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15 April 2008

May it please Your Majesty

Hugh O'Shaughnessy writes an open letter to the Queen of the Netherlands about Curaçao ...

By Kenzie Eliasen

I have the sinking feeling that Your ministers are not giving You the facts about one or two of Your possessions beyond the seas which, as the weeks tick by, take on the aspect of so many kegs of gunpowder.

And it would be most unfortunate if those possessions were to be in the centre of a conflagration. We all know, Your Majesty, what happens to kegs of gunpowder in conflagrations.

The reason for a possible conflagration is the increasing political and military pressure Washington is piling on the elected government of Venezuela from Your island of Curaçao.

Your Majesty will recall some politicians in the US capital happily supported the Iraq invasion and slaughter not to mention the brief toppling of the democratically elected leader of Venezuela in 2002 by a right-wing businessman who closed the Congress and sacked the judges. Ridiculous as it seems, these politicians are now trying to have the Venezuelan government labelled an “ally of terrorism”.

Now that need not necessarily interest Your Majesty. But the US military pressure should. In Your gracious speech last Thursday (10 April), at the banquet you gave for President Lula of Brazil in The Hague, You recalled, “a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is closely involved with events in South America”.

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And it is from this part, principally Curaçao, a few miles off the Venezuelan coast, that, by courtesy of Your ministers, that the US military pressure is coming. US officers have called Curaçao a “forward operating location”.

You may or may not share the depressing impressions I got of it on my first visit there some decades ago – too hot, too many tourist shops, too little water, too much Liechtenstein-style tax avoidance and the terrible omnipresent smell from that oil refinery! But the island has militarily speaking been getting busier and busier.

In February 2005 Curaçao, then housing some 200 US military, suddenly became host to the USS Saipan, a large landing craft designed for invasions with more than 1,400 marines and 35 helicopters aboard. A year later the aircraft carrier George Washington arrived in Curaçao and three other warships carrying 85 fighter planes and more than 6,500 marines. Then Ambassador John Negroponte, a notable strategist of Ronald Reagan’s attacks on the elected government of Nicaragua, said his country had deployed a nuclear submarine off the Venezuelan coast. US spy planes are constantly coming and going today from Curaçao.

Your ministers and officials, I suspect, have kept you in the dark about the storm clouds over Curaçao and the rumours of a US invasion. After all they include Dr Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the current secretary-general of NATO. As was the case with his predecessors, he gets his salary from an international body but his orders from the Pentagon.

But Your Majesty will surely have been told that a big European Union delegation is preparing to leave for the EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit due to take place on 16 May in Lima. Sixty heads of state and government will be there in what will be one of the most important political gatherings outside the United Nations ever to be held in the New World.

It would be very unfortunate for the EU, the Netherlands and Your Majesty if a conflagration came about as so many EU and Latin American and Caribbean leaders were meeting in the Peruvian capital.

May I therefore humbly remind Your Majesty of the dangers that the royal houses of Europe run when they get too close to the US military establishment. The closeness has threatened even the House of Orange whose three queens – Yourself, Your mother and Your grandmother – have ruled with great wisdom for more than a century without the help of a male monarch?

Was it not Your Majesty’s late father Prince Bernhard who in 1976 came under scrutiny by a US congressional group after evidence that a “high Dutch official” had received bribes from the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in connection with the sale of military aircraft to the Netherlands in 1961? And did not a subsequent Dutch government inquiry find that the Prince had acted “in a completely unacceptable manner” in his relations with Lockheed?

It is indeed vexing that those events did not should have warned Your ministers of the dangers of allowing foreign forces in Your Caribbean possessions to fill kegs with gunpowder off the coast of Venezuela. Perhaps it is not too late to empty them.

Your Majesty told President Lula the other day, “The summit soon to be held between the EU and Latin America in Lima will offer new opportunities for a productive dialogue and fruitful consultation.” Let us hope Your ministers seize them.

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