Suriname’s legislature has approved an amnesty act which will prevent a murder trial against President Desi Bouterse, a convicted drug trafficker, fueling concerns that the country could be becoming a “narco-state.”
Lawmakers said that the bill would end the trial of Bouterse, and 24 others, for the killing of 15 opposition figures in 1982. Some defended the move by saying the country could not afford to have a sitting president convicted.
The Netherlands, the former colonial power in Suriname, has recalled its ambassador in protest against the decision, reports the Associated Press.
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Bouterse first took power in a 1980 military coup, and has been a central figure in the Caribbean nation since then, regaining power in a second coup in 1990 and then in a 2010 election.
The president has repeatedly been accused of links to organized crime. During the 1990s, he·allegedly let Brazilian drug traffickers use Suriname as a hub for narcotics and arms smuggling. In 1999, he was convicted in absentia by a Dutch court of trafficking cocaine to the country. He was accused of involvement in the drug trade as recently as 2006, according to US diplomatic cables seen by the Dutch media.
Suriname remains an important transshipment point for cocaine being sent to Europe, Africa, and the US, according to the State Department’s 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. If Bouterse stays in power, as his ability to get the amnesty law passed suggests he will, the country seems less likely to take strong action against the drug trade that passes though its borders.
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