Saturday Night Fever

Saturday night was unforgettable. A mix of the best and the worst Aruba has to offer.

The AHATA Excellence Awards 2022 unfolded at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom. An elegant crowd of locals congregated to celebrate the stars of the tourism industry, the industry which restored this island’s economy, post-pandemic, like no other industry, on no other island in the Caribbean.

Aruba will reach 100% recovery by the end of 2022, which is a miracle by itself because the aftermath of Covid-19 can still be felt around the globe.

We enjoyed  the welcome cocktails, the music, the lovely food and wine served for dinner, and the company of elegantly dressed industry peers. The award ceremony recounted 40 uplifting stories of personal triumph, and the super-stars of the industry must have been proud, having been publicly lauded, photographed, hugged and kissed, by colleagues and friends.

We all drove home through the Palm Beach road oblivious what fate had in store for Aruba that same night, in fact just two hours later.

A shooting. An assassination in the heart of the entertainment zone. The second this week.

The sight of a man, 31, lying in a pool of blood, face down in the middle of the road, cannot be erased. Apparently, he was a former client of our correctional institute and has been known to walk around armed. He must have been trying to get away from his assailants, unsuccessfully.

Compliments to the Police for handling the matter efficiently, making arrests and interviewing witnesses, in a timely manner, while they almost simultaneously had to also deal with some petit criminals holding up a burger joint, getting away with Awg 1,000.

We should all be alarmed. This could spell disaster, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

This week the media reported a local boat captain helping ferry illegals, most probably arms and drugs. The boat was intercepted thanks to law enforcement’s vigilance. A selfish local, motivated by greed, with zero civic mindfulness, motored out to meet a Venezuelan boat, half-way, and help smuggle whatever it had, in.

And he is not the only one, we are told.  There are more. In fact, the area around the reef islands has a ‘tradition’ of contraband, and a reputation as the headquarters of gasoline and fish smugglers in the past, arms, drugs and illegals now.

Did that captain wake up in the morning and decide that he was going to pull the plug on our economy, that day?

No, not at all, he just hoped to make a fast buck, it did not even dawn on him, that he had any responsibility toward us, and that by his short-sighted, self-centered, foolish actions, he was threatening our livelihood.

The two guys and the woman who lured and shot the 19-year old, weren’t out to inflict pain on us all. They probably just wanted to do drugs, in n out of the way location. But their actions are detrimental to our economic health. The victim just had enough time to finger his assailants before he died, of a bullet in the abdomen.

While law enforcement was successful in solving both crimes, they PREDICTABLY failed at their quest to collect firearms and take them off the street. They placed a firearm collection bin at the stations in San Nicolas and Oranjestad and asked the general public to dump their illegal weapons there, away from cameras, or any kind of surveillance, under full protection from persecution, under total amnesty.

In vain.

This method is never effective. But talking is good. I heard the Police spokesperson plead with mothers and family members to say something if they suspected anything, which is a common-sense strategy. But we are not dealing with a common sense challenge.

More resources must be allocated if we want to take firearms off the street. Surveillance and the collection of information, are crucial, so that law enforcement is in the picture before disaster strikes. It’s possible, but it requires the acquisition of information by electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance devices, and increased penetration with informers into the underworld, our dark side.

Illegals, firearms and drugs arrive here by boats. Start there.

And make sure the assassins don’t get off on a technicality, but pay the full price because if you carry a firearm with live ammunition it means the intent to do major damage is there, this is not accidental nor negligent, this is  premeditated.

Most importantly, the bars which attract so many loiterers must re-think their strategy. Their greed must be managed Upgrade, raise prices, and keep punks OUT of our tourist area. Make it unattractive for them to hang out on Palm Beach. Clean up the area.

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December 05, 2022
Rona Coster