Suriname authorities say they have identified 18 men who led the aggression against Brazilian two weeks after the violent attacks, which were also directed against Chinese and Javanese in the town of Albina. The attackers are members of an ethnic group known as maroons who are descendants of African slaves.
Local officials say many of the leaders of the attack have criminal records and that it was an isolated occurrence and that there is no danger of more attacks. They say they are doing everything possible to ensure there are no more problems.
The Brazilian ambassador in Suriname, José Luiz Machado e Costa, says that the embassy is doing three things: giving victims of the attack assistance, helping the Brazilians get documents (most of them are in Suriname illegally) and informing them about Suriname culture.
“Most of the Brazilians who come here have absolutely no knowledge of what this country is. It is multiethnic and speaks an entirely different language. In order to live in Suriname peacefully one has to understand Suriname,” said the ambassador.
Brazilians and maroons have always had a tense relationship. Both groups are interested in making a living doing the same thing – prospecting for Gold in the jungle. There are an estimated 18,000 Brazilians in Suriname.
The maroons make Brazilians pay a tax to live and work there. The Brazilians go to Suriname to earn money doing hard work, save a little and, eventually, when they are ready, return to Brazil. The ambassador says it is rare for a Brazilian to ask for help in order to return to Brazil.
The Christmas Eve attack by some 300 maroons destroyed a supermarket (owned by a Chinese where most of the employees were Brazilian), the only store where money could be changed and the main gas station in Albina.
About 100 Brazilians were left homeless; 25 men and 17 women were injured. At least three of the women were raped. According to the embassy, only 37 of the Brazilians have decided to return to Brazil.