military due to his imprisonment and
alleged mistreatment under the regime of former military
strongman (and current member of parliament) Desi Bouterse.

--------------
Talking Points
--------------

-- Appreciate your flexibility in agreeing to meet on a
Saturday afternoon.

-- Pleased to have this opportunity to visit your country
while the USNS Comfort is here to provide medical services to
the people of Suriname.

-- Thank you for the support that your government, and in
particular your Ministries of Defense and Health, have given
to the Comfort mission.

-- Understand that Surinamers and Americans have worked
closely throughout this entire process so that the Comfort's
visit would be a true benefit for the people of Suriname.

-- Hope that you see the Comfort as the latest in a long
list of United States programs which demonstrate support and
friendship from the people and government of the United
States to the people and government of Suriname.

-- Certainly that was the intent of President Bush when he
sent the Comfort and its doctors and nurses to this region.

-- As you are doubtless aware, our United States Southern
Command has a strong, multifaceted relationship with your
Ministry of Defense and armed forces which includes
humanitarian as well as military aid.

-- We are strongly committed to working with our partners in
the region to further professionalize their armed forces
while also strengthening civil-military relations.

-- Speaking of regional issues, I would be interested in your
views, as President, on the recent decision by the ILOS
regarding the maritime border.

-- Thank you again for taking the time to receive me.
SCHREIBER HUGHES

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