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Cablegate: Bouterse Unites Opposition, Targets 2010 Elections

VZCZCXRO6571
RR RUEHGR
DE RUEHPO #0301 2071931
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251931Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0276
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1671
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 1646

UNCLAS PARAMARIBO 000301

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA - JROSHOLT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL NS

SUBJECT: BOUTERSE UNITES OPPOSITION, TARGETS 2010 ELECTIONS

REF: Paramaribo 00120

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On July 5, former military strongman and current
murder defendant Desi Bouterse's National Democratic Party (NDP)
officially formed a so-called mammoth bloc uniting five opposition
political parties. An audience of several thousand attended the
lively mass meeting where they were told that the bloc intends to
move Suriname to the left. Although the current government is
deeply unpopular, victory still will not be easy for the mammoth
bloc with its history of criminality and economic mismanagement.
END SUMMARY.

-------------------------------
Famous Faces, Familiar Rhetoric
-------------------------------

2. (U) On July 5, the mammoth bloc - the popular term for the new
political combination that has no official name as yet - was
officially brought to life at a National Democratic Pary (NDP)-style
rally. The combination consists of the NDP led by Desi Bouterse,
the Democratic National Platform 2000 (DNP-2000) led by former
President Jules Wijdenbosch, the Party for Development and Democracy
(BVD) led by wealthy businessman Dilip Sardjoe, the Progressive
Workers and Farm Laborers Union (PALU) led by intellectual Jim Hok,
and the Party of National Unity and Solidarity led by Javanese
splinter-politician Willy Soemita. The five chairmen underlined the
importance of unity in politics and criticized the Venetiaan/Sardjoe
government for their gas, food, housing, and education policies.
Dilip Sardjoe predicted that the new combination would win at least
40 of the 51 seats in Parliament.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Invocations: from Sinatra to Guevara, Obama to Chavez
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (U) A predominantly youthful audience of a few thousand attended
the mass meeting in the NDP party center. It featured performances
by popular music groups, with Bouterse appearing on stage singing I
did it my way and repeatedly using Barack Obama's yes we can
election slogan. Bouterse, wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt (he is an
admirer of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavz), told his audience that it
is time to make South America more red. Referring to elections in
Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, Bouterse reiterated that it was time
for Suriname to also move to the left.

--------------------
Coalition Skepticism
--------------------

4. (SBU) Kortencia Sumter-Griffith, one of the leading ladies within
President Runaldo Venetiaan's NPS (National Party of Suriname), told
Embassy staff that Bouterse's speech was nothing but populist
rhetoric and that he was only able to draw such large crowds because
of the popular music bands. Sumter - Griffith predicted the
combination would not last since neither Bouterse nor Wijdenbosch,
whose relationship has run the gambit from personal friends to foes
and are now back together again, would not accept the other's
political leadership. Guno Castelen, Member of Parliament and
Secretary of the Labor Party, suggested the new combination could
pose a threat to the ruling coalition. He pointed out, however,
that the Venetiaan government has brought economic stability and
said he does not think that voters will opt for the inflation and
corruption that the 1996 - 1999 government, led by the NDP with
Wijdenbosch as President, was known for.

5. (SBU) COMMENT. While it is true the New Front Plus coalition led
by President Venetiaan brought back economic stability and rule of
law that was absent under Wijdenbosch's leadership, Venetiaan's
government remains deeply unpopular. The mammoth bloc has yet to
present an election platform but enjoys popular support across a
broad demographic. Yet victory also will not be easy for the bloc.
The Surinamese voter tends to vote against rather than for, and
whether it votes against the current villains of President
Venetiaan and his supposedly do-nothing government or against the
older villains of blood-and-drug-stained Bouterse and his bloc is a
question whose answer will be another two years in the making. END
COMMENT.

LBSCHREIBERHUGHES

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