Information on Curaçao Referendum of May 15, 2009 by Eric de Vries
Information on Curaçao Referendum of May 15, 2009
Many of our Curaçao citizens who primarily speak English have requested information on the referendum of May 15, 2009, and in particular an explanation what the referendum will be about and why they should vote "YES" or "NO". This document addresses those issues.
Topic of Referendum
The topic of the referendum is the approval or disapproval of the political agreement on the new constitutional status of Curaçao achieved by the Curaçao government with its partners in the Kingdom, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba, St. Maarten, Aruba and the Netherlands in Europe. This political agreement generally entails the following two issues:
(1) de constitutional status of Curaçao and
(2) the national debt of the Netherlands Antilles and Curaçao.
This document will describe the new situation and the current situation on both issues. If you vote YES, you will vote for the new situation. If you vote NO, you will vote for the current situation.
1. Curaçao within the Kingdom of the Netherlands
New situation (if you vote YES):
- Curaçao will become a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The other countries will be the Netherlands, Aruba and St. Maarten. As such Curaçao will become highly autonomous. With the exception of defense, nationality and external relations, Curaçao will deal with all aspects of government on its own. Cooperation with the other islands on certain topics (mainly the Joint Court of Justice, the Central Bank and the prisons) and mutual assistance obligations within the Kingdom will continue to exist. In this manner expenses can be shared and professionalism of these institutions can be guaranteed.
- Each guilder of taxes collected on Curaçao will remain on Curaçao and be used for the public good (education, social welfare, health care, infrastructure, housing, etc.). Curaçao will thus not be obligated to contribute to deficits of the other islands.
- There will be a joint committee for Curaçao, St. Maarten and the other islands (Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, which islands will become a public body of the Netherlands in Europe) with professional representatives (financial experts, accountants) of all nations, called the "Cft" (college financieel toezicht) that will guarantee compliance with one important matter: Curaçao will for the future not spend more money than it has. Loans can be taken, however the interest payments thereon cannot be more than 5% of the annual income of Curaçao (rentelastnorm). This is achieved by, during a 5 year period, requiring approval from the Cft on the Curaçao budgets and financial statements. An obligation that is not part of the budget cannot be entered into. Signing for such an obligation is not enforceable and it is a criminal offense. This system, which has already been implemented in 2008, resulted in the first balanced budget for Curaçao in the past 20 years.
Current situation (if you vote NO):
- Curaçao has two layers of government (the Netherlands Antilles country government and the Curaçao island government) and Curaçao cannot deal with important issues by itself (for example: the police force). One of the worse consequences of the current situation is that if the Netherlands Antilles government falls, automatically there are also changes required on the level of the Curaçao government (and frequently also vice versa) because the same parties dominate the island and federal level. This is the reason why for the past decades Curaçao citizens felt that there were new governments every six months. Because elections are not synchronized (for example: 1999 Curaçao elections: 2001 Netherlands Antilles elections, 2003 Curaçao elections, 2005 Netherlands Antilles elections, etc.), we have to hold elections every two years. This is not only a waste of time: it also does not allow for a stable government and implementation of proper long term governance policies. Imagine having to make a business plan for your company covering two years only or imagine having to pay off your mortgage in two years alone. But it also leads to other problems. Not only are politicians not accountable ("it was not me" they can say) but it also gives politicians many more options to be elected and thus to make unrealistic promises every two years (which they will not keep because before you know it, they are gone again). But worst of it is that they are forced to think short term: elections are always around the corner.
- Curaçao tax payers currently pay a big chunk of their money in taxes to the Netherlands Antilles. This money, although a substantial part thereof does go back to Curaçao via the Netherlands Antilles, is also used for the smaller islands of the Netherlands Antilles. This 'burden' will be taken over by the Netherlands in Europe in the new system (if you vote YES). Of course there is also waste in the current system. The more complex a tax and collection system, the less it yields. For example: right now the tax inspectorate of the Netherlands Antilles imposes federal taxes (wage tax, turn over tax, etc.) but the tax collector of Curaçao has to collect it. Cooperation between these two is minimal. Thus we get yearly assessments or notices for taxes that we already paid, we appeal, the tax department deals with it (years later) or they lose the appeal documents, we pay lawyers to appeal to the court, etc. A waste of time and energy.
