Maduro should face the music, not blame the ABC islands

Give credit where credit is due. Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro has perfected his teflon-coated presidency: He sees to it that nothing sticks to him, just like a teflon non-stick frying pan. He always uses his standard operating procedure to scapegoat foreign actors in order to shift attention away from his policies that has brought so much human misery to Venezuela. His victims include Colombia, Mexico, U.S., Chile, Guyana and Spain. Add now to the list Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao (ABC), three small islands in the Caribbean with a combined population of 300,000.

He’s accusing ABC of being “the mafias that steal Venezuelan assets which severely affect the quality of life of his people.” In a televised address last week, Maduro halted all flights and ship traffic to ABC for 72 hours, demanding that ABC take appropriate measures. During consultations held over the weekend with Venezuelan representatives to talk about those measures, ABC reminded Venezuela that if any thing, it takes two to tango, i.e. to smuggle goods. At the end of the day all parties agreed to a joint effort to curb contraband and to seek final approval from their respective governments. Maduro is however the only one who refuses to sign. The blockade remains.

But why? Could it be that the smuggling of gold and copper via ABC is probably being run by the top brass of the Venezuelan armed forces? Could it be -as I strongly suspect- that the ultimate purpose of his blockade is not to combat contraband but to keep Venezuelan citizens caged in by not allowing them to leave like brutal leftist dictatorships have done or are still doing (East Germany, Cuba, North Korea)?

Reasons for Venezuelans to leave are many. Medical supplies and food are scarce. Petróleos de Venezuela which took over a program to ensure Venezuelans have enough food to eat have only been able to distribute 25% of the food. At one port alone, 3,257 containers with a total of 122,000 tons of rotten food were found. Calls for investigations into the case were ignored. Caracas, the capital, has been ranked as the most violent city, in a non-war zone, in the world. Poverty rate in this once high middle-income country is now more than 80%.

Really? Are ABC the culprits? Not even the biblical David could have pulled this one off. But seriously, the human despair is not a question of cold statistics. I know. I have friends and family members, including a half brother, living in Venezuela. Their suffering is real just like that of millions of their compatriots. Many are willing to risk their lives fleeing their crisis-wracked country on unsafe boats. Last week a total of 6 dead bodies were found on the north-east shore of Curaçao. Venezuelans looking for a better life. Maduro will do his country a big favor by working tirelessly to bring back hope for its people instead of chasing his perceived enemies.

Regarding the embargo imposed by Venezuela, I’m convinced that the (unilateral) way the border was closed by Venezuela impeding the flow of trade, is a flagrant violation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Even in the case of blockades, there are rules and procedures to be followed which according to me was not done in this case. Recently Qatar filed a complaint against a group of Middle East countries and Kyrgyzstan against Kazakstan for what they consider illegitimate blockades. I don’t believe we should launch an official trade dispute at this moment. I ‘m convinced however that we should inform the WTO’s dispute settlement body about Venezuelan’s treatment of ABC regarding trade. Hopefully Willemstad, Oranjestad and The Hague have a listening ear.

One thing is certain. The human crisis in Venezuela has turned our strong historically friendly ties upside down. I continue to believe in dialogue and diplomacy. I am convinced that good relations with our Southern neighbors will be reestablished once Venezuela has resolved this human crisis. I hope this will happen sooner than later.

Willemstad, Curaçao

‘Shithole’ comment part of a racist agenda

As a human being I’m deeply disturbed and frankly repulsed by the reports about the recent use of derogatory language by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, regarding El Salvador, Haiti and 54 African countries. Calling them “shithole nations” is especially offensive to me as a Caribbean citizen of African descent who has spent many years living and working in development aid on the African continent. I admit that his vile comments felt like they were directed to me personally. It was hurtful.

Like many, I was however not surprised by Trump’s racist language. To be surprised would’ve meant a gross overestimation on my part of who he really is. I read his résumé, so I know what to expect. After all, when you’re pushing a racist agenda, racist comments come all too easily.

