Netherlands Antilles, five islands in the Caribbean, which from
1954-2010 formed part of the Netherlands with extensive home rule; a
total of 960 km2, 283,900 residents (2009). The two
largest islands, Curaçao (with the capital Willemstad) and Bonaire,
are off the coast of Venezuela, while three much smaller islands,
Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten, are 800 km northeast, east of
Puerto Rico. Sint Maarten forms the southern part of the otherwise
French island of Saint-Martin. All the islands have tropical and the
two southern ones a very dry climate. Only 8% of the area is
cultivated and the islands are far from self-sufficient in food.
Due to uncertain political conditions in South America, from the
1930's, Shell established refineries and storage facilities in the
Netherlands Antilles to handle crude oil from Venezuela, and the oil
industry was completely dominant in the islands until the 1980's,
when Shell sold its interests. See a full list of
Central American countries from Countryaah.
Oil refining and derivatives (ship repair) continue, but to a
greatly reduced extent. Instead, tourism has become an important
source of income, especially on Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Light
industry is of increasing importance, especially around Willemstad.
However, the economy is heavily dependent on transfers from the
Netherlands to this last remnant of the once great Dutch colonial
When the islands were discovered by the Spaniards in the 1490's,
they were inhabited by Arawaks and Caribbean Indians, who, with the
exception of Aruba, were quickly wiped out. In 1634 the Dutch
conquered Curaçao, and during the same period they gained control of
the other islands. During the Napoleonic Wars, Curaçao and Bonaire
were briefly subject to British rule. Several of the islands
functioned in the 1700's and 1800's. as centers for the slave trade.
In 1954, the Netherlands Antilles gained autonomy, and in the
1970's, independence negotiations began; Aruba, formerly part of the
area, came out in 1986, but the original plan for complete
independence, scheduled for 1996, was later abandoned. The other
islands confirmed in a vote in 1993 the affiliation with the
Netherlands as a whole, but after continued disagreements between
the islands, they voted 2000-05 each on their future mutual
administrative relations and the relationship with the Netherlands.
The result was that the parliament of the Netherlands Antilles on
9.10.2010 abolished itself and self-government, which was ratified
by the parliament in The Hague the following day.
With effect from 10.10.2010, Curaçao and Sint Maarten were
subsequently given the status of independently constituted countries
within the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Netherlands), similar to
Aruba, while Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba remained linked to the
Netherlands as special municipalities.
Martinique, French department and island in the Caribbean, one of
the Lesser Antilles; 1100 km2, 386,500 residents (2013).
Capital: Fort-de-France. The island is one of the most densely
populated in the area.
The strongly hilly terrain is of volcanic origin and reaches in
Mont Pelée 1397 m. The volcanic soil, together with abundant
rainfall is the basis of the island's fertility; only Pelée's gray
cone deviates from the lush green landscape.
French is the official language and the majority of the
population speaks the Creole language patwa. Exports of agricultural
products (bananas and rum) can only finance a small part of imports;
main sources of income are subsidies from France and tourism, many
visits by cruise ships.
As an overseas department, Martinique is part of France. The cost
of living is high as almost everything is imported from France.
Agriculture employs only 7% of the labor force and unemployment is
high. Public expenditure, including various social schemes, is 70%
covered by the state.
Christoffer Columbus reached the island in 1502 (perhaps as early
as 1493) and met Caribbean Indians. The first French settlers
arrived in 1635, and in 1660 the last Caribbean were deported. The
island has since been French with the exception of a number of
short-lived British occupations.
As in other West Indies, the economy was based on the cultivation
of tropical products such as sugar and coffee and the exploitation
of imported Africans as slaves. Slavery was abolished in 1794 during
the French Revolution, but later reintroduced under Napoleon
Bonaparte before finally ending in 1848.
At the eruption of Mont Pelée in 1902, the city of St. Pierre
with its approximately 30,000 residents wiped out in a matter of
minutes (see also nuée ardente).
Pursuant to Article 11 of the UN Charter on decolonization, the
island was incorporated into France in 1946 with the status of a
department and in 1974 also as a region. An independence movement
was elected to the local parliament for the first time in 1990.