JOHN HORRIS SPROCKEL REPRESENTED CURAÇAO AT BIRTH OF UNITED NATIONS AND TRUSTEESHIP FOR NON-SELF GOVERNING TERRITORIES

The Charter of the United Nations (UN) was signed in San Fransisco on 26 June, 1945 by 50 nations creating a strong peace structure in order to build a better world. Unbeknownst to many of us, Curaçao had an official representative, Mr. John Horris Sprockel, both at the signing ceremony and in one of the preparatory subcommittees charged with drafting of the Charter. Mr. Sprockel, our first President of Parliament (1938-1945), was recommended by the Governor of Curaçao, Mr. Piet Kasteel, to represent our country in the delegation of the Kingdom of The Netherlands at the San Fransisco Conference. Mr. Moises Frumencio da Costa Gomez who usually represented our country at such important international conferences decided to stay behind in Curaçao to prepare for parliamentary elections that would take place in November 1945. Mr. da Costa Gomez’s (and Sprockel’s) party, the Curaçao Roman Catholic Party (CRKP), was feeling the heat from the newly formed Democratic Party (DP) so it was decided that da Costa Gomez could not be missed for two months.

It was very fitting that while Curaçao was intensively engaged with The Netherlands to concretize self-government for the islands, Mr. Sprockel was appointed in San Fransisco to the subcommittee responsible for the drafting of the International Trusteeship System which goal was to promote the political, economic and social advancement of the non-self-governing territories and their development towards self-government and self-determination. Interestingly, the Australian delegation in San Francisco wanted to broaden the scope of the Trusteeship which would have possibly included Curaçao, Suriname and Indonesia. The Dutch delegation in the aforementioned subcommittee consisting of Mr. Boernahoedin and Mr. Moesa from Indonesia, Mr. Sprockel from Curaçao and Mr. van der Plas from The Netherlands (the delegate of Suriname never made it to San Francisco due to illness) contended that: “The Kingdom of The Netherlands was far more ahead regarding decolonization than what was the initial goals of the UN Trusteeship. This, according to the article by Mr. Sprockel: “Curaçao’s Belang bij San Francisco” (Curaçao’s Interest in San Francisco) which appeared in Amigoe di Curaçao, 28 July 1945.

With the independence of Palau in 1994, the Security Council in 1994 terminated the United Nations Trusteeship Agreement. With no Territories left in its agenda, the Trusteeship System had completed its historic task. Soon after he returned to Curaçao from San Francisco, Mr. Sprockel tendered his resignation as President of Parliament.

Photo (United Nations): Alexander Loudon signs the United Nations Manifest on behalf of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Behind him, second from the left, John Horris Sprockel.

STAND UP FOR DEMOCRACY IN VENEZUELA

Remember the Curaçaon left-wing populist politicians who flocked to Venezuela on Chávez’s plane to praise his ‘revolución’? Remember how they, together with some union leaders and opinion makers spoke wonders about Chavismo? Still clearly I remember how in 2011 a Member of Parliament of Curaçao picked up the Venezuelan Consul-general and did a 360° spin with her in the Parliament building just before the opening ceremonies of a new Parliamentary year. Yes, love was still in the air. Do these people who sanctified the ‘Venezuelan model’ owe us an explanation today? Just about all of the earlier disciples of Chavismo here in Curaçao have maintained a conspicuous silence in the face of the Venezuelan tragedy. Those who do speak up, rather than apologize for the Chávez-Maduro dictatorship, blame collapsing oil prices for the country’s fate. However these charlatans fail to explain why fellow OPEC member Indonesia has not seen similar unrests, but surprisingly fortified its young democracy during the same period Venezuela took a turn for the worse.

The legacy of the Venezuelan model reads like a to-do list on how to become a failed State. Today Venezuela has the highest inflation in the world, 678.60% while its economy will contract in 2017 with 11% (Forbes). Our southern neighbors have climbed the ladders of Transparency International lists as the only country in the Americas among the world’s 10 most corrupt. The country’s economic crisis takes heavy toll on public health, with infant death rate up 30%, maternal mortality up 65%, and malaria cases up 76% in 2016 according to statistics published by the Venezuelan government. Currently more than 450 investigations into human rights violations have been opened and there are 444 political prisoners in Venezuela according to Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS).

