Latin America & Caribbean

Curacao profile

Map of Curacao

Curacao, a small Caribbean island off the Venezuelan coast, is an oil refining and tourist centre.

It became an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2010 in a change of constitutional status that dissolved the Netherlands Antilles.

While Curacao and Sint Maarten became autonomous countries, the less-populated islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba now have city status within the Netherlands.

The islands, once called the Dutch West Indies, were colonised in the 17th century. Formerly the centre of the slave trade, Curacao was hard hit by the abolition of slavery in 1863 but its prosperity returned in the early 20th century with the construction of refineries to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oil fields.



Autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands

  • Population 142,000

  • Area 444 sq km (171 sq miles)

  • Major languages Dutch, Papiamento, English

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 73 years (men), 79 years (women)

  • Currency Netherlands Antillean guilder


Head of state: King of the Netherlands, represented by a governor

Prime Minister: Bernard "Ben" Denzil Whiteman

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Curacao's Prime Minister Bernard Whiteman (left) meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Havana in June 2016

Bernard "Ben" Denzil Whiteman was appointed interim prime minister in September 2015 following the resignation of Ivar Asjes who quit after his Sovereign People party withdrew support.

While serving as prime minister, Whiteman retained the post of minister of public health, environment and nature he was appointed to in December 2012.

He trained as a medical doctor and served in various health administration posts in the Netherlands Antilles. After its dissolution in 2010, he became Curacao's first inspector general for public health at the health ministry.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The capital Willemstad - unmistakeably Dutch - is on Unesco's World Heritage List


Curacao's media landscape is characterised by a substantial number of media outlets.

There are no fewer than 28 licensed radio stations, eight newspapers and at least three television stations, according to a 2016 report by UNESCO.

Legislation does not currently distinguish between public, private and community radio. Curacao does not have any public service media. All of its media are commercial entities.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Fort Beekenburg is one of a handful of surviving fortifications which helped defend the island against pirates

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