Colombian, adj., n.
/keuh lum"bee euh/; Sp. /kaw lawm"byah/, n.
a republic in NW South America. 37,418,290; 439,828 sq. mi. (1,139,155 sq. km). Cap.: Bogotá.

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Introduction Colombia -
Background: Colombia was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Ecuador and Venezuela). A 40-year insurgent campaign to overthrow the Colombian Government escalated during the 1990s, undergirded in part by funds from the drug trade. Although the violence is deadly and large swaths of the countryside are under guerrilla influence, the movement lacks the military strength or popular support necessary to overthrow the government. An anti- insurgent army of paramilitaries has grown to be several thousand strong in recent years, challenging the insurgents for control of territory and illicit industries such as the drug trade and the government's ability to exert its dominion over rural areas. While Bogota continues to try to negotiate a settlement, neighboring countries worry about the violence spilling over their borders. Geography Colombia
Location: Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama
Geographic coordinates: 4 00 N, 72 00 W
Map references: South America
Area: total: 1,138,910 sq km land: 1,038,700 sq km note: includes Isla de Malpelo, Roncador Cay, Serrana Bank, and Serranilla Bank water: 100,210 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly less than three times the size of Montana
Land boundaries: total: 6,004 km border countries: Brazil 1,643 km, Ecuador 590 km, Panama 225 km, Peru 1,496 km (est.), Venezuela 2,050 km
Coastline: 3,208 km (Caribbean Sea 1,760 km, North Pacific Ocean 1,448 km)
Maritime claims: continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation territorial sea: 12 NM exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
Climate: tropical along coast and eastern plains; cooler in highlands
Terrain: flat coastal lowlands, central highlands, high Andes Mountains, eastern lowland plains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m highest point: Pico Cristobal Colon 5,775 m note: nearby Pico Simon Bolivar also has the same elevation
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, gold, copper, emeralds, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 1.9% other: 96.14% (1998 est.) permanent crops: 1.96%
Irrigated land: 8,500 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: highlands subject to volcanic eruptions; occasional earthquakes; periodic droughts Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil and water quality damage from overuse of pesticides; air pollution, especially in Bogota, from vehicle emissions Environment - international party to: Antarctic Treaty,
agreements: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Antarctic- Environmental Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping
Geography - note: only South American country with coastlines on both North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea People Colombia -
Population: 41,008,227 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 31.6% (male 6,552,961; female 6,399,666) 15-64 years: 63.6% (male 12,694,293; female 13,375,425) 65 years and over: 4.8% (male 886,921; female 1,098,961) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.6% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 21.99 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 5.66 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/ female total population: 0.97 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 23.21 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.85 years female: 74.83 years (2002 est.) male: 67 years
Total fertility rate: 2.64 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.31% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 71,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 1,700 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Colombian(s) adjective: Colombian
Ethnic groups: mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%
Languages: Spanish
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 91.3% male: 91.2% female: 91.4% (1995 est.) Government Colombia -
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Colombia conventional short form: Colombia local short form: Colombia local long form: Republica de Colombia
Government type: republic; executive branch dominates government structure
Capital: Bogota Administrative divisions: 32 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 1 capital district* (distrito capital); Amazonas, Antioquia, Arauca, Atlantico, Distrito Capital de Bogota*, Bolivar, Boyaca, Caldas, Caqueta, Casanare, Cauca, Cesar, Choco, Cordoba, Cundinamarca, Guainia, Guaviare, Huila, La Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Narino, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Quindio, Risaralda, San Andres y Providencia, Santander, Sucre, Tolima, Valle del Cauca, Vaupes, Vichada
Independence: 20 July 1810 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 20 July (1810)
Constitution: 5 July 1991
Legal system: based on Spanish law; a new criminal code modeled after US procedures was enacted in 1992-93; judicial review of executive and legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Andres PASTRANA (since 7 August 1998); Vice President Gustavo BELL Lemus (since 7 August 1998); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: President Andres PASTRANA (since 7 August 1998); Vice President Gustavo BELL Lemus (since 7 August 1998); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Cabinet consists of a coalition of the two dominant parties - the PL and PSC - and independents elections: president and vice president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 26 May 2002 (next to be held NA May 2006) election results: on 26 May 2002, President-elect Alvaro URIBE Velez received 53% of the vote; Vice President-elect Francisco SANTOS was elected on the same ticket; they will take office in August 2002
Legislative branch: bicameral Congress or Congreso consists of the Senate or Senado (102 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Camara de Representantes (166 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: Senate - last held 10 March 2002 (next to be held NA March 2006); House of Representatives - last held 10 March 2002 (next to be held NA March 2006) election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PL 28, PSC 13, independents and smaller parties (many aligned with conservatives) 61; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PL 54, PSC 21, independents and other parties 91
Judicial branch: four, coequal, supreme judicial organs; Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justical (highest court of criminal law; judges are selected from the nominees of the Higher Council of Justice for eight- year terms); Council of State (highest court of administrative law, judges are selected from the nominees of the Higher Council of Justice for eight-year terms); Constitutional Court (guards integrity and supremacy of the constitution, rules on constitutionality of laws, amendments to the constitution, and international treaties); Higher Council of Justice (administers and disciplines the civilian judiciary; members of the disciplinary chamber resolve jurisdictional conflicts arising between other courts; members are elected by three sister courts and Congress for eight-year terms) Political parties and leaders: Conservative Party or PSC [Carlos HOLGUIN Sardi]; Liberal Party or PL [Horatio SERPA Uribe]; Patriotic Union or UP is a legal political party formed by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC and Colombian Communist Party or PCC [Jaime CAICEDO]; 19 of April Movement or M-19 [Antonio NAVARRO Wolff] note: Colombia has about 60 formally recognized political parties, most of which do not have a presence in either house of Congress Political pressure groups and two largest insurgent groups active
leaders: in Colombia - Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC and National Liberation Army or ELN; largest anti-insurgent paramilitary group is United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia or AUC International organization BCIE, CAN, Caricom (observer), CCC,
participation: CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-3, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Luis Alberto MORENO Mejia chancery: 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico), and Washington, DC consulate(s): Atlanta FAX: [1] (202) 232-8643 telephone: [1] (202) 387-8338 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Anne W.
US: PATTERSON embassy: Calle 22D-BIS, numbers 47- 51, Apartado Aereo 3831 mailing address: Carrera 45 #22D-45, Bogota, D.C., APO AA 34038 telephone: [57] (1) 315-0811 FAX: [57] (1) 315-2197
Flag description: three horizontal bands of yellow (top, double-width), blue, and red; similar to the flag of Ecuador, which is longer and bears the Ecuadorian coat of arms superimposed in the center Economy Colombia
Economy - overview: Colombia's economy suffered from weak domestic demand, austere government budgets, and a difficult security situation. A new president takes office in 2002 and will face economic challenges ranging from pension reform to reduction of unemployment. Two of Colombia's leading exports, oil and coffee, face an uncertain future; new exploration is needed to offset declining oil production, while coffee harvests and prices are depressed. Problems in public security are a concern for Colombian business leaders, who are calling for progress in the government's peace negotiations with insurgent groups. Colombia is looking for continued support from the international community to boost economic and peace prospects.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $255 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 1.5% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $6,300 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 19% industry: 26% services: 55% (2001 est.) Population below poverty line: 55% (2001) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 1%
percentage share: highest 10%: 44% (1999) Distribution of family income - Gini 57.1 (1996)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 7.6% (2001)
Labor force: 18.3 million (1999 est.) Labor force - by occupation: services 46%, agriculture 30%, industry 24% (1990)
Unemployment rate: 17% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $24 billion expenditures: $25.6 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001 est.)
Industries: textiles, food processing, oil, clothing and footwear, beverages, chemicals, cement; gold, coal, emeralds Industrial production growth rate: 4% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 43.342 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 25.93% hydro: 73.09% other: 0.98% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 40.348 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 37 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 77 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: coffee, cut flowers, bananas, rice, tobacco, corn, sugarcane, cocoa beans, oilseed, vegetables; forest products; shrimp
Exports: $12.3 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: petroleum, coffee, coal, apparel, bananas, cut flowers
Exports - partners: US 43%, Andean Community of Nations 22%, EU 14%, (2001 est.)
Imports: $12.7 billion (c.i.f., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: industrial equipment, transportation equipment, consumer goods, chemicals, paper products, fuels, electricity
Imports - partners: US 35%, EU 16%, Andean Community of Nations 15%, Japan 5% (2001 est.)
Debt - external: $39 billion (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $NA
Currency: Colombian peso (COP)
Currency code: COP
Exchange rates: Colombian pesos per US dollar - 2,275.89 (January 2002), 2,299.63 (2001), 2,087.90 (2000), 1,756.23 (1999), 1,426.04 (1998), 1,140.96 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Colombia - Telephones - main lines in use: 5,433,565 (December 1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 1,800,229 (December 1998)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern system in many respects domestic: nationwide microwave radio relay system; domestic satellite system with 41 earth stations; fiber-optic network linking 50 cities international: satellite earth stations - 6 Intelsat, 1 Inmarsat; 3 fully digitalized international switching centers; 8 submarine cables Radio broadcast stations: AM 454, FM 34, shortwave 27 (1999)
Radios: 21 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 60 (includes seven low-power stations) (1997)
Televisions: 4.59 million (1997)
Internet country code: .co Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 18 (2000)
Internet users: 878,000 (2001) Transportation Colombia -
Railways: total: 3,304 km standard gauge: 150 km 1.435-m gauge (connects Cerrejon coal mines to maritime port at Bahia de Portete) narrow gauge: 3,154 km 0.914-m gauge (major sections not in use) (2000 est.)
Highways: total: 110,000 km paved: 26,000 km unpaved: 84,000 km (2000)
Waterways: 18,140 km (navigable by river boats) (April 1996)
Pipelines: crude oil 3,585 km; petroleum products 1,350 km; natural gas 830 km; natural gas liquids 125 km
Ports and harbors: Bahia de Portete, Barranquilla, Buenaventura, Cartagena, Leticia, Puerto Bolivar, San Andres, Santa Marta, Tumaco, Turbo
Merchant marine: total: 11 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 32,438 GRT/43,126 DWT ships by type: bulk 5, cargo 3, container 1, petroleum tanker 2 note: includes a foreign-owned ship registered here as a flag of convenience: Germany 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 1,066 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 93 over 3,047 m: 2 2,438 to 3,047 m: 9 914 to 1,523 m: 36 under 914 m: 9 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 37 Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 973 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 58 under 914 m: 602 (2001) 914 to 1,523 m: 312
Heliports: 1 (2001) Military Colombia -
Military branches: Army (Ejercito Nacional), Navy (Armada Nacional, including Marines and Coast Guard), Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Colombiana), National Police (Policia Nacional) Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 10,946,932 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 7,308,703 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching military males: 379,295 (2002 est.)
age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $3.3 billion (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 3.4% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Colombia - Disputes - international: Nicaragua filed a claim against Honduras in 1999 and against Colombia in 2001 at the ICJ over disputed maritime boundary involving 50,000 sq km in the Caribbean Sea, including the Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank; maritime boundary dispute with Venezuela in the Gulf of Venezuela; Colombian drug activities penetrate Peruvian border area
Illicit drugs: illicit producer of coca, opium poppies, and cannabis; world's leading coca cultivator (cultivation of coca in 2000 - 136,200 hectares, an 11% increase over 1999); potential production of opium since 1995 has remained relatively stable at 66 metric tons; potential production of heroin has averaged 6.5 metric tons; the world's largest processor of coca derivatives into cocaine; supplier of about 90% of the cocaine to the US and the great majority of cocaine to other international drug markets, and an important supplier of heroin to the US market; active aerial eradication program