- The Curaçao government has not been able to submit a balanced budget for at least the past 20 years. Financial statements for Curaçao are not made, not made in time or made extremely faulty. The information simply does not add up. Internal controls are there (accounting chamber, island council, etc.) but they do not work. The Curaçao government simply does not respond to the accounting chamber, and the island council is busy with other things, such as the day to day politics. As such Curaçao, until this year, never really knew how much money it collected and how much it paid out, and for what. We all know this if we provide services to the government. Once you have to be paid, you have to submit your invoices 2, 3 or 10 times, and they still manage to get lost. Or if you request government to award you a social house or a piece of land, it takes years for them to ever get back to you, and when they do, it is probably to tell you to resubmit your application, or to tell you sorry, we gave the house to someone else. If you think about this, it is logical to happen. A Government that does not know it rights and obligations (which does not keep proper books) cannot serve its people properly.
2. The National Debt
New situation (if you vote YES):
- In order to allow the government of Curaçao to properly embark on the new route of country within the Kingdom, it has been recognized (by all involved, including the opposition parties) that the large debt that Curaçao has or is responsible for (approximately USD 2,5 billion or USD 2,500,000,000.00, USD 16,600.00 for each resident of Curaçao) has to be taken care of. This debt has been accumulated over the past 25 years and mainly consists of obligations to the local pension funds, the service sectors, botika's, health care, building companies, infrastructure project, etc. We pay USD 187,000,000.00 each year on interest alone on this debt. This comes directly out of tax collections from Curaçao residents. Money we can thus not use for important community matters, such as education, health care, combating poverty, good roads, and providing security against crime for our citizens.
- As a result the Curaçao government has negotiated with the Netherlands in Europe that the Netherlands in Europe will take over a large part of this debt (appr. 80% thereof as per 31 December 2005). There is no "if" the Netherlands in Europe will pay. It is written in stone that they will pay, and in fact they already started to pay hundreds of millions in 2008/2009. If they would stop paying without cause, we can sue them and get a judgment from our own Court of Justice to order them to pay, and attach their banks (for example ABN-AMRO or Fortis) and simply collect the money. We may absolutely depend on it that they will pay, if the YES vote wins and we live up to our side of the agreement. As a result: (a) there will be a large influx of capital into Curaçao, as the local debts will be paid and this will allow the locals to spend this money, instead of having a claim on the Curaçao government that will possibly never be paid, (b) our pension funds will be strengthened and secure, because the USD 800,000,000.00 debt to the pension funds will be paid, and our citizens can rest assured that they will receive the pension they have worked so hard for and paid over the years, and (c) our interest payments will be reduced to about USD 55,000,000.00 per year, meaning that the new Curaçao country will have about USD 132,000,000.00 (USD 132 million) extra each year available to spend on health care, education, combating poverty, training policemen, buying police cars, building houses, fixing the roads, etc.
- In addition, the Curaçao government has negotiated with the Netherlands in Europe the SEI (the social economic initiative). This program brings immediate funds from the Netherlands in Europe to Curaçao (and the other islands) in order to deal with the most urgent social and educational issues. Millions and millions of Euro's have already been paid to USONA, the local entity that distributes these funds to the projects that need them. It is a very direct form of relief that helps those that really need it in our society, and if you ask those whose projects have already received money or the beneficiaries thereof, they will tell you that it is real and concrete.
Current situation (if you vote NO):
- We have a USD 2,500,000.000.00 national debt (Curaçao alone) and are at the verge of bankruptcy. In order to pay this debt, each person residing in Curaçao would have to pay USD 16,600.00 out of pocket. That is more than many local families make in two years time. As this is a local debt, it will have to be paid. It is not a debt to the IMF, the United Nations or to the Netherlands in Europe which would say: never mind, keep the money. It is a debt to our companies, citizens and institutions, who need this money to survive! For Curaçao to pay this debt, it will have to raise taxes. A conservative estimate by experts is that we would have to double the sales tax (from 5% to 10%) in order to yield sufficient income to pay this debt. However, in that estimate the ill effects of raising taxes to such a level are not discounted. If people stop buying goods and services, there will not be more tax income, but the economy will die, and people will be laid off on a massive scale. Total disaster looms around the corner and every politician knows this. They have however, notwithstanding good intentions of the MAN-government and the PAR-government in the past (remember the solidarity tax, the massive public sector lay-offs, etc.?) been unable to resolve it. It is simply to big a burden to resolve without the help of our fellow citizens in the Netherlands in Europe. God bless them as they have been blessed with proper governance, proper financial bookkeeping, large natural-gas income and fruitful land, reclaimed from the sea, which has been worked hard and has brought prosperity in the interest of all. Those local politicians who criticize the good citizens of the Netherlands in Europe for wishing to help us, should ask themselves what they, the politicians, have done for us here in Curaçao that justifies their belief in their own superiority.