If there was anything left of Venezuela’s democracy it was taken away by the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, who held a fraudulent election last weekend creating a new Constituent Assembly consisting of 545 seats, all filled with candidates hand-picked by Maduro’s party. The Constituent Assembly is empowered to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution, expel members of the opposition from the current National Assembly, and consolidate all executive powers. To add insult to injury, Mr. Maduro had the two most important opposition leaders arrested and sent to a military prison.

What should we do? I hope that the world sends a clear message that the results of last week’s elections are not going to be recognized. As many as 40 countries, including the European Union on behalf of its members (i.e. also The Kingdom of the Netherlands) have already announced they will not accept the Constituent Assembly. I’m unsure at this moment whether the Venezuelan people should be slapped with sanctions that could worsen their already dire situation. History also teaches us that while dictators can be removed from abroad, it is impossible to impose democracy from abroad. The end of dictatorship in Venezuela will depend on internal Venezuelan pressure. The best way to keep the pressure on Caracas is for other countries to decisively act in defense of democracy. Precisely because the world has allowed the situation to deteriorate incrementally, but consistently, we are at the point where we are today. Very disappointing was the fact that a few weeks ago fellow Caribbean nations St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis voted against the OAS resolution to condemn Maduro’s intentions to convene a Constituent Assembly that would have required a 23-vote majority to become mandatory. I guess these islands’ love for cheap Venezuelan oil trumped doing something about a full-blown humanitarian crisis.

When it comes to Venezuela, Curaçao has always remained neutral and has abided by the non-intervention rule. Yet non-intervention should not be used to simply do nothing. I believe that the Government in Willemstad should express its regret that more than 100 people have died in the most recent unrests; its deep concern about the detention of two opposition leaders by Venezuelan authorities after Sunday’s elections; urging the Government in Caracas to immediately release all those being held for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly; appeal to all parties to refrain from the use of violence and voice its desire for a democratic solution. I also make a similar appeal to our local non-governmental organizations because democracy is a matter of all of us, not only the government. I know that we have strong historical, economical and often family ties with Venezuela. That’s a fact. However, these relationships should never be at the expense of the human suffering that is taking place in Venezuela owing to the fact that some people want to quell democracy.

DONE DEAL. NORTH KOREA IS A NUCLEAR STATE.

The U.S. President, Mr. Donald Trump, told the world yesterday that he was disappointed in China for not doing anything for the U.S. in North Korea. This, only weeks after praising the Chinese President and cozily sharing a chocolate cake with him in Florida. North Korea of course, for the second time this month, tested a missile that probably shows that they have the nuclear capabilities and means to reach the continental U.S.. After outsourcing this matter to China, Mr. Trump is now saying that “We will handle North Korea. We handle everything”. I get it. You have to sound tough, especially when a country slightly smaller than Mississippi (the 32th largest State in the U.S.) plays by its own rules irrespective what others may think. Is Trump going to handle North Korea? I honestly don’t think so. It is time that Mr. Trump and the world accept that North Korea has nuclear warheads and that it will soon build Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). Basically it is an irreversible fact of life. As frightening as it may seem that a fragile state as North Korea (mind you that according to the 2017 Fragile States Index Pakistan, another nuclear Country, is considered even fragiler that North Korea) has a nuclear arsenal, we will have to live with that. We should stop thinking and saying that Kim Jong Un is a lunatic. I think that North Korea has shown everyone that they are strong willed and regardless of the living standards of the majority of its population, was able to (almost) complete their nuclear dreams. I do not think Mr. Trump has any viable options to stop Kim Jong Un. Should South Korea build its own nuclear program to deter their northern neighbors? Maybe. This idea is based on deterrence, the same logic that both the United Kingdom and France applied to develop nuclear bombs, which they still have by the way. India and Pakistan used the same calculation in the past. To my knowledge the only example of a mutual decision to stop nuclear programs remains Argentina and Brazil. That ship has sailed however for the Korean peninsula. Maybe Kim can be convinced that once he has a completed his nuclear program, he will dedicate his attention to other things like economic development of his country. The good thing however is that Kim must be aware (remember I do not think the guy is a madman) that if he uses the nuclear option, he and his country will be destroyed.

