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:

Venezuela Is Starving and Still Maduro Clings to Power

Nicolás Maduro
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro delivers a speech (Palacio de Miraflores/Miguel Angulo)

Nicolás Maduro is still president of Venezuela. That may not sound like news, but in the six years he has been in power, he has so poorly managed the economy, with increasingly authoritarian measures, that GDP has shrunk 60 percent, inflation has reached an astronomical 10 million percent, once forgotten diseases have returned, 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country and 90 percent of the remaining population lives in poverty. It’s the worst economic collapse outside of a civil war.

Little wonder mass protests have been a recurrent aspect of Maduro’s administration, but so far all attempts to remove him have failed.

Maduro only won reelection in 2018 after arresting opposition presidential candidates, sidelining the opposition-controlled legislature and most likely rigging the vote.

In January, Juan Guaidó, a social democrat and president of the National Assembly, took the extraordinary step of invoking Article 233 of the Constitution to declare himself interim president and call for early elections. Read more “Venezuela Is Starving and Still Maduro Clings to Power”

Leftists Denounce “Coup” Against Vote-Rigging Autocrat in Bolivia

Let’s take a break from the right-wing apologists of a would-be autocrat in the United States to check in with the left-wing apologists of an actual autocrat in Bolivia.

In the face of mass protests, the Bolivarian military has forced the left-wing populist Evo Morales to step down.

Morales served an unconstitutional third term as president from 2014 to 2019. He called and lost a referendum in 2016 on whether he should stand for a fourth term, but the Supreme Court canceled that result, arguing that “American imperialism” had influenced the outcome.

In his latest bid for reelection, observers from the Organization of American States found clear manipulations, including a 24-hour freeze in the vote count, before which Morales was losing and after which he suddenly won.

You wouldn’t know it from reading British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders or New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading light of the American new left, who have all denounced Morales’ removal as a “coup” and are calling for “free and fair elections” — no matter that’s the very thing Morales wouldn’t allow. Read more “Leftists Denounce “Coup” Against Vote-Rigging Autocrat in Bolivia”

Macri’s Failure Returns Peronists to Power in Argentina

Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil and Mauricio Macri of Argentina inspect an honor guard in Brasília, February 7, 2017
Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil and Mauricio Macri of Argentina inspect an honor guard in Brasília, February 7, 2017 (Carolina Antunes)

Mauricio Macri will vacate the presidency of Argentina next month after a disappointing term in office and a first-round defeat to Peronist candidate Alberto Fernández.

Fernández won by bringing the controversial former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner into the fold as vice president to help unite the moderate and leftist strands in his party. That unity will be tested by a severe economic crisis. Read more “Macri’s Failure Returns Peronists to Power in Argentina”

Millions Flee Venezuela, But Maduro Is Going Nowhere

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela visits Quito, Ecuador, September 21, 2015
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela visits Quito, Ecuador, September 21, 2015 (Prensa Miraflores)

Twenty years have passed since Hugo Chavez’ Bolivarian Revolution began in Venezuela. Although the first decade halved unemployment and brought poverty levels down to 27 percent, under President Nicolás Maduro there has been a dramatic economic, political and social decline.

Inflation has skyrocketed and is expected to reach 1,000,000 percent this year. Shortages of basic goods have resulted in widespread malnutrition. The outbreak of previously forgotten diseases and violence has reached unprecedented levels. 73 lives are lost per day.

This, combined with a political system that has barred and arrested opposition presidential candidates, sidelined an opposition-dominated legislature and last year carried out an election marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging, has led to an exodus of almost 10 percent of Venezuela’s 30 million population. 90 percent of those who remain live in poverty.

With such a parlous state of affairs, how has Maduro kept the show on the road?

And why haven’t Venezuela’s neighbors, who are sheltering most of its refugees, acted to end the misery? Read more “Millions Flee Venezuela, But Maduro Is Going Nowhere”