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. Sameolebs

    Much worse crimes go on in the U.S. And other developed countries far more horrible and remain unsolved due to bad investigating, corruption, coverups,etc. While this case and the Holloway cases are unfortunate, both of these ladies were not exactly innocent little angels. I live in the Caribbean and never had an incident in all my years. Like anywhere else in the world, as a tourist or local, you need to be on your toes and careful. We dont live in Disney world anymore.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • teamroper

      David...Just because she's a sl ut, do you have to be so mean?

      August 15, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dick Cheney

      Sameolebs...of course you have never had an incident you schmuck you are not a hot young blonde on vacation you are a one of the locals who try to cover it up so your precious tourist dollars do not leave. Maybe you are even one of the local pervs who abduct these same woman when that give your fat butt the cold shoulder......

      August 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sameolebs

      Listen up Dick... I am an American born citizen who lives in the Caribbean. If any kind of situation happened where I live, be it back home in the U.S or here, I wouldn't want it to be "covered up" by any locals or government. And please Dick, you don't have to redirect your own weight problem and failures at picking up women to me. Do us all a favor and go hunting alone and misfire again.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • malasangre

      this just in: man arraigned on charges for punching little 3 little girls in the hoo-ha in the wave pool at disney. disney aint disney anymore

      August 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. PJ

    The US should put out a travel alert on Aruba. It is a dangerous island with a corrupt judicial system. Poor Natalie Holloway!!

    August 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sameolebs

      While they are it, they better do the same for a majority of the high murder rate cities in their own country. I would rather take my chances on Aruba for a month rather than Trenton NJ for an evening.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • nicole

      Why should the US put a travel alert on Aruba, when the criminal is from the US? Joran van der Sloot was born in Arnhem, Netherlands. His wealthy father who just happened to be a lawyer, made it impossible for the little maniac to get convicted. Natalie Holloway unfortunately got herself involved with the wrong crazy boy while drunk on a religious high school trip!!! so whaterver!!!!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • sheila

      I have been to Aruba countless times and in fact head there next week for 2 weeks again!It is NOt the island that is unsafe! It is people not thinking about the things they DO!!!!WHY would this woman travel with a man she barely knew and NOT even tell her BF where she was? WHy did the young ladys friends let her leave a bar with a man they did not know while she was drunk-bad decisions people, NOt a bad island!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam

      But it was her boyfriend, he isnt or wasnt from Aruba.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. San

    Sad that Arubans worry more about their reputation and tourism dollars than the fate of the tourists who disappear on their island. Maybe if they cared about the latter, the former would take care of itself.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. karek40

    Maybe they are not killing them, perhaps they are selling them.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. you

    Wow another blonde American disappears in another cR@Ph0le country.

    C'mon people open your eyes and realize yes it CAN happen to you and its not safe to travel abroad as it once was being American.

    People pay good money for cute blonde Americans... such a travesty.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam

      its not safe since we have a President like Obama, piece of crap!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. john

    This woman was stupid and so was the Holloway woman. Both hung out with men they had no idea who they where. I am sorry that Holloway died and this woman is probably dead as well. But women should try and use better judgement or better yet dont go hang out with men you dont know in a country you know nothing about. Did either woman have a brain in their heads or are they just two stupid blonds.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • J. Mark Lane

      You are an ass.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • kyle

      Well said. They think they have more fun ( blonds ) or should I say more stupid?

      August 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • J. Mark Lane

      Well, that's two idiots in a row who can't spell "blonde's", yet have the audacity to accuse others of being stupid. If it weren't so sad, it would be funny.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • J. Mark Lane

      Well, that's two idiots in a row who can't spell "blondes", yet have the audacity to accuse others of being stupid. If it weren't so sad, it would be funny.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. amy

    I wish someone would take Nancy Grace snorkeling.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • J. Mark Lane

      Amen to that!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • JinNY

      LMAO!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dick Cheney

      that is dream we can all hope for.....

      August 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. GoldenGate

    Spend your tourism dollars in the US. We have some great islands too.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dick Cheney

      damn right we do!!!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TriXen

    Amen to that one buddy!

    August 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. IsJustAnArticle

    So Aruba is experiencing a lack of tourism, and at the same time 'the locals are nervous and not keen to see us again"?

    August 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. michell

    this is so sad god bless her

    August 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. wa3y

    I been in Aruba many times and I feel much safer there than my city Philadelphia PA

    August 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. gaucho420

    Arubans need to get over it. A person is missing...what do they want, for it to get pushed under the rug and go unreported?

    August 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Proud Arubiano

    To my fellow commentators, a good Afternoon.
    I'm an Arubian and I'm proud. What happened on my island is very tragic. That doesn't mean that my island is not safe. Because of carelessness, (pardon my bad English), and bad decisions, tragic happens. What happened in the Holloways Case nobody knows exactly what happened, because of bad decisions, in part of the government, police and of the family of Nathaly. Nobody knows if she's alive or death, a burden that we all have to cary. Why people has to blame one tiny island of two tragic events, and doesn't blame for example Miami or Margarita, Venezuela, or even Europe of what happens to the US citizens. If an Arubian dies because of a murder or a tragic event in the US, there is no media frenzy. But if one young, beautifull, Blond, American vanishes, in the cases of both Holloway and Gardner, all hell breaks loose. Aruba (not one sole individual) is to blame. The grounds of Aruba swallowed up these two people. Please, stop blaming an island that has nothing to do with the tragic dissapearances of these two persons. Ask the once that did it. And BTW, it was another American Citizen that was with Gardner, not an ARUBIAN, nor anyone else. Stop pinpointing and generalizing our people, our island for things that happened because of other persons. Remember that there are far far more dangerous places than Aruba. Finally what I have to say is this, to all travelers, there is no place as paradise. Wherever you go, you make your own paradise. You have to take care of yourself whereever you go, even if you go inland US or you go to Fiji. Everywhere there is crime. Don't be fooled by dumbnutted people. And for those who try to boycott Aruba, go ahead, remain ignorant. Be one less on my island. And those who really are Aruba's real friends, thank you very much for caring for us and we will always have a place for you on our island and our hearts.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      I just got back yesterday.. I will be going back.. Thank you for your hospitality. Love the Divi!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Faith

    This woman died because an AMERICAN man who came with her killed her, not because of some mysterious islander who keeps murdering blonde Americans. Aruba is no more dangerous than any other place in the world.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
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