Potential Hot Spots: September 1, 2005


In recent months Venezuelan leaders, including the country's demagogic president, Hugo Chavez, have made numerous public statements about the "reunification" of the islands of the Dutch West Indies (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaao) with Venezuela. Venezuelan violations of Dutch air space and territorial waters, including illegal over flights by military aircraft, have occurred with some frequency. In addition, Venezuelan authorities have urged residents of the islands to form "Bolivarian" cells, in support of eventual "reunification."
The Netherlands is taking these Venezuelan actions seriously. In addition to scheduling a meeting between a high level Dutch official and Chavez in a couple of weeks, the Dutch have reinforced their West Indian garrison (with consists of a small naval contingent, a battalion of infantry, and some helicopters) with a flight of F-16s. The Dutch government also intends to take the matter up with the European Union, where they are likely to be supported by Britain (given that some other territories on which Venezuela is laying claims,  such as Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana,  are members of the Commonwealth) and France (which also has overseas territories in the Caribbean).

The islands are legally integral parts of the national territory of The Netherlands. The inhabitants, most of whom are of African or mixed Afro-European descent, are fully represented in the Dutch parliament. None of the local political parties or leaders support either independence or annexation to Venezuela. This call for the creation of "Greater Venezuela" has no basis in historical fact, and is mainly another ploy by the Chavez to entertain in Venezuelan supporters. Chavez is joining with his new friend, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, in opposing colonialism in the Caribbean. This ignores the fact that the "colonies" are democratic and prosperous. Castro has been going on about this for decades, with little to show for it. It's unlikely that Chavez will do any better. 


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