Food hoarding on Dutch islands as Venezuela issues trade ban over smuggling

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The population of Curaçao was forced to begin stockpiling food since neighboring country Venezuela announced a trade boycott with the Dutch Caribbean island on Friday. The trade ban also covered Aruba and Bonaire, all three of which rely heavily on the South American country's fruits and vegetables.

The 72-hour ban was ordered by Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and made public during a televised address on Saturday. “They take away gold from this country illegally, and make it legal to sell there; they take away [the metallic ore] coltan, they take away diamonds, they take away all food products,” Maduro said, according to the New York Times. “I didn't want to take a measure like this one, but I am ready to take even more radical measures.”

Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Halbe Zijlstra was said to be indignant at Maduro's decision. This unilateral trade boycott does not fit with the "ambition of a good relationship between neighboring countries," a spokesperson for Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra said to NOS over the weekend. "We demand an explanation for this decision. We also want to specify that a unilateral closing of the borders does not contribute to a solution to smuggling. If there are illegal practices we should collaborate."

As justification for his actions, Maduro claimed local governments and the Dutch government do nothing to stop smuggling efforts. Maduro further cited his people's own needs as a reason to cut off the produce trade.

Black markets selling "everything from illegally mined minerals to narcotics" from Venezuela have long been found on the Dutch Caribbean islands, noted the New York Times. The newspaper also said boats full of starving people, many of which left the South American nation illegally, have turned up on Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. The border closure will prevent more from leaving.

A trade band could have a significant impact on the pre-planned visit to all three islands by one Dutch Cabinet members this week. Raymond Knops, the State Secretary of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, said in a press release on Wednesday that he was excited to learn more in person about the benefits and difficulties of life on the islands. He noted the importance of seeing the challenges faced in the region, and how that can shape future cooperation with the Dutch government.

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