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officially Republic of Colombia

Country, northwestern South America.

Area: 440,762 sq mi (1,141,568 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 41,008,000. Capital: Bogotá. More than half of the population is mestizo, followed by Europeans (about one-fifth), mulattoes, blacks, and Indians. Language: Spanish (official). Religion: Roman Catholicism. Currency: peso. The topography is dominated by the Andes Mountains. To the southeast lie vast lowlands, drained by the Orinoco and Amazon rivers. Colombia's developing economy is based primarily on services, agriculture, and manufacturing, coffee being the principal cash crop. Coca (for the production of cocaine) and opium poppies (for the production of heroin) are grown and trafficked illicitly on a large scale. Rich in minerals, Colombia is the world's largest producer of emeralds and one of South America's largest producers of gold. It is a multiparty republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. Its earliest known inhabitants were Chibchan-speaking Indians. The Spanish arrived с 1500 and by 1538 had conquered the area and made it subject to the Viceroyalty of Peru. After 1740 authority was transferred to the newly created Viceroyalty of New Granada. Parts of Colombia threw off Spanish jurisdiction in 1810, and full independence came after Spain's defeat by revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar in 1819. Civil war in 1840 slowed development. Conflict between the Liberal and Conservative parties led to the War of a Thousand Days (1899–1903). Years of relative peace followed, but hostility erupted again in 1948; the two parties agreed in 1958 to a plan for alternating governments. A new constitution was adopted in 1991, but democratic power remained threatened by civil unrest. In the early 21st century, leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary groups funded their activities through kidnapping and narcotics trafficking.

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▪ 2009

1,141,748 sq km (440,831 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 44,442,000
Head of state and government:
President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

      The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist guerrilla group opposing the government, suffered several major setbacks in 2008. In March the Colombian military struck a rebel camp in Ecuadoran territory, killing, among others, senior leader Raúl Reyes and setting off a diplomatic skirmish with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. In May the group revealed that its leader and founding member, Pedro Antonio Marín (also known as “Tirofijo” and Manuel Marulanda Velez (Marulanda Velez, Manuel )), had died of natural causes at what was believed to be the age of 77. In July the Colombian military rescued 15 FARC hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt (Betancourt, Ingrid ) and three U.S. Defense Department contractors. Later that month hundreds of thousands of Colombians participated in peaceful marches calling for an end to the kidnappings and violence perpetrated by armed groups—the FARC had more than 700 captives and the National Liberation Army (ELN) more than 200, most of whom were ordinary citizens being held for ransom. A military operation in September resulted in the killing of a particularly violent FARC commander, Aicardo de Jesús Agudelo, known as “El Paisa.”

      The daring rescue of Betancourt and 14 others was made possible by government infiltration of the upper reaches of the group's leadership. A member of the FARC, cooperating with government forces, convinced the leader of the cell holding the hostages that a humanitarian nongovernmental organization (NGO) was arriving to transfer them to another cell. The helicopters sent to carry out the transfer were carrying government personnel rather than NGO workers. After takeoff, the cell leader and his aide were overpowered, and the hostages were informed that they had been freed.

      The much-heralded rescue of Betancourt and the others was welcome news for the administration of Pres. Álvaro Uribe. It showed that the falling out with Venezuela's Pres. Hugo Chávez over Chávez's failed mediation efforts between the government and the guerrillas did not mean that the fate of the hundreds of hostages held by the FARC was completely without hope. The rescue also helped divert public attention from a corruption scandal involving the government and its supporters in Congress. In 2004 Congress had approved a constitutional amendment clearing the way for Uribe to run for a second term in 2006. Allegations emerged that congressional support was purchased by the administration through bribes and promises of government favours, particularly in the cases of Yidis Medina and Teodolindo Avendaño.

      Previously, members of the government had been charged with having close ties to the right-wing paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (AUC) and with accepting AUC campaign contributions. Critics suggested that the extradition of 14 AUC leaders to the U.S. in May was in part motivated by an effort to keep them from identifying their ties to the government.

