KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Curacao’s former leader was holed up Sunday inside what used to be his official offices, accusing the acting governor of overstepping her constitutional powers by forming an interim government three weeks before general elections on the Dutch Caribbean island.
Gerrit Schotte dissolved parliament and called Oct. 19 elections before resigning Aug. 3 as Curacao’s prime minister when his government lost its majority. He insisted that Acting Governor Adeel van der Pluijm-Vrede sparked a bloodless "coup" by swearing in an interim administration on Saturday.
"The reality is that this is a coup because they have no constitutional basis to do this. There is some hidden agenda to stop the election or manipulate the election," Schotte told The Associated Press during a Sunday phone interview from the prime minister’s offices. Several supporters have joined him in the government house in Willemstad, he said.
Schotte, who plans to run as leader of the Curacao Future Movement in next month’s elections, is seeking support from regional governments including Venezuela, 35 miles away. Meanwhile, he’s been sending "the message to everyone to stay relaxed."
In Curacao’s colorful capital of Willemstad, some citizens dismissed Schotte’s claims of a "coup" as political gamesmanship ahead of the vote. Most people went about their normal business, some heading to church while others frolicked at the beach or rested at home.
"There is no coup, the ex-PM spreads this around the world," said Peter van Leeuwen, who heads a local conservation group. "The streets are quiet."
Enchi Enmo, owner of the Seaside Terrace restaurant, said: "Things here are normal, no problems. People are going to the beach."
Five political parties had called for an interim government to prepare for the Oct. 19 vote and manage the island’s affairs. Parliamentarians have also alleged that Schotte was misusing public funds to help his faction, a claim he denies.
Curacao’s interim leader, Stanley Betrian, seemed unperturbed by Schotte’s allegations and his decision to remain inside the government offices. Betrian, a former lieutenant governor, told local reporters he has started work as interim prime minister and he doesn’t need an office to carry out his duties.
It’s unclear how long Schotte and his supporters intend to stay in the government offices. Schotte says police were ordered to kick them out, but they didn’t carry through because the corps’ political loyalty is divided.
Sunday phone calls to Curacao’s acting governor rang unanswered. Van der Pluijm-Vrede assumed the role of acting governor last week after Gov. Frits Goedgedrag left the island for medical treatment overseas.
It’s not the first time that Schotte has spoken about coups in Curacao.
In May, Schotte announced that he suspended the island’s entire secret service agency, accusing agents of planning a coup in 2010, the year he became prime minister following the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles political grouping. He and the secret service agency had several run-ins after the island obtained greater autonomy in 2010.
Curacao is an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the governor is the representative of the Dutch monarch. The islands’ ties to the Netherlands date to 1634, when a Dutch trading settlement was established there.