WILLEMSTAD, Curacao -- The government of the Netherlands Antilles -- a Dutch-ruled Caribbean territory that includes the vacation island of Aruba -- collapsed Thursday in a dispute over the cost of sending a track and field team to Puerto Rico.
Prime Minister Don Martina and his eight Cabinet ministers submitted their resignations Thursday morning but said they would stay on in their positions for up to six weeks to give the governor of the Netherlands Antilles a chance to form a new government.
The crisis developed when Roy Markes, a member of Martina's New Antilles Movement and president of the senate, blasted the government for dragging its feet in approving a $3,500 subsidy for sending a team to the Central American and Caribbean Youth Track and Field Championships in Puerto Rico.
On Tuesday, Markes announced in a radio speech that if the senate did not approve the subsidy he would withdraw his support from the government coalition, which held a slim margin in the upper house.
Sports Affairs Minister Eddy Werleman said he had just received the documents on the request and accused Markes of 'blackmail.'
'What Mr. Markes has done makes him no longer fit to be a member of our party,' he said.
Martina also denounced Markes, calling him 'a politician who is drunk with power.'
On Tuesday night, the party's council voted to expel Markes, leaving the government without enough support to continue to govern.
Martina met Wednesday night with other party leaders in Willemstad to seek alternatives to the impasse, but finally decided there was nothing the government could do but resign.
'I have been governing under difficult circumstances during the last several months, but what Markes has done has been the last drop of water that made the bucket overflow,' the prime minister said in a radio announcement.
The Netherlands Antilles are an integral part of the Netherlands but are autonomous in internal affairs.