Curacao angry at Dutch FM over sea border closure

Willemstad on Curacao
Willemstad on Curacao. (Photo: kjorgen/DepositPhotos)

The parliament of Curacao is angry at Dutch Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs for announcing that the island will become a hub for humanitarian aid to Venezuela. The parliamentarians believe that the Minister put the island in a difficult position by making the announcement before Curacao's Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath could explain his plan to the population. On Tuesday Venezuela announced that it is closing the sea border between its province of Falcon and the islands of Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba, reports. 

In a reaction on Wednesday, Blok said that he "understands the concerns of Curacao", but he rejects the accusation that he bypassed the island. "This decision was made in explicit consultation with and with the approval of the government of Curacao", Blok said.

Curacao, which forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, agreed to be the hub from where humanitarian aid can be sent to Venezuela, at the request of the United States and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó​. Venezuela is in a deep economic and political crisis, with the population facing major shortages in food and medicine. The country's president Nicolas Maduro denies that there is a crisis in his country and will not accept food and medicine from Western countries, which he distrusts.

Those on Curacao who oppose the island being used as a hub for humanitarian aid fear a quarrel with their neighbor. Curacao and Venezuela do a lot of trade with each other, and the island is dependent on Venezuela for its fresh fruit and vegetables. Prime Minister Rhuggenaath hopes to avoid conflict. He said that Curacao will determine for itself how and when relief goods are transported. He previously also said that this will only be done with the permission of the Venezuelan government, and if the aid is welcomed by all parties.

Venezuela closed the sea boarder with the three Dutch islands for an "undefined period of time", the country's Vice President Delcy Rodríguez said, according to the newspaper. "The fact that Curacao has decided to take part in this show, which is only meant to take over power in Venezuela, means that Venezuela has not only closed the border, but is also reviewing the relationship with these countries."

The Netherlands and the United States both recognized opposition leader Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, calling on the country to organize free and fair elections as quickly as possible.