Gilberto François "Betico" Croes was born in Santa Cruz on Januari 25, 1938. After his secondary education on Aruba, he went to Holland to study at Hilversum Teachers' Training College. In 1959 he obtained his certificate as a head master. When he came back to Aruba, he started teaching at the Sint Jozef School and the Antonius College in Santa Cruz.
In 1967, the political carrier of Betico Croes started, initially as a member of the Arubaanse Volks Partij (AVP). When he was unsuccesful in taken over the leadership of that party, he broke away from it. In 1971, he founded the Movimiento Electoral di Pueblo (MEP). Since the founding of that party till his death, he has been president and party leader. However, he has never been a deputy in the Aruban Island Government nor has he ever been a minister in a cabinet of the Netherlands Antilles. He did however have great political power as ‘consehero general’ (general advisor) of the Aruban coalition governments in which the MEP took part.
As a politician, Betico Croes has devoted himself especially to the self-determination of the Aruban people. In 1976, he took the initiative to adopt an Aruban flag and an Aruban anthem. Croes and the MEP strived for a separate status for Aruba within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, independent of the Netherlands Antilles. On March of 1977, on his initiative, a referendum was held (turnout 82%), in which the Aruban population declared itself in favor of independence with a majority of 57%. Later on, it turned out to be the Status Aparte.
In 1977, when the MEP as majority party on Aruba was excluded from the Central government, Betico Croes called upon the Aruban people to rise against the domination by Curaçao. The situation escalated and Curaçao sent riot troops to Aruba. The Dutch government then began to recognize that the demands of Aruba had to be taken very seriously, and they invited a delegation to come to The Hague for talks. There Betico Croes successfully pleaded for the Status Aparte for Aruba.
Betico Croes led the Aruban delegation during the decisive Round Table Conferences in February of 1981 and in March of 1983, where he succeeded in obtaining the Status Aparte for Aruba as of January 1st, 1986. A condition from the part of the Netherlands was the total independence of Aruba ten years later, on January 1st, 1996. Though Croes himself did not want an independent Aruba at all, he agreed, hoping he could prevent the independence later on. That clause was indeed erased in 1990.
On December 31, 1985, at the eve of the day 'his' Status Aparte took effect, Betico Croes got into a traffic accident in which he was seriously wounded. He got into a coma and would never regain consciousness. Almost eleven months later, on November 26, 1986, he passed away.
Betico Croes is considered as the Aruban Father of his country and is being referred to by his supporters as 'Libertador di Aruba '(Liberator of Aruba).
Croes was the advocate of the Aruban flag and the anthem “Aruba Dushi Tera”, which were both inaugurated in 1976. On March 18, the ‘Dia di Hymno y Bandera’ (Day of Flag and Anthem) is being celebrated as an official holiday. The day of birth of Betico, January 25th, is an official holiday too, ‘Dia di Betico’ (Day of Betico). The Nassaustraat, the main street in downtown Oranjestad, has been renamed after his death to ‘Caya Gilberto François (Betico) Croes’, in short the Caya Betico Croes. The square behind the Cas di Cultura (Cultural Centre) on the Vondellaan, has been named after him: “Plaza Libertador Betico Croes”. There stands a statue if him, another one is to be found on the front porch of the house where he was born, in Santa Cruz. This statue will soon be relocated to the square next to that house, which will be dedicated to his memory. It will be part of the Betico Croes Museum that is now under construction at the central intersection in Santa Cruz.The most famous quotation by Betico Croes is undoubtedly: "Si mi cai na caminda, gara e bandera y sigui cu e lucha". (If I might go under along the way, pick up the flag and go on with the fight).
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