Aruba’s leader, legislators in hunger strike protest

By Dilma Arends, AP

ORANJESTAD, Aruba–Aruba’s prime minister and several legislators have launched a hunger strike to protest what they say is meddling by the Dutch government in local financial affairs.

The group gathered Friday outside the governor’s offices in the capital of Oranjestad, where they spent the night with an ambulance and medical team on standby.

“We stand together with the people to defend our autonomy,” parliamentarian Desiree Croes said.

The hunger strike comes after the Dutch government asked Aruba’s governor to hold off on signing the 2014 budget into law pending an evaluation of it. The Dutch Caribbean island, which approved the budget two weeks ago, is facing a major deficit and its national debt represents 75 percent of its GDP.

Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman said he considered the Dutch request a direct attack on Aruba’s autonomy and said he will continue the hunger strike until the governor signs the budget.

Others participating in the strike echoed the sentiment.

“There is no time limit to support the fight for our autonomy,” said Tourism and Transportation Minister Otmar Oduber.

Aruba is part of the Netherlands’ kingdom, but it obtained autonomy in internal affairs in 1986. It manages its own finances, although the Dutch government is responsible for upkeep of sound management.