In recent months Venezuelan leaders, including the country's demagogic president, Hugo Chavez, have made numerous public statements about the "reunification" of the islands of the Dutch West Indies (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) with Venezuela. Venezuelan violations of Dutch air space and territorial waters, including illegal over flights by military aircraft, have occurred with some frequency. In addition, Venezuelan authorities have urged residents of the islands to form "Bolivarian" cells, in support of eventual "reunification."This bit of jaw-on-the-floor, color-me-gobsmacked news went by completely and utterly unreported in Dutch media. So when defence minster Henk Kamp came out and publicly declared on March 9:
[T]hat Chavez Frias is an intolerant populist with a lot of money and who is showing interest in Dutch islands off the Venezuelan coast.Everyone and their pet dog reacted with incredulity. Local authorities on Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao immediately distanced themselves (NL) from Kamps statements. However, the government seems serious about the situation, as they:
[...] Venezuelan military action against the islands is definitely ruled out, arguing that the Venezuela (Armada) Navy has only a second-hand destroyer and its Navy could not to stand up to the Dutch Navy.
are trying to orchestrate a suitable, and scary, message for Chavez. The Dutch are trying to get the United States to make a port call with an aircraft carrier, and its accompanying warships, at one of their Caribbean islands. This would be part of a series of “messages” that they’re sending to Venezuela. An additional “message” is an invitation to the Venezuelans to take part in a navy/marine exercise that the Dutch are going to run in the Caribbean later this year. This will have U.S., British, French, and even Swedish participation, primarily as a way of demonstrating that if Chavez pulls something against the Dutch-owned islands, he may get a bloody nose. Even without the port call, it’s unlikely that the United States would just stand by if Venezuela made a move on Dutch Caribbean islands.(Strategypage.com, via Austin Bay)
And today the Nederlands Dagblad daily and Elsevier magazine report (NL) that foreign minister Ben Bot had to cancel a trip to Venezuela to discuss the hightened tension between the Netherlands and Venezuela, because he is no longer welcome in Caracas. Chavez claims to have evidence for a US led invasion of Venezuela using the Dutch Antilles as springboards, hence the snub, officially.
However, back in September Minister of Overseas Territories, Alexander Pechtold, already expressed concern (NL) regarding the growing influence of Venezuela on the Dutch Antilles. He and Antillian minster of Constitutional Affairs accused the Venezuelan government of thinly disguised bribes to groups and political parties on the Antilles working against American presence on the islands. Given the proximity of the Antilles to Venezuela, the presence of US forces and intelligence services is a thorn in the side of Chavez c.s., because it means they're under constant US scrutiny, mainly with regard to the export of drugs.
A Christian Democrat member of parliament likened the situation to the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands in 1982. But minister Kamp stated he still considered relations with Venezuela 'friendly', adding that the recent purchase by Venezuela of Russian Mig-29 fighter aircraft and 100.000 AK-47 Kalashnikovs (NL) does not a problem pose(!).
Asked if he would allow the US forces extra facilities on the islands in answer to risen tension, he answered: 'The Netherlands are able to defend the Antilles on our own. We don't feel any military deficiencies to prevent us from carrying out our duties.'
(Provided we can muster the political will of course - HW)