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José Luis Machado e Costa, Brazilian ambassador to Suriname, says that although Brazilian immigrants in Suriname are emotionally shaken by the Christmas violence in Albina, most have rejected the offer of a free return flight to Brazil. Last week, the Brazilian government made available an army airplane to accommodate nationals who wished to leave Suriname.
Newspaper The Times of Suriname quotes the Brazilian ambassador stating that so far, only thirty-two Brazilians have been flown back to Brazil. Machado e Costa also claims that the majority of these people did not come from Albina and have not experience the violence that occurred there. “We did airlift three seriously wounded victims”, the ambassador says. “They will be treated further in our own country. However, I suspect that most of the folks on the plane accepted the gesture not as a chance to bid farewell to Suriname, but merely as a cheap opportunity to spend the holidays at home”.
At the time of the December 25 riots, Albina counted roughly 100 illegal Brazilians who made their living through enterprises in or related to gold mining. All immigrants have been evacuated to the capital town of Paramaribo, where they now await further measures by the Surinamese government to ensure their safety in the future. Despite actions of the Surinamese governments to combat illegal residency among the thousands of Brazilians who have entered the country in the past decade, lured by the gold in the rainforest, the Brazilians feel safe in the knowledge that such actions, and ensuing deportations, are only undertaken sporadically.
The violent attack by Suriname Maroons onto Brazilians in Albina has caused an uproar in Suriname politics, with members of parliament urging the government to better regulate justice, immigration and gold mining throughout the interior parts of the country.
In spite of all, the Albina incident has not scarred Suriname’s international image as a country of racial tolerance. Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet and reporting for CNN on the New Year’s celebrations in Paramaribo last week, said that “One thing Paramaribo has going for itself is that it is culturally and religiously diverse, and inhabitants get along famously. Many languages besides the official Dutch are spoken, as people from all over the world have come to live here. A big selling point is that it’s a place without tension, despite cultural differences.”