Page last updated at 13:27 GMT, Friday, 14 September 2012 14:27 UK

Timeline: Suriname

A chronology of key events:

1498 - Christopher Columbus sights the coast of Suriname.

Indian village house, Surinam
Traditional home: House on stilts

1593 - Spanish explorers visit the area and name it Suriname, after the country's earliest inhabitants, the Surinen.

1600-c.1650 - Settlements attempted by Spanish, Dutch, British, and French during the first half of the 17th century. They all fail, in part because of resistance by the native inhabitants.

1651 - First permanent European settlement in Suriname, established by the British at Paramaribo by Lord Francis Willoughby.

Dutch rule

1667 - British cede their part of Suriname to the Netherlands in exchange for New Amsterdam (later called New York City).

1682 - Coffee and sugar cane plantations established and worked by African slaves.

1799-1802, 1804-16 - British rule reimposed.

1863 - Slavery abolished; indentured labourers brought in from India, Java and China to work on plantations.

1916 - Aluminium Company of America (Alcoa) begins mining bauxite - the principal ore of aluminium - which gradually becomes Suriname's main export.

1954 - Suriname given full autonomy, with the Netherlands retaining control over its defence and foreign affairs.

Independence, coups and civil war

1975 - Suriname becomes independent with Johan Ferrier as president and Henk Arron, of the Suriname National Party (NPS), as prime minister; more than a third of the population emigrate to the Netherlands.

1980 - Arron's government ousted in military coup, but President Ferrier refuses to recognise the military regime and appoints Henk Chin A Sen of the Nationalist Republican Party (PNR) to lead a civilian administration; army replaces Ferrier with Chin A Sen.

1980s coup leader Desi Bouterse
Desi Bouterse seized power in a 1982 military coup


- Armed forces seize power in a coup led by Lieutenant-Colonel Desire (Desi) Bouterse and set up a Revolutionary People's Front; 15 opposition leaders charged with plotting a coup and executed; Netherlands and US respond by cutting off economic aid.

1985 - Ban on political parties lifted.

1986 - Surinamese Liberation Army (SLA), composed mostly of descendants of escaped African slaves, begins guerrilla war with the aim of restoring constitutional order; within months principal bauxite mines and refineries forced to shut down.

1987 - Some 97% of electorate approve new civilian constitution.

1988 - Ramsewak Shankar, a former agriculture minister, elected president.

1989 - Bouterse rejects accord reached by President Shankar with SLA and pledges to continue fighting.

1990 - Shankar ousted in military coup masterminded by Bouterse.

Return to civilian rule

1991 - Johan Kraag (NPS) becomes interim president; alliance of opposition parties - the New Front for Democracy and Development - wins majority of seats in parliamentary elections; Ronald Venetiaan elected president.

Former president: Jules Wijdenbosch
Former president Jules Wijdenbosch

1992 - Peace accord reached with SLA.

1996 - Jules Wijdenbosch, an ally of Bouterse, elected president.

1997 - Dutch government issues international arrest warrant for Bouterse, claiming that he had smuggled more than two tonnes of cocaine into the Netherlands during 1989-97, but Suriname refuses to extradite him.

1999 - Dutch court convicts Bouterse for drug smuggling after trying him in absentia.

2000 - Ronald Venetiaan becomes president, replacing Wijdenbosch, after winning early elections that followed protests against the former government's handling of the economy.

2002 April - State-owned banana company closes, its financial woes compounded by low market prices. A smaller, restructured company opens in March 2004.

Flooded village in Suriname
Flooding made thousands homeless in 2006

2004 January - Suriname dollar replaces guilder. Government says move aims to restore confidence in economy.

2004 June - UN sets up tribunal to try to resolve long-running maritime border dispute between Suriname and neighbouring Guyana.

Venetiaan re-elected

2005 August - President Venetiaan is re-elected after months of deadlock. His New Front coalition won a narrow majority in parliamentary elections in May.

2006 May - Flooding, caused by torrential rain, leaves more than 20,000 people homeless. President Venetiaan says lowland areas are in "total chaos".

2006 July - Government makes official apology to relatives of at least 39 people killed in 1986 massacre during military dictatorship.

2007 September - A UN tribunal rules in the Guyana-Suriname dispute over maritime territory, giving both a share of a potentially oil-rich offshore basin.

2008 July - Trial begins of former military ruler Desi Bouterse and 24 others accused of involvement in 1982 killings of opponents of military regime. Frequent delays in proceedings follow for the next two years. Bouterse accepts "political responsibility" but denies direct responsibility.

2008 October - Following a dispute with the government over the development of a new bauxite mine in the west of the country, the mining giant BHP Billiton announces it is to cease operations in Suriname by 2010.

2009 December - Troops are called in to suppress anti-Brazilian and anti-Chinese riots in a gold-mining area in the northeastern city of Albina.

The Return of Bouterse

2010 May - The Mega Combination coalition, led by former military ruler Desi Bouterse, wins 23 out of 51 seats in parliamentary elections to emerge as the largest group.

2010 August - Desi Bouterse becomes president.

2012 April - Parliament passes amnesty law for President Desi Bouterse and 24 other defendants on trial for the alleged execution of political opponent during Mr Bouterse's military rule in 1982.

Former colonial power the Netherlands recalls ambassador and suspends some of its aid payments in protest.

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