Hundreds of citizens in Curaçao are renewing their calls for Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath to resign amid anti-austerity protests that continue on Friday (June 26).
The protests have threatened to reach a tipping point after riots broke out in sections of the capital Willemstad, with several state-owned police vehicles overturned and set ablaze as well as capitalist stores looted.
The impasse reportedly started earlier this week after trash collectors went on strike and took to the streets against Dutch-imposed budget cuts. Protesters then clashed with the police and stormed a government building in Fort Amsterdam as they demanded Rhuggenaath’s resignation.
Reacting to the Curaçao riots, Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, Raymond Knops, said on Thursday, “It is very serious what is happening there.”
The Punda and Otrobanda districts have been completely sealed off by police following reports of looting and will remain closed for the time being.
The riots have triggered a fierce debate in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament as the European country, which governs Curaçao, announced sweeping austerity measures—a move strongly rejected by local residents who claim the sitting Government has struggled to manage the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Knops, speaking on NOS TV, explained further that the conditions attached to the liquidity support for the Dutch-Caribbean countries, including Curaçao, during the coronavirus pandemic will remain in place.
He contended, however, there were no conditions for humanitarian assistance, such as the food parcels that thousands of people now depend on, but that there are conditions for the loans to the governments.
MP André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party pointed out that the reforms and cost-cutting measures have been necessary for a while, but that the decisions were delayed until the last moment.
Bosman, while noting that the Dutch government was ‘naturally willing to help’ during this time of crisis, he claimed it was equally important that the Curaçao government takes its responsibility.
Prime Minister Rhuggenaath, in a terse statement, said that the state secretary has been kept up-to-date with the developments in Curaçao.