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Suriname President's Son Captured On Drug Trafficking Charges

SURINAME / 2 SEP 2013 BY MIRIAM WELLS EN

The arrest of the son of Suriname's president, on drugs and weapons trafficking charges, complements his father's criminal past and reinforces the links between crime and politics in this former Dutch colony.

Dino Bouterse, the 40-year-old son of President Desi Bouterse, was captured at Panama City's international airport last week while traveling on a diplomatic passport, reported the BBC.

Bouterse pleaded not guilty in a New York federal court, to allegations that he conspired to smuggle cocaine into the United States aboard a commercial flight last July, and violated firearms laws by brandishing a light anti-tank weapon, reported Al Jazeera.

"Bouterse is a significant drug trafficker," said Derek Maltz, a special agent-in-charge of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Opposition politicians in Suriname have called for President Bouterse -- himself convicted in absentia of drug trafficking by a Netherlands court in 2000 -- to step down.

InSight Crime Analysis

The combined list of allegations against President Bouterse and his son are extensive and provide a snapshot of how deeply crime may have penetrated power structures in Suriname. The president, who ruled as a dictator between 1980 and 1987 before being democratically elected in 2010, is accused of serious human rights violations during his previous rule, including the murder of 15 political opponents in 1982 -- a crime for which he was on trial until Suriname's National Assembly passed a controversial amnesty law last year.

Aside from the Netherlands conviction, Bouterse is also wanted on drug trafficking charges in France, and according to a US cable leaked in 2011 he worked with convicted Guyanese drug lord Shaheed Khan to smuggle cocaine until at least 2006. The cable also alleged Khan had worked with Colombian rebels the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to exchange weapons for cocaine. Dino meanwhile, was previously convicted of trafficking drugs and weapons, as well as stealing luxury cars in 2005, but was released three years into an eight year sentence for good behavior -- and went on to direct Suriname's Counter Terrorism Unit. He had previously faced allegations of drug smuggling in 1994 and weapons trafficking in 2002.

While President Bouterse has made apparent efforts to clean up his government, sacking at least nine government ministers for corruption since taking office according to Suriname news source Kaiteur News, the fact that his son was traveling on a diplomatic passport when arrested does not look good. At worst it suggests government complicity in his alleged crimes, at best it's a major embarrassment. 

While Suriname does not suffer the security problems of its Caribbean neighbors, it is a transit point for cocaine traveling to Europe and Africa, and suffers from weak law enforcement and an inefficient judicial system.

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