Why YES, why NO
The people who are propagating the YES vote mainly have the following arguments:
1. The agreement reached by Curaçao with the Netherlands in Europe has been a long process (4 years). We cannot wait another one, two or ten years to do it all over again and see what comes out of it. Our citizens need help and action now, not in ten years time. There is severe poverty, there is lack of education, no proper schools and no educational books for all, kids go to school without even having a sandwich in their stomach, some kids have never even been on the internet and do not have a gameboy to play with, the health care system is in dire straits, there are potholes in the roads and racism is on the rise. We need to act NOW, not tomorrow. Voting YES means we go forward, not backwards.
2. Curaçao achieved 9 out of 10 points that it wanted to achieve with the agreement with the Netherlands in Europe. Of course the Netherlands in Europe also has its own agenda. It has its own residents to whom it is accountable and cannot simply give Curaçao everything Curaçao politicians want to receive. But that does not take away that the agreement reached is overall excellent and responsible. It brings Curaçao its autonomous status, as the people have requested in the 2005 referendum. It brings Curaçao a sound system of government, with real checks and balances (control by the Cft). And it gives Curaçao the basis, fundament and start position it needs: a small manageable debt, which allows the income of Curaçao to remain in Curaçao and be spent for the public good, not on interest payments. Curaçao can now embark on a new route, to go where virtually no country in the Caribbean, North-, Middle- and South America or Africa has gone before: proper and accountable government, free of corruption, with prosperity for all, good health care and education, free of violence and with security for our children and elders, and with respect for human rights and without racism. We are all citizens of Curaçao who care: we all wish to make a good living but not at the expense of the basic needs of others. We will make it together. YES we can!
3. There are, as the past has shown, no viable alternatives. We cannot cut more on spending on civil servants, roads, health care, security, the police force, poverty combating, public housing, the judicial system, as they are already financially on the verge of collapse. We cannot resolve these issues by selling the last viable companies we have, such as UTS and the Isla, or by raising taxes. This is irresponsible, and an unacceptable sell-out of our people's intrinsic property. Nobody voted in the 2005 referendum to sell everything that Curaçao has, tax its citizens to dead and then just continue on the same old route of again not paying debts, again not keeping proper books, again holding elections every two years, again paying for over 40 "representatives" (ministers, deputies, island council members and senate members) and their assistants (special assistants, general assistants, deputy ministers) and their cars and chauffeurs, and their preferential pension-arrangements (ministers within 4 years of service a full pension, the others gradually going up to a maximum of 16 years for a full pension, all paid directly out of our pockets, the tax money, whilst us the ordinary citizens have to pay premiums for 35 years in order to get a full pension). Let's get real is the message of YES.
The people, mostly politicians in the opposition, propagating the NO vote, mainly have the following arguments:
1. The agreement with the Netherlands should not have been about both the new constitutional status of Curaçao and the resolution of the national debt. They should be negotiated separately because by doing both at the same time, the Netherlands in Europe is in the position to impose conditions on proper governance for Curaçao in the new status and to force Curaçao to work together with St. Maarten in regards the Central Bank, the Joint Court of Justice and with Bonaire in regards the prison. It is not that NO is against this cooperation in itself, but NO is against the fact that it was forced upon Curaçao. NO is also not against proper governance, but believes that Curaçao itself can arrange this without having to deal with the Cft. Why not let Curaçao put internal self control into its constitution and take a couple of years to arrange matters itself? We, the politicians, can do it ourselves, although we do recognize that we have not really done that for the past 55 years.
