Central America

By | January 3, 2023

Netherlands Antilles

The Caiquete people were the first residents of the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Shortly after the arrival of Spaniard Alonso de Ojeda in 1499, they were made slaves and taken to the island of Hispaniola – the present Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The same fate surpassed the Caribbean people of the Barlovento Islands, which Columbus encountered in 1493.

Since they did not contain natural resources, the conquistadors were not particularly interested in these islands until the Barlovento Islands and especially St. Maarten gained strategic importance as a gateway to the Caribbean and for the extraction of salt. From the beginning of the war against Spain and Portugal, the Netherlands kept their ports closed and the Antilles had to find other sources of salt.

The extensive shipping of the Netherlands was punished by the Spaniards, who in 1606 banned it. The Dutch responded by creating a West Indian Company with the purpose of creating, directing and defending the colonies. The piracy against Spanish ships became an important source of revenue from then on.

Along with the extraction of salt and Brazil wood, the slave trade became the most important business. In 1634, the company’s shareholders assembled in Amsterdam decided to invade Curaçao. The invasion did not encounter Spanish resistance, and from then on Curaçao became an important international center for this trade.

After three decades of conflict, in 1648 the Westphalian Treaty gave the Dutch supremacy over these small islands in the Caribbean. The expansion of agriculture caused the original population to be displaced in favor of the slaves – especially in Curaçao and Bonaire. The indigenous population became a minority in the islands. As in the rest of the Caribbean, slave revolts were frequent and in the 18th century they culminated in a massacre perpetrated by the troops of the colonial power.

During the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, a large part of the islands were occupied by the English for two periods, without changing the fate of the residents for that reason. Although the slave trade was banned in 1814, the slave system in the Dutch colonies was first abolished in 1863. The slaves became “free” but without significantly changing their situation. Many emigrated to the Dominican Republic, Panama, Venezuela and Cuba. Visit Countryaah for detailed information about Central America and Caribbean.

1920 Oil tree

After the release of the slaves and with the slightest interest in the islands, the Dutch parliament in 1876 proposed to sell them to Venezuela, but the negotiations dragged on. At the beginning of the 20th century, the burgeoning development of the oil industry made it profitable to build refineries on the islands located near Maracaibo Lake. This new economic activity began in 1920 and revolutionized the colony. Agriculture was abandoned and the labor shortage attracted thousands of emigrants from Venezuela, Suriname and the British Antilles.

But this situation has changed drastically in recent decades, where automation has led to a drastic reduction in the need for labor. With a 20% unemployment rate, a labor demonstration on May 30, 1969, was attacked by police. It came to tumultuous scenes stifled by the intervention of 300 Dutch Marines and some North American Marines who happened to be on a warship lying at anchor in the bay. One of the results of the riots was the dissolution of Parliament.

The islands have an active inner political life after the founding of the first local political parties in 1937, but it was not until 1948 that they gained state title, when the new Dutch constitution renamed what had previously been “Curaçao and dependent areas” to: ” The Netherlands Antilles ». The issue of independence has since been central to local political life. In 1954, a new statute gave the islands autonomy in their internal affairs.

1977 Aruba initiates detachment process

In 1971, the People’s Election Movement was established in Aruba. It stated that the islands have nothing in common. Nor does the term Antilles as it covers all the islands in the area. Each island should therefore have the freedom to formulate its own constitution and to even choose to become an independent republic. In an advisory referendum in 1977, the people of Aruba decided to disassociate themselves from the rest.

The Netherlands argued that preserving the federation provided greater economic perspectives and political stability. This disagreement, as well as the wide variation in opinion among the various parties on the islands, delayed the negotiations for independence. The delay polarized voter positions, and in 1979 the Antiyas Nobo Movement achieved a decisive electoral victory in Curaçao with 7 out of 12 seats. In coalition with the People’s Election Movement from Aruba and Bonaire’s Patriotic Union, they formed the islands’ first center-left government. But while Antiyas Nobo preferred a federative solution with extended autonomy to each island, the People’s Election Movement demanded full independence for Aruba.

In 1980, the government agreed on independence from 1990, but on the condition that each of the islands should hold a referendum on the issue as soon as possible. Aruba adopted independence and finally withdrew from the federation in January 1986 (see Aruba).

