Bati Bleki Buzz, weekly recap July 14th, 2018

The Perfect Board Member

I saw the former-former MinPres, Nel Oduber answer a political crybaby last week. He answered well. He lined up the perfect qualifications for a board member of a public company.

Educated. Experienced. Financially independent. Team Player & Available.

If you have all of the above you may serve on a board of a public company, working for your country. In Nel’s case he also has a sharp tongue and a sense of humor, so those serving with him on the Setar board, will not be bored.

We should be grateful to these people for devoting their time, to supervise our potoshi!

My friend Rene Kan wrote to me the following at 5:45am this morning: It is a disgrace when I read the online newspapers, while traveling, and see discussions on the nomination of a person like Nel Oduber to the board of Setar.

People should be ashamed of themselves. A gentleman who has been our Prime Minister three times, with decades of experience in government, who definitely has the brains, and the time, and the experience it takes to be on a board; we should be honored and say “thank you Nel,” for being willing to invest your time to do this.

We should be more concerned about the nominating of people who are incapable, too young, too inexperienced or “too busy” to show up to board meetings.

And we should be careful of people on boards who need the money! If they need the money, don’t make them your board members.

Our MinTourHealth enjoys the luxury of having a father like Nel who is available for an appointment to the board. Good for him.

Stop politicizing everything, and let’s work in bettering our beautiful island. We need more Nels on boards. It would be very helpful to have people like him in more public companies.

Politicians: You should spend time changing some of the laws that dictate that a board member must resign at age 65. That would be a smarter and more productive discussion. At age 65, educated and experienced people are in their intellectual prime, having mastered knowledge and understanding, to arrive at wisdom.  

Wisdom is rare and hard to get.

Take for example AZV. If you are 65 you must resign. Which is not smart. The best candidates are 65, with time on their hands, experience, and motivation to work for our island.

BatiBlekiBuzz: And Awg 3,600 is reasonable. Most board stipends fall around that ballpark.   

Rumor has it that Ennia paid USD 100,000 per celebrity board member, former governors, former US politicians/diplomats, but then everything about that company was extravagant, in the spirit of the owner a former Minister of Economic Affairs to the Shaq of Iran, before the Ayatollah Khomeini took that country over.   

We haven’t talked about the refinery in a while….

Get out while you can, you have a window of opportunity

A number of recent articles prompted me to talk to some of my friends at RdA, this is what they said:

Oil prices are continuing to go up, and the Citgo Aruba Crude Upgrader Project continues to be a very good business plan. The problem is Venezuela. This country cannot possibly implement a good business plan!

So, the Project is stuck and unfortunately, GOA does not have any good alternative partners, it is sort of trapped in bed with Citgo.

Meanwhile, the Citgo board of directors denied the request for $40 million to speed up the Project and develop the needed detail estimate.

They have been told to go to plan B. which is to develop the estimate using the current staff and not to hire any additional people, which could take about 18 months.

FREE ADVICE: GOA needs a high-powered attorney, as the Director of RdA, in order to compel Citgo and make them comply with the entire agreement. We don’t believe Citgo can comply with the part of the agreement having to do with the Upgrader Project because it cannot get financing for the Project. Subsequently GOA/RdA are in a unique position to put Citgo on notice and not harm the corporate guarantee clause in the agreement between Citgo and RdA, the further they allow Citgo to kick that can down the road, the more they harm the guarantee clause and the more it will cost us.

GOA/RdA needs to react now without any further delay, otherwise they will live with dire consequences.

Declare the refinery project dead, which it is, and explore other options for that area, the 80’ deep water Reef Berths along with the Finger Piers, are very valuable; my source says it is the only valuable asset, the rest is junk, it could be beautifully developed as a large commercial harbor!

So, what’s happening at the refinery right now?

They are just using it as an Oil Storage Terminal same as Valero did. Basically, PdVSA moves crude in from Venezuela and using the Reef Berths moves crude oil into large, 600,000-barrel storage tanks, for later export to Citgo’s U.S. refineries. They also have other customers moving crude in from the Middle East using Ultra Large Crude Carriers (ULCC) and Very Large Crude Carriers, (VLCC) too large to go through the Panama Canal or into U.S. Ports, i.e., Trans-shipping Terminal.

