THE HAGUE – Minister Stef Blok (Foreign Affairs) has concluded an agreement on the abolition of a border blockade with the former Venezuelan vice president Tareck El Aissami. Blok knew that the EU would impose sanctions on El Aissami, who is accused of torture, but did business with him, reports the Dutch current affairs program Zembla Wednesday.
The conversation between Blok and El Aissami took place in April. In June, the EU imposed the Venezuelan sanctions.
Zembla indicated it has the minutes of the meeting between Blok with the prime ministers of Curaçao and Aruba in April. “Probably the expansion of EU sanctions on individuals would follow after the elections,” Blok said during the consultation.
The EU placed El Aissami on the sanctions list for suspicions of torture. The United States already imposed sanctions on the vice president in 2017. According to the American authorities, El Aissami would play a key role in international drug trafficking.
The Aruban Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes is critical of the performance of Blok. “I am not in a picture with these people either. I also hope that I do not get a picture with someone who afterwards shows that he is a mass murderer,” said Wever-Croes in Zembla’s broadcast.
At the beginning of this year, Venezuela closed the border with Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The controversial government of Venezuela said this in terms of dissatisfaction with the, in their view, inadequate control of contraband from the islands. Not only would people illegally cross the border, but also weapons, gold and money.
The islands are a short distance from the South American country. Aruba is only 30 kilometers away.
The border closure led, among other things, that shortage of fruit and vegetables on the islands. The islands were no longer send Venezuelans back to their country because of the miserable humanitarian and economic situation.
In an attempt to lift the blockade, Blok traveled to Caracas in April for negotiations with El Aissami. Blok succeeded. El Aissami spoke of a “historical agreement”. At the joint press conference he also said that the appointment of Mata Figueroa had been discussed. He was indeed appointed as a consul a few weeks before. He too is associated with drug crime.
Premier Wever-Croes is also unhappy about this agreement by Blok. “You do not want someone like that inside. But diplomatically it was not possible to keep him out of it.”
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs says in a reaction that the Netherlands has concluded the deal with Venezuela with the knowledge of all three prime ministers of the islands. A spokesman emphasized that it was in the economic interest of the islands to lift the blockade as soon as possible.
Concerning the controversial consul, the ministry responded earlier to parliamentary questions from the Dutch political party PVV in May of this year. The ministry stated that there are no indications “in the form of a conviction for serious criminal offenses” to block the appointment.
According to the ministry, there must also be “compelling reasons” to refuse a consul with a view to maintaining good diplomatic ties.