December 05, 2006


To whom it may concern:

I am appalled and disgusted that David Swanson’s “Caribbean conundrum: where to go” ran in your Sunday travel section. Mr. Swanson writes: “Aruba remains one of the region’s safer, family-friendly landings.”

Did he check with Beth Twitty and her family?

A year and a half after Natalee Holloway vanished in Aruba, a court there is weighing whether the three people last seen with her will remain as suspects. One Aruban official said of Natalee, “She just disappeared,” and that is what Aruba would have us believe. Prime Minister Nelson Oduber initially opposed accepting FBI assistance, saying the case would be solved in a week, and this pattern of obstruction has been evident from the start.

Aruban officials either have or have not been conducting a cover-up to protect certain people. If so, as is widely believed, a tourist advisory on travel to Aruba is not only warranted, but is a moral imperative. If its bungling of this case is marked by nothing more than incompetence, then that in itself is grounds for tourists to go elsewhere.

Swanson’s paean to the “one happy island” overlooks some things. A Boston woman was kidnapped and raped (no arrests). Another Boston woman was raped in the parking lot of Carlos ‘n’ Charlies (no arrests). American tourist Tracy Allen was assaulted in the same month Natalee went missing (no arrests). Other tourists have been robbed and assaulted. People have been found decapitated, burned to death, dumped in parks, etc.

Our State Department Web site cites Aruba as a locale where human trafficking occurs. Some calculate that on a per capita basis, Aruba has a worse crime problem than does the U.S. I invite Mr. Swanson to look into this. Better yet, he should read a piece that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently ran: “Increase in crime reported at Caribbean resorts.”

For those who wish to raise obvious objections, I am indeed aware that our country has more than enough crime and far too many unsolved cases. But that is not what is at issue. In the eighteen months since Natalee Holloway vanished, Aruban officials have assailed her family for speaking out, have suggested that “the girl” and her tour group were guilty of improper behavior (a charge that was specifically denied by the hotel at which she stayed), and have thrown every conceivable impediment in the path of an investigation.

Aruba cares nothing for the lives of our citizens, but cares much for our dollars; it rejoices to see superficial feel-good pieces that use clichéd tourist images to present the image of a tropical paradise. Your readers, however, may suffer the consequences. The evidence that Aruba is the very contrary of a “tropical paradise” has been out there for some time. Tragically, before the night of May 30, 2005, it received little notice. One legacy of the Natalee Holloway tragedy must be that our tourists no longer travel abroad with blinders on.

I hope that your newspaper will, in future, not accept illusions and lies, but try to pierce them. The lives that your readers save may be their own.



cc: Aruba Tourist Authority, 1200 Harbor Blvd., Weehawken, NJ 07087
Embassy of the Netherlands, 4200 Linnean Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008


Anonymous said...

Good Job Richard. Very well written. Will be giving them my opinion on the matter also.

Anonymous said...

this is very well written. Great job.

Anonymous said...

Hey Richard. Went to the Philly Inquirer web site to find the e-mail address to the editor. Clicked on travel to read your article. Came across another article about Aruba. One from the Toni Stroud Salama of the Chicago Tribune. It's called "Cactus in the Caribbean" It does make a reference to Natalee???

Anonymous said...

I think the problem for everybody is that in the meantime, wether we like it or not, since Natalee's dissappearence more than 1 million tourists have gone to Aruba, and come back without a problem (I am talking havy stuff, not the occasional car break-in or robbery out of hotel rooms). As much as I don't like it, for all intents and purposes, it still leaves Aruba as one of the 'safest' places in the carribean, and definitely safer than anytime in NEW-York, Chicago or LA, just to name a few.

But I do agree that he could have focues a little more on the Natalee case, and the mismanagement of that case by the ALE.
But I guess he was there for a 'touristic' point of view!

John C.