Bouterse, Desi (1945–)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Bouterse, Desi (1945–)

The military dictator of Suriname between 1980 and 1987 and the most important offstage politician afterward, Desi Bouterse was born on October 13, 1945, in a small village in that nation. Educated by Catholic friars, he became a sergeant-major in the Dutch army. He returned in 1975 to Suriname to become a leading noncommissioned officer in the small national army. Involved in a labor conflict about the rights of the union of NCOs with the post-colonial government, he staged a coup in 1980 Bouterse became the army leader, a full colonel, and the de facto ruler of Suriname with a series of façade civilian cabinets. In 1981 he proclaimed himself the leader of a socialist revolution. He gradually was implicated in illicit business activities.

In December 1982 the military murdered fifteen civilian opposition leaders, a watershed in Suriname politics. A growing civilian opposition produced a period of transition governments, followed by free elections in 1987. However, a guerrilla movement of the Maroon population (descendants of former runaway slaves) in Eastern Suriname created a rationale for the involvement of the army and the continuance of Bouterse as army commander. Around Christmas 1990, Bouterse staged a second coup. In 1993 a new civilian government found the courage to dismiss him as army commander and discharged his supporters as well. Bouterse, now a born-again Christian, is the leader of a multiethnic party that won 25 percent of the votes in May 2005. He lives the comfortable life of a millionaire entrepreneur and senior politician. In early 2007 the Surinamese government announced a process against Bouterse and his former allies who were allegedly involved in the 1982 murders.

See alsoSuriname and the Dutch in the Caribbean .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bouterse, Desi, and Ludwich van Mulier. Dekolonisatie en nationaal leiderschap [Decolonization and National Leadership]. Nijmegen: MASUSA.

Hoogbergen, Wim, and Dirk Kruijt. De oorlog der sergeanten. Surinaamse militairen in de politiek, 1980–1992 [The Sergeant's War: The Surinamese Military in National Politics]. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 2005.

                                            Dirk Kruijt

More From Encyclopedia.com


MORE ON THIS TOPIC