August 15th, 2011
09:28 AM ET

Familiar spotlight on Aruba after disappearance stirs up local frustration

The disappearance of Robyn Gardner has brought the international media back to Aruba, and Arubans aren’t happy about it. After the prolonged investigation without resolution in the Natalee Holloway case the summer of 2005, tourism took a hit. The locals are nervous and not keen to see us again.

There is no way to keep a low profile on an island when you’re CNN. A photograph of us reporting in front of the prosecutor’s office was on the front page of the island’s most popular paper, The Diario, the day after we landed.

Since then, other networks have followed us to Aruba. NBC’s satellite dish now sprouts from the hotel grounds. An unnamed television team was having lunch near the site where Gardner reportedly vanished while snorkeling. Once the manager of the restaurant knew they were members of the media, he threw them out, refusing their money for the meal they had already been served. It’s a very strong reaction for a place whose maroon and white license plates boast “One Happy Island.”

That’s an extreme example. I have been here many times, and always, unfortunately, for bad news. I was here for much of the Holloway frenzy, but even now, I find most here are extremely polite and friendly. However, if you ask them if they know anything about the current case and would they be willing to be interviewed, people grow silent. Twice my requests were met with the same response. One person said “here is someone who could talk" to me while writing down a name and phone number. Only it was the number for the island’s solicitor general, and I already had it.

This story, although tragic, hasn't reached the Holloway kind of media madness, at least not yet. But like then, rumors are quick to spread. On the beach by the Marriott hotel north of town, the buzz was that Nancy Grace had arrived on the island the night before on a private jet.

The Aruban government learned from its mistakes in the Holloway case. This time, immediately after Gardner was reported missing, a very aggressive search by land, sea and air was launched. The solicitor general, who is the spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, is readily available for interviews, and police quickly asked the FBI to assist their investigation in the U.S.

Another important difference? The person of interest is an American, not one of their own with ties to the justice system. The politics are not the same.

But many of the faces of the returning members of the media are the same.

The greeting I get from friends on the island is often with a sigh: “It’s nice to see you, but not necessarily good to see you.”

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Filed under: Aruba
soundoff (268 Responses)
  1. ArubaDiviGal

    NICK and all the other Aruba haters- I have been going there every year for 10+ years and am a timeshare owner. This island is one of the most beautiful places to visit. I am young and blonde and return every year and don't go missing! This is just a classic case of people being careless. Stop blaming Aruba for these unfortunate tragedies...PEOPLE NEED TO START ACTING LIKE ADULTS WHEN THEY GO ON VACATION THERE.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      A timeshare owner and no doubt a timeshare SELLER. Aruba is about as safe as Mexico for a white face. Stay away if you like living.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Bryan

      or anywhere else, for that matter

      August 15, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • traci

      you have been going there 10 years and you are young? lol ok, if you are a timeshare owner which puts you at a minimum of 18 when you began going as this timeshare owner, you are now 28. i think your real problem is that you are denying that you are aging. secondly, i doubt you are a real blond. then again, judging by your post, i'll give you the blonde act.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • EmeraldCity

      Wow, traci – jealous and hateful much? Perhaps you should re-read ADG's post. She states that she's been *going* there for 10+ years and that she's a timeshare owner. That doesn't necessarily mean that she's owned a timeshare for 10+ years. Perhaps she started going there when she was 15 and has only owned the timeshare for 2 years. "Blonde act," indeed.

      BTW – Your post really betrays how much you despise other women, and therefore, yourself.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • carlaippolito

      Aruba is no better or worse than any other tourist spot...In or Out of the United States...Its the Folks who go to these places, not the places..Aruba has had one Missing Girl in 2005 and One PROBABLE missing girl..this year...Not Exactly a Crime Wave...With this Robyn...there is NO proof that a crime was even comitted

      August 15, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • ETK

      Its out of your hands when someone slips something in your drink and you have no control of yourself anymore. Stupid blonde. Im sure ill Be hearing about you before long on CNN.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      Aruba is a great safe place, there are crimes committed all over the world i am a young girl and have been to aruba many times as has my family who has a time share. The beaches are safe and the tourist side is safe.. If you take a walk on the "wild" side the tide is a bit rougher and there are a lot more places for bodies to go un noticed, the grass and area is unkept and over grown and that side of the island is poor and un kept, I'd be checking that area because its not uncommon for us tourist to travel to that side of the island, either way a girl is dead, Aruba didnt kill her her travel partner chose Aruba as a place to kill her, this could have happened anywhere, girls just need to travel together and stay with people they know, and knowing someone from off the internet is not knowing them because you can be who ever you want on the computer, face to face encounters is an entirely different story!

