Press Review Thursday 27 May 2010

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Dutch press review 27 May 2020: the Netherlands’ relations with its former colony Surinam are under pressure as a former dictator looks set to take the presidency, the trial of Dutch-Argentinian ‘death flight’ pilot Julio Poch is on shaky ground, and the ‘iceman’ performs feats that are medically impossible.

Surinam election raises old colonial hackles It’s not the upcoming Dutch elections that are making the headlines today, but rather the election result in the Netherlands’ former colony Surinam. The country’s former army chief Desi Bouterse looks set to take the presidency. His success at the polls puts “relations with Surinam under pressure,” says De Telegraaf, pointing out that if the Netherlands gets its hands on him, Mr Bouterse will serve an 11-year jail sentence here for cocaine trafficking.

Meanwhile in Surinam, no one seems bothered by his drug conviction, a Volkskrant analyst explains. In the small Latin American country north of Brazil, the drug trial in his absence is being dismissed as political. In his election campaign Mr Bouterse has vowed to stand up to the economic dominance of Surinam’s former colonial master.

De Volkskrant gets to the point. Dismissing Mr Bouterse’s call for the “Dutch to go back to the Netherlands” as “nationalistic rhetoric”, the paper comments that “the electorate has a short memory”. Throughout the 1980s Mr Bouterse headed a military dictatorship which disposed of political opponents in the infamous December murders of 1982, and committed atrocities in its conflict with Jungle Commando rebels. Yet now, de Volkskrant concludes, he’s looking to “join the school of Hugo Chávez”.

Mr Bouterse won’t be getting a telegram with congratulations from the Dutch government, according to a Christian Democrat pundit in Protestant daily Trouw. And according to populist de Telegraaf, he certainly can’t expect a visit from the Queen. Somehow it doesn’t seem likely that Mr Bouterse will be too concerned.

Labour leader still failing to impress During campaign days there’s no escaping the Dutch election, of course, and the papers analyse the latest in a series of televised party leaders’ debates. Labour leader Job Cohen failed to make up for his poor performance so far, according to rightwing De Telegraaf, in what the paper describes as his “last chance”. Polls show the labour party dropping even further behind the conservative VVD, which continues to lead the field.

De Volkskrant says Mr Cohen looked “tense and uncertain”. Trouw is more generous, describing his performance as ‘reasonable’. AD describes the debate as an old-fashioned “left against right debate” with the Socialist Party and Green Left clubbing together to lend Mr Cohen their support. De Volkskrant goes further, concluding that the battle to lead the left is on, with the Socialist Party and Green Left fronting the attack on the rightwing parties.

Both Trouw and de Volkskrant agree it was the inexperienced new Socialist party leader Emile Roemer who pleased the crowd. Confronted by his party’s woeful position in the polls he cheerfully parried, “You can accuse me of anything, but not that I’ve peaked too early.”

‘Social partners’ make pensions deal Today’s front pages produce a sense of déjà vu. A deal on state pensions is in the offing. The ‘social partners’ the telling Dutch term for employers’ organisations and trade unions have agreed the retirement age should go up to 66. But wasn’t this all thrashed out in 2009 when the retirement age was set to rise to 67? Well, that was before the government collapsed, and now it’s all up for debate again until after the election. And the employers and unions are insisting that the new government adopts the pension deal they’ve just hammered out, says de Volkskrant.

According to their scenario, it will still be possible to stop work at 65 if you pay a penalty. And the state pension will be pinned to the national standard of living – a key union demand. The deal is also good news for employers, says De Telegraaf. The plan proposes that pension premiums should be frozen at recent levels. And the icing on the cake is that it would achieve the target of a four billion euro government budget saving. But don’t hold your breath – there are a lot more column inches to be filled before future Dutch pensioners find out what retirement really has in store for them.

Arrest of ‘death flight’ pilot ‘a blunder’ Defence lawyers for Dutch-Argentinian alleged ‘death flight’ pilot Julio Poch are about to rip charges against him to shreds, De Telegraaf claims, having examined court reports.

The former Transavia pilot is on trial in Argentina accused of piloting flights from which opponents of the military regime were dropped alive into the sea. But De Telegraaf says he unsuccessfully applied for a transfer in 1980 “to get experience with aircraft with more than one engine” in preparation for a future career in civil aviation. The ‘death flights’, however, were carried out using cargo aircraft, all of which have more than one engine. Logbooks confirm Mr Poch only flew single-engine planes.

What’s more, one of the witnesses who claimed to have heard him bragging about the flights has said he will now refuse to take the stand. Another has been rejected as his evidence was ruled to be hearsay. Mr Poch’s arrest and extradition seem to have been a “huge blunder”, says De Telegraaf.

Iceman is a ‘medical miracle’ ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof spent 90 minutes submerged naked in ice cubes last week. It’s a feat he performs regularly, but this time he was scrutinised by two scientists. Their conclusion, according to De Telegraaf: “medically impossible”. A physiology professor concluded that “Hof seems to be able to influence his nervous system” and “consciously open and close his blood vessels”. Mr Hof maintains his body at 37 degrees Celsius under the ice, and doesn’t even shiver, the paper reports. What’s more, for days afterwards in the lab his blood sample behaved differently from normal blood.

In a further experiment, Mr Hof is planning to teach his technique to ten volunteers, AD explains. “We can all do more with our immune systems,” he claims. “I want to help humanity.”  

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