WHAT PRICE ARE WE PREPARED TO PAY?

Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) is being presented by some politicians as a celestial answer to the economic standstill we’ve been confronting for some decades now. Actually it makes sense because it’s politically easier to bet on GZE than to tackle our structural deficiencies that cause this stagnation (rigid labor market and immigration policies among others). Digressing, we shouldn’t forget that GZE ultimately answers to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) whose most important goal is ensuring its monopoly on power. For the last decades Beijing has enunciated a clear set of foreign policy goals to achieve it.

First, Chinese territorial integrity and unification. We have seen China successfully using its checkbook in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean to convince countries not to recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan). In 1970 a total of 71 countries recognized Taiwan. Today only 19 do. Second, creating world clout through its Development Model of providing loans without questioning human rights, corruption or money wasting programs in the receiving countries unlike the West and multilateral organizations. The Chinese model has proven attractive for governments desperate for money and short term successes without having to deal with badly needed structural adjustments.

This model comes with a price tag however. Too good to be true promises of local jobs often echoed by local politicians, are just that. Despite Beijing’s claim that China’s assistance is totally selfless, the reality is different. Chinese aid is tied aid meaning that an overwhelming majority of the money is spent on personnel, goods or services from China. The Mombassa-Nairobi railway in Kenya financed by China was built by Chinese companies and laborers. Lack of transparent bidding and corruption (two Chinese senior managers were arrested in Kenya on corruption charges) made this project twice as expensive as similar ones in Africa. Unfortunately, the Kenya case is not an exception. Similar instances are taking place in Jamaica, The Gambia, Laos and other Southeast Asian countries. Another danger is the sub-standard work delivered by these Chinese companies. The Luanda General Hospital (Angola) built by the Chinese had to be closed down due to poor work done, sending patients to tents. Closer to home, Trinidad had to demolish an apartment building due to faulty work. Too many Chinese buildings prove to be less sturdy than a house of cards.

China’s doings are not unique. I’m convinced that China has the same intentions as empires and world powers which is increasing its power and influence in the world. Let us, especially our policy makers not be naive but carefully assess the Chinese intentions. The question we have to answer is what price are we prepared to pay for GZE?

Alex Rosaria

FINDING OUT ABOUT MY ANCESTRY

As I grow older the urge to know the stories about my ancestors, and what their lives were like, grows stronger. Who were they? Where did they come from? And especially how did they impact my life?

I wanted to go beyond the traditional family tree, which as we know is as good as the information collected, archived and passed down orally throughout the years. So I opted to have a DNA test done by a leading U.S. genealogical institute. I knew years ago from ‘known facts’ told by my family that I had Jewish ancestry and that our family came from slaves taken from the African continent. Nothing more. That is why many times I felt tongue-tied when asked “what are you exactly?” Usually my answer was “mixed”. But if the follow-up question was “what kind of mix”, I had no answer, that is until last week when the somewhat surprising results popped up in an email.

Turns out I am very mixed: my ancestors came from a total of 17 ethnicity regions. I am 35% African (including North Africa). The majority of my African DNA comes from the region of Mali, then Benin, Togo, Algeria and Nigeria. I am 26% European Jewish primarily located in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Israel. West Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran) is 12% responsible for my DNA; 10% from the Iberian Peninsula; 7% comes from the Middle East; 5% indigenous people of the Americas. The rest of my DNA according to the test is probably traceable to Ireland, Southeast Asia and Italy/Greece. Heck, the only regions that have not contributed to my DNA are West Europe, Scandinavia, Polynesia and Melanesia.

In 1925 Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi predicted that the man of the future will be of mixed race. Turns out he was right, but I guess my ancestors were multiracial pioneers to have started this process a few centuries before his prediction. But seriously, being multiracial  should teach us to respect and understand the ethnicity, religion and culture of others. We should collectively do this as a multiracial society. Nationalistic fanaticism further increased by politicians who preach racial and ethnic politics, only to obtain votes has taught us that race and religion are powder kegs that when lit, are difficult to contain. We should be proud to say that comparatively we here in Curaçao have a peaceful multiracial country. We should not let anyone gamble with it. Most importantly, each citizen has an obligation to promote understanding and harmony across races and religions.

