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Arrest of Suriname leader's son unleashes debate

Published:Sunday | September 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Suriname's President Desi Bouterse. - AP
Dino Bouterse. - AP

Opposition legislators in Suriname demanded an explanation yesterday from the president of the South American country about the arrest of his son on United States (US) drug and weapon charges.

Desi Bouterse has not commented publicly on Thursday's arrest of Dino Bouterse at Panama's main international airport.

The son pleaded not guilty Friday in a New York courtroom to accusations that he conspired to smuggle cocaine into the US and violated firearms laws by brandishing a light anti-tank weapon.

Guno Castelen, legislator for the opposition Labor Party, said the arrest has tainted Suriname's image.

"This whole situation is embarrassing and unfortunate," he said. "South America is now fighting hard to change its image as a cocaine-producing region."

Castelen said the arrest is especially negative because Suriname on Friday assumed the rotating presidency of a group of South American countries known as UNASUR.

Desi Bouterse, himself convicted of drug offences, greeted leaders on Friday but did not mention the arrest.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Lackin said Bouterse will likely comment on the case given that the UNASUR summit has ended.

"Now we have room to take a good look at the situation," he said. "Knowing the president, I'm sure he will communicate with the public on this matter."

Dino Bouterse was director of Suriname's Counter Terrorist Unit at the time of his arrest. He had been appointed by his father, a two-time dictator who was elected president of Suriname in July 2010.

Desi Bouterse, who faces a temporarily suspended trial on charges of killing 15 political opponents in 1982, has said he intends to run for a second elected term in 2015.

- AP