Self-inflicted mistakes compromising Isla’s future

A9CD5EC3-8CA2-4D91-83C4-EA9985E32157With the Venezuelan state owned PDVSA’s contract to run Curaçao’s refinery (Isla) expiring at the end of 2019, the Multidisciplinary Project Team (MDPT) was created in November 2013 to find an operator to modernize Isla and to look for alternatives should Isla close. What happened since, is troubling. 

In mid-2016 Prime Minister Whiteman went to Caracas on what should have been a high-level summit about Isla’s future. Instead he was humiliated, left waiting for hours without being able to talk to anyone. Later, the Venezuelan Energy Minister declared that PDVSA had no money for Isla’s upgrade.

Late September 2016 it finally became clear what the MDPTs president, Mr. Wiels, had been doing on his mysterious (private)solo travels in Asia. China’s Guandong Zenhrong (GZE), a rookie with zero experience in refinery building, was chosen (we still don’t know how it was selected) and signed a MoU with Mr. Whiteman to build a state-of-the-art refining facility. Progressively a ‘GZE-mania’ came about. GZE was considered by the current Administration as a wonder that was going to make everything shiny. At least 6 state enterprises signed MoUs with GZE. We were also told that GZE would build theme parks and big hotels. It took US$ 10 million and 2 costly years to realize, despite my warnings, that these penniless wannabe refinery builders played us. 

Turns out we were also played by Mr. Wiels, who left MDPT in June 2017. An investigation uncovered grave misappropriation of public funds and the fact that Mr. Wiels was hiding official documents (on his personal computer) which he refused to release. These findings led to the dismissal of the then director of the refinery, Mr. van den Wall-Arneman, who was replaced by Mr. van Kwartel.

Back to square one. But a few months later came the announcement of a preferred bidder for Isla. We breathed a sigh of relief. Our hopes were however soon shattered when it was announced that the selection of a new operator had to wait for an investigation into corruption allegations involving individuals close to the bidding process, including the refinery director who was later fired. The bidder, Motiva, the US-based arm of Saudi Aramco withdraws.

So far we have botched this process. I know that one never gets all that he wants during negotiations. But some of these wounds are self inflicted.

  1. We’ve never been able to take the Isla discussion to a national level. Instead, we’ve been placing party line officials in key positions in order to execute the party groups interest goals. This issue doesn’t belong to a handful of people. Its a national concern. Outreach to all stakeholders and giving the community the opportunity to voice concern is key.
  2. Transparency since the get-go was not executed in practice and the Isla dossier is, even for connoisseurs, a black box. No one seems to know what’s happening with the redevelopment path of Isla. Is this path no longer followed as Mr. Whiteman tried to do in February 2016? The need for transparency and communication at every stage of the project is essential. 
  3. We have not been able to control corruption and abuses of power within our ranks. Certain actors have been given a carte blanche without any meaningful oversight. We need to develop and implement detailed approaches to prevent, control, and minimize such corruption risks.
  4. We have not been able to show a balanced approach regarding the Isla dossier. So far we have created a somewhat desperate and internally belligerent attitude. Curaçao should carefully balance its position to ensure that our negotiators are not blindsided to the point that Isla’s future will come to the detriment of our overall well being and development. This danger is real, especially as we approach the December 2019 deadline. 
  5. Looking at the current and past composition of our negotiating team, it seems that we have not considered sufficiently creating leverage, looking into other mutual beneficial activities with the negotiators at the other side of the table. I miss (advising) team members with a cross-section of skills, especially a geopolitical strategist and someone with relatable experience of the opposing team.

Are we back where we started? No. We are further away from home, especially considering the showdown between some unions and the Government last week. We need to realize that yet another start, long after the tip-off does not bode well. There is less time on the board, less resources, more fatigue and less game plans. So far we have botched this process. 

 Willemstad, Curaçao

Propaganda i intimidashon katóliko den promé elekshon general di Kòrsou


Riba 17 mart 1949 ta 70 aña di e promé elekshon general (hende muhé i tur hende hòmber por a vota). Esaki ta e promé artíkulo pa konmemorá e echo. 

