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By David Chandler


Aruba is an island in the West Indies, in the Caribbean Sea, near the Paraguaná Peninsula of Venezuela. An integral part of the Netherlands, Aruba was a member of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986. Aruba is about 30 km (about 19 mi) long and about 8 km (about 5 mi) wide, and has an area of 193 sq km (about 75 sq mi). The population of Aruba at the 1991 census was 66,687, giving the island an overall population density of about 342 persons per sq km (about 889 per sq mi). Oranjestad (population, 1991 estimate, 20,000) is the capital and main town. Sint Nicolaas, the site of an oil refinery, has a population of about 17,000.


Until the mid-1980s, the refining of Venezuelan oil was the main source of employment in Aruba. In 1984, the petroleum refining industry accounted for 25 percent of the island's gross national product. When the refinery closed in 1985, many Arubans lost their jobs and experienced a drastic reduction in their standard of living. Rehabilitation of the refining industry began in 1989 and in 1993; the refinery's daily output was 140,000 barrels. The island now depends mostly on tourism and the service industries related to tourism, cooperating with the Netherlands Antilles to attract visitors. Some light industry produces tobacco, beverages, and consumer goods. Aruba's principal port is Oranjestad and the island's international airport is located nearby. The island's unit of currency is the Aruban guilder or gulden.

Political Information

In 1986, Aruba became an autonomous and self-governing entity. The official head of government is the Dutch monarch, represented by an appointed governor. The governor is responsible for all external affairs. The prime minister nominates a council of ministers and together they are responsible for the island's internal executive functions. Popularly elected officials fill the 21 seats of the legislature, called the Staten. The Court of First Instance and a court of appeal comprise Aruba's judiciary. Defense is the responsibility of the Netherlands. The University of Aruba (1970) is located in Oranjestad.

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