Published On: Wed, May 13th, 2015

Pirates of the Caribbean

Jacob Gelt DekkerJohnny Depp’s pirate, "Captain" Jack Sparrow may greatly appeal to your Disneyesque historic fantasy, but real pirates are still ruling the Caribbean, today.

British, French and Dutch authorities, as European colonial forces, often relied on cheap pirates instead of forming expensive centralized organized governing state bodies. Pirates, or buccaneers, became the de facto warlords of the Caribbean. They called themselves privateers, and depending on state patronage; many sailed under the protection of a formal “letter of marque”.

Privateers of all kinds were eagerly competing for patronage from colonizing states in exchange for exclusive trading privileges. Their willingness to use brute force for ruling and controlling limited territories were cheap and instant solutions to colonizing European nations in search of instant profits. Only a major conflict of interest did arise, when colonizing nations tried to wrestle the power away again from their warlords. This struggle took much longer than ever anticipated, often many generations, and may be partly responsible for the long-term poor economic performance of the islands, today. Today, many pirates are still holding the Caribbean in a chokehold.

Warlords today, no longer operate outside the states, they have become integrated, and hard to discern, products of states; but make no mistake, warlords never become state-builders. They maintain their power because of their ability to manipulate dangling bureaucratic structures of weak states and institutions, and by challenging genuine sovereign control.

Today’s pirates manage to skim off rich profits by obtaining monopolies, forming oligopolies and cartels in a complex patronage dance with state authorities, a dance of favoritism, cronyism, nepotism spiced with rich graft from deep pockets. Have no fantasies, pirates, and old or new, will always use the resources of the states to their own advantage, no matter how.

Colonial powers underestimated the staying power of the draining, parasitic alliances with pirates and their offspring, which they once forged out of convenience. Granting autonomy, or independence by the European nations to newly formed microstates in the Caribbean did not change the social and economic structure; the embedded pirates remained, pillaging at every occasion and opportunity.

With the rise of the nacro-industry, the old guard of state parasites and drainers found a newly emerging class of ruthless warlords, ready to challenge their hegemony. Today, all of the Caribbean is witnessing a bloody, ruthless war between old and new parasites, but be assured, neither pirate, old or new, have any regard for the host they are feeding off. When the profits run out, they just move elsewhere, leaving their host for dead.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker, opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle.

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