Dutch Caribbean Islands on the Brink

Willemstad Curaçao
View of Otrobanda from across the Saint Anna Bay in Willemstad, Curaçao (iStock/Flavio Vallenari)

Time is running out for the autonomous Dutch islands in the Caribbean to do a deal with their former colonizer.

Coronavirus has brought tourism, the mainstay of the island economies, close to a standstill. Tax revenue has dried up while unemployment has soared. Without support from the European Netherlands, the governments of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten will run out of money in weeks.

The Dutch are willing to help, but only if the islands accept temporary Dutch administrators to manage reforms. For most of the Caribbean politicians, this goes too far. Read more “Dutch Caribbean Islands on the Brink”

Politicians Break Deadlock on Curaçao

Willemstad Curaçao
Aerial view of Willemstad, Curaçao (iStock/Texpan)

Weeks of political deadlock on Curaçao have been broken with the swearing-in of Shaheen Elhage as lawmaker. He succeeds William Millerson, who died in June.

Millerson’s death had reduced the government to ten out of 21 seats in the island’s legislature. Opposition parties refused to attend Elhage’s inauguration, denying the ruling parties a quorum. They are unhappy with cuts and reforms the government is enacting to qualify for financial support from the Netherlands.

One opposition lawmaker, Marilyn Moses, did attend parliament on Monday.

The other nine, seven of whom want independence from the Netherlands, still didn’t show. Read more “Politicians Break Deadlock on Curaçao”

Contrast in the Dutch Caribbean

Oranjestad Aruba
Facade of the Royal Plaza Mall in Oranjestad, Aruba, February 10, 2015 (Thomas Hawk)

The government of the Aruba, a Dutch island in the Caribbean, has presented a five-point plan to restructure its tourism-dependent economy, which has been decimated by COVID-19.

Meanwhile on neighboring Curaçao, pro-independence parties are boycotting the inauguration of a pro-government lawmaker, bringing politics on the island to a standstill.

The two islands, and Sint Maarten, are autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and have yet to approve Dutch terms for financial support to cope with the effects of coronavirus. Read more “Contrast in the Dutch Caribbean”

Dutch Caribbean Resist Terms of Coronavirus Aid

Silveria Jacobs Eugene Rhuggenaath
Prime Ministers Silveria Jacobs of Sint Maarten and Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao answer questions from reporters in The Hague, July 10 (ANP)

The prime ministers of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten have turned down conditions to qualify for as much as €1 billion in coronavirus aid from the European Netherlands. A cabinet meeting in The Hague on Friday, which the leaders of the three islands attended, failed to produce a compromise.

The Dutch have proposed appointing a three-person panel to oversee reforms to which the aid is tied. The Caribbean islands consider this an infringement of their autonomy.

Eugene Rhuggenaath, the prime minister of Curaçao, went so far as to accuse The Hague of having “an agenda for the takeover and control” of the islands, echoing the rhetoric of pro-independence parties that supported violent protests against spending cuts two weeks ago, which prompted the Dutch to deploy troops to support the local police. Read more “Dutch Caribbean Resist Terms of Coronavirus Aid”

Dutch Deploy Troops After Riots on Curaçao

Dutch frigate Zeeland
Dutch frigate HNLMS Zeeland on patrol in the Caribbean Sea (Ministerie van Defensie)

The Netherlands is deploying troops on Curaçao, one of the kingdom’s islands in the Caribbean, following several days of rioting and unrest.

The decision was taken with local police, who announced that, as a result of the deployment, a two-day curfew could be lifted on Friday. Read more “Dutch Deploy Troops After Riots on Curaçao”

Dutch Terms for Caribbean Support Are Fair

Willemstad Curaçao
View down the Breedestraat in Willemstad, Curaçao (Unsplash/Lakeisha Bennett)

Politicians in the Dutch Caribbean have reluctantly agreed to spending reductions and reforms to qualify for €370 million in financial support from the European Netherlands:

  • 25-percent cut in the salaries of politicians.
  • 12.5-percent cut in the salaries of other public-sector workers.
  • Capping public-sector wages at 130 percent of the prime minister’s salary. (Such an income limit already exists in the European Netherlands.)
  • 20-percent contribution from firms to wage subsidies for the unemployed.
  • Oversight from the Dutch Central Bank in the financial industry of the islands.

