Friday Photos: End of the Antilles

This Sunday, the political unit known as the Dutch Antilles will cease to exist. Here is guest post from the island of Saba -- soon to become a Dutch municipality -- with photos and text by Jeff Swensen and Stephanie Strasburg:

Ask most any local on the five square mile island of Saba, and they will refer to change there as "slow to come." Claimed finally by the Dutch in 1816 after upwards of twelve flag changes in the couple centuries preceding, Saba is the smallest island of the five that make up the Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  However, change is now approaching fast. The dissolution of the Netherland Antilles is slated for October 10, 2010.

The dissolve of the five-island Antilles means different things for each island involved.  After years of strained political relations between islands in the Antilles and specific anger towards allegations of Curacao's failure to fairly disperse funds to the smaller islands involved, Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, voted to become special municipalities of the Netherlands.  A form of "public body", these three islands, known as the BES islands, will be able to vote in Dutch national and European elections. 

There will be specific exceptions for the islands, including a different social security structure and the phasing in of the U.S. Dollar as the official currency come January 2011 instead of the euro.  The more developed islands of Saint Maarten and Curacao, following the political path of Aruba in 1986, will become constituent states within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

While Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba will be able to maintain local mayors, aldermen and municipal councils, most Dutch law will apply, leaving some Sabans excited about the opportunity for better health care and education, and some confused as to what exactly it all means.


Obama to China: Free Liu Xiaobo

President Obama has gone beyond any simple congratulatory message for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, he's called for the Chinese to free him:

I welcome the Nobel Committee's decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Liu Xiaobo... By granting the prize to Mr. Liu, the Nobel Committee has chosen someone who has been an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of universal values through peaceful and non-violent means, including his support for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law...

Over the last 30 years, China has made dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. But this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected. We call on the Chinese government to release Mr. Liu as soon as possible.

Surely, this won't go down well with the Chinese, who were already quite unhappy about the first Chinese winner being imprisoned for his pro-democracy work a criminal while also facing other U.S. pressures.