The Dutch parliament voted with overwhelming majority for signing the ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ (SOFA) for US troops on the island of Curaçao. The previous government of that island did not want to extend the temporary SOFA contract in 2012. The current government does, after negotiating with the foreign minister of the Netherlands, Stef Blok, who is also responsable for the Island’s foreign affairs.
source: Translatinon of 'Plenair kamer-debat maakt duidelijk: Er zijn alleen maar argumenten tegen het Sofa verdrag van de VS met Curaçao' Handsoffvenezuela.nl 4 december 2019
Last Tuesday, 26 November 2019, the reintroduction of a Sofa Treaty for American troops in Curaçao was discussed in a plenary parliamentary debate. The previous government of Curaçao has chosen to end this treaty by 2012. The islands of Aruba and Bonaire then agreed to maintain and upgrade the contract, with a validity of 5 years and tacit renewals.
The Caribbean island of Curaçao has a large degree of independence, but the Dutch government is responsible for defense and foreign policy. There are 150 Dutch Marines on the island and there is a United States army base. Since his appointment, Minister Blok has been negotiating with the Antillean islands with regard to the “crisis” in Venezuela, and earlier this year announced the introduction of a visa requirement for Venezuelan visitors (max 8000/year).
It will be known that on 4 February 2019 the Dutch government recognized the US puppet in Venezuela, Juan Guaido, as the interim president of that country. From a legal point of view, this is not punishable. But since then the Netherlands has ended all contacts with Venezuela, and Minister Blok only communicated with this self-proclaimed President Guaido and his staff, who have no mandate nationally and internationally, and therefore cannot speak or act on behalf of Venezuela.
Barely a week after this recognition from Guaido and his pseudo-government, Minister Blok, in a letter to the Chamber, announced his intention for a Status of Forces agreement (SOFA) for US troops present. It concerns US military personnel, their contractors, military and other equipment, and offers complete freedom of action in Curaçao, without consultation, notification obligation or possible criminal prosecution. It appears in that letter that he had already given his approval in Washington on October 19, 2018. However, it also requires the approval of the second chamber.
This approval was initially planned for 2020, but is now being pushed through as a hammer piece. On a.s. Tuesday, December 3, a barely informed Parlement will vote on it.
The SP has requested a plenary debate, which took place on Tuesday evening, 26 November.
Sadet Karabulut, foreign spokesperson for the SP gives her opinion and asks the minister a number of questions.
Mrs. Pauletta, the spokesperson for PAR, who flew in specially from Curaçao, argues for the introduction of the SoFA.
In answering the questions, the minister calls the reintroduction of the SoFA for US troops in Curaçao a “business as usual”. Instead of seriously addressing the concerns expressed by Sadet Karabulut, he claims that the presence of the US Navy on the island only benefits the economy and is useful in disaster relief. Hurricane Irma (St. Maarten, September 2017) is mentioned as the only example, but everyone in the region knows that these hurricanes will never ravage the ABC islands. Also, the economic benefits that result from the presence of American soldiers on the island will at most accrue some (foreign) casino, hospitality and sex operators. He trivializes the military aggression of the US threatening the region, and makes it appear as if the Netherlands would want to and could stop a military operation from Curaçao.
The minister did not, in fact, answer the questions. Sadet Karabulut therefore recalls them in the second term.
In his response, the minister claims that there is no relationship with the geopolitical relations in the region, in particular the military threat, and political and economic aggression against Venezuela. The minister then refuses to provide the factual information requested by Sadet.
The Minister cannot substantiate the arguments for the reintroduction of the SoFA for American troops in Curaçao, in particular the necessary support for hurricanes such as the Irma, and economic benefits for the island. There is no danger of hurricanes on the windward islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao. For help to the more northerly located islands, Puerto Rico is more obvious as a base. The argument of economic benefits could not be substantiated by the minister either. The presence of American soldiers is expected to be detrimental to most islanders.
The Netherlands has been involved in the economic and financial warfare of the US against Venezuela since 2016. Products from Venezuela, especially fruit and vegetables, are no longer allowed to be exported to the islands, the processing of oil from Venezuela in the refinery on the island has stagnated. Due to a financial embargo from Dutch banks, the European headquarters of the PDVSA (Petroleo de Venezuela) in The Hague had to close its doors this year.
Furthermore, the current construction work for extensive military training facilities and observation towers on Curaçao is striking. Added to that, the island can still be officially used as a base for “humanitarian goods from the US” to Venezuela.
The Dutch text is on handsoffvenezuela.nl
UPDATE: On 3 december 2019, 131 out of 150 PM’s voted in favor of the agreement. Only SP (socialistische Partij 14 seats) and PvdD (Partij voor de dieren – 4+1 seats) voted against it. (details)