IntroductionCuraçao (kyŏˈrəsō, kōräsouˈ) [key], island (1989 est. pop. 146,100), 178 sq mi (461 sq km), an autonomous country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located in the Lesser Antilles off the coast of Venezuela. Curaçao is semiarid; most of the plant life is of desert character. Oil refining is the principal industry, and the island has one of the world's largest refineries, receiving oil from the enormous reserves at nearby Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. There are also phosphate deposits. Other major industries include tourism (Curaçao is a free port and has a number of resorts and casinos) and ship repairing. Curaçao's ship-repair dry dock is one of the largest in the Americas. The head of state is the monarch of the Netherlands, represented by a governor-general. The head of government is the prime minister, who is elected by the unicameral parliament (Staten). The parliament's 21 members are popularly elected to four-year terms.
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