Vikario apostóliko di Kòrsou, mgr. Van der Veen Zeppenfeldt algun dia promé ku elekshon pa Staten riba 17 mart 1949 ta saka un Karta di Kuaresma atvertiendo katólikonan pa no vota riba Partido Demokrat (DP) pasombra e partido ta “kontra di e prinsípionan katóliko”, esta “christelijke orde en een betere beleving van het christendom”. Segun e iglesia, DP siendo no katóliko, tabata inkapas pa goberná kristianamente. No ta un sorpresa ku DP a protestá fuertemente kontra di elekshon riba djaluna pasombra katólikonan tabata usamisa riba djadumingu pa propagá i influensiá voto (

Den e mesun karta mgr. Van der Veen Zeppenfeldt ta pidi pa no vota pa Nationale Volkspartij (PNP) i ta menshoná mr. dr. Moises da Costa Gomez (Dòktor) na nòmber apesar ku PNP tabatin un ideologia kristian. Dòktor lo tabata asta peligroso den su wowonan. E rabia di iglesia katóliko riba Dòktor pa kua finalmente pastor Amado Römer na 2007 a pidi pordon, tin su historia. Na 1935 mgr. Verriet i Dòktor a lanta Partido Katóliko (CRKP). Sinembargo pa Dòktor, CRKP tabata ‘slow’ pa sostené derechi di voto universal i outonomia interno. Dòktor a kibra ku CRKP na 1948, pero no a entregá su asiento na partido. CRKP ta kibra i algun miembro ta lanta Partido Katóliko di Pueblo (KVP). Hopi ta brua CRKP i KVP den otro. Ta dos partido diferente. Otro miembronan di CRKP ta sigui Dòktor i lanta PNP. E odio di iglesia kontra Dòktor tabata asina profundo ku a ninga dera Dòktor den un santana katóliko.

Kua tabata e úniko partido ku mester a vota p’e segun iglesia katóliko? KVP. Pasombra e tabata e úniko komprometé na prinsipionan di Vatikano i iglesia. Resultado di elekshon tabata un sla formal pa iglesia. KVP a saka solamente un asiento i PNP a gana elekshon. E prinsipal defensor di iglesia katóliko, korant Amigoe, a papia di “een klap in ons gezicht”. DP, ku a sali na di dos lugá djis tras di PNP, a premirá e komienso di final di e era di dominio di iglesia den polítika.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Den prizòn pa hasi negoshi ku enemigu


Mientras Kòrsou a hasi sakrifisio sobrehumano pa yuda e kousa di Segundo Guera Mundial (WWll), algun yu di tera ilegalmente ta hasi negoshi ku e enemigu. Lo bo no haña e informashon aki fásilmente, pero ta importante pa no tapa kara pa e tema ounke kon inkomfortabel e por ta. E tambe ta parti di nos historia. Ademas no ta aki so e a pasa. Mi a skohe e kaso mas konosí na Kòrsou den kua kastigu di prizòn a kai pa hasi negoshi ku e enemigu durante WWll.

Kòrsou for di momento ku Alemania a okupá Ulanda, a hasi hopi sakrifisio na fabor di e aliadonan. Apesar di kontratempu, Kòrsou a kolektá 11 mion (awe: 180 mion) pa yuda Ulanda. Nos situashon a empeorá ora Merka a drenta WWll. Gobièrnu a tuma medida manera restrikshon di divisa, gasolin i importashon huntu ku prohibishon di komèrsio ku e enemigu, esta  Regeling Rechtsverkeer in Oorlogstijd P.B. 1940, No. 67 (schade toebrengen aan belangen van het Koninkrijk in Oorlogstijd). Negoshi entre nos i e enemigu durante WWll tabata varia di arma, petroli, merkansia i asta obranan di arte hòrtá. E lei tabata prohibí ku ken hasi negoshi irespekto si e merkansia tabata legal.

Na 1941 a start un investigashon penal na Aruba den kuadro di un empresa na Aruba di doñonan di Kòrsou, dos ruman Curiël, sospechá di a bende zeta ku Sr. Eikhof, un empresario Aleman na Rio Hacha, Colombia. Den Korte fiskalía kier a proba ku e benta tabata ilegal i intenshonal. Inisialmente e defensa a deklará ku ta e empresa a hasi negoshi i no e doñonan, lokual Hues rechasá. Despues e defensa a trata na kombensé Korte ku su klientenan no tabata sa ku Sr. Eikhof tabata Aleman.

