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article imageSuriname lawmakers hand Bouterse a second term

By AFP     Jul 14, 2015 in World

Lawmakers in Suriname on Tuesday handed colorful long-time leader Desi Bouterse a second term as the democratically elected president of this small South American country.

The 69-year-old Bouterse -- who has ruled Suriname on and off since 1980 -- did not even need a formal vote by lawmakers. There was no opposition, and he was re-elected by acclamation.

His ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) only has a small majority in the 51-seat National Assembly. Bouterse theoretically needed a two-thirds majority to win, but opposition parties did not present a candidate.

His vice president will be Ashwin Adhin. The pair will be formally sworn in on August 12.

Bouterse warned that the country could be facing a serious recession, saying: "I'm not being pessimistic but realistic." He did not offer any concrete plans for how to battle the country's economic hard times.

A two-time coup leader and former international fugitive, Bouterse has long loomed large over Suriname, whether in his military fatigues and sunglasses or his sharp presidential suits.

He seized power in 1980 as a 34-year-old sergeant major. His regime put down two counter-coups and rounded up and executed 15 opponents in 1982, an event known as the "December killings."

He stepped down in 1987 under international pressure, but returned to power in 1990 in a second, bloodless coup. He left power a year later.

In 2010, Bouterse's election as president protected him from an Interpol arrest warrant issued after a Dutch court sentenced him to 11 years in prison for cocaine trafficking.

And in 2012, a controversial amnesty law granted him immunity from prosecution over the "December killings."

Dutch-speaking Suriname, the smallest country in South America, has a population of about half a million people with roots in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

It was colonized by the British and Dutch and gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975.

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