      Despite such criticism, Uribe's continued popularity, which spiked even higher after the rescue of the hostages, fueled speculation that he would find a way to seek a third term. When the Supreme Court concluded that his 2006 reelection was tainted by corruption, Uribe suggested that he would hold a referendum to see whether the presidential vote should be repeated. If the proceedings had gone forward, they might have been used as a means to extend his stay in office, which was currently proscribed by the constitution after 2010. Instead, the new interior minister, Fabio Valencia, was charged with consolidating congressional support behind the process of amending the constitution yet again to allow the president to serve a third term. Uribe suggested that he would consider sitting out a term and seeking reelection in 2014, but this would also require a constitutional amendment. While the administration turned its attention to Congress, the tension between the Supreme Court and the executive branch over the connections between politicians and right-wing paramilitary groups continued unabated.

      The “firing” of Chávez as a mediator between the government and guerrillas and the incursion into Ecuador to strike a FARC camp precipitated diplomatic crises. The situations were exacerbated by the ideological distance between the conservative Uribe and the left-of-centre Presidents Chávez and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. Colombia's apparent isolation on the continent seemed to ease in the latter half of the year. Bogotá joined a regional defense alliance spearheaded by Brazil, and an anti-drug-trafficking summit held in Cartagena generated international cooperation, including promises of support from Venezuela.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 2008

1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 42,870,000
Head of state and government:
President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

      Despite difficult circumstances, the government of Colombian Pres. Álvaro Uribe remained steadfast in its policies during 2007. Several of Uribe's supporters, including his cousin Sen. Mario Uribe, were embroiled in a scandal that linked them to the right-wing paramilitaries—the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The scandal initially widened when Foreign Minister María Consuelo Araújo resigned in an effort to disassociate the government from accusations that focused on Sen. Álvaro Araújo, her brother. The impact of the scandal was likely to be reflected in subnational election results; paramilitaries often gained access to public funds through connections with mayors and governors. Regional and local election campaigns in late October were again marked by violence. Gubernatorial candidates affiliated with President Uribe's coattails won 15 of 32 races. Left-of-centre candidates performed particularly strong in urban areas—winning the mayoralties of Colombia's three largest cities. Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA) candidate Samuel Moreno convincingly won the mayoral race in Bogotá.

      Meanwhile, paramilitary leaders threatened to end their cooperation with government investigations, and some of the 31,000 rank-and-file fighters who had stood down were rearming. The leaders argued that they were not receiving the treatment the government had promised, and the Supreme Court ruled that rank-and-file fighters could not be found guilty of—and then pardoned for—sedition. On the other side, the victims of abuses at the hands of the paramilitaries, human rights groups, and Democrats in Washington, D.C., claimed that far too little was being done to carry out justice.

 On the left the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ( FARC) continued to demand a demilitarized zone before it would begin to discuss a prisoner exchange, and the government continued to refuse to consider ceding territory to the group (talks with the National Liberation Army [ELN] continued in Havana). Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez offered to mediate, however, and Uribe's ally Sen. Piedad Córdoba met with the FARC's second in command, Raul Reyes, and later with Chávez. The 11 provincial legislators held by FARC since 2002 were killed when the guerrillas came under attack from what the FARC said was an “unidentified group.” The government denied engaging FARC forces in the area. The FARC agreed to hand over the bodies to an international forensics team but waited more than a month to reveal the location where the dead were buried. The state of the remains and the fact that the bodies had been washed and the clothes changed rendered the forensics tests useless. The incident sparked massive protests in the capital. The families of many hostages feared that any government effort to free hostages—including former member of congress and presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was reported alive in May by an escaped hostage—through military means would result in a similar catastrophe. President Uribe's decision to unilaterally release 150 hostages (under significant pressure from the French government and the Group of Seven) did not meet with a commensurate response from the FARC. At year's end Uribe agreed to allow Venezuela to lead a rescue of three hostages held by the FARC, but the plan collapsed, with Uribe accusing the rebels of reneging on their promise to hand over the hostages and the FARC alleging obstruction of the plan by the Colombian military.

      Given such events, it was perhaps surprising that Uribe's popularity dropped as little as it did, slipping from a high of 75% in April to 66% at midyear. European governments attempting to broker peace were disheartened, however, by the government's links to paramilitaries, and international human rights groups were quick to point out that the ongoing scandals were just a reminder of the relationship between the government's security forces and the AUC. The Democrat-controlled Congress in Washington refused to even consider approval of a free-trade agreement with Bogotá. Uribe's government repeatedly pointed out that if policies failed to bolster the legal economy, Colombians were driven into the illegal cocaine trade. This message was often drowned out as violent repression of labour leaders reinforced the claim that the government was interested in persecuting the left while turning a blind eye when the right was guilty of atrocities.

      Despite the drama in other areas, the government's market-oriented, business-friendly economic policies continued. Inflation spiked but was expected to settle at about 4%. The growth rate remained strong at nearly 8%, and the central government's deficit continued to decline. Plans went forward to simplify the tax structures while improving collections. A modified version of the government's proposal for rationalizing transfers to state and local governments was adopted. In an effort to counter opposition to the government's privatization of a portion of Ecopetrol, the state-owned petroleum company, the 20% of shares on sale could be purchased only by Colombians (though they were free to resell them) through installment payments.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 2007

1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 43,593,000
Head of state and government:
President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

      Legislative and presidential elections confirmed the popularity of Colombian Pres. Álvaro Uribe in 2006. In March candidates who had explicitly pledged support to Uribe won two-thirds of the seats in the upper chamber and an absolute majority of seats in the lower. In May Uribe, the first Colombian presidential candidate legally allowed to pursue reelection under the amended constitution, swept back into office with 62% of the vote. The president used a good portion of his victory speech to scold legislators for their recalcitrance in adopting aspects of his program. Uribe was thought to be laying the groundwork for gathering the support that he would need to extend his program in his second term. Evidence that his speech alone was insufficient came late in the summer, however, when the Uribista coalition in Congress showed signs of fissure. In particular, confirmation of appointments to the National Electoral Council and to the post of controller general laid bare evidence of dissent within the faction.

      Despite his popularity, Uribe's potential political legacy was less than clear, as the personal nature of his electoral victories and political program swept the political landscape clean. For the second straight election, the once venerable Conservative Party failed to nominate a presidential candidate. The Liberal Party, from which Uribe originally split, failed to obtain even second place in the balloting; a new political force, the left-of-centre Democratic Pole, finished a distant second to Uribe with 22% of the vote.

      How to address ongoing violence remained on the minds of most Colombians. The government was quick to point out that violent deaths were down by more than 50% from two years earlier. The women of Pereira made international headlines when they went on a “strike” against violence. (They refused to have sex with their partners as long as the men were involved in gang violence.) Overall, violence was down to such an extent that the government began investing in the tourism industry again. Initial efforts were targeted at domestic travelers, but the government also revealed plans to promote the country's white sandy beaches, picturesque coffee farms, and Amazon flora and fauna with the international travel industry.

      Despite some first-term successes, a major challenge still confronting President Uribe was how to deal with paramilitary groups on the right and guerrilla groups on the left. Implementation of a disarmament agreement signed with the paramilitaries in the previous year continued into 2006 at a much slower pace than was officially called for. It became increasingly clear that leaders of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) had successfully transformed their organizations into major players in the drug trade. Revelations of close relations and cooperation between the paramilitaries and the government's secret police force confirmed what most observers had suspected. Shortly after his landslide victory, Uribe ordered the arrest of paramilitary leaders who had until then been freely roaming about the country despite terms of the disarmament process. Uribe used the threat of extradition to the U.S. as a means of keeping the peace process in motion.

