For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 180 sq. km. (112 sq. mi.).
Terrain: Flat with a few hills; scant vegetation.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Aruban(s).
Population (2006): 103,484.
Annual growth rate: 1.48%.
Ethnic groups: Mixed white/Caribbean Amerindian 80%, other 20%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 81%, Evangelist 4.1%, Protestant 2.5%, Jehovah’s Witness 1.5%, Methodist 1.2%, other 5.3%, unspecified or none 4.6%.
Languages: Dutch (official); Papiamento, Spanish, and English also are spoken.
Health: Infant mortality rate--13.79/1,000. Life expectancy--72 years for men, 78 years for women.
Work force (41,501): Most employment is in wholesale and retail trade and repair, followed by hotels and restaurants and oil refining. Unemployment--about 6.9% (2005 est.).
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Independence: Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Branches: Executive--monarch represented by a governor (chief of state), prime minister (head of government), Cabinet. Legislative--unicameral parliament. Judicial--Joint High Court of Justice appointed by the monarch.
Subdivisions: Aruba is divided into eight regions--Noord/Tank Leendert, Oranjestad (west), Oranjestad (east), Paradera, Santa Cruz, Savaneta, Sint Nicolaas (north), and Sint Nicolaas (south).
Political parties: People's Electoral Movement (MEP), Aruba People's Party (AVP), Network (RED), Aruba Patriotic Movement (MPA), Real Democracy (PDR), Aruba Liberal Organization (OLA), Aruba Patriotic Party (PPA), Aruba Democratic Alliance (ALIANSA), Socialist Movement of Aruba (MSA).
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
GDP (2007): $2.62 billion.
Growth rate (2007): 2.1%.
Per capita GDP (2007): $25,231.
Natural resources: Beaches. Tourism/services and oil refining are dominant factors in GDP.
Trade: Exports--$124 million (f.o.b., including oil re-exports and free zone, 2006): oil products, live animals and animal products, art and collectibles, machinery and electrical equipment, transport equipment. Major markets--Panama (29.7%), Colombia (17%), Netherlands Antilles (13.2%), U.S. (11.3%), Venezuela (10.9%), Netherlands (9.20%). Imports--$1.054 billion: crude petroleum, food, manufactures. Major suppliers--U.S. (54.6%), Netherlands (12%), U.K. (4.7%).
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Aruba's first inhabitants were the Caquetios Indians from the Arawak tribe. Fragments of the earliest known Indian settlements date back to about 1000 A.D. Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda is regarded as the first European to arrive in about 1499. The Spanish garrison on Aruba dwindled following the Dutch capture of nearby Bonaire and Curacao in 1634. The Dutch occupied Aruba shortly thereafter, and retained control for nearly two centuries. In 1805, during the Napoleonic wars, the English briefly took control over the island, but it was returned to Dutch control in 1816. A 19th-century gold rush was followed by prosperity brought on by the opening in 1924 of an oil refinery. The last decades of the 20th century saw a boom in the tourism industry. In 1986 Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's prerogative in 1990. Aruba has a mixture of people from South America and Europe, the Far East, and other islands of the Caribbean.
Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba has semi-autonomy on most internal affairs with the exception of defense, foreign affairs, final judicial review, and "Kingdom matters" including human rights and good governance. The constitution was enacted in January 1986. Executive power rests with a governor, while a prime minister heads an eight-member Cabinet. The governor is appointed for a 6-year term by the monarch and the prime minister and deputy prime minister are elected by the legislature, or Staten, for 4-year terms. The Staten is made up of 21 members elected by direct, popular vote to serve 4-year terms. Aruba's judicial system, mainly derived from the Dutch system, operates independently of the legislature and the executive. Jurisdiction, including appeal, lies with the Common Court of Justice of Aruba and the Kingdom-level Supreme Court of Justice in the Netherlands.
Principal Government Officials
Governor General--Fredis J. Refunjol
Prime Minister--Michiel Godfried (Mike) Eman
Deputy Prime Minister--Mike Eric de Meza
Minister of Economic Affairs, Social Affairs and Culture--Michelle Janice Hooyboer-Winklaar
Minister of General Affairs and Foreign Relations--Michiel Godfried (Mike) Eman
Minister of Finance, Communication, Utilities and Energy--Mike Eric de Meza
Minister of Health and Sport--Richard Wayne Milton Visser
Minister of Justice and Education--Arthur Lawrence Dowers
Minister of Tourism, Labor and Transport--Otmar Enrique Oduber
Minister of Integration, Infrastructure and Environment--Oslin Benito Sevinger
Minister Plenipotentiary to The Hague--Edwin Bibiano Abath
Minister Plenipotentiary to Washington, DC--Jocelyne Croes
President, Bank of Aruba--Jane R. Semeleer
Attorney General--Robert Pietersz
In the parliamentary elections of September 23, 2005, the People's Electoral Movement (MEP) gained 11 of the 21 seats available. Voter turnout was 85%. MEP had also won the previous September 2001 elections with 12 seats, forming Aruba's first one-party government. Despite losing one seat in the 2005 elections, the party retained a slim majority in Parliament. MEP's biggest rival, the Aruba People's Party (AVP), obtained 8 seats and remained the largest opposition party on the island. In September 2009 elections, the Aruba People's Party won a majority of seats.
Through the 1990s and into the 21st century Aruba posted growth rates around 5%. However, in 2001, a decrease in demand and the terrorist attack on the United States led to the first economic contraction in 15 years. Deficit spending has been a staple in Aruba's history, and modestly high inflation has been present as well, although recent efforts at tightening monetary policy may correct this. Oil processing is the dominant industry in Aruba, despite the expansion of the tourism sector. Approximately 1.25 million tourists per year visit Aruba, with 75% of those from the United States. The sizes of the agriculture and manufacturing industries remain minimal.
Aruba conducts foreign affairs through the Kingdom of the Netherlands, whose embassies and consulates issue visas for travel to the island. Aruba has strong relations with other Caribbean governments. Aruba is an observer in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an associate member of the World Trade Organization through the Netherlands, and is a full member of the Association of Caribbean States.
Principal U.S. Officials
Chief of Mission/Consul General--Timothy J. Dunn
Management Officer--Donald Feeney
The U.S. Consulate General for Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles is located at J.B. Gorsiraweg #1, Willemstad, Curacao; tel. 599-9-461-3066, fax: 599-9-461-6489, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am-5:00 pm. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org