Text and Photos: Andre Vltchek and Yayoi Segi
HandsoffVenezuela-NL, 25 September, 2020
Translations: DE – FR – IT ~~~
It is just a stone-throw away from Venezuela. “Aruba The Happy Island”, they call it. Or more precisely, the advertisements ‘define it’ as such.
In reality, it is not too happy at all. This Dutch colony surrounded by the Caribbean Sea feels thoroughly frustrated and uncertain about its identity. Compared to Cuba or even Jamaica, people here do not like to talk on the record; if they agree to comment on something, they do it under the strict condition of anonymity. Aruba is not at peace with itself, or with the world. By association, it is part of NATO. It is dependent on its European, overseas master. As a result, it is intimidating its sister, its beautiful and proud neighbor – Venezuela.
The maritime border between Aruba and Venezuela is now hermetically closed, flights between the two countries cancelled, indefinitely. A huge CITGO refinery, or at least a great part of it, which used to process Venezuelan crude oil is shut down; some parts of it are rotting. “Due to the U.S. embargo”, we are told again and again.
CITGO used to guarantee hefty incomes. And the pleasant climate and impressive beaches drew hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists, mainly from the United States, annually. But tourism has been badly damaged, due to COVID-19.
Another ‘big business’ is still thriving – a business of being a Dutch colony, of being NATO’s potential launching pad against socialist Venezuela. Both Aruba and Curacao are ‘hosting’ US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Both are playing with fire.
This ‘policy’ brings money, and there is very little criticism. “We are part of Holland”, declares a lady taxi driver, who drove us from the airport to hotel. “Why should we protest?”
We met a prominent local businessman, who is married to a Venezuelan lady. He did not want to be named, but spoke angrily, with passion:
“I lived in the Netherlands for 17 years, so I know what it is like to be there; how they treat non-Dutch. It is true that Venezuela is now surrounded by right wing, fascist regimes and that there is a constant threat and attempt to attack the country, but I believe that will not happen because Venezuela is strongly supported by Russia, China and Iran. There cannot be a world war.
You know the tactic imperialists want to use: block everything – food and medicine and starve people to death. Money speaks. In Aruba, people are not really against the U.S. In Curaçao, 1500 Dutch soldiers are there and ready to fight. But people are opening their eyes little by little though.”
We mentioned the huge, ghost-like refinery, which we managed to photograph, a couple of days earlier. Our friend explained, bitterly:
“When the refinery closed here on Aruba, a lot of oil was stolen by multi-national companies. Before, there was a very good relationship between Aruba and Venezuela. Great business with lots of money.
CITGO has only been three or four years here in Aruba and is renting premises from Aruba. It is a subsidiary of US-based CITGO (with US investment) run by very corrupt Venezuelans in the U.S. Of course, this business only functions with oil that comes from Venezuela.”
Are people of Aruba in support of or oppose military actions against Venezuela?
“We Arubans oppose the setting up of a US base here. But we are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and they have their Navy base here. We have our own voluntary military force called ARUMIL and have the potential to make it grow.
It would be a devastating catastrophe for the island if a military clash with Venezuela took place and the Netherlands ‘activated’ its ‘defense’ as part of NATO alliance.
The infrastructure is very good here. The airport’s runway can easily accommodate military planes and our harbor can turn itself into a navy yard.
It is true that Venezuela has come under fierce attack in recent years. But in my opinion, as I go to Venezuela very often, I see the country grow, thanks to excellent partnership with Russia, China and Iran. Americans can try to enter Venezuela. But they would never get out of there. A very harsh terrain and brave people.”
Are there local NGOs which are paid to spread propaganda against Venezuela?
“There is no local organization which pays to wage propaganda against Venezuela. It is more like a group of people who are rather anonymously active in the social media like Facebook and also use newspaper Diario to publish articles against Venezuela. Even against China.
The newspaper used to be owned by an Arab by the name of Jossy Mansur (Lebanese) who was a known trafficker of all sorts. With money everything is possible. Politicians or those with interest and with money pay a lot for attacking Venezuela.
