The Battle For Curacao

November 22, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

Prince Victor/EPA

 

By

Ricardo Swire

Curacao is a Dutch Caribbean island that plays an outsized role in hemispheric affairs. Geographically positioned off the South American coast, Curacao represents a strategic pawn in today’s political tangle between America and Venezuela.

Since the national elections on October 5 2016 Curacao has been managed by a caretaker government. The southern Dutch Caribbean Island is home to 145,600 residents, 1,500 employed by Venezuela’s PDVSA local refinery, under an agreement effective until 2019.

Curacao is just forty miles northwest of Venezuela’s coast. In the recent past Dutch airline KLM suspended its codeshare agreement with Curacao’s carrier InselAir. The carrier found itself in financial crisis, due to significant amounts of currency trapped in Venezuela, money that cannot be transferred due to Venezuela’s economic crisis. InselAir’s fleet, comprising sixteen Fokker and McDonnell Douglas aircraft, services twenty-two Caribbean destinations.

Curacao’s proximity to Venezuela makes national officials in Caracas uncomfortable with the US/Curacao 2000 “Hato Navy Air Station” agreement. The military Forward Operating Location (FOL) supports general Caribbean counter-narcotics operations. On several occasions Venezuela’s President accused USAF aircraft, assigned to the Curacao Airport base, of violating Venezuelan airspace.

Aeronautical records from 2010 showed US Air National Guard F-16 jet fighters and Cornet Nighthawk aircraft conducted eight hundred flights from Curacao that year, the pilots accused of unauthorized surveillance operations over Venezuela. In 2013 one of Curacao’s Senators was publicly assassinated. On May 5th 2013 gunmen ambushed the Senator, shot him five times and escaped in a gold-colored Kia Picanto motor vehicle. The politician was an open lobbyist against corruption, a critic of US military presence on the island.

In “10-10-10” the Dutch Kingdom granted Curacao self-governance, liberation that removed eighty percent of the island’s debt. 2014 and 2015 Curacao Court of Audit (CCOA) reports informed that government Ministers approved multi-million dollar projects, without possessing signing authority. According to Curacao’s regulations “only public servants, who have been authorized by the Ministry of Finance,” have authority to sign such documents. Names of these public servants can be found on a Ministry of Finance list.

The CCOA reports explained almost seven hundred work orders, worth US$4 million, were illegally created by Willemstad based government officers. The Minister of Social Development, Labor & Wellbeing issued the majority of fraudulent documents. She increased one Grant, worth 40,000 guilders or US$19,451, to over 300,000 guilders or US$145,000, a favor for a party colleague’s private company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.

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