WASHINGTON — Rebel forces fighting Suriname's six-year old military government have struck to within five miles of the capital city of Paramaribo, the State Department said Friday.
Department spokesman Charles Redman said the widening insurgency also has been accompanied by a deteriorating economy and demands by students, religious leaders and parents for the resignation of Suriname's leader, Col. Desi Bouterse.
"Human rights violations, particularly against the Bush Negro groups in the interior, continue to attract world attention. And finally, Bouterse's promise of restoring democratic government is viewed with great skepticism both in Suriname and in the international community," Redman said.
The rebel movement is led by Ronnie Brunswijk, a 25-year-old former soldier in Bouterse's army.
The Netherlands, which once ruled Suriname as a colony, and the United States suspended assistance to Suriname years ago because of alleged human rights abuses.
Meanwhile, a former Suriname president, Henk Chin A Sen, announced in Washington that he is moving his exile headquarters here from the Netherlands in a bid to attract U.S. support for the rebels.
"We hope we can put up an organization . . . in the United States, and I hope that we will find support," Chin said at a news conference.
He said the insurgents would be able to overthrow the military government of Bouterse, who seized power in a 1980 coup, with just $500,000 in military and other aid.
Chin and two other supporters of the rebels arrived in the United States two weeks ago and have held meetings at the State Department and with private groups.
He said U.S. officials had made no pledges of material support but were sympathetic and had condemned human rights abuses by the military leadership in his country.
The State Department's 1986 human rights report said the situation in Suriname had seriously deteriorated, with "killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions."
It said that most human rights violations were practiced against the Bush Negroes, an ethnic group descended from runaway African slaves. Brunswijk is a member of that ethnic group.