Before October 10, the Netherlands Antilles consisted of five islands divided into two regions, the Lesser Antilles and the Leeward Antilles. The Dutch zone in the Lesser Antilles was comprised of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire, while in the Leeward Antilles it encompassed the islands of Sint Eustatius and Saba, as well as half of the island of St. Martin (Sint Maarten). Aruba, a notable hotspot for European and American vacationers, began to distance itself from the rest of the Dutch Antilles in the 1970s, thus creating the first wave of political angst amongst the islands. In the late 1900s, Aruba emerged as a tourist haven. As a result it was deemed the “Vegas” of the Caribbean and had the economic clout to push for more autonomy from the Dutch. In 1986, Aruba separated from the Netherlands Antilles to become a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. With Aruba no longer a member, Curacao assumed the central position within the Dutch Antilles.
For some time, the Netherland Antilles has had the ability to determine its own political organization and membership. Reorganization, however, has not been easy; as both the Dutch government as well as individual islands within the federation have impeded the process. In the early 1990s, the people of Curacao expressed a wish for separation from the Netherland Antilles, and for more autonomy from the Dutch. With its large population and geographical centrality, Curacao had emerged as the economic hub among the five islands. In 1993-1994, The Netherlands Antilles held referendums on the status of the union, but they showed high levels of disagreement among the peoples of the islands. The majority of Curacao’s voters supported restructuring the Dutch Antilles, while those on Sint Maarten voted to remain part of the Dutch Antilles.
Although the residents of Saba, Bonaire, and Sint Eustatius found the idea of full independence appealing, they worried that it would be economically and even socially detrimental. Unfortunately, the potential benefits of independence are often undercut by economic mismanagement. Continuing political ties to the colonizing power can also bring their own benefits, whether through subsidies or immigration preferences. As a result, the residents of the former Dutch colonial zone in the Caribbean have generally sought autonomy as constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, rather than full sovereignty.
The current state of autonomy for the Dutch Caribbean established in October was the result of a 10-year negotiation process. Due to the complexity of the process, several referendums had to be held. In 2008, the Dutch Prime Minster met with representatives from each island to create a preliminary design. The initial plan was to grant Curacao and Sint Maarten autonomy, and make Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius “special municipalities” with in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. During this period, the Dutch government desperately tried to stop the break-up of the Netherlands Antilles. The people of Curacao, however, were determined to proceed, and on August 27th, 2010, they held an election for the first parliament of the new, semi-independent country of Curacao. Gerrit Schotte, who had been the third largest receiver of votes in the final Parliament of Netherlands Antilles, won the seat of Prime Minister. Shotte ran on a campaign called the Mocementu Futuro Korsou, which emphasized development for the people and a healthy and state security.