The normalcy of corruption and mediocracy in Curaçao

A few weeks ago, I read: Trouble in paradise: corruption in the Caribbean has become normalized (The Guardian, 4 March 2023). This article was based on Transparency International’s corruption perception index (CPI) published at the end of January this year. This article states, “Corruption in the Caribbean has shown no improvement over the last decade.” Our region seems to be just content at the bottom of the CPI.

Just how ‘normal’ is corruption in Curaçao? Let me illustrate.

During a discussion of Parliament last week on the Coast Guard, Juniël Carolina, Member of Parliament representing the largest Curaçaoan governing party MFK (Movement for the Future of Curaçao), said that the 29,000 kilos of drugs that were intercepted in 2022 by the Coast Guard should be sold to The Netherlands. According to the calculations he made on a piece of paper he read from, this would fetch Curaçao ‘almost a trillion USD,’ which, by the way, is more than a million times larger than the GDP of Curaçao and even larger than that of Turkey (all World Bank figures).

Ok, Mr. Carolina cannot count and does not understand economic figures, but that’s not the point. How can a Member of Parliament, who was once a policeman, say something like this? Did he suggest we become a narco-state, get shunned by the world, and ruin our financial markets? Did he foresee Curaçao being able to legally export these drugs, get clearance by customs, have them sold, and put the money in a bank, either locally or internationally?

Mr. Carolina’s political party, MFK, is no stranger to corruption, crime, and mediocracy. The former political leader of MFK and former Prime Minister of Curaçao was found guilty of, among others, corruption, money laundering, and forgery and sentenced to three years in prison. The former MFK Minister of Finance is serving a prison sentence of 28 years for his role in the assassination in 2013 of the then-most popular politician on the island. The ex-MFK Minister of Health will soon go to jail due to fraud committed last decade. Another of Mr. Carolina’s party colleagues was convicted for leaking confidential information from a secret Parliament Committee meeting. Two coalition politicians, one from MFK and the other from the junior coalition partner, the People’s National Party (PNP), were deemed not ministerial (for Economic Affairs and Justice, respectively) two years ago, due to their criminal past. Yet one of them is still a Member of Parliament for MFK. This month the Court of Appeal in Willemstad, Curaçao, disapproved of how the MFK Minister of Health tried to interfere and stop an ongoing investigation of mega fraud that rocked the healthcare system. Earlier, this Minister denied wrongdoing by declaring not to be aware of trias politica (democratic separation of powers).

What is happening here? Why have watchdogs, social activists, and integrity commissions not been able to create change? Why are these corrupt and criminally inept politicians not outvoted? A common popular sentiment here is: “everyone has stolen in the past, so give these (newbies) a chance to also steal.” And people mean it because they keep voting for these types of politicians. Obviously, without the votes, they can not become Members of Parliament. Corruption has become so embedded that it demands greater attention. It’s time to ask ourselves why we tolerate corrupt and mediocre politicians and keep voting for them, knowing that no society has made progress with corrupt and mediocre decision-makers.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Alex Rosaria, born and raised in Curaçao, is a member of Global Americans and a fellow of the Caribbean Policy Consortium. He’s a freelancer in Asia & Pacific. He worked as UNDP Officer in Chad and Nicaragua and was Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance, and Member of Parliament.

Author: alexdavidrosaria

Alex Rosaria is from Curaçao. He has a MBA from University of Iowa. He was Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and United Nations Development Programme Officer in Africa and Central America. He is an independent consultant active in Asia and the Pacific.

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