      In March a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted 50 leaders of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ( FARC) on drug-trafficking charges. After years of very tough talk and tough action, President Uribe offered to respond to any gesture related to peace talks by the guerrillas. This, and an earlier offer to discuss prisoner exchanges, appeared to fall on deaf ears until June. The guerrilla group then offered to enter peace talks and implement a prisoner exchange if the government ceased operations against it and again demilitarized major portions of the countryside. After some hesitation, the government agreed to demilitarize two municipalities in the Valle del Cauca department and to begin talks on a prisoner–victims of kidnapping exchange. While this indicated movement on the part of both sides, a negotiated end to the conflict had appeared on the horizon in the past without coming to fruition.

      In September the sitcom Ugly Betty, an adaptation of the wildly popular Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea (1999–2001), made its debut on American network television. The Colombian original aired in a number of countries (either dubbed or in its original Spanish version), and adaptations had already appeared in other countries.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 2006

1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 42,954,000
Head of state and government:
President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

      In 2005 the administration of Pres. Álvaro Uribe struggled against guerrillas on the left and paramilitaries on the right, but it chose widely divergent strategies when dealing with the two sides. The government offered positive incentives to encourage demobilization by the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) but continued to pursue the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army militarily—though the government showed some softening in its dealings with both leftist guerrilla groups at the end of the year. Neither strategy was without its critics, but tellingly the president's popular approval remained high, and his close relationship with the administration of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush remained strong.

      At least some factions within the officer corps continued their collaboration with the AUC, and the president worked hard to stall a bill that would determine the fate of demobilized combatants. The law that eventually passed required that demobilizing paramilitaries with criminal charges against them confess their crimes, receive a sentence, and then have that sentence commuted to a significantly lesser “alternative penalty.” Given the record of past atrocities committed by paramilitaries, human rights groups complained that demobilization was being purchased at too high a price. Still, the law was sufficient to persuade foreign governments to reinstitute the aid necessary to pay for the demobilization.

      A military defeat of the FARC was far from achieved, but the Uribe administration held fast to its position that a weakened FARC was more likely to participate seriously in peace negotiations. Political violence declined in 2005, but noncombatants continued to be displaced at a rate of well over 100,000 annually. Plan Colombia, an aid package agreed to during the administration of U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton, expired, but the Bush administration continued aid at a similar level. The aid was used for more widespread spraying to eradicate coca crops and for beefing up the military's abilities. The amount of land under coca cultivation declined, but spraying had diminishing returns. The government expanded its effort to simply pull up the plants by hand. Whatever the strategy, the price and the supply of cocaine in Europe and in the U.S. did not appear to be affected.

      The movement of paramilitaries, guerrillas, and others involved in the drug trade back and forth across Colombia's borders created tensions with neighbours. Most notably, the Colombian government used bounty hunters to seize Rodrigo Granda, a roving envoy for the FARC, while he was in Caracas. Claiming a violation of its sovereignty, the administration of Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez (Chavez, Hugo ) (see Biographies) recalled its ambassador and froze trade. Rightist Uribe and leftist Chávez were relatively slow to normalize relations. In June the FARC attacked a military base in Putumayo, just north of the Ecuadoran border. Colombia charged that the guerrillas had been allowed to stage their attack from Ecuador, and the Ecuadoran government quickly countered that Colombia needed to control its own border. Despite tensions on several fronts, diplomacy prevailed between governments.

      Presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for 2006. A bill that Uribe pushed through Congress amended the constitution to allow him to run for a second term, and late in 2005 the law was upheld by the Constitutional Court. The newly formed left-of-centre Independent Democratic Pole nominated popular Sen. Antonio Navarro Wolff as its presidential candidate. A former mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus, planned to run as an independent. At its national convention in June, the Liberal Party chose former president César Gaviria as its leader, and a nasty fight for the right to be the party's standard-bearer in the presidential race seemed likely.

      In 2006 each party would be able to run only one list of candidates per district; in 2002, 64 parties had presented 321 lists for the Senate race, and 75 parties had presented 962 lists for races for the House of Representatives. Combined with new minimum vote thresholds, the single-list requirement might encourage candidates to coalesce under fewer banners. How the banners fared would be influenced heavily by whether Uribe was allowed to run and by the popularity of his opponents. Elections could clarify the political scene.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 2005

1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 42,311,000
Head of state and government:
President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

      In 2004 the government of Pres. Álvaro Uribe Vélez struggled to overcome political setbacks that began in late 2003. Key political reforms in an October 2003 referendum failed to gain enough support to enter into law, mainly because of insufficient voter turnout. The government had claimed that the legal changes were necessary to give the president authority to combat corruption and to revitalize the economy.

      Despite the defeat at the polls, the administration pushed ahead with its hard-line stance toward armed groups on the left and the right. According to official figures, the number of guerrillas and paramilitaries killed had risen sharply in the first year of the Uribe administration. The left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ( FARC) appeared unprepared for the more vigorous government approach; they had lost control over much of the countryside that the government had ceded to them, and they now chose to fight a more urban battle. The government's Patriot Plan took the fight to members of the FARC surrounding the capital, then pushed into the southeastern states of Caquetá and Guaviare.

      In June 2004 the government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), a much-smaller left-wing guerrilla group, agreed to a cease-fire in order to enter into peace talks. A similar effort had failed in 2002 (as had many others before it), but the weakened state of the ELN buoyed hopes in 2004. The military had all but eliminated the group from its former strongholds of eastern Antioquia and Arauca, and right-wing paramilitaries had expelled it from Barrancabermeja, a northern oil city. Desertion among its ranks and a loss of favour with some of its European supporters seemed to bode well for a more conciliatory ELN.

      Earlier in the year, talks with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary group, led to an agreement supported by the Organization of American States (OAS). Under the plan, the AUC would be confined to a limited area in northern Colombia, and the OAS would be responsible for monitoring its disarmament (which began in late 2003). The plan went ahead despite the disappearance and presumed death of Carlos Castaño, the group's leader, in late April. AUC leaders were granted safe passage to Bogotá in order to address Congress in July, and the AUC disarmed and gave up plundered property in November and December.

      Government gains against guerrillas and paramilitaries did not come without a price, however. Observers were alarmed by what they saw as ever-increasing human rights violations by the government in its war on the FARC, the ELN, and the AUC. President Uribe was seen as more interested in security than democracy, and the light-handed treatment of the AUC during the peace talks was viewed as a condoning of their past violent actions. Still, Uribe enjoyed widespread popularity, and there were continued efforts to revise the constitution to allow him to seek reelection in 2006.

      Colombia's economy was expected to grow by 4% during 2004, and the debt-to-GDP ratio was predicted to fall; the government's budget aimed for a deficit equal to 2.5% of GDP in 2004 and 2.4% in 2005. The October 2003 referendum would have permitted cuts in government spending by $7 billion over seven years. As it was, constitutional provisions mandated transfer of funds to local governments and other obligated spending, and the central government was left with discretion over only 10% of total expenditures. Congress was asked to expand the base of the value-added tax, increase taxes on pensions, and put a ceiling on pensions in an effort to bolster public finances. Analysts pointed out the irony that if the administration pushed for an extra term for the president, its efforts at fiscal responsibility might come to naught and, if this happened, President Uribe might ensure his own reelection but leave himself a badly foundering economy. On November 30 Congress passed a constitutional amendment that lifted the ban on reelection to the presidency.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 2004

1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 41,662,000
Head of state and government:
President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

      The new government of Pres. Álvaro Uribe completed its first year in office in August 2003 and continued to face the challenges of reforming a political system with little public support and responding to the long-standing and violent conflict with guerrilla groups. Uribe's promised tough stand against guerrillas was very popular at home (and in the U.S. Congress). In the war on drugs, fumigation efforts cut coca exports by approximately one-third. President Uribe boosted military spending, promised a police presence in all parts of the country, helped arm peasants in already-violent areas, and proposed wider powers of arrest and detention for the military.

