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Netherlands Antilles

The Netherlands Antilles (Dutch: Nederlandse Antillen), previously known as the Netherlands West Indies, consists of two groups of islands in the Caribbean Sea that form an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The islands' economy is dependent mostly on tourism and oil, though a large amount of money is made in illegal drug trafficing.

Nederlandse Antillen
(In Detail)
National motto: Libertate unanimus
(Latin: "Unified by freedom")
Official languageDutch
GovernorJaime Saleh[?]
 - Total
 - % water
(All islands)
960 km²
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
(All islands)
Dependent area of Netherlands
Currency Antillean Guilder
Time zone UTC -4
National anthem None
Internet TLD.AN
Calling Code599

Table of contents

History Main article: History of the Netherlands Antilles

Both the Leeward (Christopher Columbus, 1493) and Windward (Alonso de Ojeda[?], 1499) island groups were discovered and initially settled by the Spanish. In the 17th century, the islands were conquered by the Dutch West India Company and were used as bases for slave trade. Only in 1863 was slavery abolished.

In 1954, the islands were promoted from colony to a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The island of Aruba was granted a "status aparte" in 1986, and is now considered a separate part of the kingdom. Some of the other islands have indicated that they wish to obtain the same status, but no agreements on this have yet been reached.

Politics Main article: Politics of the Netherlands Antilles

Head of state is the ruling monarch of the Netherlands, who is represented in the Netherlands Antilles by a governor. The governor is also head of the local government, and forms, together with the council of ministers, the executive branch of the government.

The legislative branch is two-layered. Delegates of the islands are represented in the government of the Netherlands Antilles, but each island has its own government that takes care of the daily tasks on the island.

Islands Main article: Islands of the Netherlands Antilles[?]

The Netherland Antilles have no major administrative divisions, although each island has its own local government.

The two island groups, of which the Netherlands Antilles consists, are the Windward Islands (Benedenwindse Eilanden) off the Venezuelan coast and the Leeward Islands' (Bovenwindse Eilanden) east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The island of Sint Maarten does not entirely belong to the Netherlands Antilles; the northern half is French and part of the overseas department of Guadeloupe.

Geography Main article: Geography of the Netherlands Antilles

The islands are all of volcanic origin and hilly, leaving little ground suitable for agriculture. The highest point is Mount Scenery[?], 862 m, on Saba[?].

The Netherlands Antilles have a tropic[?] climate, with warm weather all year round. The Leeward Islands are subject to hurricanes in the summer months.

Economy Main article: Economy of the Netherlands Antilles

Tourism, petroleum transshipment and oil refinement (on Curaçao), as well as offshore finance are the mainstays of this small economy, which is closely tied to the outside world. The islands enjoy a high per capita income and a well-developed infrastructure as compared with other countries in the region. Almost all consumer and capital goods are imported, with Venezuela, the United States, and Mexico being the major suppliers, as well as the Dutch government which supports the islands with substantial development aid[?]. Poor soils and inadequate water supplies hamper the development of agriculture. The Antillean guilder has a fixed exchange rate with the United States dollar of 1.79:1.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of the Netherlands Antilles

The largest part of the Netherlands Antilleans - about 85% - descends from the African slaves that were brought and traded here from the 17th to 19th century. The rest of the population consists of Caribbean Indians, Europeans and Asians.

Although the official language is Dutch, Papiamento[?] is predominant. This creole language is formed from elements of Dutch, English, Spanish and Portuguese. Spanish and English are also spoken.

The majority of the population are followers of the Christian belief, mostly Roman Catholic. Curaçao also hosts a sizeable group of Jews, descendants of a Portuguese group of Sephardic Jews that arrived from Brazil in 1654.

A large group of young and/or highly educated Antilleans has emigrated to the Netherlands over the past decades, which leaves the islands with big social and economic problems.

Culture Main article: Culture of the Netherlands Antilles[?]

The origins of the population and location of the islands give the Netherlands Antilles a mixed culture. Dutch influence is can still be seen, even though not much of the population is of Dutch origin. Tourism from the United States has recently also increased the importance of American culture.

The holiday of Carnival is, like in many Caribbean and Latin American countries, an important one.

Miscellaneous topics

External links

  • GOV.an (http://www.gov.an) - Main governmental site (currently under construction)

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