Long Memories May Ensnare a Dictator (Surinam)

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Running into Desi Bouterse is not easy to do. He does not frequent this capital’s outdoor cafes. He keeps to his riverfront villa. He grants few interviews.

Still, he is one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in this tiny former Dutch colony on South America’s northeast shoulder, and in his story is a lesson — perhaps — for the rest of the continent in the virtues, and downsides, of patience.

Suriname’s 470,000 people know Mr. Bouterse well. At 62, he is a former military dictator, a fugitive from Interpol, convicted in absentia in the Netherlands in 1999 on cocaine-trafficking charges. With immunity from extradition, he is also a member of Suriname’s Parliament and a leader of Suriname’s largest political party.

But these days, Suriname’s courts are finally staring hard at the bloody start of his political career. He is in the opening phases of a trial in the killings of 15 opponents of his regime on Dec. 8, 1982.

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