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. mjh59

    Please people, do not cast judgment on the people of Aruba. That is for Nancy Grace to decide.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • carlaippolito

      I agree There is NO Guilt on Aruba...They can only act if there is evidence,,,If no evidence,,,they must release him

      August 15, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Ann

      WHY do these women put themselves in harms way? If they had MORALS, this crap wouldn't happen! Hello! Well she knows now, too late sweetie...............

      August 15, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Ariel

      Official Travel Slogan: "Aruba, you can kill her here on our beautiful island and we'll cover it up for you!"

      August 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sean

    Hey indyNC, They put that mug of Arnold 's mistress on T.V.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. carlaippolito

    In fact as a Material Witness,,,I don't belive that he will be required to Post a Bail...Just an agreement that he will return if the Govt. of Aruba wants him there...Thats the agreement that the USA has with Aruba

    August 15, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    At least they know who DID NOT DO IT – Vandersloot is still locked up isn't he?

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

      SO,,Whats the crime that they can hold him on..??? A Perhaps..???...Not there or in the USA is that possible

      August 15, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. jpm

    all these comments saying,"please dont' judge aruba" were also said during the nancy holloway story. I'll never forget, they dont' have evidence, the people are good, blah blah.

    Vandersloot got away with murder and the aruban government showed it was crooked because his family had connections and money.

    Don't go to aruba.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Eugene Pebworth

      Oh, and we're so different here? A judge gets convicted of sentencing kids to jail for kickbacks, a mom gets away with murder becuase the DA over reaches when many times have we seen someone get-off becuase they could afford the best defense money could buy.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |

    THANK YOU to all ARUBA's supporters. As an local we love our island. For us it's paradise and there no place like ARUBA. And of course we don't like that ARUBA is so negative in the media. It's not the island fault that the girl disappear. Every human being is responsible for its self. And seeing how people talks on the Internet trashing the name of their beloved island is just sad. It's unfortunate that this has happened to this girl and we all wish that this can be solved, because the bad publicity it's just bad for the economy of Aruba. You cannot compare this case to the Holloway case. The police learned from their mistakes and are doing everything in their power to solve this case.

    August 15, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • ArubaDiviGal

      I will be coming to Aruba in 3 short weeks for my annual excited to get back to such a beautiful island and it's very friendly people! One Happy Island!!

      August 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. christy collingwood

    Folks – just stop going to Arbua! it is not safe and their government has failed in bringing anyone to justice, particularly their own! Another beautiful, young woman in Chile would still be alive today has they held and prosecured Joran Vandersloot fromt he get go! You will never see me or my friends or family given $1 to the Aruba Tourisim. And their people are getting mad at the media attention? They might start getting mad at their government for the way they handle, botch or cover up investigations!

    August 15, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  8. Cindi

    There is no murder here or with any of the other missing "beautiful people" – check the surrounding countries – bet anything they have been sold! Go find them!

    August 15, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. mt45

    Aruba may have a new economic boom on their hand – murder tourism. The island where anybody can go to commit murder and get away with it.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJUND

      Oh no! Two missing girls over the course of 6 years! At this rate, we'll all be dead by Thursday!

      August 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      JJUND – you may be right. Especially since it appears that this crime was perpetrated by another American. But we should blame Aruba. 😉

      August 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Justin

    I don't really understand the point of the article? The people of Aruba don't like the media, or don't want the media to cover it? I don't think that's a rationale point considering the small world that we are part of. I also don't think that anyone in their right mind would hold the people of Aruba accountable for a crime, no matter how heinous. People commit crimes all over the world, unfortunately. Perhaps I am just being naive, considering some of these posts. How can anyone cast a judgement on an entire country because of two crimes?

    August 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJUND

      You would think they wouldn't...but then look at some of the comments here. Reading CNN article comments makes you think the whole world is insane.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Liz

    Hmmm maybe I'm on to something. I have tried six times to post my theory of what happened and it won't show up???? Hmm odd – why are they filtering me? No cursing – just a realistic theory.

    I also find it odd that the missing travelers are always attractive people and no bodies are never found. Come on, it doesn't take a genius to figure this out. I suppose the US doesn't want to make waves by searching the other countries that these 'beautiful people' have been most likely shipped off to, right?!!! Where is little Madelaine? Where is Natalee? How about Don in Fiji? Where are our answers?

    August 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      You think that Natallee Holloway and this latest person were shipped off into slavery?

      August 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ProperVillain

    Aruba is a third world hell hole with a corrupt police department. This is a very sad and bad situation but with everything that happened with the Holloway case it shocks me that anyone in their right mind would want to vacation there. My rule of thumb is that any country with the keystone cops as a police force, I stay clear of.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Then stay away from Florida, California, etc.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. carlaippolito

    Aruba is a Dutch Colony,,The Father of Van Der Sloot,,,,was a Judge in Aruba,,,Thats enough clout I believe..But Now, the Father is dead...What will happen to him AFTER he serves hin time in Peru for the murder there

    August 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Proud Arubiano

      Just a correction, we are not a Dutch Colony. That ship has sailed about more than 150 years ago. We are an autonomous country in the European Commonwealth. That is a difference. A Colony doesn't have a parliament and Minister for instance.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Justin

    Forget my last post, there is total ignorance on this board.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kyle

    So, this article is suggesting we should feel bad for a "juicy story" obsessed media being shunned before feeling sympathy for the islanders/family and friends of the victims? No.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
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