Seated next to a journalist on an inaugural flight of a regional Caribbean airline company from Colombia, Medellin to Curacao, the Netherlands Antilles -- only to be called such a short while longer -- one starts talking shop.
"So what do you cover? And what do you make of this Chavez thing and freedom of the press and what not? Do you think he might actually be dangerous for Curacao?"
No one ever thought it would come this far. But the question is on everyone's mind. We might have to start taking it seriously -- soon.
Only recently did a piece in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf appear titled "War with Venezuela Threatens" by Roy Klopper.
He explains, in a rather detailed fashion, that Dutch defense is taking into account that the Netherlands Antilles, and therefore the Netherlands, could very well be on the verge of war with the South American country, Venezuela, only because Hugo Chavez, its extreme leftist president, has a bit of a crush on Curacao.
Right off the coast of his nation lie the islands Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba. According to experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Development in Holland they are " players in vulnerable regions," as quoted in De Telegraaf.
The same ministry goes on to warn: "The safety of the Kingdom and particularly the Windward Islands could be compromised."
The report states bluntly that the country "must take into account the need for military presence in the Antillean region to strengthen the base."
Klopper goes on to explain that never before in the history of the Netherlands has an official report or institution so openly speculated about the possibility of an armed conflict with Venezuela.
Especially the long 'dictatorship' of Chavez makes those concerned acutely aware of possible danger. Departmental experts predict that "the situation in the region could come under pressure over the coming decades, partly because of the strategic location of the Antilles."
For now experts are not expecting an attack, but the future is decidedly less rose colored, say some. "That possibility can not be totally excluded." They go on to point out that Chavez is not only 'friends' with questionable regimes like Iran and Cuba, but also has connections to terrorist groups like the Colombian FARC.
According to the ministry that is the reason that it remains essential that the Netherlands continue to play a significant military role in the Caribbean region, even as the Netherlands Antilles dissolve. The Navy and Army are to operate continuously from Curacao and Aruba.
With the recent discovery of what Chavez calls a "super well" of natural gas while drilling off his country's Caribbean coast, there might be even more to be worried about.
Some reports claim that the deposit could be nearly twice as large as originally thought, thereby reaching the territorial waters of Curacao and Aruba. If Hugo already had a crush, this new attribute to the apple of his eye could make them irresistible.
Chavez said Venezuela has been drilling in various spots offshore with Russian, Spanish and Italian companies.
Talking shop, might just be shop. And these matters are best left to experts on international affairs. But if reports are true, and fears justified -- and fears are tangible in Curacao -- then the region is set for an interesting future, to say the least.
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