WILLEMSTAD, Curacao A close ally of a charismatic but divisive politician killed by two assailants in Curacao said he believes the lawmaker was slain in some sort of politically motivated attack on the Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela.
Donald Balentina, president of the Curacao political party founded by slain politician Helmin Wiels, told The Associated Press on Monday that he thinks the fiery, populist lawmaker was targeted by gunmen due to politics. He noted that Wiels, a highly influential member of the coalition government, had made several anti-corruption speeches in recent days and on Friday publicly accused a local telecommunications company of being involved in the illegal sale of lottery numbers.
“I think it was a political motive,” Balentina said a day after Wiels was hit by five bullets at Curacao’s Marie Pompoen beach as he sipped a beer and socialized. “Maybe they did this to shut his mouth.”
The always outspoken Wiels loomed large over the small island’s political landscape. The leftist, pro-independence Pueblo Soberano party he helped found emerged as the top vote getter in October elections, holding five of 21 seats in Parliament in a coalition government.
There was some speculation that Wiels, a 54-year-old former social worker, could be chosen as the top official in a new Council of Ministers being worked out, although Balentina and other allies said he was not interested in gaining the top position.
Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch interior minister and official who deals with Curacao on a diplomatic level, described Wiels as a “true leader” who was “in actuality the most powerful man” on the island.
“For the record, we don’t know yet whether it’s a political murder,” Plasterk said in an interview with Dutch national broadcaster NOS. “He was murdered, but it could also be because of the way he took on corruption, or the drugs world or something else rotten.”
Justice Minister Nelson Navarro has said Wiels had received threats and typically had security throughout the week. He apparently declined security on Sunday.
Associated Press writer Karen Attiah reported this story in Willemstad and David McFadden reported from Kingston, Jamaica. AP writer Toby Sterling in Amsterdam contributed to this report.