The danger now as I see it is the Netherlands. If the Prime Minister decides to submit to the Netherlands, we would have a lot of problems, we would be in big trouble.
I feel terrible because what’s going on, and it is not easy to travel to Venezuela. We all are paying for the consequences of the terrible foreign policy of the Netherlands. By virtue of being part of it, we all are affected.
People on Aruba are fearful of speaking up. I have nothing to lose, and I speak my mind. They speak up, lose jobs, lose livelihoods, etc. As you know, we are an island here. You know how dependent we are here. On these islands, everything is complicated.”
From Grapefield Beach, one can see clearly a huge prison complex, disproportionate for the island with only 112,000 inhabitants. The crime rate is high here, not as high as in Curacao, which Arubans like to call ‘crazy’, but high nevertheless.
Amazing is the number of communication antennas, radars and other surveillance equipment, at the southern end of the island, pointed towards Venezuela.
In Savaneta town, I photograph the entrance to Korps Mariniers, the permanent Dutch military base, which could be propelled to action on a short notice.
In fact, Aruba is dotted with ‘dormant’ military installations: from the massive runway and military compound at the Queen Beatrix International Airport, to the cruise ship terminal in the capital – Oranjestad – which can host NATO battleships at a short notice.
Military presence in Curacao is even more pronounced.
We met a prominent supporter of Venezuela in Aruba, a true Chavista, who offered his testimony inside our rented car. He, however, asked not to be identified by name:
“There is a military installation in Savaneta. I have been inside there on several occasions. They open for public once a year, on 1st May, Labor Day. You can see demonstrations of the use of the weapons and even enter the boats.
They have Navy vessels, but these are not stationed there but outside in the sea, for surveillance. In the prison, there are radar detecting illegal entry of boats, monitoring the water between Aruba and Venezuela.
At the airport, there are two parts: the American one and the Aruban one. There is no permanent presence from the U.S. but when the Vice President of U.S. goes to South America, say, Colombia and Argentina, they station the official presidential plane here. No war plane or anything like that, normally. When the King of the Netherlands comes, they monitor Aruba and the other islands using available military planes from the region.”
I observed and photographed the military part of the airport. It is perfectly ready for military action, with no time notice.
Our comrade continued his testimony:
“At the time of the US-backed failed coup against Venezuela earlier this year, there was, indeed, a high alert here. The Prime Minister of Aruba said that if there was a war there, she would call upon the Netherlands to protect the island.
Some people were afraid. We did not know how the situation would escalate. I think the Consulate of Venezuela in Aruba would be closed down because they would not agree to Aruba being used as a base for such military adventures.
In the media, there is a lot of propaganda against Venezuela, particularly through the local newspaper called Diario. Lots of articles opposing migration of Venezuelans.
In the political sphere, the Prime Minister is very much against the Maduro government but there appears to be an internal division as there is one Minister, who is married to a Venezuelan lady. He is supportive of Venezuela. People here are very much divided; there are more than 90 nationalities working here.
A lot of ‘propaganda’ against Venezuela is played out on Facebook. There are many comments posted by Arubans against Venezuela and Venezuelans. They also post pictures and videos when Venezuelans get deported and if you buy Diario, there is always something against Maduro and Venezuela.
I am not personally aware of any NGO set up against Venezuela but I’d not be surprised if there exist one, because this place is heavily financed by the U.S. Aruba is very Americanized; there is really no known organized system to support Chavismo and fight against imperialism.
Yury Bracho is about the only one I know of, not because she has an organization, but because she believes in the cause. She is a very known figure, the most important in Aruba, I would say.”
And Ms. Yury Bracho happens to be our ‘guide’ in Aruba; a friend exposing sinister plans of the empire, against her beloved Venezuela.
Our Chavista comrade finishes his testimony:
“Diplomatically, our Venezuelan Consulate is here but they are always under attack. The media park themselves outside the Consulate building to report and film. No physical attacks, but Aruba is a small place where if you are attacked by the media, it gets quite damaging.
