Citizens of Curacao win campaign for greater autonomy and debt restructuring, 2007-2010


Greater autonomy, having the Netherlands restructure Curacaoan debt.

Time period notes

The debate over autonomy extends further back to the beginning of the decade.

Time period

2007 to 2010


Netherlands Antilles

Location City/State/Province

Jump to case narrative


Citizens of Curacao


Citizens of Sint Maarten and other Antilles islands

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Dutch Government

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Possible violence during the November 13th 2007 rally.

Repressive Violence

Police brutality during arrests


National-Ethnic Identity



Group characterization

Citizens of Curacao

Groups in 1st Segment

Curacaoans; Sint Maartens

Segment Length

6 months

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

Curacao is an island country in the southern Caribbean Sea, near the Venezuelan coast.  Part of the Dutch Antilles, the country of about 150,000 was formerly a Dutch colony.  In a shift away from colonialism, the islands of the Antilles were given a degree of self-government while still linked together as a unit under the Netherlands.

After considerable popular pressure for a shift of governance, the people of Curacao  voted in a referendum in 2005 among three choices: to become fully independent, to become a municipality within the Netherlands, or to become internally autonomous while remaining part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

A majority voted for the third option, but the implementation of this decision was put off until July 2007, then the date was postponed again until 2008.

3000 people participated in a protest rally the night of 13 November 2007.  Continuing the next day, demonstrators blockaded access roads, assisted by boulders and burning tires.  The protest was suppressed by riot police.

The Netherlands set up a Round Table Conference in Caracao for 15 December 2008, which had previously been understood to be the date for implementing autonomy.  The people’s movement feared that once again there would be postponement and also disagreed with the terms of the agreement, claiming that the Dutch would continue to have too much influence on the internal life of the island.  Movement leadership emphasized that they were not invited to the conference.

Demonstrators gathered the night before the conference to begin their street protest and continued the next day. Police arrested two elected officials, including opposition leader Helmin Wiels, reportedly using violence in the process.  The conference failed to resolve the issues.

In the next months the movement continued to criticize the terms of the agreement, emphasizing the Dutch financial influence on the island and fearful that increasing public debts amounting to 1.7 billion euros could land the island in a financial crisis.  “Curacao is not for sale” became the slogan for the protest of 1000 on 21 April 2009 in Curacao’s capital of Willemstad.

A referendum was scheduled for 15 May that included the provision that, if a majority voted for Curacao to become an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom would restructure Curacao’s debt.  

Adding to the drama of the referendum, the Prime Minister of Netherlands Antilles -- the larger entity to which Curacao belonged – threatened to resign if the deal was rejected.  

52% of the voters chose the option of becoming an autonomous country.

With that clarified, the various islands of the Antilles resumed discussions with the Dutch on 25 June 2009.  The entity that had been the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved o 10 October 2010; several of the islands became special municipalities of the Netherlands.  

Curacao became a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which meant autonomy while Amsterdam would retain responsibility for defense and foreign policy, and oversee the debt restructuring.  In the agreement Curacao gained more power in its governance and control over its tax revenues.


"Autonomy for Curaçao and Sint Maarten." Radio Netherlands Worldwide. 23 Mar. 2011. <>.

"Demostrations in Curaçao to Protest Political Reform Agreement." Repeating Islands. 23 Mar. 2011. <>.

"Dutch Antilles Dissolves as Two New Countries Are Created." The Morning News. Issuu, 11 Oct. 2010. 23 Mar. 2011. <>.

Ruari, Cormac M. "Tough Talks Ahead on Antilles." LexisNexis. Het Financieele Dagblad, 16 Aug. 2001. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. <>.

"Two Curaçao Politicians Arrested at Protest." Expatica. 23 Mar. 2011. <>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Rebecca Contreras 23/03/2011