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Former Surinamese President Desi Bouterse and the new president, Chan Santokhi, in Paramaribo Former President Desi Bouterse, center, and Suriname’s new president, Chan Santokhi, left, during the inauguration ceremony in Paramaribo, Suriname, July 16, 2020 (AP photo by Ertugrul Kilic).

In Suriname, Bouterse Is Out, But His Shadow Looms Large

Friday, July 31, 2020

On July 13, with a handshake and a smile, long-ruling President Desi Bouterse handed over the reins of power in Suriname to Chan Santokhi, a former police chief who has tenaciously pursued mass murder charges against Bouterse for the last 15 years. “It won’t be an easy job,” said Bouterse, who had a parting trick to play on his rival. When Santokhi turned up to work the following week, he found his new office stripped of its IT equipment.

Aside from procuring some new phones and computers, Santokhi faces three main challenges in governing this former Dutch colony on the northern shoulder of South America. He will have to decide on his predecessor’s legal punishment; find a remedy for Suriname’s desperate economic situation; and keep in check a divided coalition of political parties—including an ambitious and flamboyant vice president with a violent and criminal past—all while sidestepping Bouterse’s obstruction. ...

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