Sunday, January 3, 2010
Suriname: Christmas Violence
Over Christmas, the border town of Albina experienced some intense violence between the native Maroon population and Brazilian immigrants. The story goes that a Brazilian stabbed and killed a Maroon man, sparking the Maroon residents to retaliate against the entire Brazilian community in this town on the border of French Guyana and Suriname.
Though the exact details are uncertain, at least 7 Brazilians were killed, 20 women were raped, a large hotel and other, mostly Chinese-owned businesses were burned. Numerous people had machete wounds. There are some Brazilians reported missing, but, as most Brazilians are undocumented it is possible some people will not be found and that no one, not even their families back in Brazil will know what happened to them.
This very tragic story is of interest to me for several reasons. One of the aspects of Suriname I had most enjoyed was how secure I had felt in Paramaribo. I had marveled at the apparent lack of street crime and how Surinamese women proudly wore gold and carried large purses, without the fear of being assaulted as they would in other countries I have visited (South Africa, Mozambique). Paramaribo is different from the rest of the country and the garimpos have their own laws and social codes, but still, even in Benzdorp I had not heard of any violent tension between Maroons and Brazilians. I saw them working together in the mines, Maroons had learned Portuguese so they could communicate with their co-workers. Ok, social tension maybe, the two groups didn't necessarily like each other, but no violence.
But I had been warned about Albina, that it was a more aggressive city than Paramaribo and that the transient nature of the residents made for a strange place. The troubles Albina just recently experienced could happen elsewhere in the country. Brazilians are treading on land that is not their own, taking gold that doesn't belong to them, angering the native residents.
But they are coming to Suriname because there is no place for them in their own country. They are leaving nothing behind in the Brazilian Amazon with the hope they can find anything to live on in the Surinamese forest. It's a hard life, and I'm sure this recent event has made them all the more aware of their precarious position in this world.
Read a complete article here.