WILLEMSTAD - Exactly a week before Curaçao opens its borders to welcome tourists from the Netherlands and some other European countries, the island has plunged into a deep political crisis. Members of a militant group demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath in front of the government office.
The protest also indirectly turned against the Netherlands, which has imposed strict conditions on loans to help Curaçao in the fight against rapidly rising unemployment and an economy that is shrinking by almost a quarter due to the corona crisis. The Dutch flag landed symbolically on the roof of the official car of the Curaçao Prime Minister on Wednesday.
The start of extremely tense Wednesday was just as symbolic. Protesters left from "Post 5" (entrance gate of the refinery on the ring road) at the end of the morning. It is the place where the historic revolt of employees of the Shell refinery on the island began on May 30, 1969. The oil industry is now one of the many loss-making economic sectors in Curaçao.
This time, the first demonstrators were mainly people who work for Selikor, the public company that handles waste processing. They are against the 12.5 percent cut on their fringe benefits (not only salary, but also, for example, premiums and holiday pay) of all civil servants. Several dozen Selikor employees in yellow vests blocked the public road to Fort Amsterdam, where, in addition to the government offices, there is also the official residence of the governor of Curaçao.
But it soon became clear that the demonstration was intended on behalf of many more residents. The chairman of one of the unions that has been opposing virtually all government policies for years, Frensley Sillié of BTG, said the protest was also meant on behalf of other civil servants, such as the people in education. The quality of this sector is already under considerable pressure due to forced cutbacks.
For a moment, a repeat of the revolt of "trinta di May" 1969 seemed to be coming. But a big difference with the historical protest at the time was that this Wednesday the group that moved across all lanes of the wide Schottegatweg did not grow, if at all, in size. Also, this time during the walk of about two hours there was absolutely no violence. Another aspect that was pointed out by one that participated in the 1969 revolt was that this time there was no leader.