2. The Dutch are re-colonizing Curaçao. With "the Dutch" they do not mean all of us in the Kingdom as Dutch citizens with our Dutch passports, and neither do they mean the more than 150.000 Curaçaoleans or Curaçao dissidents who live in the Netherlands in Europe: they mean the Dutch who were born in the Netherlands in Europe from European descendants who currently work in the Netherlands, have good housing and jobs in the Netherlands, and generally make double the income compared to what we make here, in great part also because of the strong Euro. Although it does not follow from the agreement reached, nor is there a legal basis for it whatsoever, the NO voters thus believe that "the Dutch are coming". They will take over Curaçao and reduce the current Curaçao citizens to a minority of second ranking individuals. The fact that there is already no real restriction for "the Dutch" to come to Curaçao right now, whereas they actually did not come in greater number
sthan in the past, the fact that there is a Supreme Court, a United Nations, an International Court of Justice, and so much more, written agreements and laws to the contrary, all this does not help them, because: the Dutch are coming. One would wonder why these politicians who are so anti-Dutch still keep their Dutch passport. They would not dream of relinquishing their Dutch passport, as they don't practise what they preach.
3. The Minister of Justice of the Netherlands in Europe should not have the right to instruct the public prosecutor in Curaçao to take action against an individual in Curaçao in case this individual (a) commits a crime that goes unpunished and (b) all other institutions in Curaçao should fail (thus, if the public prosecutor does not act, if the Minister of Justice does not act, if the Court of Justice does not act). And this authority to instruct (aanwijzingsbevoegdheid) is also part of the agreement with the Netherlands in Europe. The reason why the NO believers, amongst whom certain criminal law attorneys, are against this, is because there is a democratic deficit in this system. The Minister of Justice of the Netherlands in Europe is accountable to the parliament of the Netherlands in Europe, not to the (future) parliament of Curaçao. As such, the Minister of Justice of the Netherlands would be empowered to give an instruction with consequences in Curaçao, for which he is not accountable to the people of Curaçao. Any lawyer with proper education in constitutional law will wholeheartedly agree that this argument is technically correct. However, it does not answer much to reality as, first of all, such an authority currently already generally exists within the Kingdom Charter and it thus is, although more explicit, nothing new. Secondly, the President of the United States, Mr. Barrack Obama, is not accountable to the people of Curaçao either. But if his attorney general (politely) asks the Curaçao attorney general to capture a drug lord hiding out in Curaçao, and deport him to the United States, or (politely) asks the Curaçao attorney general to allow the DEA to investigate drug crimes through the forward operating location in Curaçao, our Curaçao attorney general will generally be much obliged to cooperate, with or without a formalized authority to issue instructions. And if the request goes to our Minister of Justice, we would be hard pressed to find the one that will say no to the US. And if our Minister of Justice decides not to prosecute certain crimes, and so instructs our attorney general, because the people involved are either family, friends or sympathizers of the political party then in government, I will have to search far and wide and still be unable to find the majority of members in parliament who will sack him and replace him by a Minister of Justice who will act (I am sure these examples will ring some bells). So, granted there is a democratic deficit in the authority to issue instructionby the Minister of Justice of the Netherlands in Europe. Grant me also the dignity of being honest that it is nothing new and not entirely without merit to insist thereupon, for the sake of justice for all within this part of the Kingdom. However, since the Advisory Council of the Netherlands, the highest competent authority in the Kingdom to evaluate proposed bills on their merits, has rejected this controversial authority as being superfluous, this particular issue will no doubt be open to re-negotiation.
4. We should not sell our autonomy for a bag of money. With this the NO proponents mean that the Curaçao government has given in to the demands of the Dutch negotiators on the issues described in 1 and 3 above, in return for debt relief. The main questions here are:
- What is autonomy?
- Was it sold?
- How could we otherwise achieve an acceptable financial start position in our new status as the country Curaçao?
