The proletariat at the island of Curaçao (one of the former Dutch Antillean Islands) is hard hit by the recession and the lockdown measures (Covid pandemic). This is true for the region of the Caribbean as a whole, where the tourist sector suffers from the absence of tourists from the USA and Europe, normally arriving with cruise ships and airplanes, and the oil sector is hot hard. The Curaçao oil refinery Isla – exactly like that of Aruba – suffers from the difficulty of the regime of Venezuela in guaranteeing oil pumping up from its rich oil fields, and of course the US-boycott. Recently Isla announced the lay off of 400 employees. More and more workers are losing their jobs. The ‘former’ colonizer, the state of the Netherlands, demands that the government has to downsize if Curaçao wants to receive support because of the corona crisis. This is used by the local bourgeoisie, that is totally dependent on the Dutch state, to stir up a petty-bourgeois island nationalism, that is less and less able to hide that is is not capable nor willing to defend the interests of the proletariat at Curaçao.
When garbage collectors heard the island government cut the budget of this public service with 50% and that salaries could no longer be paid, they responded with a demonstration in the streets of the capital Willemstad, and demanded to see prime minister Rhuggenaath. When he didn’t show up, the demonstration went to the government center, Fort Amsterdam, demanding again to speak with him, and now even demanding his government to step down and the organization of new elections.
Only a few cops divided the mass of furiously manifesting proletarians from the government hiding in the building. Police reinforcement was welcomed with stones and replied with gunshots and tear gas. The police succeeded in ‘clearing’ the government district, at the expense of some officers being wounded. The garbage collectors turned over a police car and set fire to it. The car of the Prime Minister was ransacked as well.
The manifestation moved to a parking lot and the looting of shops started, mainly by unemployed proletarians arriving from two poor suburbs. In the evening van June 24 the situation in the city center remained tense, police and proletarians facing each other.
Meanwhile, Rhuggenaath consulted with State Secretary Knops of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (the Dutch state) on how to respond to the riots. Details of that meeting were of course not disclosed. According to a press release in the Netherlands “Military personnel who had already been deployed in connection with the Corona crisis, are now also going to help maintain order. Approximately thirty Curaçao soldiers will be carrying out checks on the streets, among other things. The government has also brought two tankers to safety at the Dutch naval barracks on the island.”
The proletariat in the Netherlands should resist intervention by ‘its’ State in the Caribbean by understanding that the revolt in Willemstad is part of its own struggle against the effect of the recession and the lockdown by the state.
In the demand for new elections and a step down of the government, we see the same lack of a working-class perspective as in Iraq and Lebanon. At that moment when workers held the government hostage, they in fact were in power but asked only for elections bringing a new government … oppressing the proletariat. But we have to say as well, that only a unification of proletarian struggle in the whole Caribbean, will be able to resist an awaiting intervention by the Netherlands and other imperialist powers. A precondition for such a perspective is the formation of a left communist, or even better a council communist group, in which the proletariat can recognize its voice as a productive class with a future for humanity.
Fredo Corvo, Amsterdam 25-6-2020
See also following articles:
- A general strike starting from refinery workers at the Caribbean island of Curacao – awaiting new masters from China (2016)
- Caribbean: The “Isla” oil refinery as a microcosm of collapsing capitalism (2019)