      August 15, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      In regards to Traci's comment to you...why does this arubadivigirl have to be old just because she states she is a young blond and has been going for 10+ years. I ( my family) has a time share and i am 27 years old and i have been going ever since i can remember..and that makes me old. Aruba is a beautiful place, quit calleing that girl a dumb blond because your just dumb! That young girl that is now missing is 35 and does that make her old? Old is our parents age or our grand parents age, if your 30 and you think your old you have a complex, quit being a hater!

      August 15, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Geronimo

      @traci
      People need to take you to Aruba and let loose, as idiot and mean people like you should rather vanish.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JA

    No one should die because of poor character judgement – not in this country and not in Aruba. It is beginning to look like Aruba is the place to go if you want to make someone disappear permanently. Aruba's paradise facade appears to be just that . . . a facade. Hopefully US vacationers will think twice before booking their vacations there in the future. My heart goes out to this woman's family and friends.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. felipesq55

    Neither happenings were commited by Arubans. Too bad such a friendly people in such a beautiful place didn't have the expertise to deal with a horrific crime as that one commited by Joran van der Sloot, whose family had such a strong influence in the island.
    Arubans are definitelly being blamed for their government's bad choices and incompetence and once again, they are under the spotlight for some possible crime not commited by one of their own.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. AC

    Aruba, you put yourself in Harms way when you go to this 3rd world country. Stay away from the place and live. Mexico is alot safer then this f'd place.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Now that is hilarious. Mexico is riddled with crime, and even the police are corrupt. Yes, two people died in Aruba. Do you have any idea how many murders are committed in the U.S. every day? The average American is so stupid and easily fooled by media frenzy, it cracks me up.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • immobee

      Mexico is a beautiful place. You shouldn't go by what the media wants you to believe. Try visiting aguascalientes. My dream is to move there. Beautiful place with beautiful people.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Geronimo

      Haha, Average murder per year in United States is fourteen thousands. So you should rather move to Aruba instead.
      http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

      August 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Proud Arubiano

      If mexico is such a secure place, why don't you try going to Ciudad Juarez. Everyday, but everyday there are at least 20 killings. Girls are being exploited in a way that you can't imagine. Here on ARUBA, yes, on ARUBA, we work and don't get exploited. Why don't you come and see for urself. or try going on one of our Websites and GET INFORMED PROPERLY. Two cases in six years, in comparisson with the US, please. spare me.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mark

    I suggest if Aruba wants to stop attracting attention for the disappearance and murder of women then they need to do a better job of catching the murderers. I've vacationed in Jamaica, St. Kitts, Barbados and Puerto Rico and Aruba is the only place where they seem to have a murdered woman tourist problem.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • carlaippolito

      Surely You Jest or Don't have a clue about the rest of the world...Aruba...is lite weight..compared to thousands of people murdered every day ALL over the world

      August 15, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Proud Arubiano

      Good day to you Mark. I'm not completelly agreed with you. We can't say that what happened was murder, because in neither cases there was a body. It is tragic, yes, but nobody knows exactly what happened. Only the vanishees and most probably the last person or persons who was with them.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Martin

    I learned on lesson the hard way when I was young traveling in foreign countries. Do not trust the locals. If you must trust someone because of some emergency, trust fellow travelers in a group. However, this does apply in this situation. If the missing beautiful woman was careful, this probably would not have happened. As reported, the suspected killer's background was very shaky and she never should have had a relationship with this guy at all. She should have been in Aruba with trusted friends in a group. I am now middle aged, but I remember meeting so many shady scaring people when I was young and naive. Because of what happened now twice in Aruba, I don't think I would take a vacation there and if I had to, I would stay with my wife and would not wander into any area where we are totally alone. Remember not to trust locals in any foreign country. Stay in a trusted group if you want to wander.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. Peter

    Psychopath killers. Indifferent police. Drugs. A pathetic, moronic so-called Judiciary. A greedy population ready to sweep dirt under the carpet regardless of visitor's safety. What could possibly be there to blame in that tropical hellhole, er, I mean "tropical paradise"?