MINIMALISM

“Mini what are you?” Unfailingly the most common reaction I get when I tell people that I’m a minimalist. A minimalist – at least the way I give content to this somewhat unusual behavior in today’s world – is to rid yourself of life’s material excess and the idea that you can buy your way to happiness. As a minimalist I only own stuff that I actually use and add value to my life.
So how did it start? In the summer of 1989 a group of eager students from a couple of dozen U.S. Universities gathered on the campus of Hofstra University on Long Island NY. We were getting ready to go to The Gambia to do voluntary work for about three months. Our mentor started the first meeting by telling us that the most important thing to do in order to prepare ourselves for our trip was to dump our excess baggages. He said it was important to let go of all preconceived ideas we had about Africa and allow ourselves to experience our stay without any self imposed barriers. Secondly, he told us we could only take a big backpack with us, meaning that we had to leave behind everything that did not add any value to our mission. Mind you, we were going to Barracunda, a village with a population of 500, no electricity, no running water, no toilet facilities. The first human reaction in those circumstances is to take as much amenities as possible. Our mentor did not tell anyone what to bring or leave behind. As long as it all fitted in the backpack. I can tell you that after packing my pharmaceutical medicines, syringes, large quantities of iodine, salt and what not there was little room to spare. What I learned at the end was that all that stuff that we are told daily we must buy, does not lead to happiness. Having an alarm clock in a village that wakes up when the sun rises and goes to sleep when it’s dark, was for example a waste. Having pictures of your country and family to share with the village people at the other hand, was gold. My quest for minimalism started and I am still perfecting it by living deliberately with less. During my most current two-month trip to Southeast Asia, my suitcase weighted only 8.7 kilograms.
Minimalism does not know rules. It is not a club or association that imposes sanctions when you go astray. You can do it at your own pace. See, I am not trying to impose minimalism on you. Consider me trying to share a recipe which I like a lot with you. You may like it. You may like only a few of the ingredients or you may want to add your own special sauces. What I do know is that by getting rid of the excess in our lives, we will feel uncluttered, be less stressful and happier. In addition, nothing is more responsible than lowering our footprint on this planet by deliberately living with less stuff. I hope I have triggered something in you. Look it up, do your research and give it a try.

TRUMP MAKING CHINA GREAT AGAIN

In my article The World Is Not Waiting For Trump (January 30, 2017) I predicted that the inward looking, ‘my-job-is-not-to-represent-the-world’ Donald Trump will not make America great again, but will hasten the passing of the superpower relay baton from the U.S. to other nations eager to fill the vacuum left behind. This thursday Mr. Trump announced that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on Climate. One thing is certain, you cannot accuse him of reneging on his campaign pledges. This is the same person who in November, 2012 tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” And talking about the Chinese, picking up the slack after the U.S.’ departure from Paris is China that promised to work with other countries to achieve the objectives of the Climate Agreement.

In 2005 the U.S. with Japan, Australia and (later) India and South Korea – all of them very suspicious of China’s increased assertiveness on the world stage – started the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement to compete with China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) a proposed free trade agreement that will account for 3.4 billion people (about 47% of the total world population) and a combined gross production of USD 21.4 trillion (about 30% of the world’s GDP). Skillfully the Obama Administration kept the RCEP playing second fiddle to the TPP. That is until Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP. Under China’s leadership and without any U.S. participation, the RCEP is bound to now become the quintessential free trade agreement of the 21st century, a title previously held by the TPP. Mr. Trump’s action has also revived the interest in a China-led Free Trade Area for the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) which includes Russia. As a third pole, China’s One Belt One Road initiative consisting of a maze of road, rail and port projects to connect Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe is picking up momentum. China is on track to reviving an ancient network of land and ocean silk trade routes of centuries past. And China found an unlikely partner to make it great again: the President of the United States. Next week the Shangri-La Dialogue on Asia’s new strategic order will be held in Singapore. Traditionally these annual talks promote policies to strengthen US regional leadership. The signs so far suggest that Mr. Trump has no policy and most importantly no appetite to contest China’s growing global power.