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Aruba Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Aruba Map

Introduction

Background

Discovered and claimed for Spain in 1499, Aruba was acquired by the Dutch in 1636. The island's economy has been dominated by three main industries. 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. Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 and became a separate, semi-autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's request in 1990.

Geography

Location

Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela

Geographic coordinates

12 30 N, 69 58 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 180 sq km

land: 180 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 217

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

68.5 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical marine; little seasonal temperature variation

Terrain

flat with a few hills; scant vegetation

Elevation

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

highest point: Ceru Jamanota 188 m

Natural resources

NEGL; white sandy beaches foster tourism

Land use

agricultural land: 11.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 11.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 2.3% (2018 est.)

other: 86.6% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

NA

Population distribution

most residents live in or around Oranjestad and San Nicolaas; most settlments tend to be located on the less mountainous western side of the island

Natural hazards

hurricanes; lies outside the Caribbean hurricane belt and is rarely threatened

Geography - note

a flat, riverless island renowned for its white sand beaches; its tropical climate is moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean; the temperature is almost constant at about 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit)

People and Society

Population

120,917 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 188

Nationality

noun: Aruban(s)

adjective: Aruban; Dutch

Ethnic groups

Aruban 66%, Colombian 9.1%, Dutch 4.3%, Dominican 4.1%, Venezuelan 3.2%, Curacaoan 2.2%, Haitian 1.5%, Surinamese 1.2%, Peruvian 1.1%, Chinese 1.1%, other 6.2% (2010 est.)

note: data represent population by country of birth

Languages

Papiamento (official) (a creole language that is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, and, to a lesser extent, French, as well as elements of African languages and the language of the Arawak) 69.4%, Spanish 13.7%, English (widely spoken) 7.1%, Dutch (official) 6.1%, Chinese 1.5%, other 1.7%, unspecified 0.4% (2010 est.)

Religions

Roman Catholic 75.3%, Protestant 4.9% (includes Methodist 0.9%, Adventist 0.9%, Anglican 0.4%, other Protestant 2.7%), Jehovah's Witness 1.7%, other 12%, none 5.5%, unspecified 0.5% (2010 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Country of Aruba

conventional short form: Aruba

local long form: Land Aruba (Dutch); Pais Aruba (Papiamento)

local short form: Aruba

etymology: the origin of the island's name is unclear; according to tradition, the name comes from the Spanish phrase "oro huba" (there was gold), but in fact no gold was ever found on the island; another possibility is the native word "oruba," which means "well-situated"

Dependency status

constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; full autonomy in internal affairs obtained in 1986 upon separation from the Netherlands Antilles; Dutch Government responsible for defense and foreign affairs

Government type

parliamentary democracy; part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Capital

name: Oranjestad

geographic coordinates: 12 31 N, 70 02 W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: translates as "orange town" in Dutch; the city is named after William I (1533-1584), Prince of Orange, the first ruler of the Netherlands

Administrative divisions

none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

note: Aruba is one of four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the other three are the Netherlands, Curacao, and Sint Maarten

Independence

none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

National holiday

National Anthem and Flag Day, 18 March (1976)

Constitution

history: previous 1947, 1955; latest drafted and approved August 1985, enacted 1 January 1986 (regulates governance of Aruba but is subordinate to the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands); in 1986, Aruba became a semi-autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Legal system

civil law system based on the Dutch civil code

Citizenship

see the Netherlands

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: King WILLEM-ALEXANDER of the Netherlands (since 30 April 2013); represented by Governor General Alfonso BOEKHOUDT (since 1 January 2017)

head of government: Prime Minister Evelyn WEVER-CROES (since 17 November 2017)

cabinet: Council of Ministers elected by the Legislature (Staten)

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch for a 6-year term; prime minister and deputy prime minister indirectly elected by the Staten for 4-year term; election last held on 27 September 2013 (next to be held by September 2017)

election results: Evelyn WEVER-CROES (MEP) elected prime minister; percent of legislative vote - NA