      The government's advances seemed only to enhance the resolve of the largest guerrilla group—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In a particularly potent attack, 36 people were killed and 160 were injured when a bomb exploded at Club El Nogal in northern Bogotá in February. A military rescue attempt gone awry in May resulted in the killing by the guerrillas of 10 hostages—including a governor and a former defense minister who had been taken hostage while leading a peace march in 2002. Kidnappings and bombings continued apace throughout the year and were expected to intensify around local, state, and national referendum elections in late October. The wisdom of prisoner exchanges was debated repeatedly, especially after the FARC released a tape of a former presidential candidate and senator, Ingrid Betancourt, calling on President Uribe to negotiate her release.

      The government continued to discuss a peace accord with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)—an extremely violent right-wing paramilitary group. The government's decision to submit an amnesty bill to Congress and to consider alternative punishments for guerrillas released from jail to participate in peace talks resulted in sharp criticism from members of the U.S. Congress and human rights organizations that had reported AUC atrocities. The government claimed that without this tool in its repertoire, it could not expect armed groups seriously to consider laying down their weapons.

      While relations between the new administration and the U.S. president remained generally positive, relations with the U.S. Congress (and the United Nations) were occasionally strained by seemingly contradictory moves—stepping up arrests and detentions of suspected guerrilla supporters and criticizing human rights organizations while asking for the power to grant amnesty to those already convicted of violent acts. U.S. Special Forces troops were sent to the country early in the year, however, and it seemed unlikely that any small rifts with the U.S. or even the shooting down of an American fumigation plane by guerrillas would jeopardize the continued disbursement of funds under Plan Colombia.

      The government used a great deal of its capital at home in the pursuit of political reform. The executive branch initially announced its intent to put a referendum before the voters that included a wide-ranging series of reforms, but several parts of the package were dropped along the way owing to pressure from Congress and a Supreme Court ruling that declared parts of the proposal unconstitutional. In an effort to undercut the president's momentum, Congress adopted its own more limited but still substantial set of political reforms related primarily to elections. The pared-down version of Uribe's package was defeated in the referendum on October 25. Congress was divided between the internally diverse Liberal Party (the president's former party), the Conservative Party, and a loose group of members claiming allegiance to the government. There were several important pieces of legislation on the agenda, and it was unclear as to the extent to which the government would be able to hold together support for its preferences during 2004.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 2003

1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 41,008,000
Head of state and government:
Presidents Andrés Pastrana Arango and, from August 7, Álvaro Uribe Vélez

      In 2002 the outgoing administration of Pres. Andrés Pastrana Arango was unable to make headway on peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country's major guerrilla group. After the guerrillas hijacked an airplane carrying the president of the Senate's peace commission, the government broke off negotiations on February 21 and began bombing the rebel-held demilitarized zone. Repeated failed attempts to push forward either peace talks with the guerrillas or political and economic reform with Congress left the administration with little popular support and heightened the mood in the country that dramatic changes were needed.

      Promising such changes, Álvaro Uribe Vélez was elected president of Colombia on May 26. (See Biographies (Uribe Velez, Alvaro ).) Despite his long career as a Liberal politician, Uribe split from the traditionally dominant party, establishing the Colombia First electoral vehicle and adopting the slogan “Firm Hand, Big Heart.” He promised a tougher line against guerrillas, paramilitaries, and drug traffickers and stressed the need for sweeping political reforms to make the government more efficient and reduce corruption. By winning more than 53.1% of the votes cast, Uribe avoided the need for a second round of voting.

      Uribe's convincing victory was taken as evidence of support for that tougher line regarding armed groups on both the left and the right. He called on the U.S. for military aid to combat narcotics trafficking and to prevent guerrilla groups from obtaining more arms. He asked the United Nations for assistance in negotiating with left-wing rebels as well as right-wing paramilitaries. He also established networks of citizen informants. While governor of Antioquia, Uribe had successfully used anonymous civilian watchdog groups to curb kidnappings between 1995 and 1997, and as president he sought to replicate the strategy at the national level. In August the president declared a national state of emergency. A subsequent cabinet meeting resulted in the suspension of civil liberties in the face of threats to the country's security, and the government established an emergency tax that would allow it to direct approximately $778 million toward military expenditures.

      On the political front Uribe sought to address public concerns regarding corruption, vote buying, and the general excess of politicians. Immediately after taking office, the administration called for a referendum on several proposals, including downsizing Congress and eliminating legislators' access to funds for relatively unmonitored spending in their districts. Despite the government's repeated claim that the text of the referendum was nonnegotiable, the bill was bogged down in committee when legislators divided primarily over reforming the country's electoral bureaucracy. Congress had to approve the use of a referendum before the proposals could be submitted to the public, and the government's legislative majority could prove to be fragile.

      Economic growth was less than 1.5% in 2002, but a predicted improvement in domestic and external conditions could allow gross domestic product growth of 2.5% in 2003. Weak domestic demand served as a check on inflationary pressures, but planned increases in military spending could stress public finances. In response, the government sought to increase revenues and cut expenditures. Cost-cutting measures included purging the payroll of bureaucracy and merging state institutions, but with unemployment at 17.5%, extensive public job cuts were likely to generate serious opposition. The administration also sought to counter deficit projections by pushing Congress to enact pension and fiscal reforms. Internationally, the government sought a standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund to cover the country's large external-financing requirement.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 2002

1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 43,071,000
Santafé de Bogotá, D.C.
Head of state and government:
President Andrés Pastrana Arango

      During 2001 real change in Colombia appeared tantalizingly close on a variety of fronts, but in every instance only incremental gains were made or the prospects for progress vanished altogether. Observers gave the government of Pres. Andrés Pastrana Arango high marks on international relations, foreign commerce, and modernization of the armed forces. On the other hand, there were plenty of disappointments in the form of unproductive negotiations with guerrillas, government corruption, and weak economic performance. Political reform was dashed in Congress. The administration had pushed several ideas, including campaign finance reform, the use of roll-call votes in Congress (to increase transparency), the end to intraparty competition in general elections (to make party labels more meaningful), and tougher punishments for corruption. Opponents watered down proposals until they were considered a waste of time.

      The government continued to negotiate with the two major guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). One positive note was a prisoner exchange in June between the government and the FARC in which the guerrillas released a far larger number of police and soldiers than had been expected—363 in exchange for 15 guerrillas. The FARC, however, pointed out that the estimated 1,000–1,500 guerrillas who had been guarding these prisoners were now free to return to fighting. A disturbing development in the conflict was the increased use of urban bombings. Despite the prisoner release, talks between the government and the FARC moved very slowly, and the likelihood for success of a proposed six-month cease-fire (part of a plan developed by a “commission of notables”) seemed dim.

      In August talks with the ELN broke down completely after the government refused to grant the group a demilitarized safe haven in the department of Bolívar (the FARC already had a far larger zone in the southeastern part of the country). The ELN's demand had been opposed vociferously by local residents who received prompting from right-wing paramilitary units, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. The government's resolve was also bolstered by the belief in some circles of the military that the group could be defeated militarily. There was some speculation that shunning of the ELN's demand and the breakdown of talks would lead the group to step up its violent activities to reinforce the sense that it was a force with which to be reckoned.

      Fits and starts on negotiations coincided with a series of indications that an escalation of combat was likely. The guerrillas showed no sign of getting out of the kidnapping business, and they displayed their resolve to use bombings to open up the urban front of their conflict. For its part, despite concerns that the way was being cleared for human rights abuses, the government adopted a Law of National Security and Defense that increased the military's power to adjudicate in issues surrounding the conflict and gave the president power to expedite an antiterrorism statute and regulation of the “theatres of operations.” Implementation of Plan Colombia, a U.S.-supported effort to counteract the drug trade (and the guerrillas), got under way in earnest. Dusting of drug crops with weed killer was temporarily suspended, however, owing to legal challenges based on a lack of study regarding its unintended effects on humans, livestock, nondrug crops, and the environment generally.

