The Dutch Caribbean island Curacao has found itself not only having a front seat but increasingly on the actual front line of a Venezuela’s worsening internal and external political and economic crisis.
Just a few days ago, a shipment of aid bound for Venezuela via Curacao, was blocked by the local government in Willemstad, the island’s capital.
The aid supplies were flown in from the United States en route to Venezuela, coordinated by supporters of self-declared interim president Juan Guiado.
The government in Curacao said it would not allow the shipment to leave until they had guarantees of a ‘safe environment’ in Venezuela.
But that seems very unlikely as the situation in Venezuela continues to nosedive into civil conflict.
There have already been numerous demonstrations and worsening tensions between supporters of opposition leader Juan Guiado, and incumbent president Nicolas Maduro.
The crisis in Venezuela has also caused serious splits in the international community with the United States, the UK, Holland and several other European Union countries backing Mr Guiado.
Russia and China lead a group including Turkey, Iran, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua maintain their support for President Maduro.
In what’s seen as a direct message to the US, Russia has warned that it will come to Maduro’s aid in the event of any external military moves to unseat him.
Russia has stepped up its military presence in the region.
There are also similar divisions in the Caribbean’s Caricom group of nations.
It’s in this cauldron that Curacao, one of the Dutch Caribbean ABC islands (the others being Bonaire and Aruba) finds itself in an uncomfortable centre stage…or centre cauldron.
The Dutch ‘kingdom partner’ has had long-standing relations with Venezuela, especially for trade.
Over the years flotillas of Venezuelan vessels have docked in Curacao’s Caracas Bai (Caracas Bay - note the name) bringing fish and fresh produce from the neighbouring country.
But official relations between the two neighbours have become tense especially since Curacao, which has been named by the United States as a logistics hub for American humanitarian aid destined for Venezuela.
Tensions were already building up since the United States which backs the self-declared interim Venezuelan president, Juan Guiado, set up a military base in Curacao in 1999 through an arrangement with the Dutch government in the Hague and the local government in Willemstad, the Curacao capital.
Based at Curacao’s Hato International Airport, with a smaller location in Aruba, it replaced the US Howard Military Base in Panama, it’s stated intention is counter-narcotics against for drugs coming out of the Central America region.
But with US President Donald Trump ramping up pressure on the incumbent Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, Curacao was selected as a jumping off point for US humanitarian aid destined for Caracas.
President Trump has accused his Venezuelan counterpart of wrecking the country’s economy and holding onto to power via flawed elections.
The US is among countries which have recognised opposition leader Juan Guiado as interim president pending fresh elections.
But President Maduro is not budging and tensions are mounting in Venezuela with internal clashes between pro-Guiado and pro-Maduro factions, raising the risk of civil conflict.
President Maduro has accused the US of using the humanitarian aid issue as a plot to overthrow his government.
As tensions heighten, a US humanitarian aid shipment bound for Venezuela a few days ago was blocked by the local government in Curacao.
There have been demonstrations by trade unions on the island against what they fear is the Dutch Caribbean ‘kingdom partner’ being dragged into a military conflict with Venezuela.
Curacao and the other ABC islands have also been faced with an influx of Venezuelan refugees fleeing their country’s flat-lining economy and political tensions.
The embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has closed the border with the three Dutch ABC islands, the latest in a series of diplomatic moves which has already shut borders with Brazil and Colombia.