Tuesday, August 16, 2022

June 14, 2021  WILLEMSTAD - Is the new MFK government, which will be sworn in on Monday, pushing Curaçao again into political chaos and resentment with the Netherlands? Or is intended Prime Minister Gilmar 'Pik' Pisas going in a different direction than his predecessor and party founder Gerrit Schotte? Pisas' first words sound conciliatory, both towards The Hague and towards the Dutch taxpayer.

‘No arguing, but mutual respect’

"We have not come to quarrel with the Netherlands, but to come to solutions for Curaçao in mutual respect," Pisas said recently in the Fort Amsterdam government center. He presented his list of seven ministers to Governor Lucille George-Wout for the cabinet he will form together with Partido Nashonal di Pueblo (PNP).

Pisas (49) is a former cop who grew up in the Curaçao countryside of Bandabou (western side of the island). Among his supporters, he is considered a hero, because he rose from a poor family to the premiership. On the website Caribbean Network, local journalist Oscar van Dam describes Pisas as 'diligent and hardworking'. He also states: “Pisas likes to win. He is performance-oriented.”

The economy is in shambles

The new prime minister will need to be diligent and hardworking because Curaçao’s economy is in shambles. Thousands of people on the island lost their jobs due to the pandemic, many became dependent on food assistance programs. Tourism is starting up, but the oil refinery, once a major employer, has been inoperative for a year and a half. "We know that the situation is precarious," Pisas admits.

Ten years ago, Curaçao became an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Movemento Futuro Kòrsou (MFK) was allowed to appoint the prime minister for the first time. That turned out to be one of the most turbid periods between Curaçao and the Netherlands; with a looted treasury, flirting with the Venezuelan regime and deposing Schotte as prime minister. Schotte eventually disappeared in jail from late 2018 to November 2020 for money laundering and official corruption.

"The atmosphere is expectant"

Never again, hopes many people from Curaçao. "The atmosphere is expectant," columnist George Lichtveld said in a telephone conversation. Many new Members of Parliament and ministers have hardly any administrative experience, he notes. And the choice of Chester Peterson and Rutsel Martha as formateurs – both outspokenly anti-Dutch – does not bode well. In an opinion piece, Lichtveld even called it 'a disguised declaration of war' against the Netherlands.

The first split point is already emerging: the Netherlands assisted several times financially during the corona crisis. To monitor how that money is being spent, Minister Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) made agreements with the previous government about a Caribbean Agency for Reform and Development (COHO). This should ensure proper spending of Dutch aid money. But the new prime minister sees this as a violation of autonomy.

"Heard too long that we can't do it ourselves"

Pisas wants to 'rethink' COHO. The coalition agreement is full of words like 'less Kingdom'. During the election campaign, he told his supporters: "We've heard for too long that we can't do it ourselves."

The desired curtailment of Dutch interference makes Pisas attractive to Dutch citizens: "It is not the intention that the Dutch taxpayer, nor those of Aruba and Sint Maarten, should pay for the funding of Curaçao."

That will be music to the ears of many Dutch people. But at the same time, The Hague does not benefit from a new period of mismanagement and looking away. Knops, therefore, stands firm: the rules surrounding COHO are not tampered with. Moreover, as an extra condition for the payment of new corona support, the outgoing undersecretary demands that the salaries of ministers in Curaçao be reduced by a quarter. The previous government did not meet that requirement.

'What is Schotte's influence?'

One of the biggest questions on Curaçao is: what will be the influence of Schotte on the new cabinet? Officially, the MFK founder may not hold any administrative office for several years. But even when Schotte was behind bars, he regularly called his MFK faction in parliament.

In 2019 Pisas told Rick Hart of Radio Hoyer 2: "The political party belongs to him; we cannot deny that."

A possible aversion to the Netherlands and the strengthening of ties with Venezuela, where dictator Maduro rules on the ruins of Hugo Chavez, is also a cause for concern. In 2011, the Korsou Fuerte & Autonomo (KFO) foundation, of which Chester Peterson was co-founder, wrote:

“We are on our way to eliminating every colonial figure or institution from our image of the state. The lieutenant governor has already left and now only the governor, Sinterklaas and the queen have to follow.”

The same Peterson wrote the coalition agreement for the new cabinet.

Initially, Rutsel Martha, former minister of Justice for the Netherlands Antilles, also contributed to the formation. His ties to the Maduro regime are close. Caracas asked him last summer to assist a businessman friend arrested in Cape Verde against extradition to the US. This Alex Saab, the international handyman for Maduro and large-scale trader with the Venezuelan regime, is suspected of money laundering. Martha must save him from extradition.

