Pubdate: Fri, 14 May 1999
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1999 Associated Press
Author: Leo Morpurgo, Associated Press Writer


PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP)   Suriname's government blamed drug barons for a
dive in the country's currency that panicked some businessmen and caused
them  to close their shops Friday.

The guilder was trading at 1,700 to the dollar, down from 1,400 on Wednesday
and near a record 2,000 to the dollar.

Others accused the government of printing too much money and flooding the
market with currency to counter a budget shortfall of 80 billion guilders.

"It is obvious that a small group of criminals are manipulating the exchange
rate," Finance Minister Tjan Gobardhan told reporters Thursday after an
emergency meeting of government officials.

Gobardhan said drug dealers were in urgent need of dollars and were prepared
to pay any rate after the interception last week of 1,540 pounds of cocaine
by  Netherlands police. The cocaine was found in false-bottomed boxes in a
shipment  of vegetables from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America.

Surinamese police have interrogated four people in connection with the
shipment but have made no arrests and refused to give any details of their

De West newspaper reported this week that the government was printing money
to cover its expenditures and charged that in the first three months of this
year, the government entered 12.3 billion guilders into

That was denied by Central Bank chief Henk Goedschalk, who was quoted in De
Ware Tijd newspaper Friday as saying that the government "cannot make an
appeal to the bank for monetary financing of its expenditures."

He said that would not be allowed by the Inter-American Development Bank,
which gives Suriname trade balance support.

Goedschalk also blamed "criminal activities" for the currency crisis.

Suriname, with its unpoliced borders and jungles, has long been a transit
point for drugs smuggled from producers in South America to consumers in
Europe  and the United States.

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