Suriname Military Chief Who Led 2 Coups Resigns
The army commander who led two coups in Suriname resigned as head of the military Friday amid reports that he used his position to enrich himself, the official Suriname News Agency said.
Col. Desi Bouterse rejected suggestions that he is the nation’s richest man and denied a Dutch news report this week charging that he used state funds to amass his wealth, SNA said.
Bouterse dominated much of the history of Suriname after it became independent from the Netherlands in 1975. He led coups in 1980 and 1990, toppling democratically elected governments.
Charges of corruption recently came to a head after Dutch press allegations that Bouterse had been profiteering from his position as chief of the army since the mid-1980s.
The Amsterdam-based weekly Vrij Nederland last week quoted his former political ally, Ernie Brunings, as saying that Bouterse had exploited his position since 1984.
Suriname is a low-lying country of about 400,000 people on the northeast coast of South America.
Recently, Bouterse was at odds with the government over a decision to allow a 10-year commemoration of the army’s slaying of 15 political opponents on Dec. 8, 1982, SNA said.
Bouterse’s military rule led to the launching of an anti-Bouterse insurgency in 1986.
Human rights groups say the army’s killings of about 200 civilians and battles with guerrillas forced more than 10,000 refugees to flee to neighboring French Guiana.
The fighting in Suriname ended two years ago, and a formal peace accord was signed last August.
A year ago, President Ronald Venetiaan’s government was elected, and it is drafting reforms to spur economic recovery.
The Netherlands, which has close economic and political ties with Suriname, has long regarded Bouterse as an obstacle to the emergence of democracy there.
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