There is always a possibility of invasion because the islands are in front of the coast of Venezuela. Particularly the ties between Aruba and US are very strong. The fact that the Vice-Presidential plane is stationed here during his official visits to South America speaks a lot for itself. Aruba does have capacity to accommodate military planes and Navy boats. The infrastructure of the island is very good.
Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, so yes, it is a NATO country. There was an independence movement, but a referendum was held and lost with the 60 against 40 for independence. Really, there are no protests against NATO or for Venezuela. This is such a small country. If you get involved, you are photographed, you appear on a Facebook page or in a newspaper, and your life is literally over.
Curaçao had the opportunity to gain independence in 2010, but did not gain it.
Venezuela is indeed surrounded by the right-wing, fascist countries – Colombia, Guyana, Aruba, Curaçao, Brazil.
Right now, there is a plan to fuel the oil tanks dormant on Aruba. Remember that Aruba was a strategic oil refueling station supplying to European powers during WWII.
The refinery has always been owned by Americans. An American subsidiary of CITGO is around. The tanks have oil just to supply local market for the time being.
Everything else is in Curaçao. Bonaire is very small. There is really nothing there.
Should there be, for instance, bombing of an Iranian oil tanker en route to Venezuela, Curaçao would play a major role but Aruba would be there to help as well, with fuel or other stuff. Both islands are roughly 20 KM from the coast of Venezuela.”
Our friend, Ms Yury Bracho, is the most prominent Venezuelan-born Aruban social activist. She is literally outraged by the anti-Venezuelan position of the island:
“I don’t understand why Aruba has closed borders with Venezuela and locals here are against my country. Venezuelan here don’t do anything wrong, not committing crimes, killing, or anything like that. The same goes with those who had come before the closures of the borders. I don’t see any reason for the hostility.
Curaçao is a much more sinister case, doing a lot of dirty jobs against Venezuela with the U.S. and Dutch military bases and involvement there while the country continues to benefit from Venezuela, such as through trafficking of goods.
I want you to understand something about the political position of the Venezuelans here: these people are really afraid and worried. They say they are against Venezuelan government, so that they don’t lose asylum. In reality, they are not against the Venezuelan government at all.”
We drive to several parts of the island. We speak to many Venezuelan migrants. Many of them live in deplorable conditions, some even with pigs and other domestic animals. They are like ‘shadows in paradise’. This hedonistic tourist destination for Gringos is treating them terribly, with spite.
But the brutal, insane Western embargo and sanctions against their homeland, made them desperate. They left their once prosperous land, for uncertain future. Once in Aruba, most got humiliated, stripped of dignity.
The Venezuelan wife of Mr. Juan, Aruban businessman with close ties to Venezuela:
“I know that the Prime Minister of Aruba has entirely sold the country to the Netherlands. With a mounting escalation against Venezuela, I fear that the involvement of Aruba in any eventual military incident would be terrible and that it might actually happen.”
On 03 May, 2020, Venezuela sent a strong warning to Aruba:
“Venezuela alerted the Aruba government about the use of its territory to provide logistical and supply support to terrorist mercenary groups that threaten Venezuelan sovereignty.
This was reported by the Executive Vice President of the Republic, Delcy Rodríguez, after holding a meeting with the ambassador of the Netherlands in Venezuela, Norbert Braakhuis.
When pronouncing the events that occurred in the early hours of this Sunday, when a group of mercenaries carried out an incursion against national sovereignty, the Vice President pointed out that “the international commitment against terrorism cannot have a double standard, it must be only one and cannot be used to overthrow a constitutional and legitimate government”.
Rodríguez declared that the fight against terrorism must be framed in the international laws that govern the matter and judicial cooperation; “That is the way: legality.”
Along these lines, the Venezuelan State will act forcefully in defense of the legitimate rights of Venezuela to its territorial security, sovereignty and peace, the Vice President communicated during a message offered to the Nation from the “Simón Bolívar” press room of the Palace from Miraflores.”