Musical Chairs

The recent press release makes it sound like Eddy Oduber was promoted, but Citgo has actually demoted him over the past couple of years. And now to move him to being in charge of the Project that is going nowhere is moving him into a dead-end job and setting him up for failure.

Citgo is making the same mistake as Coastal did in 1990, and MEP is making the same mistake as they made supporting Coastal’ s strategy of bringing expats in to fill top management positions where there are well qualified locals to fill those top jobs. At the time, Coastal kept the well qualified locals in lower management positions whereas Citgo is setting the locals up for termination.

Starting with Earl Peterson (former Valero Director of Maintenance), Citgo terminated him for no reason whatsoever, and now Ray Buckley, with Eddy Oduber probably next on the list.

Terminating Earl Peterson backfired on Citgo and they were forced to take him back, and now they have him around, but they already gave the title and the job to an expat.

According to a recent article in US News, June 28th, Citgo terminated Ray Buckley, no reasons given, Ray was VP & General Manager. Yes, he is near or at retirement age, but he is very smart and loyal and while we’ve been asking kiko ta kiko, he is not saying anything. But he’s that kind of guy and won’t say anything negative.

Eddy Oduber and Ray Buckley are close friends and were college roommates at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Good school. So now Eddy is in the driver’s seat, and closer to the door because Citgo is interested in putting Venezuelans in those top jobs.

Alvin Koolman?  Sure, he is the current Director of RdA, but he did not really get along with Ray Buckley, and perhaps played a part in getting Ray terminated. Who knows?! Although Alvin Koolman, just like Ray Buckley is a very smart chemical engineer, there is one difference, Alvin Koolman is a party dude. You will always find Alvin Koolman at party headquarters.

I did see his name on the alleged, handwritten GOA chopping-block list! But, although Alvin Koolman is an AVP political appointee, historically he and his family are deep-rooted MEP followers and he is yellow though and through. He is a smart chemical engineer, but not a brilliant business man.


They have no heavy crude to upgrade so Aruba can’t climb in bed with them, and they certainly would not want to deal with PdVSA again. They are going after the assets of PdVSA, in lieu of the $2 billion they are owed. They will be asking Citgo in court ordered depositions how PdVSA is preventing them from seizing crude oil that was stored in the Aruba refinery.

CBCS, Centrale Bank van Curacao en Sint Maarten, requested emergency measure for ENNIA

Insurance is a risky business. And for the past few years I have been reading articles in the Daily Herald of St. Maarten about Ennia, and then as you know the hurricanes came.

That insurance company that promises worry free living, was in trouble way before last year, and the wind and water didn’t help.

The story of Ennia involves all kind of important people and deserves a movie script. Basically, a very shrewd businessman by the name of Hushang Ansary who the Minister of Economic Affairs to the Shah of Iran was, escaped to the USA with his fortune, in the billions, when the Ayatollah Khomein took that country over, and he has been operating there since then, with substantial business deals going on in the Dutch Caribbean.

Ennia is one of his businesses. Mind you, he also owns Banco di Caribe.  

Maybe you don’t remember, but Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was the last Shah of Iran from 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution in 1979. He was not a good guy. He ruled the country with his secret police and a close group of friends and family members and while the country was secular, the autocratic, narcissistic self-declared emperor, no less, believed himself a man chosen by Allah Himself to transform Iran and create the “Great Civilization.”

In reality he just lined his pockets with billions in oil wealth, and everyone around him profited as well, until their heads rolled.

Ansary was once considered by the CIA to be a member of “the Shah’s Inner Circle.” He must have learned a trick or two, serving the Pahlavi imperial family, in the Iranian government as the Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance from 1992. He was also Iran’s Ambassador to the United States from 1967-1969.

We can safely say, that he went to school, during his most formative years so to speak, in one of the most corrupt and totalitarian regimes. And in the USA, he did not waste time, he became a devoted Republican and a former friend and business partner of Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, James Baker; got involved with the George W. Bush presidential campaign and later in his son’s Job Bush. He established a university in St Martin, which he later sold for millions.

The Daily Herald in St Maarten ran a number of articles about the subject. Who was involved? The accounting firm of KPMG. They were in charge of safeguarding the cash. But then on their watch, there was a story about 100 million euro missing, and a mafia called the Sopi Group, concluding multi-million-dollar real estate deals without sufficient collateral, over a cup of soup. I also read that there was an attempt to withdraw $100 million from EC investments securities account, which is the mother company, but maybe it is the same story, told twice.

