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Populism in the Caribbean; Curacao

Populism in Curaçao exhibits the universal features such as the denunciation of the elites and the glorification of the people. The media are an important channel for these elements of populism. It also has some local features, including the inclination towards conspiracy theory, a preference for direct democracy, anti-colonialism, and a dependence upon the rhetoric of ethnicity, socialism,religion, patronage and nepotism. The populists draw inspiration from President Chavez of Venezuela and to a lesser extent Geert Wilders, the populist in theNetherlands who followed in the footsteps of his countryman Pim Fortuyn. The example of Wilders is ironic, because part of Wilders’ agenda is to get rid of Curaçao and the other Dutch islands. It is also very critical of migration from the islands.

The inclination towards conspiracy theory

Populists in Curaçao promote theories about how elites construct networks. They argue that the elites use these networks to extract wealth from society systematically, especially by sponsoring political parties and the media in order to gain control over the government apparatus and state owned companies. These are the methods that the elites are supposed to use to maintain the status quo. The explicit objective of the populists is to free these institutions,especially the state owned companies, and give them back to the people.

Patronage and nepotism is part of this theory. Populists state that the elites have gained control over these institutions and organizations by appointing loyalists. Ironically the remedy the populists offer is the same; they appoint persons loyal to the populist.

The process of constitutional change has made it easier for populist politicians to remove persons that they regarded as disloyal. Most senior civil servants have been removed and new ones appointed, as were members of supervisory boards. Many chief executive officers of state owned enterprises have also been removed and are under political pressure.

 A preference for direct democracy

The populists communicate their messagethat they want to be closer to the people, and that they want to change theelectoral system to involve neighborhoods in government, although this is not aclaim that is exclusive to the populists. All notions of democracy that arebased on the principle of sovereignty of the people share this ideal.

Local factors


Most populists want Curaçao to becomeindependent from the Netherlands. They say that the people are second class citizens within the Kingdom of the Netherlands Antilles. There are several arguments supporting this claim. First, the welfare arrangements within the Kingdom have great discrepancies. Second, citizens from the island do not enjoyequal rights in the Netherlands and are stigmatized.

The ideal of independence is not the exclusive domain of populists; others also share this ideal, but they do not denigratethe mother country.


One of the populists, a typically, discriminates against colored people, calling the elite the black jetset. But, in general, the populists also hate the Dutch government. This is an example of their discourse about culture and history. Ethnicity is a sensitive topic that has to be handled with care, because populists do notwant to scare off minorities.


Most populists state that the poor are poor because they are robbed by the elites. They declare that wealth should be taken from the rich and given to the poor.


The populists claim that they are sentand guided by God. In their discourse they often refer to God and recite fromthe bible. They associate the elite with evil and the devil.

Patronage and nepotism

Patronage and nepotism have already been discussed. The populists create jobs for the people, especially those who are loyal to the leader and the party or who are responsible for mobilizing votes. Also relatives are often accommodated. The objective often extends beyond securing votes. The objective is also to gain control of institutions and organizations.

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