Scared Neighbors and The Oil King: why Chávez won’t invade Curacao

POSTED: 05/10/11 12:30 PM

RIJSWIJK – Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire have nothing to fear from an invasion by Venezuela, journalist Edwin Koopman writes in his book The Oil King – Hugo Chavez and the Promises of his Latin-American Revolution. Advisors to President Chávez and experts on Venezuelan foreign policy all share this opinion: the islands are too expensive for Chávez. Koopman’s book will be published later this week.

“We have always been aware that it would be much more expensive to maintain those islands by ourselves, retired general Alberto Müller says in the book. “They are under Venezuelan influence, but taking the responsibility is something else. We would have to maintain their standard of living and that is very high.”

Müller died at the end of last year. He was the most influential military and political advisor to Chávez.

According to another Chávez advisor who wished to remain anonymous the costs have changed the minds of the proponents of an annexation. “The financial argument has been used in the past against those who pleaded for a takeover. What is Venezuela supposed to do with those islands that would cost the state a fortune?”

Carlos Romero, an expert on Venezuelan foreign policy says that the financial aspect already played a role before Chávez took power in 1999. “The few times the annexation of the Dutch islands has been discussed always focused on the high costs. It is an artificial economy without mean of its own and you have to keep it in place.”

The past couple of years there have been repeated speculations about a Venezuelan claim on the islands – not only on the islands, but also in the Netherlands. Two years ago, Chávez said that the islands are in his country’s territorial waters, and he accused the Netherlands of making preparations for an invasion of Venezuela, together with the Americans. The relationship between the Netherlands and Venezuela has been strained the past couple of years, because Chavez has a problem with the presence of American military at air force bases in Curacao and Bonaire.

Defence Minister Hans Hillen said during his most recent visit to the islands that the constant threat by Venezuela is reason not to cut down on the Dutch military presence on the islands, in spite of large-scale budget cuts at the Defence Ministry.

Koopman’s The Oil King will be launched on Thursday at the Nieuwspoort press center in The Hague, with a debate under the title Scared Neighbors.


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