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The Republic of Colombia is a country in northwestern South America. It is bordered to the north and north-west by the Caribbean Sea, to the east by Venezuela and Brazil, to the south by Ecuador and Peru, and to the west by Panama and the Pacific Ocean.

República de Colombia
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: Libertad y Orden
(English: Liberty and Order)
Official language Spanish
Capital Bogotá
President Álvaro Uribe Vélez
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 25th
1,138,910 km²

 - Total (2003)
 - Density

Ranked 28th



 - Declared
 - Recognised

From Spain

July 20, 1810
August 7, 1819

Currency Peso
Time zone UTC -5
National anthem Oh Gloria Inmarcesible!
Internet TLD .co
Calling Code 57



Main article: History of Colombia

Around 1450 BC there was cultural activity in "El Abra", near Bogotá. In 1000 BC amerindians developed the political system of "cacicazgos" (The Cacique) with a pyramidal structure of power, especially the Muisca or Chibcha people. They would be the biggest political system of South America after the Incas. Spanish explorers made the first exploration of the Caribbean littoral in 1500 (Rodrigo de Bastidas). In 1502 Christopher Columbus navigated near the coasts of Choco. In 1508 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa started the conquest of the territory by Urabá. In 1513 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean that he called "The Sea of the South" and which fact would bring the Spaniards to Peru and Chile. In 1525, the first European city in the American Continent was founded, Santa María la Antigua del Darién in what is today the Chocó Department. The main people in the Colombian territory were hundreds of tribes of the Chibchan and "Karib" or Caribbean peoples whom they assimilated or killed through warfare, disease, exploitation, or conquest. They soon established settlements that eventually grew into the provinces which were part of the Captaincy General of New Granada. As it became a Viceroyalty in 1717, some other provinces of northwestern South America came under its jurisdiction. In the 16th century Europeans brought slaves from Africa.

Though there were independent movements of rebellion since the very beginning of the Conquest and Colony, the main one sprang up around 1810, led by Simón Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander, that finally succeeded in 1819 when the territory of the Viceroyalty of New Granada became the Republic of Gran Colombia as a Confederation with Ecuador and Venezuela, Panama was a Colombian Department until 1903.

Internal political and territorial divisions led to the secession of Venezuela and Quito (today's Ecuador) in 1830. The so-called "Department of Cundinamarca" received then the name "Nueva Granada" until 1856 when it became the "Confederación Granadina" (Granadine Confederation). In 1863 the "United States of Colombia" was created, until 1886 when it finally became the Republic of Colombia. Internal divisions remained, occasionally igniting very bloody civil wars and contributing to the US-sponsored secession of Panama in 1903. The most bloody of these wars occurred in the late 1940s and early 1950s, known as La Violencia (the violence). It claimed the lives of at least 180,000 Colombians. Its cause was mainly tensions between partisan groups.

A new constitution was implemented in 1991 to replace the previous 1886 document, after being drafted by the Constituent Assembly of Colombia. The constitution included key provisions on political, human, ethnic and gender rights, which have been gradually put in practice, though surrounding controversies, uneven developments and setbacks have persisted.

In recent decades the country has been plagued by the effects of the influential drug trade and by guerrilla insurgents such as FARC and illegal counter-insurgency paramilitary groups such as AUC, which along with other minor factions have been engaged in a bloody internal conflict. The different irregular groups often resort to kidnapping and drug smuggling to fund their causes, tend to operate in large areas of the remote rural countryside and can sometimes disrupt communications and travel between different regions.

In the late 1990s an initiative named Plan Colombia was implemented by President Andrés Pastrana Arango with the goal of ending the armed conflict and promoting a strong anti-narcotic strategy. The most controversial element of the Plan is considered to be its anti-narcotic strategy, as it consists on the increase in aerial fumigations to eradicate coca. This activity has come under fire from several sectors as it is claimed that fumigation also damages legal crops and has adverse health effects upon population exposed to the herbicides. Critics of the initiative also claim that the plan represents a military repressive approach to problems that have additional roots in the social inequalities of the country.

During the presidency of Alvaro Uribe, elected on the promise to apply military pressure on the FARC and other irregular groups, the government and its supporters claim some security indicators have improved, showing a decrease in reported kidnappings (from 3700 in the year 2000 to 1441 in 2004) and of more than 48% in homicides between July 2002 and May 2005. It is argued that these improvements have favored economic growth. [1]

Analysts and critics inside Colombia agree that there has been a degree of pratical improvement in several of the mentioned fields, but the exact reasons for the figures themselves have sometimes been disputed, as well as their specific accuracy. Some opposition sectors have criticized the government's security strategy, claiming that it is not enough to solve Colombia's complex problems and that it has contributed to creating a favorable environment for the continuation of some human rights abuses.


Main article: Politics of Colombia

Colombia is a republic where the executive branch dominates government structure. Up until recently, the president was elected together with the vice-president by popular vote for a single four-year term, which functioned as both head of state and head of government. However, on October 19, 2005 the colombian Congress amended the constitution, which now allows colombian presidents to serve up to two consecutive four-year terms.

Colombia's bicameral parliament is the Congress or Congreso, which consists of the 102-seat Senate and the 166-seat Chamber of Representatives. Members of both houses are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms.

Colombia is a member of the South American Community of Nations.

