The military was the grinch that stole democracy in Suriname last week as the three-year-old civilian government of President Ramsewak Shankar was toppled in a bloodless coup on Christmas Eve. Officially, the former Dutch colony's new leader is Commander Ivan Graanoogst, the chief of the military police, but the real power is apparently in the hands of Commander Desi Bouterse, military ruler of the country from 1980 to 1988.
In recent months Bouterse has been using his position as head of the army to usurp civilian authority. Graanoogst was believed to have initiated the coup on Bouterse's orders. Bouterse resigned in pique two weeks ago, following an incident at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in which Dutch authorities prevented him from being interviewed by journalists. The U.S. denounced the coup, and the Netherlands cut off aid to Suriname, which last year amounted to $28 million. Graanoogst pledged to hold new elections within 100 days.