    August 15, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. citizenUSA

    Excellent reason waterboarding, (when we have control of the suspect). All we want is the truth. If it won't be given willingly then it has to be taken. Was the victim a willing participant in her own disappearance? But then again, can you trust waterboarding? Won't the person just say something to have it stopped? That's possible but with the thought that as soon as it's found to be a lie, it'll start all over again. Maybe that thought would provoke the truth the first time. Otherwise we should be able to use Sodium Pentathol. I think as a planet we've realized that trying to treat criminals humanely does not deter crime. The "cruel and unusual punishment" statute has to be reviewed. How many victims DON'T experience "cruel and unusual" treatment by their assailants? It invokes fear and usually gets the results the criminal wants. Sounds like they have it figured out. If some process could prove your innocence ,I'd think anyone innocent would have no problem going through whatever the process is. Do I want to go through the trouble for such a thing? No, of course not. However as most of us see, the world is never what it used to be and we have to adapt accordingly. A good example is having to go through the screening process at the airport. It's only done because of the bad guys so why should anyone feel sorry for them?

    August 15, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Hey everyone, look! A sadist! You don't get to see these in public very often.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • citizenUSA

      Hey Steve,

      Where did you read anything about me enjoying or getting involved with what I propsed? Maybe you'd see things differently if this was your sister or boyfriend.

      August 15, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Josie

    My husband & I just returned from a trip to Aruba in June. We had an awesome time. The people were the most friendly of any place we've ever been, seriously! We did not encounter even one rude person in our week there. I did not have any second thoughts about it being an unsafe place because of the Holloway case. I certainly don't agree with what happened to her, but that girl made some really bad decisions. Those same decisions shouldn't even be made here in the U.S.. This most recent lady who disappeared while snorkeling is also a shame. I snorkeled twice while I was there. I realized once that it had only taken me a few minutes to get very far away from my group. Swimming along looking at such beautiful fish makes you lose track of time and distance. I could see how something bad could happen. So, to punish a beautiful, hospitable island for two bad incidences is not logical. Please people don't punish Aruba. It really was ONE HAPPY ISLAND. I would go back in a heartbeat!

    August 15, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • ocho

      and you might come back without a heartbeat!

      August 15, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • felipesq55

      I have the same opinion as you, Josie.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  10. debr611

    Deja vu. Well they will do their best to cover up this crime just like the Natalie Halloway case. They will try to sweep it under the rug to protect their tourism industry.

    August 15, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    Interesting.. Racial slurs, accusations of media bias, etc all get posted by my comment suggesting this might be a john-escort relationship gets blocked?

    I'm sure excuse me for criticizing the media sensationalism of this story. The tragic events that have unfolded here are truly that..TRAGIC.. but can we please look at the fact that this was probably not an innocent friendship but rather a business relationship...

    August 15, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. tank rothchild

    Aruba is a dangerous place. I was planning to go there on my honeymoon, but not anymore.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. j0nx

    Why do people continue to go to this island? Boycott them and let's be done with this.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  14. fenster

    Aruba is beautiful and safe. 2 people disappear/are murdered and you all think it's a gulag! Someone in America disappears every 30 seconds...someone is murdered every 15 minutes...

    August 15, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. Joe

    Let's not rush to judge Aruba. NO evidence has been offered up that there were locals involved or that it had ANYTHING do to with Aruba or its people. It appears more likely that this American guy she met online may have played a part OR she drowned.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • tamars

      or – aruba's obfuscation and inept follow up in the Natalee Holloway case gave it the reputation that one can get away with murder.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Keyser

      Well, of course it's Aruba"s fault... Aren't each and every person on the island responsible for every western tourist that sets foot on their shores? Oh the horror...

      Not that she deserves to perish, but this woman is a real piece of work... Telling her live-in BF that she was going to Florida for a holiday, when she actually met this freak online and was off to Aruba with him... You reap what you sow, so to speak...

      August 15, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Armando

      Americans are always quick to judge when an American is killed in a foreign country, but stick their heads in the dirt when a foreigner is killed in the US. Just saying.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • carlaippolito

      There is NOT, One Shred of evidence that a crime has even been comitted...Her Part Time MD boyfriend has not heard from her,,,What else is new..???...She may have hitched a Ride on a Boat headed for Florida,,,Don't need her passport to enter the USA from the water...Just proof that you live in the USA,,,She may be laughing this off right now

      August 15, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • EricLr

      I think you underestimate the importance of this case. A pretty white girl is missing, for heaven's sake!

      August 15, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • carlaippolito

      In Addition,,There is NOT One Shred of evidence to date that a crime has even been comitted

      August 15, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • MikeyD74

      youre an idiot armando... just saying

      August 15, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • jpm

      You really have got to be kidding. Last time some rich young white kid with huge connections literally got away with murder. Another girl is lost and you dont' have proof?

      DONT GO TO ARUBA. How many more young blond girls have to go before people get it.

      August 15, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
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