I don’t envisage the U.S. president apologizing or, God forbid change his behavior. What I do hope is that every human being with a sense of humanity and compassion denounce these highly offensive statements. And, you don’t need to be black, from Africa or the Caribbean to take offense at what he said. Today the people from El Salvador, Haiti and 54 African countries were targeted, tomorrow it could be other groups like the Aborigines, disabled, Native Americans, Albinos or even people from Curaçao. I sincerely hope that our local leaders will speak out. Their conspicuous silence so far on this matter is disconcerting.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Maduro’s Venezuela on the brink blames 3 small islands

I get it. On your watch 85% of your population now lives in poverty, you have the highest inflation and second highest homicide rate in the world. Thousands are fleeing, you’ve been kicked out of Mercosur and your Beijing friends are refusing to lend you more money – a sign that even they are fed up. Your approval rating hovers around 20 percent and you know you will never measure up to your predecessor who recommended you for President of Venezuela. I get it. Drastic measures need to be taken.

And, that’s exactly what Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, did. Not by trying to heal his self-inflicted wounds but, by announcing a 72-hour closure of the border with the ABC islands (Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire). He called these islands “mafias who are waging war on our electricity, and stealing our copper and gold”. The ABC have a combined population of 300,000 whilst that of Venezuela is 32 million.

I will not accept this moronic ploy of Mr. Maduro to hide his ineptitude to create a situation where human dignity and democracy can be restored in Venezuela. Further, what kind of moral authority does this president who has been accused for crimes against humanity have to call our islands ‘mafia’? I can guarantee him that the boats arriving here illegally from Venezuela do nor carry contraband gold and copper, but hundreds of hungry and hapless Venezuelans fleeing food shortages and abysmal poverty in Venezuela.

That is not to say that there is no contraband between his country and the ABC. However, in order to resolve these issues I recommend Mr. Maduro to put on his big boy pants and start a constructive dialogue with the ABC in order to seek durable solutions. Curaçao is ready to discuss with Venezuela. That is, whenever the Venezuelan President is done with his favorite entertainment, playing the blame game.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Now forward after GZE’s smoke and mirrors

Once again it’s been demonstrated that history is full of moments when people should have easily seen what was coming – like when petroleum apprentice Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) was chosen to operate the Curaçao refinery, only to later confirm that this Chinese state enterprise was just smoke and mirrors. I’m not going to repeat my countless warnings we should have taken heed of, but will refer below to my past articles.

What’s past is past. Mistakes were made, but we must move forward. This means looking for serious, experienced, financially sound actors that are environmentally and socially responsible to shape the future of our refinery. We must however neither forget the past nor ignore the lessons learned from this GZE episode.

1. We should realize that we can’t afford the kind of division we’ve seen so far in Government, especially the power struggle between the Prime Minister and his deputy. Instead of having political surrogates twist themselves into knots to deny this political row, the coalition must resolve it. Division weakens us.

2. This failed episode is a tragic tale of GZE zeroing in on what opportunistic politicians want: economic miracle without meaningful structural reforms that stand in the way of sustained growth. Modernization of the refinery is no substitute for the much needed policy reforms, however unpopular they may be.

3. What’s past is past, but in the spirit of truth and transparency, this GZE chapter needs to be investigated in order to understand what went wrong, learn from these missteps. Actors need to be made responsible for their actions.

4. We must use all resources available locally, via the Kingdom of The Netherlands and internationally to identify capable partners and to assist us during the ensuing negotiation process.

5. Complete transparency and relevant information from the beginning to the end of the refinery project is a must as is outreach to all stakeholders which must get the opportunity to voice concern. This will reduce distrust.

6. Keep the dialogue going with the Chinese. No party wants to rush to arbitration. And, China as the largest foreign investor in Latin America and the Caribbean, may still want a role in the refinery project or other investment opportunities here. We should not burn our bridges behind us.

Willemstad, Curaçao

 

WHAT PRICE ARE WE PREPARED TO PAY?

Future GZE drawing to a close

GZE goes belly-up in Myanmar, are we next?

GZE, a wake-up call we’d better answer

The devil is in the details

LESSONS FROM MYANMAR

70 years women’s voting rights/70 aña derechi di voto hende muhé

The constitutional make-up of our country underwent profound changes in 1948: introduction of universal voting rights, the First Round Table Conference for constitutional changes in the Kingdom of The Netherlands was held and the six islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius and Saba) formerly known collectively as ‘Territory of Cucaçao’ became ‘The Netherlands Antilles’.

