The son of Suriname’s president has appeared before a court in the United States, charged with drug and weapons trafficking.
Dino Bouterse pleaded not guilty on Friday in a New York courtroom to accusations that he conspired to smuggle cocaine into the US and violated firearms laws by brandishing a light anti-tank weapon.
A hearing has been set for September 9.
Bouterse was arrested on Thursday at Panama City international airport while travelling on a diplomatic passport. He was swiftly handed over to American agents.
“Bouterse is a significant drug trafficker,” said Derek Maltz, a special agent-in-charge with the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
His arrest came as his father, Desi Bouterse, hosted the annual UNASUR summit for leaders of South American countries as the organisation’s president for the term.
Dino Bouterse faces a US federal indictment alleging that he was involved in smuggling a suitcase filled with 10kg of cocaine aboard a commercial flight from Suriname to the Caribbean in late July.
This whole situation is embarrassing and unfortunate. South America is now fighting hard to change its image as a cocaine-producing region
On Saturday, opposition legislators in Suriname demanded an explanation from the president about the arrest.
Guno Castelen, legislator for the opposition Labour Party, said the arrest has tainted Suriname’s image.
“This whole situation is embarrassing and unfortunate,” he said. “South America is now fighting hard to change its image as a cocaine-producing region.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Lackin said Dino’s father, Desi Bouterse, will likely comment on the case given that the UNASUR summit has ended.
His father is a convicted drug trafficker who was elected president of Suriname in July 2010.
Desi Bouterse, who faces a temporarily suspended trial on charges of killing 15 political opponents in 1982, has said he intends to run for a second elected term in 2015.
The former Dutch colony of some 560,000 people is located on the shoulder of South America.