Curacao, just off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea, is the largest and most industrialized island in the Netherlands Antilles, covering 182 square miles.
* A self-governing part of the Netherlands, Curacao is a major tourist destination boasting white-sand beaches, crystalline waters and popular casinos.
* Curacao has a 320,000 barrel per day oil refinery, Isla, operated by Venezuelan state company PDVSA. It generates heavy oil-shipping traffic. Residents have repeatedly said the refinery causes environmental damage in the area. PDVSA is in talks with Curacao to buy part of the facility.
* Once the center of the Caribbean slave trade, Curacao was hard hit by the abolition of slavery in 1863. Its prosperity — and that of neighboring Aruba — was restored in the early 20th century with the construction of refineries to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oil fields.
* Curacao, known for its multi-cultural population, has Dutch, Papiamentu and English as official languages.
* On the east end of the island is the colonial-style capital and major port of Willemstad. Most of Curacao’s 130,000 residents live in the vicinity of Willemstad.