isas we all know, is relative and in any case, you cannot eat it, nor have it shelter you from wind, rain or the sun. It is relative because is varies from time to time and from country to country. France is an autonomous country, but still a great part of public policy in Paris is dictated by Europe. To live well and achieve much for all citizens, one accepts that cooperation is many times better than to do things alone, as did "my name is nobody". This also means that it is better to sometimes give up, where one would prefer not to. To leave this choice entirely to our local politicians, requires a level of trust, which in any case I myself do not have in them and most likely the greater part of the population neither has in them, judging from the widespread criticism on politicians. Let me give an example of this: we all know that it is not our people who have any problem whatsoever with our fellow people from Bonaire or St. Maarten. We many times still consider ourselves as one people, having co-existed, lived and worked on the several islands in harmony together for hundreds of years. Our politicians on the other hand do have this problem, because sharing common institutions with politicians of another island means sharing power, and politicians by nature are not of the power-sharing kind. Haiti is autonomous, yet its people live in misery and its government cannot spend one penny without approval of the IMF. Where does this leave the autonomy of Haiti? Surinam is autonomous, yet its people are only now redressing the consequences of the coup that Bouterse and other militaries or commandos held in Surinam 20 years ago, which brought the country essentially back to the jungle-age for decades. Puerto Rico is autonomous, yet it is also part of the US, with the benefits and burdens that carries. If the US would wish to impose the rule of law in Puerto Rico if ever needed, they really do not need to first show to the High Court of Puerto Rico that there is just cause for that. In short: autonomy is relative because although it gives the right of self-rule to a people, such self-rule is limited by cooperation agreements entered into by the elected government and the supreme rights of the individual, not of the politicians, to live in a society that respects human rights and the basic concept of fairness to all. Autonomy only really means something to the people if there is sufficient common wealth to rule on and distribute amongst the people, in the interest of all. Without such common wealth and with large debts of government to its people which it does not and is simply unable to pay, autonomy is meaningless as the people cannot eat from it, nor live in it.
Our autonomy was not sold for a bag of money. Curaçao achieves autonomy through the deal with the Netherlands in Europe which it previously did not have. All rights and tasks, which are now of the Netherlands Antilles, will go to Curaçao as an autonomous country. Granted, Curaçao, as part of the agreement has taken upon itself to cooperate with St. Maarten and Bonaire on certain topics of government, outlined above. However, this is merely a continuation of the status quo and as it was moreover our own government which agreed thereon, the decision was taken within our autonomy. Furthermore, the topics concerned are objectively those for which it makes much sense to work together. Why have and pay for a Central Bank for Curaçao alone, if we can pay less for a Central Bank if that institution serves for Curaçao and St. Maarten jointly? Will the people eat less or have less autonomy because of that agreement? I promise you not.
And are there alternatives to achieve an acceptable financial start position? The NO proponents say: let's sell UTS and the Refinery, let's cut the debt to the pension funds and in any case reduce the interest payable to the pension funds, let's ask all creditors (local persons and companies in Curaçao) to acquit the government from part of the debt, and let's renegotiate with the Netherlands in Europe for them to give us a 50 or 100 year loan with a reduced interest rate to resolve the debt issue. These alternatives seem to embark in a new direction, but reality is that it is nothing new.
- We already tried to sell UTS in the good economic times, when the world economy was booming. It did not happen. Besides, UTS is one of the only national companies that actually makes a profit and connects Curaçao to the world (through sea cables and satellites) and it is thus of huge strategic importance, to have it remain in our own hands. Selling it to outside interests also entails giving up part of our economic autonomy. The same goes for the other Curaçao strategic companies, mainly CPA (harbor owner) and Curinta (airport owner). Do we really want to lose these companies irretrievably and have individuals or foreign companies determine to whom we speak and what we can and cannot see on the internet or TV, and who enters our harbor or airport? I think the NO proponents should reconsider this strongly. As to Isla, let's be real. Apart from the obvious issues of public health and whether or not we really want to subject future Curaçao generations to a refinery, this is a choice we will no longer have if we sell Isla, because then the buyer will do as he pleases for the next 100 years. The drop in oil prices over the past year is so deep, that we should not think ourselves too rich with the Isla. The same results from the billions of needed investments in the refinery. A buyer who has to invest billions in the refinery to upgrade it to modern standards, will not at the same time also pay government a large bag of money for the refinery. If it would yield a fraction of our national debt, that in itself would be a big surprise to many experts.
- The national debt that we have is already a negotiated and re-negotiated debt to, for example, the pension funds. What happened over the years is that government collected pension premiums from civil servants, but did not pay the corresponding debt to the pension funds (debt 1). Then, the government negotiated a debt settlement with the pension funds (debt 2), which it however failed to pay. Then, government re-negotiated the settled debt (debt 3) with the pension funds, yet again failed to pay. Then government re-negotiated (debt 4), and started to pay, although not fully and now we are at about USD 800,000,000.00 in debt to the pension funds alone. You tell me, why should the pension funds again negotiate and (partly) acquit the government of a legitimate debt obligation, in particular in these times of crisis, where they have already lost so much on the international markets due to the financial crisis? The same goes for the private creditors. For years and years their claims were not recognized, yet the goods and services were accepted by government without hesitation. Then the claims were recognized, but not paid. Then the government refused to pay interest. Then the government was ordered by court to pay, but still does not pay because there is no money. And now these private creditors must forgive (part of) their debt?