With their tourism-dependent economies in free fall due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease, the leaders of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten felt they had no choice but to agree to what Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao called “unrealistic demands” and John Leerdam, a former Labor Party politician, who was born on Curaçao, called a “diktat” from The Hague.

But the terms (which do not apply to emergency food and health-care aid) still fall short of the more thorough and long-term reforms Dutch governments, of the left and right, have advised for years, in some cases decades:

With the Castros Gone, Is Change Afoot in Cuba?

Havana Cuba
View of the National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba, June 8, 2011 (Wikimedia Commons/Héctor Valdés Domínguez)

The appointment of a new president in Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, sixty years after the island’s socialist revolution, feels like a turning point.

Once anointed by the 605-strong National Assembly as Cuba’s first non-Castro president in decades, Díaz-Canel vowed to modernize the economy and make government more responsive to its people.

What does the change mean in practice?

Not having a Castro, neither Fidel (1976-08) nor Raúl (2008-18), as leader carries with it great symbolism for sure. For the first time in many years, the powerful roles of president and head of the Communist Party are no longer combined. (Raúl remains party leader for three years.) But the Castro years weren’t quite as monolithic as they are sometimes portrayed and the next few years are unlikely to see a turnaround. Read more “With the Castros Gone, Is Change Afoot in Cuba?”

Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute

A cruise ship moored in Willemstad, Curaçao
A cruise ship moored in Willemstad, Curaçao (Shutterstock/Galina Savina)

The Dutch Caribbean have been caught up in a legal dispute between the American oil company ConocoPhillips and the government of Venezuela.

A judge has allowed Conoco to seize Venezuelan-owned and -operated refineries on the islands in order to collect $2 billion in compensation awarded by the International Chamber of Commerce for the 2007 nationalization of Conoco assets in the socialist-run country.

The seizure poses a “potential crisis” to the economy of Curaçao, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath has told Reuters. The Isla refinery, which processes 335,000 barrels of oil per day, accounts for a tenth of the island’s economy. Read more “Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute”

Dutch Relieved After Mainstream Parties Win Curaçao Election

Willemstad Curaçao
View of Otrobanda from across the Saint Anna Bay in Willemstad, Curaçao (iStock/Flavio Vallenari)

Former Curaçaoan prime minister Gerrit Schotte has lost the election on the island, avoiding a standoff with the European Netherlands, which is loath to work with the corrupt politician.

Schotte’s populist Movement for the Future of Curaçao (MFK) gained one seat in the island’s legislature on Friday, winning five seats altogether, but mainstream parties did better.

The liberal Party for the Restructured Antilles (PAR) and the social democratic Partido MAN won a majority between them. They can now govern alone, although they may add one or two small parties to round out a coalition. Read more “Dutch Relieved After Mainstream Parties Win Curaçao Election”

Netherlands Intervenes in Curaçao to Make Sure Elections Proceed

Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders speaks with Lucille George-Wout, the governor of Curaçao, in The Hague, September 24, 2015
Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders speaks with Lucille George-Wout, the governor of Curaçao, in The Hague, September 24, 2015 (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken)

The Dutch government has given extraordinary powers to the governor of Curaçao to allow elections to go forward on the island despite opposition from its ruling parties.

Lucille George-Wout, who nominally represents the Dutch king, has been given authority over public services to make sure the elections can proceed.

It is the first time the Netherlands has intervened so overtly in the politics of the Caribbean island since it became self-governing in 1954. Read more “Netherlands Intervenes in Curaçao to Make Sure Elections Proceed”