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislature or Staten (21 seats; members directly elected in a single nationwide constituency by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 22 September 2017 (next to be held in September 2021)

election results: percent of vote by party AVP 39.8%, MEP 37.6%, POR 9.4%, RED 7.1%, other 6.1%; seats by party - AVP 9, MEP 9, POR 2, RED 1; composition as of October 2018 - men 14, women 7, percent of women 33.3%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, and of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba or "Joint Court of Justice" (sits as a 3-judge panel); final appeals heard by the Supreme Court in The Hague, Netherlands

judge selection and term of office: Joint Court judges appointed for life by the monarch

subordinate courts:  Court in First Instance

Political parties and leaders

Aruban People's Party or AVP [Michiel "Mike" EMAN]
Democratic Electoral Network or RED [L.R. CROES]
People's Electoral Movement Party or MEP [Evelyn WEVER-CROES]
Pueblo Orguyoso y Respeta or POR [O.E. ODUBER]
Real Democracy or PDR [Andin BIKKER]

International organization participation

Caricom (observer), FATF, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, ITUC (NGOs), UNESCO (associate), UNWTO (associate), UPU

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: none (represented by the Kingdom of the Netherlands); note - Guillfred BESARIL (since 20 November 2017) is Minister Plenipotentiary of Aruba, seated with his cabinet in the Aruba House (Arubahuis) in The Hague

none (represented by the Kingdom of the Netherlands) note - there is a Minister Plenipotentiary for Aruba, Rendolf "Andy" LEE,  at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: the US does not have an embassy in Aruba; the Consul General to Curacao is accredited to Aruba

Flag description

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; the star represents Aruba and its red soil and white beaches, its four points the four major languages (Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, English) as well as the four points of a compass, to indicate that its inhabitants come from all over the world; the blue symbolizes Caribbean waters and skies; the stripes represent the island's two main "industries": the flow of tourists to the sun-drenched beaches and the flow of minerals from the earth

National symbol(s)

Hooiberg (Haystack) Hill; national colors: blue, yellow, red, white

National anthem

name: "Aruba Deshi Tera" (Aruba Precious Country)

lyrics/music: Juan Chabaya 'Padu' LAMPE/Rufo Inocencio WEVER

note: local anthem adopted 1986; as part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, "Het Wilhelmus" is official (see Netherlands)

Economy

Economic overview

Tourism, petroleum bunkering, hospitality, and financial and business services are the mainstays of the small open Aruban economy.

Tourism accounts for a majority of economic activity; as of 2017, over 2 million tourists visited Aruba annually, with the large majority (80-85%) of those from the US. The rapid growth of the tourism sector has resulted in a substantial expansion of other activities. Construction continues to boom, especially in the hospitality sector.

Aruba is heavily dependent on imports and is making efforts to expand exports to improve its trade balance. Almost all consumer and capital goods are imported, with the US, the Netherlands, and Panama being the major suppliers.

In 2016, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and the Government of Aruba signed an agreement to restart Valero Energy Corp.'s former 235,000-b/d refinery. Tourism and related industries have continued to grow, and the Aruban Government is working to attract more diverse industries. Aruba's banking sector continues to be a strong sector; unemployment has significantly decreased.

Broadcast media

2 commercial TV stations; cable TV subscription service provides access to foreign channels; about 19 commercial radio stations broadcast (2017)

Internet country code

.aw

Internet users

total: 113,277

percent of population: 97.17% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 178

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 3 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 19

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 274,280 (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

P4 (2016)

Airports

total: 1 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 211

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1 (2019)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

Roadways

total: 1,000 km (2010)

country comparison to the world: 185

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Barcadera, Oranjestad

oil terminal(s): Sint Nicolaas

cruise port(s): Oranjestad

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; Aruban Militia (ARUMIL) (2021)

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the Aruba security services focus on organized crime and terrorism; the Dutch Government controls foreign and defense policy; the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard (DCCG) provides maritime security

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

none

Illicit drugs

transit point for US- and Europe-bound narcotics with some accompanying money-laundering activity; relatively high percentage of population consumes cocaine

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