Total dependence on oil interests

The Netherlands Antilles had been transformed into modern factories over the century and were subject to total dependence on the international oil giants. Exxon and the English-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell monopolized the entire refining and processing of the oil products. They also controlled the production of artificial fertilizers and, as owners of the oil port terminals, controlled the transport and trade. These two powerful companies also have trade and financial links with about 2,500 branches of other multinational companies registered in the islands. Thus, they had control over 85% of total imports, 99% of exports and 50% of total revenue.

Despite some industrial and industrial development, the fragility of the economy was clearly demonstrated in late 1984, when the multinational corporations announced plans to withdraw from the islands. This led to panic in the population and among the political leaders of the archipelago. The crisis was partially resolved in October 1985 when the local government bought the Curaçao refinery and immediately leased it to the Venezuelan state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA The agreement did not affect Exxon’s Aruba plant, which ceased to function.

Aruba’s detachment process in 1984 paved the way for a center-right colony led by María Liberia Peters of the People’s National Party. But the coalition was unable to muster the necessary internal cohesion and, in January 1986, Dominico “Don” Martina of the Antiyas Nobo Movement was able to take over the Prime Minister’s post again. In 1988 it was again taken over by Peters.

In 1990, the government renewed the contract with Venezuela and introduced a series of financial emergency measures to cover the deficit created by Aruba’s secession. In the 1990 election, Peter’s party got 7 seats against Martinas 2 and she was re-elected prime minister. The election for local councils in the islands in 1991 was marked by the Democratic Party’s electoral defeat. It had been in power for 40 years at St. Maarten, however, was characterized by internal divisions, economic irregularities in its administration and the fear of a reduction in tourism flow.

In 1993, the Netherlands requested separate points for a constitutional reform. The result was that Curaçao received a special status, St. Maarten gained autonomy while Bonaire, Saba and Saint Eustatius remained linked to the Netherlands. It was further decided that the Strasbourg Treaty should not be applied. Otherwise, it envisaged the complete empowerment of the islands by the colonial power in 1999. In a 1994 referendum, the people voted in favor of preserving the federation. That same year, Miguel Pourier was appointed prime minister. In 1996, the structural adjustment programs led to internal tensions in the government and the resignation of Labor Minister Jeffrey Corion. In the November 1999 elections, Pourier was re-elected.

The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 led to a sharp decline in the flow of tourists. The local government took a number of steps, however, which could not slow down the decline, and the hotels announced that they would close out of season completely. The Dutch government subsequently granted DKK 6.2 million. US $ in support of tourism sector.

At the January 2002 parliamentary elections, the Labor Liberation Front of May 30 gained 23% of the vote, while Prime Minister Pourier’s party got 20%. In July 2003, Ben Komproe assumed the post of Prime Minister from Etienne Ys. But already in August, it went on to Mirna Louisa-Godett.

In March 2004, the government began its study of a number of public health proposals drawn up by a technical team. The purpose was to solve a number of problems in this area. The restructuring plan would mean an annual saving of DKK 25 million. Antilles Floriner, and at the same time a significant reduction in user fees for medical visits.

The prime minister resigned in 2004 and again transferred the post to Etienne Ys.

Since 2000, US – Venezuela relations have become worse. Especially when in 2002 the US supported the military coup against Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. In the Netherlands Antilles, in 2006, a number of analysts stated that by a “preventive” attack by the United States against Venezuela, the Antilles would be used as a base for the North American military operations, which meant that the Antilles could become targets for preventive attacks by Venezuela. However, the Antilles were not attacked, and the analysts did not reflect that Venezuela, unlike the United States, has no tradition of militarily attacking other countries.

Finance Minister Alex Rosaria started negotiations with Jamaica in January 2007 on a double taxation agreement. Acc. Rosaria, such an agreement would be beneficial for trade and investment in both countries.

The Netherlands Antilles cease to exist in October 2010. Curaçao and St. Maarten becomes independent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The same status as Aruba has had since 1986. Bonaire becomes a special municipality within the Netherlands itself, attached to the county of North Holland. The new countries already decided in 2008 that they would use US $ as currency rather than Euro. The Netherlands has recommended to the EU that the new countries, together with Aruba, be granted EU status by the Outermost regions.