I am sure all the soup drinkers were interested when the news broke that the Dutch government is working on a reconstruction fund for the island.

Not long ago, a friend of Aruba, with St Nicolas roots, the former finance Minister of St. Maarten, Richard Gibson, became the new president and general managing director for Ennia Caribe Holding NV.

From the press release: Recently the central bank on both Aruba and SM identified Ennia Caribe Leven NV, Ennia Caribe Schade NV and Ennia Caribe Zorg NV, (Ennia), as non-compliant with applicable laws and regulations and they decided to take measures to rectify the situation within Ennia.

But when it proved to be insufficient, they applied for emergency measures to restructure the company and this was approved by the Court to safeguarding the interests of policyholders, insured parties.

The emergency measure, we are told, does not apply to Banco di Caribe (BdC), but the central banks can still exercise influence indirectly

Rest in Peace, Oscar Henriquez

In 2009, the Aruba Tourism Authority honored 16 individuals who contributed to the development of tourism on the island, recognizing the important role they played in Aruba’s journey which started more than 60 years ago.

This is what was said at the time, at the ceremony about Oscar Henriquez:

Oscar Henriquez contributed greatly to the development of Aruba’s tourism industry was As the Commissioner of Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism from 1955 to 1963 he had complete involvement in the preparation of the early development of what was to become a successful tourism industry. At the time he was also President of the government-sponsored company named NV Aruven which was responsible for planning, financing and negotiating the construction and management contracts for the Aruba Caribbean Hotel, the Aruba Sheraton Hotel and the Americana Hotel.

We recognize and thank Oscar Henriquez for his life’s work.

May he rest in peace.

Our heartfelt condolences to family members and friends.

The founding of the ARUBA CARIBBEAN HOTEL: “Aruba will never be the same!”

(Article originally written by Fern Pochettino)

After World War II, during which the Lago Refinery supplied 1/6 of all fuel used by the allied forces, the workforce of more than 9,000 was greatly reduced, creating massive unemployment on Aruba.

In 1955, the PPA political party had won the central government elections in Curaçao and the island-government elections in Aruba. This put Juan Enrique Irausquin, the party leader, in a position to widen the economic foundation of Aruba. Aruba’s white beaches, pleasant climate and friendly and hospitable people would make it perfect for tourism. He began working on expanding Aruba’s infrastructure, particularly water and electricity, assisted by his Deputy of Finance and Tourism, 29-year-old Oscar Henriquez and Ernesto Petronia, Deputy of Public works and Education.

Irausquin and Henriquez convinced the Dutch government to finance the water and electricity plant at a cost of US $ 20,000,000. The Coral Strand Hotel has been Aruba’s first hotel, built in 1943 by Chaiben Neme, an immigrant to Aruba, born in Lebanon, who also took the initiative for the construction of the Basiruti in 1954.

In July 1955, Irausquin and his team began the task of building roads to make the beaches accessible. A coastal road opening the western part of Aruba was built from the gas station next to the harbor in Oranjestad to the Holiday Inn – a road now named after him. This road would lead to the beautiful, new hotels that were planned. The first to be built was the Aruba Caribbean Hotel, a deluxe hotel originally of 125 rooms, ultimately expanded to 400 rooms.

The beach facilities of the hotel had to handle hundreds of cruise tourists who came to Aruba every Thursday. Irausquin and Henriquez sought shareholders from Venezuela, not only for investment purposes but also to create interest for Aruba’s tourism. They found 100 shareholders and, under the direction of Venezuelan lawyer Dr. Philip Mallen, the company VenAruba was founded.

Earlier a similar company had been founded in Aruba under the name of Aruven (Aruba Venezuela), and Venaruba was its counterpart in Venezuela. The Aruban government owned 82.82% of Aruven, and the balance was owned by small shareholders. Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jeffrey de Veer was elected the first President of Aruven. The Aruban government guaranteed Afls.3,000,000 for the project.

