Curaçaoan Politician Helmin Wiels is Gunned Down

Wiels

In Curaçao, politician Helmin Wiels was assassinated yesterday. Described as a passionate politician, who fought for his ideals, and who did not mince words, 54-year-old Wiels fought for the independence of Curaçao, leading the Pueblo Soberano party. Apparently, Wiels had been threatened repeatedly and had been placed under protection for some time. A controversial politician, he was popular among a large part of the population but also had clear political opponents. According to BNR news, during elections last year, he had offended many, including political opponents, women, and the Roman Catholic Church. He was also known for his battle against corruption. Here are excerpts from a BBC article:

Local media say it is the first time a politician has been assassinated in Curacao. Prime Minister Daniel Hodge said: “This act was horrendous, terrible, and we are in shock. [. . .] We are not accustomed to these things on the island.” A motive for the killing remains unclear, but the Curacao government said Mr Wiels had received threats in the past. Justice Minister Nelson Navarro said Mr Wiels had a security guard assigned to him after receiving the threats. He also promised to increase security for all of Curacao’s elected officials.

Friends of Mr Wiels said he had sent his bodyguard home earlier in the day and was enjoying a beer on Marie Pompoen beach when two gunmen approached him and fired five shots. No one else was hurt in the attack. A spokesman for the Pueblo Soberano party said they suspected organised crime to be behind the killing because of Mr Wiels’s work in combating corruption. Mr Wiels’s Pueblo Soberano party gained a majority of the votes in the 2012 election and holds five of the 21 seats in Curacao’s parliament.

‘Cowardly deed’

Mr Wiels was well known as a fervent supporter of cutting Curacao’s ties with the Netherlands. Curacao is a former Dutch colony and now forms an independent country within the kingdom of the Netherlands, but it still relies on the Netherlands for defence and foreign policy.

Mr Wiels had his own radio show in which he often discussed controversial issues affecting the island of about 150,000 people. On Friday, Mr Wiels had denounced alleged abuses committed by Curacao telecommunication company UTS in an interview with news site Versgeperst.com. He accused UTS of involvement in the illegal sale of lottery numbers.

The Curacao government said the Netherlands had offered to help with the investigation into Mr Wiels’s murder. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the attack on Mr Wiels was a “cowardly deed”.

“Curacao has lost a driven politician who fought for his ideals and loved his country,” Mr Rutte said.

[Many thanks to Francio Guadeloupe for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full article in English, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22424009

For the original Dutch article, see http://www.bnr.nl/nieuws/politiek/527811-1305/curacaose-politicus-helmin-wiels-54-doodgeschoten

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