      After a recession in 1999, the modest growth achieved in 2000 was expected to continue in 2001 at a rate of 3% or less. Private investment was slow to recover after the recession, and the banking industry remained particularly weak. Oil and coal sectors looked strong, but they were dominated by foreign investors. Coffee, on the other hand, continued to struggle.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 2001

1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 42,299,000
Santafé de Bogotá, D.C.
Head of state and government:
President Andrés Pastrana Arango

      Political turmoil continued on two fronts in Colombia during 2000. Conflict between the executive and legislative branches of the government was fueled by a corruption scandal, and the long-standing battle between the government and leftist guerrilla groups continued virtually unabated. Although these problems contributed to a delay in the government's implementation of restructuring plans mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country's economic performance was modestly positive.

      In mid-March a corruption scandal broke involving several high-ranking legislators, who were accused of giving more than 500 questionable contracts—amounting to about $3 million—in exchange for political favours. Those implicated in the scandal included members of the coalition supporting Pres. Andrés Pastrana Arango. The president quickly went on the offensive, demanding the resignation of three legislators, including the speaker of the House. Within two weeks Pastrana submitted a draft of a reform referendum to Congress. The proposed reforms included, among other things, dissolving Congress and replacing it with a smaller legislature, barring elected officials from using substitutes to fill their seats while they pursued other activities, publishing congressional votes, and holding new elections. The ambitious package was clearly a political miscalculation on Pastrana's part. Legislators immediately countered that new presidential elections should be held, and the overwhelming opposition in Congress led the president to withdraw his proposal. As part of the political fallout surrounding the failed reform effort, Pastrana was forced to reshuffle his cabinet, and his presidential approval ratings plummeted to about 20%.

      Resolution of the violent struggle with leftist guerrilla groups was not on the horizon in 2000. The government agreed to give the National Liberation Army (ELN) de facto control over three municipalities while the guerrilla group negotiated a peace accord with government and civilian representatives. The agreement met with vociferous opposition from locals, who were perhaps encouraged by right-wing paramilitaries. As negotiations continued, the largest of the paramilitary groups, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), launched a major offensive against the ELN. The guerrillas complained that the AUC was receiving support from the Colombian military. A much larger “demilitarized” zone in the southern part of the country was controlled by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which used the area to recruit and train members and to raise financial support through the drug trade and kidnappings. In June the U.S. Congress approved $1.3 billion in mostly military aid for Colombia as part of an international aid package worth $7.5 billion. While it was hoped that the aid would encourage the FARC to take peace talks more seriously, many observers expected it to lead to escalating violence in the short run as the guerrillas sought to strengthen their positions in the event that peace talks ever became particularly substantive.

      After a recession in 1999 in which the economy shrank by nearly 5%, gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the 2.5–3% range was expected for 2000. The government delayed in addressing its deficit-spending tendencies and was unlikely to hit the target it had promised the IMF—a deficit equal to 3.6% of GDP. IMF support for the Pastrana administration was likely to continue, however. Both the inflation and the unemployment rates were expected to drop, though only by a point or two, and the growth rate was expected to increase slightly in 2001.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 2000

1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 38,297,000
Santafé de Bogotá, D.C.
Head of state and government:
President Andrés Pastrana Arango

      Even by Colombian standards, 1999 was a difficult year. Violent conflict continued, with the government confronting armed foes on the left and the right. The normally stable economy continued in recession, and the people's faith in elected officials declined. In addition to these woes, the year began with an earthquake that struck the country's mountainous interior on January 25, killing more than 2,000 people. (See Disasters.)

      The government battled with leftist guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN). The new administration of Pres. Andrés Pastrana Arango put negotiated peace at the forefront of its agenda, but progress was slow at best. At one point when talks between the government and the FARC seemed imminent, the guerrillas launched a new major offensive, and the meetings were indefinitely postponed. At another critical juncture, the FARC assassinated three U.S. human rights workers along the Venezuelan border, which caused the U.S. government to distance itself from the peace process. These setbacks came after conciliatory moves by the president, including the demilitarization of 40,000 sq km (15,000 sq mi) of territory in the state of Caquetá, which effectively left the guerrillas to govern this area. The refusal of the guerrillas to sit down at the peace table for substantive discussions, along with military victories by the Colombian army—an unusual event until mid-1999—caused many to urge Pastrana to take a tougher stance toward the FARC. The ELN also kept itself on the government's agenda through its terrorist activities, which included hijacking a domestic flight in April and abducting more than 140 worshipers at a church in an affluent neighbourhood of Cali in late May.

      The government's negotiations with leftist groups were complicated by the actions of paramilitary groups on the right, the largest being the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). Financed largely by businessmen seeking protection (or fearing extortion), the AUC engaged the guerrilla groups, apparently at times with the cooperation of the Colombian army. At midyear, in an effort to jump-start peace talks with the FARC, Pastrana forced two generals suspected of collaboration with the AUC into retirement.

      As a result of the earthquake, the country not only lost earnings from coffee production but also had to spend precious government resources on rebuilding. Combating the guerrillas and cleaning up the human and material debris were also very expensive. The government sought fiscal balance, but economic recession spurred increased strike activity and popular demands for increased government spending. While inflation was held in check at 15%, unemployment rose to around 20% and economic growth came to a standstill.

      Not surprisingly, these trends did nothing to boost people's confidence in the government. Pastrana, the first Conservative president after 12 years of Liberal executives, watched his popularity drop precipitously through midyear, falling to about 30% by August from a high of around 67% shortly after his election in 1998. He had been able to patch together a coalition of supporters in the legislature, but opposition forces became increasingly aggressive as the president's popularity declined. For example, a bill that would have implemented several political reforms—including electoral and campaign-finance reforms—and given the president sweeping powers to grant concessions to the guerrillas was narrowly defeated on June 7.

      The economy was expected to recover moderately in 2000, which perhaps would clear the way for successful reforms. Significant progress toward negotiated peace, however, did not seem likely in the near future.

Brian F. Crisp

▪ 1999

      Area: 1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 37,685,000

      Capital: Santafé de Bogotá, D.C.

      Head of state and government: Presidents Ernesto Samper Pizano and, from August 7, Andrés Pastrana Arango

      Pres. Ernesto Samper Pizano completed his four-year term of office in 1998, personally discredited by what many considered his mismanagement of government affairs and thoroughly tainted by drug-money scandals. When the long-awaited national elections arrived, the two main guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), made considerable efforts to disrupt them. Voters, nevertheless, turned out in impressive numbers to decide on the future members of the legislature (March) and the new president (May-June). With the slogan "Vote for peace," the ruling Liberal Party maintained its lead in the legislature but with reduced majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The turnout of 45% of the electorate was the highest in several years in spite of an "armed strike" by FARC and the ELN on polling day in many parts of the country.

      The run-up to the presidential election was accompanied by initiatives to start peace negotiations between the government and the left-wing groups, including secret meetings with the ELN in Madrid and discussions with FARC's "diplomatic representative" in Mexico. At the same time, however, those groups stepped up terrorist operations in Colombia, especially in the south (Caquetá and Meta departments) and in the northwest near the Caribbean coast.

      The first round of the presidential election on May 31 gave Horacio Serpa Uribe, the Liberal Party candidate, a wafer-thin margin over Andrés Pastrana Arango (see BIOGRAPHIES (Pastrana Arango, Andres )) of the Social Conservative Party. With each polling 35% of the vote, a runoff election was necessary. With the help of votes given in the first ballot to other candidates, notably to Noemí Sanín Posada, who led in Bogotá and other major cities, Pastrana on June 21 eventually won with six million votes, the largest number ever obtained by a presidential candidate.

      The victory was widely acclaimed in Colombia as a break with the past and, especially, with Samper. Businesses reacted favourably, and Pastrana's promises to seek a peace formula with FARC and the ELN were welcomed. Meetings began under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church in Mainz, Ger., and a civilian High Commissioner for Peace was appointed. There were, however, several setbacks, notably coordinated attacks on the military, the police, oil installations, and banks on the eve of Pastrana's inauguration on August 7.

