For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 180 sq. km. (112 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Oranjestad (pop. 60,000, 2003).
Terrain: Flat with a few hills; scant vegetation.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Aruban(s).
Population (2004): 97,518.
Annual growth rate: 3.57%.
Ethnic groups: Mixed white/Caribbean Amerindian 80%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 81%, Protestant 3%, Hindu, Muslim, Methodist, Anglican, Adventist, Evangelist, Jehovah's Witness, Jewish.
Languages: Dutch (official); Papiamento, Spanish, and English also are spoken.
Health: Infant mortality rate--5.2/1,000. Life expectancy--75 years for men, 81.9 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 7.3% (2004).
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 (2005): $2.26 billion.
Growth rate (2005): 2.4%.
Per capita GDP (2004): $21,878.
Natural resources: Beaches. Tourism/services and oil refining are dominant factors in GDP.
Trade: Exports--$2.85 billion (f.o.b., including oil re-exports & free zone, 2004): oil products, live animals and animal products, art and collectibles, machinery and electrical equipment, transport equipment. Major markets--U.S. (40.4%), Venezuela (19.9%), Netherlands Antilles (14.8%), Netherlands (10.2%). Imports--$3.0 billion: crude petroleum, food, manufactures. Major suppliers--U.S. (60.4%), Netherlands (12.7%), Netherlands Antilles (3.3%).
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 full autonomy on all internal affairs with the exception of defense, foreign affairs, and some judicial functions. 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 Supreme Court of Justice in the Netherlands.
Principal Government Officials
Governor General - Fredis J. Refunjol
Prime Minister - Nelson O. Oduber
Deputy Prime Minister - Marisol J. Tromp
Minister of Labor, Culture, Integration, Community Development & Sports - T.F. Ramon Lee
Minister of Finance & Economic Affairs - Nilo J.J. Swaen
Minister of General Affairs and Foreign Relations - Nelson O. Oduber
Minister of Social Affairs and Public Works - Marisol J. Tromp
Minister of Public Health and Environment - Candelario A.S.D. Wever
Minister of Justice - Hyacintho R. Croes
Minister of Tourism & Transportation - Edison Briesen
Minister Plenipotentiary to The Hague - F. Walfrido Croes
Minister Plenipotentiary to Washington, DC - D. Henry Baarh
President, Bank of Aruba - Rob Henriquez
Attorney General - Theresa Croes-Fernandes Pedra
In the parliamentary elections of September 23, 2005, the People's Electoral Movement (MEP) gained 11 of the 21 seats available. Voter turnout had been 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.
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. Over 1.5 million tourists per year visit Aruba, with 75% of those from the United States. The sizes of the agriculture and manufacturing industries remain minimal.
Although Aruba conducts foreign affairs primarily through the Dutch Government, it also 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.
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: email@example.com
Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230