Fiskalía sinembargo a demostrá ku Sr. Eikhof tabata konosé e rumannan pa algun dékada i ku nunka e a skonde su nashonalidat Aleman. Sr. Eikhof aparentemente semper a keda fiel na Alemania i segun fiskalía asta a organisá un fiesta grandi dia Alemania a okupá Ulanda (10 mei 1940). Tambe a bin dilanti transakshonnan via un Sr. Zuñiga ku segun Korte tabata: “algemeen bekend als den „vertegenwoordiger van de Duitsers”. Finalmente, defensa a deklará ku e benta na Rio Hacha no tabata intenshonal ya ku su klientenan tabata deskonosé e lei prohibiendo negoshi Aleman.

Riba 31 di òktober 1941, Korte di Apelashon den su veredikto kontra rumannan Curiël ku ta bisa e.o: “Uitgaande van de mening, dat niet alleen gelds-, doch invloeds- of beheersbelangen aanwezig waren in de handel met de firma Eikhof te Rio Hacha en dat de Heer Eikhof buiten geschil Duitser is, achtte het Hof schuld aanwezig”. E rumannan huntu a haña un kastigu di 3 siman den prizòn.

Ku e veredikto e episodio aki no a sera. Abogadonan S. van der Meer, L. Lampe i C. Eman ku a defendé e rumannan Curiël, ta start un kaso sivíl kontra nan ya ku e últimonan no kier a paga e abogadonan. Na 1949 e kaso penal kontra di e rumannan Curiël ta yega Hoge Raad na Ulanda. Esaki despues di un evaluashon ta rechasá ku e rumannan a aktua “met opzet” pero ta konfirmá ku nan ta debidamente kulpabel konfome e veredikto di Korte na Willemstad.

Den historia mundu (t)a konosé muchu hende ku ta(bata) dispuesto pa pone interes di nan mes hendenan i asta pais un banda pa ganashi i otro benefisio ku no ta sirbi interes general. E peliger di esaki ta bisto, tambe aki na Kòrsou.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Foto: Archivo Nashonal

Venezuela: Slippery Road Ahead


What’s going to happen now that Venezuela has two men claiming the presidency is anyone’s guess. These situations almost never happen. In fact, we need to travel halfway around the world to Madagascar to find a recent case. In 2002 Mr. Ravalomanana declared himself president after refusing to accept the election results which he claimed President Ratsikara rigged. Violence broke out taking this African island nation to the brink of civil war. After months of bloody battle between the groups supporting both presidents, the US became the first to recognize Mr. Ravalomanana as the legitimate president. After a negotiated settlement Mr. Ratsikara went to live in France.

The Venezuelan case is however more complex. Unlike Venezuela Madagascar never played a significant geopolitical role. The Russian and Chinese empires have eagerly befriended Venezuela to challenge the dominance of Europe and the US in the Western Hemisphere. It’s not about ideology however. Russia and China have economic and strategic stakes are high there (about US$ 46 billion and oil reserves) and won’t quit President Maduro, at least not until the other President, Mr. Guaidó, guarantees their investments have not been in vain. The US is not happy with China and Russia messing around in its backyard, yet I doubt it will risk military action which will have to be accompanied by a prolonged stay in Venezuela to “restore democracy”.

Mr. Maduro is a dictator, in power through a fraudulent election. That’s a fact. Also true is that an outside regime change could lead to civil war. Curaçao should be concerned. If Venezuela explodes, the neighbors will be forced to pick up the pieces. Hopefully we will transmit that message to The Hague. Now is not time to either endorse or denounce Mr. Guaidó The Kingdom of The Netherlands should support a negotiated settlement led by Venezuelans, sustained by a serious multilateral platform, including China and Russia, to remove Mr. Maduro from power and allow free election. We must tread carefully. The return of democracy will be an arduous process that could take more than a generation. There is no magic wand.

Willemstad, Curaçao

E tùnel bou di laman pa konektá Punda i Otrobanda


Na lugá di usa brùg Juliana pa bai di Punda pa Otrobanda awe nos lo por tabata krusa via di un tùnel den fondo di Bahia Santa Ana. Na 1943 (predesor di) gobièrnu a entregá e diseño di “tunnel Curaçao” ku un kosto di 5 mion (awe ekivalente na 73 mion) na Staten. Polítika a sòru pa e no a lanta foi tera. 

