Around one thousand people participated in a demonstration in Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, in the Netherlands Antilles, in opposition to a political reform agreement just concluded with the Netherlands. Curaçao still forms part of the Netherlands Antilles (and is therefore part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), but negotiations have been ongoing since the early part of the decade to give the island greater autonomy. In an April 2005 referendum, Curaçao, together with Sint Maarten, voted to become a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands (as Aruba and the Netherland Antilles are now). The change of status has been postponed to an indefinite date while negotiations continue.
The protesters today objected to some of the terms of the agreement between the island and the Netherlands, which they believe gives the Netherlands too much control over the island’s financial affairs in exchange for debt restructuring. They carried banners bearing slogans such as “Curaçao is not for sale!” A referendum on the agreement is scheduled for May 15. If approved, the Netherlands will restructure most of Curaçao’s debts, which would amount to approximately 1.7 billion euros. If the deal is rejected, some fear that the Netherlands will withdraw its offer to restructure Curaçao’s debts, which may leave the island in financial crisis. It is not clear what will happen if the deal is rejected. Netherlands Antilles Prime Minister Emily de Jongh-Elhage has threatened to resign if the voters reject the agreement.