Aruba lies 18 mi (28.9 km) off the coast of Venezuela in the southern Caribbean.
The Arawak Indians were the first inhabitants of Aruba. Spain explored the island in 1499, and more than a century later the Netherlands (1636) claimed the island. After a brief rule by the British, the Dutch again took control of the island in 1816, and it officially became part of the Netherlands Antilles in 1845.
On Jan. 1, 1986, Aruba seceded from the federation, but it decided in 1994 to postpone indefinitely the transition to full independence. The Netherlands controls Aruba's defense and foreign affairs, but all internal affairs are handled by an island government directing its own civil service, judiciary, revenue, and currency.
Status: Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Governor: Fredis Refunjol (2004)
Prime Minister: Nelson O. Oduber (2001)
Total area: 75 sq mi (193 sq km)
Population (2008 est.): 101,541 (growth rate: 1.5%); birth rate: 12.8/1000; infant mortality rate: 14.2/1000; life expectancy: 75.0; density per sq mi: 969
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Oranjestad, 20,700
Monetary unit: Aruban guilder/florin
Languages: Dutch (official), Papiamento, English, Spanish
Ethnicity/race: mixed European/Caribbean Indian 80%
Religions: Roman Catholic 82%, Protestant 8%, Hindu, Muslim, Confucian, Jewish
National Holiday: Flag Day, March 18
Literacy rate: 97% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2004 est.): $2.13 billion; per capita $21,800. Real growth rate: 3.5%. Inflation: 3.8% (2005 est.). Unemployment: 7.3%. Arable land: 11% aloe plantations included (0.01%). Agriculture: aloes; livestock; fish. Labor force: 41,500 (2004 est.); most employment is in wholesale and retail trade and repair, followed by hotels and restaurants; oil refining. Industries: tourism, transshipment facilities, oil refining. Natural resources: negl.; white sandy beaches. Exports: $80 million f.o.b. (including oil reexports) (2004 est.): live animals and animal products, art and collectibles, machinery and electrical equipment, transport equipment. Imports: $875 million f.o.b. (2004 est.): machinery and electrical equipment, crude oil for refining and reexport, chemicals; foodstuffs. Major trading partners: Netherlands, Panama, Venezuela, Netherlands Antilles, Colombia, U.S. (2004).