Ku yegada di refineria tantu aktividatnan den haf komo tráfiko di vehíkulo a krese rápidamente. Mester a buska un konekshon efisiente entre Punda i Otrobanda. Brùg Emma ya no tabata kumpli. Gobernadó Helfrich kier a konstruí un brùg haltu pa konektá e dos partinan di Willemstad. E idea a muri asina un Gobernadó nobo a keda instalá. Na 1925 un di dos plan pa un brùg a keda presentá ku tambe a frakasá. 

Na 1943 Pieter van Stuivenberg di Landswater-voorzieningsdienst i su asistente Frans van Drimmelen ta presentá un idea revolushonario pa un tùnel den Bahia Santa Ana. Arkitekto van Stuivenberg tabata konosí pa diseño di Cinelandia, Palais Royal i edifisio di KNSM. E tùnel segun kálkulo lo a kosta ménos ku un brùg i lo a spar outomobilistanan tempu i gasolin pa hasi e kruse.

Tabata un “zinkertunnel”, un konstrukshon di forma di tubu di metal diki ku tratamentu spesial kontra salpeter i polushon den awa (zwavelzuur) ku lo a keda bahá den nos bahia na mas o menos 16m di profundidat. No a skohe pa koba un tùnel debí na kostonan haltu. Unabes e konstrukshon tabata den fondo, lo a bini ku un kapa di betòn pa protehá e metal.

E diseño di e tùnel: 7m hanchu, 3.5m haltu, ku kapasidat pa 1000 vehikulo pa ora den ámbos direkshon, i fasilidat pa baiskel i peaton. E proyekto ku un largura di 700m tabata den forma di un ‘L’ (wak foto di Amigoe, 2 mart 1943) ku e parti di entrada/salida na de Ruyterplein (Punda) i entrada/salida na Klipstraat (O).

Un komishon multidisiplinario Tunnel Curaçao a elaborá e proyekto di tùnel ku na komienso di 1943 a keda entregá na Staten. E intenshon tabata pa Staten i gobièrnu traha huntu. Dos dia promé ku tratamentu den Staten, Shon Henny Eman, Miembro di Staten pa Aruba, a yama e tùnel un ‘spoki i fantasma di Kòrsou’. E a deklará: “Het zijn dergelijke onverantwoordelijke dingen die men op Curaçao doet met de gelden der gemeenschappelijke begrooting, dat Aruba er toe geleid heeft met open vizier acties te voeren tot een scheiding van Curaçao” (Amigoe 3 mart 1943). Apesar di tur esfuerso, e proyekto a pega. Den añanan 50 brevemente a hunga ku e idea pa un tùnel. Finalmente a opta pa un brùg i e tùnel ambisioso i nunka bisto den nos region, a pasa pa historia.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Pakiko ta vota riba djabièrnè?


Nos no sa ki dia e próksimo elekshon lo tuma lugá na Kòrsou, pero manera kustumber e lo ta riba un djabièrnè. E rason tin hopi ke ber ku iglesia katóliko. 

No semper elekshon tabata riba djabièrnè sinembargo. Entre di 1937 pa 1966 tabatin 9 elekshon pa Staten ku a tuma lugá 5 biaha riba djaluna, 2 bia riba djaweps i 2 biaha riba djarason. Despues di 1969 te awe, tur elekshon pa Staten tabata riba djabièrnè ku eksepshon di 2016 ku tabata riba un djarason pa menasa di orkan Matthew riba djabièrnè 30 sèptèmber. Pa loke ta trata elekshon pa Konseho Insular (KI) tur 3 elekshon entre 1951-1962 tabata riba djaluna. Di 1963 te e último elekshon di KI, tur tabata riba un djabièrnè. 

E konteksto históriko ta demostrá ku Kòrsou tabata konosé un divishon fuerte alimentá pa un lucha pa poder entre di protestant i katóliko. E élite ku tabata dominá gobernashon i polítika tabata e potestant. Katólikonan tabata defendé e masa ku histórikamente no tabatin poder polítiko i ku te 1949 kasi no tabata kalifiká pa vota. Pa haña poder polítiko i ekonómiko ku desproporshonalmente tabata den mannan no-katóliko, Monseñor Verriet di iglesia katóliko, na 1936 a lanta Partido Katóliko Romano di Kòrsou (CRKP) ku a gana e promé dos elekshonnan. Despues ku CRKP a kibra na 1948, partidonan di ideologia katóliko, Partido Katóliko di Pueblo (KVP) huntu ku Partido Nashonal di Pueblo (PNP) te medio añanan 60, tabata saka mayoria di voto.