This year we have lots to commemorate. I consider it important that we stand still at these historical milestones. I’ll start with the pivotal work done by a group of brave women, The Wednesday Ladies, who refused to accept universal suffrage for only men. These ladies went door to door under extremely difficult circumstances in the rural areas of Curaçao (abysmal roads, no illumination) to not only collect signatures for women’s voting rights, but to educate them on matters of democracy and responsibilities that come with voting rights. These women carried out their activities on Wednesday because this day was considered to be the lightest day in the schedule of their domestic responsibilities at that time. More than a decade ago I initiated a petition to the Government of Curaçao to honor these brave women whose perseverance resulted in equal voting rights for men and women. Unfortunately there has been no response. I hope this Government will follow-up.

Annexed is the letter signed by 1013 women that was sent to the Prime Minister of The Netherlands demanding women’s voting rights.

Aan  Excellentie de Minister-President dr. Louis Beel Den Haag Nederland. Willemstad, Curacao. 26 Februari 1948*

Geven met verschuldigde eerbied te kennen, ondergetekenden, vrouwelijke inwoners van Curacao, uit alle rangen, standen en van verschillende geloofsovertuigingen: dat in verband met de komende herziening in de Staatsregeling zij gaarne haar volle kracht willen geven aan Curacao; dat zij dit niet alleen wensen te doen binnen het gezinsverband, maar ook middels de stembus, om haar invloed uit te, oefenen op de komende vertegenwoordiging; dat immers van de samenstelling dezer vertegenwoordiging de toekomst van haar land afhangt; dat zij mede door haar opleiding, werkkring en positie op dezelfde burgerrechten als de mannen aanspraak mogen maken; dat zij immers niet vermogen in te zien waarom haar het actief of passief kiesrecht, op welke wijze dan ook zou mogen worden ontzegd of beknot; dat immers waar in alle beschaafde landen van de wereld de volledige emancipatie van de vrouw reeds haar beslag heeft gekregen, zij hier op Curacao niet wensen achter te blijven; dat immers- alleen op die wijze van een ware representatieve vertegenwoordiging uit, van en door het volk kan worden gesproken; Redenen waarom zij met de meeste aandrang Uwe Excellentie verzoeken het daarheen te willen leiden, dat het ontwerp Wijziging Curacaose Staatsregeling zodanig wordt aangevuld, dat het actief en passief vrouwenkiesrecht, gelijk aan dat van mannen worde gegarandeerd.

*Nationaal Archief

***

Nos pantaya di struktura estatal a konosé kambionan profundo na 1948: introdukshon di derechi di voto universal, e promé Konferensia di Mesa Rondó pa trata kambionan konstitushonal den Reino a tuma lugá, i e seis islanan (Aruba, Boneiru, Kòrsou, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius and Saba) konosí komo ‘Gebiedsdeel Curaçao’ a bira ‘Antia Hulandes’.

E aña aki nos tin hopi pa konmemorá. Mi ta konsiderá importante pa nos para ketu na e eventonan históriko aki. Mi ta start ku e papel importante ku un grupo di hende muhé ku hopi kurashi a hunga den e proseso pa derechi di voto pa hende muhé, esta e Damanan di Djarason. E damanan no kier a tende di e proposishon pa derechi di voto general pa solamente hende hòmber. Nan a kana kas pa kas tur kaminda, asta den kunuku kaminda no tabatin infrastruktura o iluminashon di kaya pa kolektá firma di hende muhé, pero tambe pa eduká e muhénan tokante di nos sistema demokrátiko i responsabilidatnan ku ta bin ku derechi di voto. E nòmber ‘Damanan di Djarason’ ta pa motibu ku e tempu ei e trabounan doméstiko di un muhé tabata mas liviano riba djarason kompará ku otro dianan. Ta riba e dia aki nan tabata hasi e trabou di konsientisashon na fabor di derechi di voto pa hende muhé. Mas ku un dékada atras mi a inisiá un petishon na Gobièrnu di Kòrsou pa onra e Damanan di Djarason ku a logra derechi di voto igual pa hòmber i muhé. Ta di lamentá ku no tabatin reakshon. Mi ta spera ku e gobièrnu aki si ta tuma akshon i onra e damanan balente aki.

