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 empire.
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.