Ban bèk pa djabièrnè. Oponentenan di partidonan di ideologia katóliko durante kurso di tempu a kansa ku iglesia katóliko tabata malusá su posishon instruyendo su pastornan pa riba djadumingu, bispu di elekshon, pa durante servisio kombensé pueblo pa vota katóliko. Sifranan ta mustra ku di e 8 elekshonnan riba djaluna, un partido di ideologia katóliko a gana 6 biaha!

No-katólikonan, prinsipalmente Partido Demokrat ku a lanta na 1944, a protestá fuertemente kontra e lokual e a mira komo maluso di poder. Ounke ku den komienso tabata difísil, poko poko e konsenshi ku religion no mester mete den asuntunan estatal, a kombensé outoridatnan pa pone elekshon riba djabièrnè. E pensamentu tabata ku kualkier propaganda polítiko di iglesia riba djadumingu pa influensiá e resultado elektoral, por a keda kontra-arestá 4 dia largu promé ku elekshon riba djabièrnè.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Referensia: Asina’ki Pueblo A Vota, Sidney F. Ritter; Staatkundige onwikkelingen der Nederlandse Antillen, Annemarie Kasteel

Venezuela: from failure to collapse


It took some breathtaking acts of illegality and repression that at the end paid off handsomely. Mr. Maduro was just sworn in for a second term as Venezuela’s president. What’s next for this once richest country in Latin America?

In my mind there’s no doubt that Venezuela will sink from its current status of failed state to a collapsed state. See, if your economic, political and social policies are bad, you get an epic humanitarian meltdown. What’s needed is a strategy led by Venezuelans, sustained by a serious multilateral platform for fostering a political change when Mr. Maduro’s government collapses.

The odds that the UN Security Council accepts an intervention in Venezuela, I think, is zero considering the Chinese economic interests, Russian and Iranian (on a smaller scale) geopolitical ambitions. Hoping for diplomatic ‘negotiations’ with these countries to limit their support for Maduro is not easy as their presence there is connected with other global hotbeds (Kossovo, Syria, South China Sea). 

Also, suggesting military intervention only empowers hardliners and lead others to join Chavismo to ‘defend the motherland.’ Whilst I support targeted economic sanctions on the abetters of a patronage network that maintains the status quo in Venezuela, I don’t think indiscriminate sanctions as proposed by the right-wing Lima Group (a group that doesn’t recognize Mr. Maduro’s regime) are effective. It would only amplify the suffering and tide of refugees.

Fact is that we can’t count on Mr. Maduro to stop Venezuela’s crisis. As we’ve seen in parts of Africa, extreme socioeconomic collapse and the absence of rule of law tend to render the opposition toothless and send the common man to fend for himself in order to survive. This system has become Maduro’s most effective tool of repression and corruption. Venezuela’s economic and political crisis would have to worsen to such a degree that it threatens the power base of hard-liners and the military. I don’t see that happening soon.

People need an alternative to start believing change is possible in Venezuela when the collapse happens otherwise the unknown will only extends Mr. Maduro’s stay in power. The time may have come for a Venezuelan government in exile (GiE) and a provisional parliament shifting the centre of gravity of opposition decision-making beyond the borders of Venezuela. A GiE is a very rare move in international politics and results from widespread belief in the illegitimacy of the ruler(s), war or humanitarian crisis. The effectiveness of a GiE depends primarily on the amount of support it can receive, from foreign governments and its own population. It’s important that the Venezuelan GiE, from the onset presents itself as offering a democratic alternative for all Venezuelans. To be effective, it must be able to win over Chavistas who are (becoming) disenchanted with Chavismo. It’s no easy task, but the wounds of my neighbor country are too severe to respond quickly to standard procedures.

Photo: Pro democracy rally in Port Imperial, West New York. IPhone, 16 July, 2017.

Willemstad, Curaçao