"People underestimate me"

“I hold my breath,” says Lichtveld. "If Pisas listens too much to these people, then that's a problem." The future will tell. Perhaps the former cop from the poor Soto district has already separated himself from his old comrades much further than Curaçao expected. Pisas himself said during the March elections: “All my life people underestimated me. But time after time I achieve my goals, time after time I deliver good performance. Even now.

SXM Radio Online


September 7, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Michael K. Williams, who as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on “The Wire” created one of the most beloved and enduring characters in a prime era of television, died Monday. Williams was found dead Monday afternoon by family members in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment, New York City police said. He was 54. His death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose, the NYPD said. The medical examiner was investigating the cause of death. Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most popular character among the devoted fans of “The Wire,” the HBO show that ran from 2002 to 2008 and is re-watched constantly in streaming.

September 8, 2021 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Britney Spears’ father filed Tuesday to end the court conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years. James Spears filed his petition to terminate the conservatorship in Los Angeles Superior Court. “As Mr. Spears has said, again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter,” the document says. “If Ms. Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance.” Judge Brenda Penny, who oversees the case, will need to approve the move. Britney Spears attorney Matthew Rosengart said in an email the filing “represents another legal victory for Britney Spears — a massive one — as well as vindication for Ms. Spears.”

September 8, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — With Katie Holmes and Lil’ Kim on his front row and singer Marina on the mic high above his runway, Christian Siriano helped kicked off New York Fashion Week’s first big pandemic round of in-person shows Tuesday with a flurry of neon and lace-inspired in part by all the Italian women in his life. From ornate Gotham Hall, beneath a stained-glass skylight 70 feet up, Siriano’s commitment to size inclusivity was never stronger as he opened and closed the show with plus-size breakout model Precious Lee. She first walked in a stunning yellow trouser suit with wide loose pants and an asymmetrical jacket, a matching crossover bralette underneath.

September 7, 2021  VENICE, Italy (AP) — Paul Schrader knows he has a limited number of films left, so whatever he does from here on out is going to be for himself. At 75 years old, the writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” and director of “American Gigolo” and “Mishima” was even somewhat prepared to call it a day after his 2018 film “First Reformed,” for which he got his first Oscar nomination. He didn’t want to. He just knew it might be the reality. “I thought I would go back to this character again for about the fifth time,” Schrader said in a recent interview. By “this character” he means “the man in the room.” It’s Travis Bickle. It’s John LeTour. It’s Julian Kay. And it’s a formula he’s been working with for 45 years.

Business News

September 8, 2021  -Stocks were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday after a lackluster session on Wall Street, where weak jobs data and pandemic concerns weighed on sentiment. Shares rose in Tokyo after economic growth for the April-June quarter was revised upward to an annualized 1.9% from an earlier estimate of 1.3%. “Any feel-good factor was ignored, though, given the climb was less than half of the 4.20% fall in Q1,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary. “Japan will be lucky to break even this year as the current Covid-19 wave will almost certainly have weighed on domestic consumption,” he said.

September 8, 2021 NEW YORK (AP) — There will be something missing at two Whole Foods stores opening next year: the rows of cashiers. Amazon, which owns the grocery chain, said Wednesday that it will bring its cashier-less technology to two Whole Foods stores for the first time, letting shoppers grab what they need and leave without having to open their wallets. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after customers leave the store with them. But there will be an option for those who want to shop the old-fashioned way: Self-checkout lanes will be available that take cash, gift cards and other types of payment. Amazon first unveiled the cashier-less technology in 2018 at an Amazon Go convenience store and has expanded it to larger Amazon supermarkets. But it will be the first time it has appeared at Whole Foods, a chain of more than 500 grocery stores Amazon bought four years ago.

September 8, 2021  BEIJING (AP) — An avalanche of changes launched by China’s ruling Communist Party has jolted everyone from tech billionaires to school kids. Behind them: President Xi Jinping’s vision of making a more powerful, prosperous country by reviving revolutionary ideals, with more economic equality and tighter party control over society and entrepreneurs. Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for the party to return to its “original mission” as China’s economic, social and cultural leader and carry out the “ rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation.” The party has spent the decade since then silencing dissent and tightening political control. Now, after 40 years of growth that transformed China into the world’s factory but left a gulf between a wealthy elite and the poor majority, the party is promising to spread prosperity more evenly and is pressing private companies to pay for social welfare and back Beijing’s ambition to become a global technology competitor.

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