      Upon taking office, Pastrana also began to cope with the country's other problems. The growing fiscal deficit of about 3.5% of gross domestic product was a major threat to monetary stability and investor confidence. Changes to the tax system and tougher sanctions on tax evasion were presented to the legislature and were expected to be agreed upon in early 1999. Pressure on the peso led to a devaluation of 9% in August. The construction industry was in poor shape, a main cause of rising unemployment, which at nearly 16% in midyear was the highest on record.

      The elements were not kind to Colombia in 1998. Severe droughts in the centre and north of the country reduced fruit and flower production. River levels were 40% of normal, and navigation all but ceased on the Rio Magdalena, affecting merchandise and oil exports. As reservoir levels dropped, some rationing of electric power became necessary. Weakening world prices affected coffee, oil, and coal export revenues.


▪ 1998

      Area: 1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 36,200,000

      Capital: Santafé de Bogotá, D.C.

      Head of state and government: President Ernesto Samper Pizano

      The political situation in Colombia did not improve in 1997. The actions taken by Pres. Ernesto Samper to better his own and his government's position seemed only to increase his vulnerability. In 1996 the U.S. had removed Colombia from the list of countries believed to be making progress against illegal drug traffickers. In dealing with the thorny problem of extradition of criminals from Colombia for trials elsewhere, the Colombian legislature in November approved a constitutional amendment that allowed for nonretroactive extradition. This was not strong enough for the U.S., and so Colombia remained "decertified." This virtually eliminated the possibility of any U.S. government aid and also posed the threat of commercial sanctions. Particularly galling for Colombia was that Bolivia and Mexico, in similar drug-related difficulties, were "certified."

      In January President Samper decreed an "economic state of emergency," which allowed for increases in taxes, principally stamp duties and taxes on foreign borrowings, to combat the growing national deficit and inflation pressures. In March the Constitutional Court ruled the "emergency" unjustified and annulled the fiscal changes. Subsequently, several of Samper's closest allies left his government, including Alfonso Valdivieso, the prosecutor general, and Horacio Serpa, the interior minister, both to prepare bids for the presidential elections of May 1998. Also, Carlos Medellín, who as justice minister was strongly in favour of changing the law on extradition, resigned in April. Later in the year the economy strengthened.

      The most dramatic event of 1997 was the release by the largest guerrilla group, the Colombia Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), of 60 soldiers kidnapped in Putumayo in August 1996 and of 10 marines captured in Chocó in January 1997. After much negotiation the army evacuated 13,000 sq km (5,000 sq mi) of territory in the jungles of Caquetá, where the hostages were released. Although claimed as a satisfactory end to the hostage crisis, the fact that FARC was in overt control of an area of Colombian territory for more than four weeks was not lost on the public. A poll showed that 64% of Colombians thought that the government was losing the war against the guerrillas.

      Indeed, the threat to democracy in Colombia in 1997 significantly increased. Attacks on economic targets by FARC and the other main left-wing terrorist group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), intensified. Oil installations were, as usual, a main objective, with damage achieved in more than 50 of the attacks. Several of these caused spillage of crude oil into rivers that flow into Venezuela, which created another problem for Colombia. A specific tactic emerged to disrupt the municipal elections of October 26. Widespread intimidation of declared candidates, apparently by agents of FARC and ELN working together, caused many to withdraw. From the other end of the political spectrum, right-wing militias, formed by landowners to protect their own interests, made similar threats to left-leaning candidates, forcing further withdrawals.

      In the midst of this serious challenge, Samper appointed a Commission of National Conciliation in July to explore the possibility of a peace accord with FARC and ELN. This was not well received by the military and did not impress the guerrilla groups, which felt they had gained the initiative. An initial meeting in Cúcuta was called off, and a month later Sen. Jorge Cristo was assassinated in Cúcuta when Pres. Rafael Caldera of Venezuela was due to meet Samper there to discuss the strained relations between the two countries.

      In the elections at the end of October, Samper's Liberal Party again was victorious. Voter turnout was low, however, and there were reports of cancellation of ballots due to intimidation.



▪ 1997

      A republic in northwestern South America, Colombia has coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Area: 1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 35,652,000. Cap.: Santafé de Bogotá, D.C. Monetary unit: Colombian peso, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 1,015 pesos to U.S. $1 (1,599 pesos = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Ernesto Samper Pizano.

      The struggle of Pres. Ernesto Samper Pizano (see BIOGRAPHIES (Samper Pizano, Ernesto )) to survive the many calls for his resignation dominated politics in Colombia in 1996. At the end of 1995 a congressional committee dropped a charge of drug corruption against him for lack of evidence, but public opinion continued to insist that he knowingly accepted up to $6 million from the Cali drug cartel during his election campaign in 1994. Samper's campaign treasurer, Santiago Medina, supported by Fernando Botero Zea, Samper's former defense minister and campaign manager, stated that Samper was specifically aware of the drug connection. President Samper refuted these statements, questioning the motives of his accusers and insisting that his conscience was clear. Nevertheless, several of his ministers resigned, and many professional groups joined in the call for his resignation. In February Congress responded and reconvened the committee, which led to a congressional vote in June of 111-43 in favour of dropping the matter. Observers believed that many members of both Samper's party and the opposition conservatives felt their own interests would be threatened by a process leading to a Senate trial and impeachment of the president.

      This did not, however, settle the matter. In March Colombia was removed from the list of countries the U.S. believed were making progress against illegal traffickers. This made the country ineligible for assistance from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The initial reaction to the U.S. move was a wave of nationalist support for Samper, which was further increased when the U.S. canceled his visa. The U.S. insisted on harsher sentences for drug convictions (the Ochoa brothers were released in July after just less than 5 1/2 years in jail) and the extradition to the U.S. of named international criminals.

      Efforts to combat the drug cartels started badly in January when José Santacruz Londoño escaped from jail, probably with the connivance of his guards. He was, however, found and killed by police in March. The one remaining Cali cartel leader still at large, Helmer Herrera, surrendered in September; he was one of those the U.S. wished to extradite for trial. The campaign to eradicate drug crops in the southeast of the country continued, but no effective plan had emerged to compensate the local growers for loss of their livelihood. This led to significant uprisings in Putumayo and Caquetá departments, supported by the armed left-wing groups the Colombia Revolutionary Armed Forces and the National Liberation Army; they resulted in considerable loss of life. Damage by guerrillas to oil pipelines was extensive in 1996, particularly on the lines to Coveñas on the Caribbean coast.

      An alliance between the guerrillas and the drug cartels to destabilize the country was a major fear of the Samper government. This was a factor restraining his agreement to extradite criminals to the U.S.; extradition had provoked the "drug wars" during 1986-90.

      The economy also suffered in 1996. Inflation was expected to exceed 20% (compared with more than 18% in 1995), and gross domestic product growth was forecast at 4%, well below that of 1995. Unemployment was estimated at 12.4-18.6% in December, the highest in eight years. Not all the news was gloomy. There were significant oil and gas finds in 1996, some of excellent quality, and oil exports were expected to bring in a record $1.3 billion of revenue during the year. (PETER POLLARD)

▪ 1996

      A republic in northwestern South America, Colombia has coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Area: 1,141,568 sq km (440,762 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 35,099,000. Cap.: Santafé de Bogotá, D.C. Monetary unit: Colombian peso, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 979 pesos to U.S. $1 (1,547.65 pesos = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Ernesto Samper Pizano.

      The position of Pres. Ernesto Samper Pizano was steadily eroded during 1995 by revelations that money from the drug cartels assisted his election in June 1994. Santiago Medina, the Liberal Party campaign treasurer, was arrested in July and in August admitted receiving about $6 million from the Cali cartel. He implicated Fernando Botero Zea, the minister of defense, who was forced to resign and later was charged with illicit enrichment and falsifying documents. The investigation was led by Colombia's chief prosecutor, Alfonso Valdivieso. (See BIOGRAPHIES (Valdivieso, Alfonso ).) By the end of August, Samper had declared a state of emergency because of the wave of violence and kidnappings in the country, though it was widely believed that this was also an attempt to protect himself from the drug-money scandals. The assassination of a prominent critic of the government, coupled with a decision not to investigate Samper, fortified this impression.

