Press Review Tuesday 20 July 2010

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In the Dutch papers today: criticism of Suriname’s president with a past; rising temperatures at the world’s largest walking event; summertime blues for Dutch motorists; the business end of the World Cup, and a fair-play debate in the Tour de France.

Bouterse: Suriname elects president with a past Most of today’s front pages feature the newly elected president of Suriname, Desi Bouterse. There’s a great deal of interest in the South American country as it used to be a Dutch colony and still has strong ties with the Netherlands.

But it’s Desi Bouterse’s controversial past that is the focus of interest in today’s Dutch dailies, which depict him as a charismatic leader but also a former dictator, convicted drugs smuggler and a murder suspect. This morning’s de Volkskrant sums him up as “compelling, exciting and troubling”, describing how “The Boss” gave a thank you speech before the country’s National Assembly “with tears rolling down his cheeks”, adding wryly “he knows what the people want to see”.

Trouw is determined that no one should forget Mr Bouterse’s past: under the headline “coup leader Bouterse is president” the paper shows before-and-after shots of Desi Bouterse’s transformation from young army commander to modern-day president.

Readers who are not familiar with Suriname’s history have to turn to page 8 to find out that the coup in question was in 1980. Trouw also makes a direct link between Mr Bouterse’s election and another past event: the murder of 15 opponents of his military regime in 1982. The new president is the main suspect in ongoing legal investigations into the killings, and the paper observes that “critics say his election is a way of escaping prosecution”.

Trouw goes on to note that in his acceptance speech, Mr Bouterse made a point of reaching out to his opponents but also states that “the new president’s words of reconciliation have fallen on stony ground in the Netherlands”. It quotes caretaker Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen saying “He is only welcome here to serve out his prison sentence”, a reference to Mr Bouterse’s conviction in a Dutch court for drugs offences. provides the other side of the argument, pointing out that Mr Bouterse’s rise to power is entirely legal and democratic this time around and “in Suriname today, the economy plays a greater role than any moral judgements about the man”.

Spectre of 2006 hovers over Nijmegen Marches All of today’s papers feature an annual Dutch tradition: the four-day marches in and around Nijmegen. It’s the world’s largest walking event, and this year’s edition got under way today. Over four days, participants will complete routes of 30, 40 or 50 kilometres a day. Blisters and aching muscles used to be the worst of the ordeal but since two walkers died in 2006 in sweltering temperatures, the papers are keen to emphasise the risks involved and the safety precautions that need to be taken.

Beneath the headline “Blood, sweat, tears – and water” de Volkskrant warns that “today it will be just as warm as the fatal Four Day Marches in 2006”. But this year’s walkers shouldn’t be put off. The organisers are full of reassurances: “we’ve learned the lessons of 2006 and a lot of improvements have been made. We now have a meteorologist, a specialised physiologist and a sports psychologist as part of our team.” A memorial stone to the two walkers who died in 2006 stands on a square in Nijmegen.

One experienced participant tells the paper “The problem is that a lot of people don’t listen to what their body is telling them. I hope this monument will be a reminder to them this coming week.”

Summertime blues for Dutch motorists De Telegraaf reports that the holiday season has not been all fun in the sun for Dutch motorists. The phones at the ANWB automobile association’s emergency helpdesk have been ringing off the hook with no less than 4,500 calls last week alone from motorists “stranded at the roadside with overheated engines and failing batteries in scorching temperatures”.

Paradoxically, sweltering drivers stuck in a tailback and faced with an overheating engine are advised to “turn the airco off, put the heating on and open the windows”.

AD observes that motorists at home have plenty to complain about as well. The paper reports that the ANWB “is livid about the massive amount of speed traps at motorway road works this summer”.

According to the paper, the automobile association has its doubts as to whether the police are more concerned about road safety or how much money they can make. AD cites an example last week where 5,000 out of 8,000 motorists were issued with a fine at one location and reckons “it has all the signs of a ‘bump up the quota’ operation”. In its editorial, the paper slams such moves as “unfriendly and ineffective” and calls on the authorities to “come up with something better!”

World Cup: good and bad for business The Dutch national football squad may still be licking its wounds after narrowly missing out on World Cup victory, but Dutch electronics giant Philips is rubbing its hands. De Volkskrant reports that the company “booked 18 percent profit in the second quarter” due in no small part to “TV sales in football-crazy Latin America”.

It’s not an unadulterated success story, however. De Volkskrant notes that “this spring Philips flogged 48 percent more televisions than in 2009 but the success is relative, as the company’s TV division still ran at a loss”.

In another World Cup business story, AD focuses on a Dutch flag manufacturer that’s wondering what to do with 2,500 unsold flags bearing the less-than-prophetic slogan “Holland: World Champion 2010”.

Suggestions from the public have included turning them into a wedding dress for the bride of top scorer Wesley Sneijder and attempting to boost sales by adding the world “nearly”. But the flag makers have gone for a couple of worthier options. Some of the flags will be used to make curtains for South African schools, while 300 will be used to make hammocks for an ape sanctuary. All very fitting, especially when the paper reveals that “eleven of the apes have been named after the players of the Dutch team”.

Tour de France: fair play or killer instinct? To wait or not to wait? That is today’s sporting question. All the papers in the cycling-mad Netherlands are full of the Tour de France news that Spanish favourite Alberto Contador sped off leaving best pal and main rival Andy Schleck to eat dust when the chain came off his bike in yesterday’s stage of the greatest cycling event on the planet.

Schleck was back in the saddle before you could say “wait for me” but the 39 seconds he lost were enough to make him lose the coveted yellow jersey to the Spaniard.

On its front page, De Telegraaf reports that Andy Schleck was “furious at Contator’s betrayal” and has accused Contador of “lying about his attack” by claiming he didn’t see Schleck’s technical problem until it was too late. The paper concludes “after all, to win the Tour you also have to be a killer.”

But Contador has his supporters. AD’s sporting columnist Steven Rooks asserts: “Falls, punctures, it’s all part of the cycling game. Contador was right to keep moving.” The paper goes on to quote Dutch cyclist Michel Kreder “If everyone waits for me, can I win the Tour too? The Tour de France waits for nobody!”

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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