Athunto e karta ku 1,013 hende muhé a manda pa e Promé Minister di Ulanda pa eksigí derechi di voto pa hende muhé.

Aan Excellentie de Minister-President dr. Louis Beel Den Haag Nederland. Willemstad, Curacao. 26 Februari 1948*

Geven met verschuldigde eerbied te kennen, ondergetekenden, vrouwelijke inwoners van Curacao, uit alle rangen, standen en van verschillende geloofsovertuigingen: dat in verband met de komende herziening in de Staatsregeling zij gaarne haar volle kracht willen geven aan Curacao; dat zij dit niet alleen wensen te doen binnen het gezinsverband, maar ook middels de stembus, om haar invloed uit te, oefenen op de komende vertegenwoordiging; dat immers van de samenstelling dezer vertegenwoordiging de toekomst van haar land afhangt; dat zij mede door haar opleiding, werkkring en positie op dezelfde burgerrechten als de mannen aanspraak mogen maken; dat zij immers niet vermogen in te zien waarom haar het actief of passief kiesrecht, op welke wijze dan ook zou mogen worden ontzegd of beknot; dat immers waar in alle beschaafde landen van de wereld de volledige emancipatie van de vrouw reeds haar beslag heeft gekregen, zij hier op Curacao niet wensen achter te blijven; dat immers- alleen op die wijze van een ware representatieve vertegenwoordiging uit, van en door het volk kan worden gesproken; Redenen waarom zij met de meeste aandrang Uwe Excellentie verzoeken het daarheen te willen leiden, dat het ontwerp Wijziging Curacaose Staatsregeling zodanig wordt aangevuld, dat het actief en passief vrouwenkiesrecht, gelijk aan dat van mannen worde gegarandeerd.

*Nationaal Archief Curaçao

 

Thank you

A year ago I started with this blog in order to make sense of local and world events as they interact with each other and directly impact the quality of our lives, our pocketbooks, personal freedoms and the environment. I am very grateful for the thousands of visitors from 89 countries who have viewed, liked or commented on my articles. Happy holidays and a meaningful new year filled with compassion. See you in 2018.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Future GZE drawing to a close

After a local newspaper hastily printed a fake news claiming that the Chinese state owned enterprise Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) had pulled the plug on the multi-billion-dollar refinery modernization project in Curaçao, the Chinese were quick to point out that “GZE has neither pulled out of Curaçao nor Myanmar”.

GZE is correct on both counts. In Myanmar GZE did not pull out but were kicked out by the Myanmar Investment Commission when it ran out of patience with GZE for not delivering on its promises due to severe financial problems. In Curaçao, GZE is working overtime to convince the authorities that it can handle the project even though the now failed Myanmar refinery was what GZE used one year ago to showcase their ‘abilities in the oil business’. GZE’s representatives even promised without as much as batting an eyelash to convert the area around the refinery in a “Las Vegas-style strip with casinos and amusement parks.”

There is a growing realization among many countries that Chinese massive projects come at an extremely high price. Curious is also the rate at which ‘friends of China’ are scrapping huge Chinese projects. Beside the abovementioned Myanmar refinery, three other projects worth 20 billion USD have been cancelled in just a few months by Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar – all three China’s neighbors. Among those are the Nepalese Budhingandaki project which was stopped because of Chinese “irregularity and imprudence”, and the Pakistani Diamer-Bhasha project, scrapped due to Chinese “financial factors”.

About a year ago when I started researching GZE in relation with the Curaçao refinery I advised to proceed with caution. After being on the subject for many months I think it is clear that we have come to a point where we have to cut ties with GZE. It is a lightweight and inexperienced player that we can ill afford to handle the future of our refinery. The due diligence report to be released and hopefully be made public, is expected to corroborate this claim. On top of that, the recent suspension of the Director of the Curaçao Refinery (RdK) speaks volumes. Government resoluteness is scarce here in Curaçao, but let us hope that sooner than later the responsible Minister cuts the Guardian knot rather than having it drag on or having China make the final decision. Time is definitely not on our side.

alexdavidrosaria.blog

Willemstad, Curaçao