Opinion: Fixing Curacao

POSTED: 07/22/14 1:46 PM

Pas als het kalf verdronken is dempt men de put. That Dutch expression comes to mind in the wake of the airport shooting in Curacao: only after the proverbial excrement hits the fan, action follows.

Crime is of all times and all ages, not only in Curacao, but also in St. Maarten and everywhere else in the world. Curacao’s Justice Minister will present details of his Ta Basta Awor (Enough is Enough) plan today. If we have to believe the media in Willemstad the minister wants to throw everything he’s got at the fight against criminality: the Royal Marechaussee, the Coast Guard, customs, the attorney-general, the public prosecutor’s office, the Volunteer Corps VKC, the ministry of justice and security companies.

All of a sudden, the country is making crime fighting a priority. What is new? It is not like Curacao has become a battlefield for criminals overnight. The gangs have been there like forever and they have been fighting each other with every means they have at their disposal. Even in the prison gang-members are not safe. Remember how Devon Otto attempted to kill Lysander Kani of the Kani drugs gang?

The shooting did not have the desired result, and Kani has since disappeared without a trace. Other gangs, like No Limit Soldiers and Buena Vista City have been around for quite a while. Never did any minister of justice feel the need to throw the book at them. So why now?

Even the business association VBC had offered its two cents, saying that Curacao is in a downward spiral because of the out of control crime situation. The VBC mentions unemployment, inequality, and poverty as factors that contribute to the rise in criminality. And then there is the declining level of education, declining labor productivity, increasing costs, stifling bureaucracy and the deterioration of values and standards. All this, the VBC says, is keeping investors away.

If we did not know better we would have been tempted to think that the VBC was referring to St. Maarten.

Navarro has to talk tough after the airport shooting. After all, those bullets did not only hit gangsters but also regular travelers. The thing is: like in St. Maarten, law enforcement is understaffed and that makes it problematic to keep tough measures in place. Maybe we will see increased visibility for a couple of weeks, two months at best, before everyone moves on to the next scandal or the next horrible crime.

The VBC is right by pointing to the structural and underlying causes of the rise in crime in Curacao. It is good to notice that the same factors apply to St. Maarten.

More blue on the streets is fine – but it is not more than a plaster on a festering wound. To fix Curacao, decision makers have to come together and design solid solutions for the country’s future as a safe and pleasant place to live, work, and relax.

In St. Maarten, the proverbial excrement has not hit the fan yet to the extent it happened in Curacao. That gives our decision makers at least the opportunity to take meaningful action. The question is: will they grab the bull by the horns, or will they wait until something terrible happens here too?


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