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Dési Bouterse in 1985

Desiré Delano Bouterse[1] of Suriname (born 13 October 1945 in Paramaribo District) has been a military sports instructor, coup leader, army leader and a politician in the Nationale Democratische Partij (NDP).

Bouterse's name is closely bound with the military regime that controlled Suriname from 1980 until the beginning of the 1990s. On 25 February 1980, the government of newly-independent Suriname underwent a military coup which declared the country to be a Socialist Republic[2] and Bouterse became Chairman of the National Military Council. Though the Suriname Presidency was retained, Bouterse was the nation's de facto ruler until his resignation in 1988. He had served briefly as president himself for a period in 1982.

Bouterse was a leading figure in Suriname's post-independence civil war, and is responsible for the infamous "December murders" of 1982 and events in the Maroon (Bosneger) village of Moiwana in 1986. Since then he has been accused on various occasions of involvement in illegal drug trafficking. In July 1999, he was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands for cocaine-trafficking. [3] The Netherlands has an international warrant for his arrest, which makes it almost impossible for him to leave Suriname. Suriname cannot extradite him because he is a former head of state.

After the return of democratic government, led in succession by Ronald Venetiaan, Jules Wijdenbosch, and Venetiaan again; Bouterse tried unsuccessfully to return to power in elections.

Although he has been convicted in the Netherlands, he has remained free in Suriname. The Suriname government has said that it is preparing a case against the perpetrators of the December murders to be brought before a judge. The cases are ongoing as of April 2006. Bouterse has denied any involvement in the killings on 8 December 1982 at Fort Zeelandia, in which 15 prominent opponents of the military regime were shot dead. He has said that he wasn't present and that the decision was made by the commander of the battalion, Paul Bhagwandas, who died in 1996. He did however, claim political responsibility.[4]

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