He's overthrown two governments and faces trial on drug charges in the Netherlands.

That isn't stopping former dictator Desi Bouterse from wanting to be Suriname's democratically elected president.In recent months, thousands of Surinamese have massed at political rallies to cheer Bouterse's attacks on the Netherlands. The dictator-turned-politician says Suriname's biggest aid donor is trying to dictate how its former South American colony should be run.

"I might just run for the presidency in 2001 just to make them (the Dutch) feel bad," Bouterse, 52, said in an interview. "They know I am aiming straight for an electoral majority and there is no stopping me."

Bouterse - pronounced BOWtersay - has feuded with the Netherlands since February 1980, when he and a group of fellow army sergeants demanding higher wages overthrew an elected pro-Dutch government.

He imposed martial law and censorship, and he was accused of ordering the killings of 15 top intellectuals, political leaders and journalists in 1982. He conceded his regime, which ruled until 1987, was responsible for the killings but hasn't acknowledged any personal responsibility.

The Netherlands, Suriname's colonial ruler until 1975, reacted to the slayings by suspending a vital $1.5 billion aid package. Aid was resumed when Bouterse permitted elections in 1987, but was suspended again when he led a bloodless coup in 1990 and installed an interim president.

Bouterse allowed new elections the following year, retired from the military and started building his army-based National Democratic Party.

In 1996 elections, the party campaigned on a strongly nationalistic platform and won the most seats in Parliament. It assembled a coalition government that named a close Bouterse associate, Jules Wijdenbosch, president.

Wijdenbosch, in turn, named Bouterse a special adviser - a move that could give Bouterse diplomatic immunity when traveling abroad and possibly help him avoid drug smuggling charges filed this year by Dutch prosecutors.

The Dutch allege Bouterse, now a timber executive, exported tons of drugs to Europe and had links to Colombian cocaine cartels. Bou-ter-se denies it.

"They can't now say that I am a communist, or a dictator, because I am the leader of the biggest political party in Suriname. The party has successfully contested free elections, and if now they talk about drugs, that is only the latest accusation they are making against me," he said.

A charismatic speaker, Bouterse has tried to take advantage of the failure of internationally supported economic austerity measures to improve living standards for Suriname's 420,000 people.

Suriname once enjoyed one of the most prosperous economies in South America but entered a rapid decline after independence. Today, it has the second-lowest standard of living in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti.