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Suriname president swears-in new army chief

by Staff Writers
Paramaribo (AFP) Feb 4, 2011
Suriname President Desi Bouterse Friday swore in a new army commander, as the man who once led a military coup made his first visit to a troop barracks since he was inaugurated in August.

"I was army commander and due to history became army commander-in-chief now of the whole army," Bouterse said as he swore in Suriname colonel Hedwich Gilaard, 53, at the Memre Buku barracks.

"The army should once again get the place it deserves," he added.

Gilaard is the seventh army commander since Suriname, tucked in the northeastern corner of South America, won independence from The Netherlands in 1975.

Bouterse first seized power in a military coup on February 25, 1980. He stepped down in 1987, but then led a second bloodless coup in 1991.

Elected as president in last year's elections, Bouterse remains on trial for the summary executions of 13 civilians and two military officials in December 1982.

A court is hearing pending on Wednesday February 9, and if convicted Bouterse could face up to 20 years in prison.

Bouterse was sentenced in absentia to 11 years in jail in 1999 by the Dutch courts for smuggling 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of cocaine.

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