The Colombian judicial system underwent significant reforms in the 1990s, and is undergoing a process of migration from a inquisitorial system to an adversary system. Bogotá and parts of the coffee growing region of Colombia have already adopted the adversary system, with the rest of the country following suit starting on January 1, 2006.


Main article: Geography of Colombia

Located in the North of South America (4 00 N, 72 00 W) and part of Caribbean South America. The only South American country with coast in both oceans (Atlantic or Caribbean Sea with 1,760 km and Pacific Ocean with 1,448 km. Borders: North with the Caribbean Sea (sea boaders with Jamaica, Haiti and Dominican Republic). West with Panama (225 km) and sea borders with Costa Rica both in the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean and Guatemala. South with Ecuador (590 km), Peru (1,496 km) and Brazil (1,643 km). East with Brazil and Venezuela (2,050 km).

Colombia has a total area of 1,138,910 km² being the fourth biggest country in South America after Brazil, Argentina and Peru and the seventh one in the American Continent. From this area, the land has 1,038,700 km² and the water area has 100,210 km². It has also an archipelago in the Caribbean sea (San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina) that forms the territory of the department San Andrés y Providencia.

Mainland territory divided into four major geographic regions: Andean highlands (composed of three mountain ranges and intervening valley lowlands); Caribbean lowlands; Pacific lowlands; and Ilanos and tropical rainforest of eastern Colombia. Colombia also possesses small islands in both Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.

Striking variety in temperature resulting principally from differences in elevation; little seasonal variation. Habitable areas consist of hot (below 900 meters in elevation), temperate (between 900 and 1,980 meters), and cold (from 1,980 meters to about 3,500 meters) climatic zones. Precipitation generally moderate to heavy, with highest levels in Pacific lowlands and in parts of eastern Colombia; considerable year-to-year variations recorded.

The Andes range is located in Colombia from Southwest (Ecuador boarder) toward Northeast (Venezuela boarder) and is divided in the Colombian Massif (Macizo Colombiano) in three ranges (East Range, Centre Range and West Range) that form two long valleys, Magdalena and Cauca follow by the rivers of the same name. The highest mountain in Colombia is not in the Andes but in the Caribbean plain: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta with its highest points named Pico Cristobal Colon (5,775 m) and Pico Simon Bolivar (same elevation).

The eastern part of Colombia, comprising more than half its territory, is plain and composed by savanna and rainforest, crossed by rivers belonging to the Amazon and Orinoco basins. The northern part, called "Los Llanos" is a savanna region, mostly in the Orinoco basin (therefore called also Orinoquía). The southern part, usually called Amazonía, is covered by the Amazon rain forest and belongs mostly to the Amazon basin.

At the north and west of the Andes there are coastal plains, the Caribbean plains to the north and the Pacific plains to the west.

Colombian Pacific plains are among the most rainy parts in the world, especially at the north (Chocó).

The five traditional natural regions are therefore: the Andean Region, the Caribbean Region, the Pacific Region, the Orinoquia Region and the Amazonia Region. Some people also include an Insular Region, separated from the coastal regions.


Main article: Departments of Colombia

Colombia is divided into 32 departments (departamentos):

Additionally, there is one capital district (distrito capital), Bogotá D.C.


Main article: Economy of Colombia

After experiencing decades of steady growth (average GDP growth exceeded 4% in the 1970-1998 period), Colombia entered into a recession in 1999, and the recovery from that recession has been long and painful. Colombia's economy suffers from weak domestic and foreign demand, austere government budgets, and serious internal armed conflicts. The IMF Economic Indicators (published on September 21, 2005) forecast the Colombian GDP to reach US$112,300,000,000 in 2005. Two of Colombia's leading exports, petroleum and coffee, benefit for high commodity prices worldwide. New oil exploration is needed to offset declining oil production. All exports, imports and trade balance are in record levels, and the inflow of export dollars has resulted in substantial revaluation of the Colombian peso, trading slightly below 2300 pesos for USD$1 by September 2005.

problems facing the country range from reforming the pension system to reducing high unemployment. Several international financial institutions have praised the economic but unpopular reforms introduced by Uribe, which include measures designed to reduce the public-sector deficit below 2.5% of GDP in 2004. The government's economic policy and its controversial democratic security strategy have engendered a growing sense of confidence in the economy, particularly within the business sector, and GDP growth in 2003 was among the highest in Latin America. In 2005, the value of Colombia's exports are expected to total US$25 billion.


Main article: Demographics of Colombia

Colombia has a diverse population that reflects its colourful history and the peoples that have populated her from ancient, to colonial and modern times. The historic amalgam of three main groups; Amerindians, Spanish Colonist/European immigrants, and imported African slaves, are the basis of Colombia's current demographics.

Today, only about 200,000 people can be identified as Amerindian on the basis of language and customs. There has also been immigration from the Middle East, particularly Turks and Arabs, and more recently from Perú and Ecuador.

Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico.


The predominant religion in Colombia is a conservative form of Roman Catholicism, although American-based cults, sects and religions are making inroads.


Main article: Culture of Colombia

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Countries in South America
Argentina · Bolivia · Brazil · Chile · Colombia · Ecuador · Guyana · Panama · Paraguay · Peru · Suriname · Trinidad and Tobago · Uruguay · Venezuela

Dependencies: Falkland Islands (UK) · French Guiana · South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (UK)

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