Désiré Delano Bouterse of Suriname (born 1945) has been a military sports instructor, coup leader, army leader and a politician in the Nationaal Democratische Partij (NDP). He can be labelled the most controversial figure in the history of Suriname.
Bouterse's name is closely bound with the military regime that controlled Suriname from 1980 until the beginning of the 1990s, as well as with the civil war, the "December murders" of 1982 and events in the Negro 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 the Netherlands for cocaine-trafficking. He wasn't at the trial and Holland has an international warrant for his arrest which makes it almost impossible to leave Suriname. Suriname cannot deliver 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. However, many believe that he retains considerable influence "behind the scenes" in the politics of Suriname.
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 in 2004 (as of December, 2003). Bouterse has denied any involvement in the December murders of 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.
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