For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

Flag of Aruba is blue, with two narrow, horizontal, yellow stripes across the lower portion and a red, four-pointed star outlined in white in the upper hoist-side corner.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Aruba

Geography
Area: 180 sq. km. (112 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Oranjestad (pop. 60,000, 2003).
Terrain: Flat with a few hills; scant vegetation.
Climate: Subtropical.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Aruban(s).
Population (2006): 103,484.
Annual growth rate: 2.2%.
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.
Education: Literacy--97%.
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 6.9% (2005).

Government
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.

Economy
GDP (2005): $2.26 billion.
Growth rate (2005): 2.4%.
Per capita GDP (2006): $23,426.
Natural resources: Beaches. Tourism/services and oil refining are dominant factors in GDP.
Trade: Exports--$2.61 billion (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--U.S. (43.61%), Venezuela (5.9%), Netherlands Antilles (16.67%), Netherlands (9.60%). Imports--$2.84 billion: crude petroleum, food, manufactures. Major suppliers--U.S. (57.50%), Netherlands (11.79%), Netherlands Antilles (3.32%).

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.

GOVERNMENT
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 and Minister of General Affairs and Utilities--Nelson O. Oduber
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs, Infrastructure and Education--Marisol J. Tromp Lopez
Minister of Labor, Culture, and Sports--T.F. Ramon Lee
Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs--Nilo J.J. Swaen
Minister of Public Health, Environment, Administrative and Alien Affairs--Candelario A.S.D. Wever
Minister of Justice--Hyacintho R. Croes
Minister of Tourism and Transportation--Edison Briesen
Minister Plenipotentiary to The Hague--F. Walfrido Croes
Minister Plenipotentiary to Washington, DC--Henry Baarh
President, Central Bank of Aruba--Hassanali Mehran
Attorney General--Robert Pietersz

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
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.

ECONOMY
Through the 1990s and into the 21st century Aruba posted growth rates around 5%. However, in 2001, a decrease in demand and the terrorist attacks 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 1.3 million tourists per year visit Aruba, with 75% of those from the United States. The sizes of the agriculture and manufacturing industries remain minimal.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
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.

U.S.-ARUBA RELATIONS

Principal U.S. Officials
Chief of Mission--Timothy J. Dunn
Vice Consul--Donald Feeney
Vice Consul--William J. Furnish, Jr.

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: infocuracao@state.gov

[This is a mobile copy of Aruba (07/08)]