- The Netherlands in Europe is at the dawn of a new era. Not only does it, for the first time in decades, have an economic decline due to the worldwide financial crisis. New political parties such as that of Geert Wilders are winning ground and according to the polls, if elections were now held, Geert Wilders would have the biggest political party. It is well known that he, to put
isit mildly, is not pro-Antilleans. Do you see our NO politicians being received in the Netherlands by Geert Wilders, holding up their hands and saying: "Give us a 50 to 100 year loan for a couple of billion to pay our national debt, we promise to pay you back with below market interest but we will not accept any restrictions on control nor on our constitutional status"? It would be the biggest comedy show of the century, beyond the laughs that Vale Croes, Najib Amhali or Eddie Murphy can bring us. But our future is no laughing matter.
The referendum of May 15, 2009 is about Curaçao's constitutional future and the economic and financial welfare and opportunities that the people and enterprises in Curaçao will be given.
One should vote YES:
1. To go forward NOW, not in 10 years;
2. To get an autonomous Curaçao, with one layer of government, and all taxes paid in Curaçao to stay in Curaçao;
3. To get proper government, with proper bookkeeping and accountability to the people on how the tax money is spent;
4. To get an acceptable financial start position, without the heavy debt burden of today, with more than USD 2,5 billion in direct monetary relief by the good people of the Netherlands in Europe;
5. To get the hundreds of millions in additional funds through the social economic initiative;
6. To give government the opportunity to pay for education, health care and welfare for all its people who need it;
7. For better roads and more housing;
8. For fewer (but in any case not more) taxes;
9. To remain within the Kingdom and to enjoy the benefits thereof, but to also carry responsibility for human rights, education for all, combating poverty and cooperation with other islands on a couple of small joint tasks;
10. To be sure of the rule of law through a Joint Court of Justice on Curaçao and the Supreme Court in the Netherlands in Europe.
One should vote NO:
1. To stay where we are for the next 10 years or even go back in prosperity and leave those who are needy, to take care of themselves;
2. Not to get an autonomous Curaçao, to keep two layers of government, and to continue to pay taxes in Curaçao that go to other islands in the Netherlands Antilles;
3. To keep the present state of government, with no proper bookkeeping and no accountability to the people on how the tax money is spent, inducing corruption, favoritism, populism and discrimination;
4. To keep the current financial position, keep the heavy debt burden of today of more than USD 2,5 billion for Curaçao alone;
5. To let the politicians of the opposition go negotiate with Mr. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands in Europe to try to receive some other form of relief, without any conditions whatsoever;
6. To remain without education, health care and welfare for all people in Curaçao, only a selected few politicians and their families should benefit;
7. For roads with potholes and people without houses, living in huts in the mondi, without water, without electricity, without food on the table;
8. For many more taxes, because we do not already pay enough;
9. To reject agreements made by our elected officials of Curaçao with our partners in the Kingdom, just because we can, that is just because we have the power to reject them and to prevent that the St. Maarten and Bonaire people can take the journey that they have elected to take, just because we can, that is just because it is within our power to frustrate their aims; and
10. For NO human rights, NO education for all, NO combating poverty and NO cooperation with our brothers and sisters on the other islands of St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, Saba and Bonaire. Just because we can say NO.
The choice is YOURS. Your vote counts. Go and vote. If you love Curaçao and its people, the choice is obvious.
About the author
The author of this document is an attorney at law with the Joint Court of Justice of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. He was born on Curaçao in 1969. He has no direct personal interest in the outcome of the referendum. He is not a politician. He is however an advocate for human rights and frequently publishes blogs on this topic. He also organized the 2004 "March against corruption, discrimination and intimidation" in Curaçao, the biggest march in the history of Curaçao, in which more than 5000 people marched peacefully and harmoniously. He is a fervent advocate for a YES vote in the upcoming referendum, for the reasons explained in this document.
Curaçao, 22 March 2009.
Eric R. de Vries