As early as in 2009, President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, snapped at the West:
“Netherlands and U.S. Planning Military Aggression Against Venezuela from Dutch Antilles”
Then, in 2019, Orinoco Tribune published a report “A Walk Through US Military Bases in Curacao and Aruba”:
“The evolution of the use of these US military bases has led to the formation of a “strategic arc”, which would be composed of assault troops, stationed in control and monitoring settlements of several countries of Central America and the Caribbean, with the objective of performing tasks of electronic warfare, espionage and concentration of logistic devices.
The suspicions about the operative transformation of these “FOLs” have not gone unanswered, as evidenced in recent months’ revelations of the White House intentions to military intervention in Venezuela to depose the legal president, Nicolás Maduro.
In February of this year, the Government of Cuba said, in a statement, between July 6 and 10 it detected flights of military transport planes from the United States to bases in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean islands, “surely without knowledge of the governments of those nations.”
These movements “originated in US military installations from which units of Special Operations Forces and the Marine Corps operate, which are used for covert actions, even against leaders of other countries,” the Cuban government warned.
In effect, the military move would be camouflaged as a supposed “humanitarian intervention” in Venezuela and would involve a tactical deployment to directly attack the Venezuelan high command and unleash a war situation of greater proportions.”
Madeleine Klinkhamer, one of the co-founders of Vrede met Venezuela-handsoffvenezuela.nl, and a co-producer of this report, explained the position of her organization towards attacks against Venezuela:
“We have come together to support Venezuela because we feel the defense of the sovereignty of Venezuela is of critical importance to humanity. Warmongering, economic warfare and coup attempts have increased in number, intensity and insanity; might is right is increasingly taking over basic principles of sovereignty and international law.
Meanwhile, after years of progress in Latin America and millions of people being lifted out of poverty in a number of resource rich countries employing revenues locally, the military industrial complex is taking back control (and profits) of countries seeking to chart their own path like Bolivia and threatening others with the largest fleet of US/Canada/Dutch/UK/France warships since 1989 mobilized close to the continent, just off the coast of Venezuela.
It is important for the whole world that the balance on the continent is tipped in the right, just way and that the warmongers don’t get away with this next level of ruthless imperialist assault.”
That is of course correct. For decades, one after another left-wing government of Latin America has been overthrown, countries from Dominican Republic to Chile have been bathed in blood. It has to stop. If not by reason, then by force. Western empire has to be confronted and deterred. And its submissive colonies should be convinced that serving aggressive, murderous masters does not pay.
Aruba is not a paradise. It is an isle abandoned to North American tastes: those of tourists, as well as military planners and hawks. And Netherlands, increasingly right-wing, is playing go-in-between. It is literally pimping its colonies, offering them for an immoral fight against Venezuela.
It is Venezuela that is beautiful. Sometimes, when the weather is good, its shores could be spotted from elevated places.
I know Venezuelan cities, I know its shores and isles, tall mountains, plains, waterfalls, mighty rivers. And I know its political system, which is the most suitable for South America.
If Venezuela falls, entire South America will.
Venezuelan socialism has to be defended by all means. And it is; and it will be.
Today we uncovered one of the outposts, facing, menacing Bolivarian Revolution. This outpost is Aruba.
We will not stop there. One by one, enemies of Venezuela will be visited, analyzed and shamed. For the sake of the people of Venezuela, and the continent.
Feature image: Aerial view of Aruba airport, also used by the US Air Force
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, investigative journalist, novelist, and filmmaker. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. This Tuesday, 22nd September 2020 he passed away, leaving the world without his irreplaceable sharp analysis of its ills. Andre shed light on many injustices nobody else would touch and showed the far-reaching effects of continued imperialist mindsets and policy making. He also wrote in a uniquely passionate way. Andre will be missed by many.
Please honor him by reading his latest books like Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, ‘Exposing Lies Of The Empire’. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. For a complete overview of his work see his website.
Free for copying and redistribution in any medium or format with reference to original article on handsoffvenezuela.nl and andrevltchek.weebly.com
My Dutch translation of this interesting piece: https://themarymarianne.wordpress.com/2020/10/03/aruba-curacao-zou-venezuela-vanaf-hier-worden-aangevallen/
Condolences to family and friends of Andre Vltchek.
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