The young Henriquez went to Miami to negotiate with architect Morris Lapidus, known for such projects as the Fontainebleau, Eden Roc, San Souci and Americana Hotels. Lapidus was hired along with his partner Leo Kornblath and put in charge of the Aruba project. Their design was considered very daring at the time, featuring a lobby constructed in a way that it was always cool without air-conditioning; he brought giant boulders from all over the island to use in tropical gardens. Lapidus combined Holland and America with the Caribbean through a “delfts blauw” mosaic in the main lobby representing the first salute to the American flag at St. Eustatius, then called “the golden rock”.

On August 18, 1956, Irausquin signed the deed founding Aruven, the company that built and owned the hotel. “At the time of the building of the hotel, the number of Lago employees had decreased to 2,000, reaching a crucial low. “I was so relieved to reach this agreement,” Irausquin said.

To select the site for the hotel construction, Morris Lapidus, Jeffrey de Veer, Nic Schuit from Public Works, Deputy Ernesto Petronia and Oscar Henriquez, Director of Tourism, started checking the white sand inch by inch until the beach at the middle of the bay was selected. It had a gentle slope and would not be dangerous to children. Captain Johan Beaujon had rented this whole area for his coconut plantation and had taken care of it during the past 15 – 20 years.

Coconut plantation at Palm Beach

Beaujon had been harbormaster years earlier and advisor to Captain Rodgers and L. G. Smith on selecting the site for the Lago refinery. Henriquez was in charge of the negotiations and finally they agreed on the sum of Afls. 25,000 (!) for the coconuts and the land.

At the groundbreaking on April 26, 1957, where Governor-General Dr. Speekenbrink handled the spade ceremony, Irausquin raised the Dutch flag, witnessed by an impressive crowd of thousands. Executive House President Morris de Woskin handed over a check of $50,000 as a token of his company’s participation in the project. Taylor West Indies Construction Corporation and the local company Bohama were granted the building contracts and construction was ready to start; the contract was signed by Henriquez.

The foundation was finished at the end of September and construction was finally completed in July 1959.

At the grand opening of the Aruba Caribbean on July 18, 1959, Executive House President Morris de Woskin said that “Aruba will never be the same”. How right he was!

In conversation with Michael Lampe

If you recall, I found it cynical that talented musician Michael Lampe joined the AVP list, after having been courted and pursued by the former MinPres.

He was #11 on the list and gathered mere 120 votes last September.

I met him this week, and I was very happy to see him. He is such a positive, bright and dynamic man. He is a father now and shows off the pictures of an adorable little kindergarten boy, who is as active as he is cute.

So, how’s it going, I asked, meaning Parliament and all.

I saw him at the press conference a few days earlier sitting to the right of the former MinInfra, who went on and on for twenty minutes with a tirade outlining the shenanigans of the current MinInfra, see my article, The Pot Calling the Kettle Black.

Michael did not look happy at that press conference, sitting there with a stony face, but I guess he needed to show support.

In answer to my question he said, as expected, that he is learning, and that there is a lot of material he must familiarize himself with, and that he intends to master it all because fresh blood is badly needed in government if change is ever to come about.

The way he explains it, he doesn’t come from a political family. Most of his family members are church going people and shy away from power and influence. He doesn’t come from big business or ambitious enterprise, on the contrary, his roots are artistic and spiritual.

And that is exactly why, he should stay where he is, he explains, in order for this county to get away from the traditional “you scratch my back, I scratch your back” politics. Our system needs more independent people, free thinkers, that are not bound by blind loyalties and affiliations, he said.

We need apolitical politicians, he added, and that is why he fits the role with his background in music and the arts.

Though it is true that the former MinPres was only interested in recruiting Michael’s successful brand and was probably not invested in the needs of the next generation he represents.

Michael did reveal, that the balance is delicate, while he must contribute to the party — otherwise he will not qualify for a spot on the list next time — he also has to make sure he furthers the cause he believes in, so the segment of the population he represents gets what it needs, in a reciprocal system.

What he told me before the elections, still stands and I am quoting:

“I felt,” he said,” that at this time of my life, this is a good move for me; take my music to a bigger platform, create opportunities for other Arubans, inspire and be inspired, give back to the community, serve my country in a broader sense.”

His heart is obviously in the right place. He is interested in culture, and heritage, and who knows might one day be a great Minister of Culture, as an independent ministry, not just an annex.

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July 15, 2018
Rona Coster