WILLEMSTAD - The United States (US) forward operating location (FOL) at Curaçao’s Hato Airport in the period early October 2016 until the end of September 2018 contributed to the confiscation of more than five tonnes of cocaine.
This figure was stated in the evaluation reports of the periods October 2016 to September 2017 and October 2017 to September 2018 that Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday. The evaluation reports have also been sent to the governments of Aruba and Curaçao.
Aside from the 519,000 kilos cocaine, the FOL contributed to the confiscation of 24,000 kilos marijuana and 30 kilos heroin in total in the past two years.
A total of 231 flights were executed from Hato Airport from October 2017 to late September 2018, bringing the total number of flight hours to 1,119. In that period, 251,000 kilos cocaine were confiscated, 12,000 kilos marijuana and 25 kilos heroin.
No flights were executed from the FOL at Aruba’s Princess Beatrix Airport in the past two years. Aruba and the US are still in negotiations about the reduction of the FOL area to accommodate the commercial expansion of Princess Beatrix Airport.
A part of the FOL area, almost 41,000 square metres, would be destined for dual use: for both commercial and FOL flights. A smaller part, some 26,000m2 would remain exclusively for the FOL use. According to Blok, the US appears not to be against this reduction, but a final agreement has not materialised as yet.
The US aircraft make use of the FOL in Curaçao and Aruba based on a treaty between the Dutch Kingdom and the US in connection with the cooperation in the area of illicit drugs-trafficking by air. The treaty gives the Americans permission to execute flights to survey, monitor and detect narcotics transports. No weapons are on board of the flights.
The FOL treaty was signed in 2000 and has since been extended twice for five years. The Kingdom benefits from the US air reconnaissance, it was stated in the reports. Based on this reconnaissance, drugs transports can be detected and confiscated. In many cases, this latter action takes part together with the Dutch Royal Navy which always has equipment and men in the Caribbean.
The cooperation between the Dutch Navy, the local authorities, the US management of the FOL and the US Consulate in Curaçao is perceived by all as “very constructive,” it was stated in the reports.