Suriname leader distances himself from jailed son

PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) — President Desi Bouterse of Suriname distanced himself Tuesday from his son following the younger man’s arrest and quick extradition to the United States to face drug and weapons charges.

The president told reporters that Dino Bouterse is an adult and no longer holds a government position with the South American country.

“When people talk about Dino sometimes it sounds like they are talking to me about a 12-year-old,” the president said. “But he is a grown man, with 13 children, who will turn 41. He is responsible for his own actions.”

Still, Bouterse, who said he was in shock when he first got word of the arrest, stressed that he was not abandoning his son and is making sure he has the legal assistance he needs.

“I am the president, but I’m also Dino’s father, and news like that does not leave you cold or unmoved,” he said.

The remarks were the first from the president since his son was arrested Thursday in Panama and quickly extradited to New York to face charges in a cocaine smuggling case. News of the younger man’s arrest came as Suriname hosted UNASUR, the organization of South American nations.

Bouterse has had frosty relations with the U.S. government over his own past, which includes presiding over a military dictatorship and being convicted in absentia in the Netherlands of drug trafficking, and he said the arrest was intended to “disrupt the UNASUR summit,” though he did not explain what or who might be behind it.

The president said he had asked his fellow South American leaders not to discuss his son’s case. “I wanted to avoid the UNASUR being dragged into this whole matter,” Bouterse told reporters.

Earlier, Melvin Linscheer, director of Suriname’s Office of National Security and a longtime Bouterse confidante, said Dino Bouterse had quietly left his post at a counter-terrorism unit long before his arrest. Linscheer told state-owned Radio SRS that the son was removed amid public criticism of his appointment, but his removal was never publicly announced.

The president said his son left the counter-terrorism post because “he was sick and tired of all the commotion surrounding his appointment.”

Dino Bouterse faces a U.S. federal indictment alleging he worked with a man identified as Edmund Quincy Muntslag to smuggle cocaine into the United States. It also charges him with violating firearms laws by brandishing a light anti-tank weapon during the narcotics offense. He has pleaded not guilty.

Desi Bouterse won the presidency of the ethnically diverse country of about 500,000 people in May 2010 in a parliamentary vote after cobbling together a coalition that included former enemies in Suriname’s bitter civil war. At the time, he was still a defendant in an off-again-on-again murder trial in the killing of 15 political opponents in 1982 and faced arrest at Netherlands’ request following his conviction in absentia there for drug trafficking in 1999.

In April 2012, the president’s supporters in parliament pushed through amnesty legislation that put the murder trial on indefinite hold.

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