Throughout his life, he has been closely tied to the military regime that controlled the country and he was a leader in the 1980 Surinamese coup d'état which forced President Johan Ferrier from power, declaring the country a Socialist Republic in August of that year.
The coup, transferred most of the political authority to the military leadership - making Bouterse the Chairman of the National Military Council until the beginning of the 1990s.
From 1980 until 1988, the country's Presidents, Ronald Venetiaan, Jules Wijdenbosch, and Venetiaan again - were essentially army-installed by Bouterse, who ruled as a de facto leader while trying on his own to return to power through elections.
In the 2010 Surinamese legislative election, Bouterse and his coalition, the Mega Combination (De Mega Combinatie) were voted to become the biggest party in Suriname though the coalition failed to gain an absolute majority in parliament by three seats, requiring 51.
Finally on July 19, 2010, Bouterse was elected as President of Suriname; and took office on August 12.
THE DECEMBER MURDERS - 1982
On December 8, 1982, 15 prominent political opponents of the military regime - thirteen civilians and two military officials - were taken from their homes to Fort Zeelandia and executed under the political eye of the then coup leader & army commander Desi Bouterse.
After his 2010 inauguration, Bouterse immediately honored all nine still living conspirators, who together with him had been leaders of the 1980 coup, with the country's highest honor - the Grand Cordon of the Honorary Order of the Yellow Star.
This led to great controversy internationally, since all nine are accused of involvement in the December murders.
The killings have cast a long shadow over Suriname for the last 30 years and it was only in 2007, 20 years after democracy had returned to the country, that a court case against the suspects began - with Bouterse thought to be the main perpetrator.
Bouterse has denied any involvement in the killings, saying that the decision was made by the commander of the battalion, Paul Bhagwandas, who died in 1996, although he does take `political responsibility' for the event.
Since his rule began in 2010, Bouterse has been accused on various occasions of involvement in illegal drug trafficking and in July 1999, he was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands (Suriname's former colonial parent, along with Britain) to nine years in prison for cocaine trafficking. In 2011, Wikileaks published a cable in which the American embassy in Paramaribo, Suriname's capital, confirmed Bouterse's involvement in drug trafficking, together with Shaheed Roger Khan from Guyana.
But, according to the United Nations Convention against illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (UNODC), since he was convicted before his election as Head of State in 2010 he has no immunity from the prosecution.
Even though he was found guilty in the Netherlands, he has remained free in Suriname. Though the Surinamese government said that it is preparing `a' case against the perpetrators of the December murders to be brought before a judge this Spring - as the statue of limitations on prosecution runs out.
BOUTERSE AS PRESIDENT
None of this prevented Bouterse from being elected president in 2010 and becoming a well-liked politician among young voters in particular, who have been supportive of his election.
Within a year and a half, he has put the country back on the map in the region and attracted investors; while both friends and frenemies, including the United States and France, have praised his progress.
Even the Caribbean leadership community CARICOM has honored Suriname by holding its annual `Heads of Government' meeting in the country, March of this year.
Representatives of the Surinamese parliament say that President Bouterse should give an explanation for the Wikileaks cable; but officials from Bouterse's office discard this as not being their problem.
Now, the Surinamese parliament is debating a 1989 amnesty law - which would include a new amendment - granting President Desi Bouterse immunity from prosecution for his part in the 1982 killings. Put forward by fellow party members of the former army commander, it is likely to be supported by almost all the coalition parties in parliament.
In an unusual move for the Surinamese law-making body which often takes years to vote on laws, the amnesty bill was announced two weeks ago, and started going through the assembly immediately. During last weekend's debate some parliamentarians asked not to even discuss the ‘December murders’, saying the bill has nothing to do it.
And its timing is no coincidence either - as the court martial period for the December murders is drawing to an end on April 13, when the public prosecutor will also sum up his case, a judge will hand down a sentence sometime in May.
Meanwhile, the issue has become an international outrage among governments and human rights groups.
The Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Uri Rosenthal issued a statement this week saying Suriname should `abide by its international obligations'; and a spokesperson for the European Union's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the so-called December murders must be `cleared up, as reconciliation will only be possible then'.
Yesterday in London, Amnesty International’s Secretariat started a worldwide ‘Urgent Action’ campaign against passage of Suriname's Amnesty Act, calling on its networks to send e-mails to Suriname’s Parliament protesting against the bills passage over the next 6 weeks.
WHAT DOES SURINAME WANT TO DO?
“We are young and we want stability in the country,” says Melvin Bouva, a member of Bouterse’s party and one of the authors of the amnesty bill. "Amnesty is the best solution for the country.”
A sentiment which relates what politicians say is 'Suriname’s ever-present political pragmatism'.
Local rights organizations, relatives of those executed in 1982, and former President Venetiaan sent a letter to the National Assembly asking for the amnesty law to be rejected saying, "People have committed acts, let them bear the consequences now."
The bill needs a simple majority and the support of at least one of the government's coalition partners from either the Pertjajah Luhur (PL) party or the Interior Party ABOP to pass - and who also want to stay in power as part of Bourtese's coalition too.
But, Suriname is party to international treaties that consider crimes against humanity punishable under all circumstances and it remains to be seen if the country wants to face its past as a new regional leader, or move on, leaving ghosts in its closets.
The National Assembly is expected to finish its debate on the Amnesty law later this week.