      In fact, a dramatic weakening of the largest of the Colombian drug cartels took place in 1995. After the death of Pablo Escobar at the end of 1993, the Medellín drug cartel dwindled in favour of the Cali cartel, which by 1995 was believed to control up to 70% of the world's trade in cocaine. Pressure on the Colombian government led to a concerted effort to neutralize the leadership of the Cali cartel. Between June and August seven of the cartel's principal figures were arrested or voluntarily surrendered, including Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel, acknowledged as the leaders.

      Efforts continued in the eradication of the coca and poppy plantations in the hope of replacing them with other crops. There were army operations against airfields and transit points used by the cartels, such as the island of San Andrés, where the army took control of aircraft movements.

      Though those events slowed down the Colombian drug traffic, the outlook remained pessimistic. There were rumours that other drug-trafficking groups in Colombia were becoming more active and that some operations were moving to neighbouring countries. One suspected reason for the many arrests was that sentences given by Colombian courts could enable even the worst offenders to be freed within relatively few years. Indeed, the Ochoa brothers of the former Medellín cartel were scheduled to leave jail at the end of 1995 after only four-year sentences.

      Meanwhile, the level of violence and kidnapping in Colombia remained high. Two left-wing groups, the Colombia Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), were active in many parts of the country, damaging power lines and oil pipelines and attacking police and military installations. Sporadic urban violence included a bomb that exploded in the centre of Medellín in June, killing at least 29 and injuring more than 200. The explosion destroyed a monument crowned with a dove of peace by the sculptor Fernando Botero, father of the minister of defense.

      Strong reaction to the FARC and the ELN on the part of the armed forces substantially added to the high level of violent deaths, estimated to be eight times the U.S. rate. Human rights organizations continued to highlight Colombia's poor record, and President Samper dismissed Gen. Alvaro Velandia Hurtado in September after a tribunal found that he had approved human rights violations as commander of Colombia's Third Army.

      Inflation in Colombia in 1995 was forecast at 18% (22.5% in 1994), and the economy was expected to grow 4.5%, a little below 1994. Privatization of such state-owned enterprises as Banco Popular progressed slowly. British Petroleum reported significant new oil and gas finds in the north of the country and expected a substantial increase in production during the next three years. There was disarray in the emerald trade, with violence affecting the world's richest mines in the department of Boyacá. Production of bananas was also disrupted by strikes linked to ELN guerrilla activity.


▪ 1995

      A republic in northwestern South America, Colombia has coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Area: 1,141,748 sq km (440,831 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 34,520,000. Cap.: Santafé de Bogotá, D.C. Monetary unit: Colombian peso, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 837 pesos to U.S. $1 (1,331 pesos = £1 sterling). Presidents in 1994, César Gaviria Trujillo and, from August 7, Ernesto Samper Pizano.

      Colombians in 1994 voted for a continuation of Liberal Party government. In March the Liberals won a slightly reduced majority in the national legislature, and in June, after two rounds of voting, the Liberal candidate, Ernesto Samper Pizano, defeated the Social Conservative Party's Andrés Pastrana Arango for the presidency by a narrow margin. The Liberals owed their success in part to the popularity of outgoing Pres. César Gaviria Trujillo, who had presided over strong economic growth and some reduction in drug-related activity. In their campaigning the new president and the Liberal candidates for the legislature vowed to emphasize the alleviation of social problems, notably the gap between rich and poor.

      The presidential election was briefly eclipsed by Colombia's participation in the soccer World Cup. The team's rapid exit from the competition was contrary to expectations, and the anger it engendered led to the murder, on his return to Medellín, of defender Andrés Escobar, who inadvertently scored in his own goal in Colombia's surprising loss to the U.S. The incident underlined the continuing problem of urban and rural violence. Before the elections, among several actions mainly by left-wing guerrillas, a National Liberation Army bomb almost killed Finance Minister Rudolf Hommes. In August the only senator of the left-wing Patriotic Union, Manuel Cepeda, was assassinated. Samper had hoped that through Cepeda dialogue could be renewed with the still-active left-wing guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Despite the surrender of a Marxist guerrilla group in April, neither the outgoing government's policies nor the new administration's proposals suggested an early end to violence. Consequently, those insurgents who were tempted to lay down arms could not be guaranteed immunity from assassination afterward by opponents.

      Colombia's image abroad continued to be affected by both violence and narcotics. In May the Department of Administrative Security threatened to sue Amnesty International over a report that stated that the army and government disregarded human rights by endorsing the murder of political opponents. The accusations were strenuously denied.

      Also in May the Supreme Court decriminalized the personal use of small amounts of drugs on the grounds that it was unconstitutional to limit personal freedom of choice. The ruling was condemned by President Gaviria, both presidential candidates, the police, and other authorities. During the recriminations after Samper's victory, both he and Pastrana were accused of accepting drug money to fund their campaigns, but in August the prosecutor-general found no proof of this. The allegation that the Cali drug cartel offered $3.6 million toward Samper's campaign prompted the rival Medellín cartel to threaten with death all prominent people rumoured to be supported by Cali. This gave the lie to the idea that the Medellín cartel had disbanded after the death of its leader, Pablo Escobar, in December 1993. On November 1 the government announced that it would modify the constitution to make drug consumption illegal. The government had planned to hold a nationwide referendum on the issue but, according to Vice Pres. Humberto de la Calle, it was decided that to do so would be too costly and might be seen as contemptuous of the court's ruling.

      Gross domestic product was forecast to rise by about 5% in 1994 (a little less than in 1993), fueled in part by the repatriation of drug profits but also by domestic investment, healthy construction and services sectors, and high consumer spending. The economy also benefited from Colombia's ability to replace international shortages in coffee and sugar following weather damage to the crops of Brazil and Cuba, respectively. Coffee exports were also expected to reduce the trade deficit, expanding since 1993 because of a combination of soaring imports, declines in most traditional exports, and an overvalued peso. (BEN BOX)

▪ 1994

      A republic in northwestern South America, Colombia has coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Area: 1,141,748 sq km (440,831 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 33,951,000. Cap.: Bogotá. Monetary unit: Colombian peso, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 804.95 pesos to U.S. $1 (1,220 pesos = £ 1 sterling). President in 1993, César Gaviria Trujillo.

      On Jan. 1, 1993, the government announced a 25% increase in the minimum wage, bringing the basic monthly income to $100. Approximately three million workers received the basic salary, which had remained constant in real terms since the mid-1980s. Economic activity was steady throughout 1993, with a 4% increase in real gross domestic product forecast by the end of the year. This growth was matched by a persistently high inflation rate, however, predicted to average 24%.

      The economy was boosted by new oil production in the Llanos foothills, 160 km (100 mi) northeast of Bogotá. Significant oil deposits were discovered there in July 1991, and when the main Cusiana field was declared commercial in mid-1993, the state oil company, Ecopetrol, acquired a 50% stake. The government estimated that the new oil fields could yield $2.5 billion a year by 1997, but it offered assurances that an oil boom would not lead to dependence on one industry, as had occurred in other oil-producing states in the region, such as Venezuela and Mexico. Oil revenue would also be used to develop the general infrastructure and social programs.

      On December 2 Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellín drug cartel, was shot dead, along with a bodyguard, as they were trying to escape from the roof of a house where hundreds of policemen and soldiers had trapped them. He had made a spectacular escape from prison in July 1992 and since that time had made several unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a surrender with authorities. Throughout 1993 the war between the drug cartels and the government had continued unabated, with Escobar reportedly ordering the assassination of rivals in an attempt to maintain his power. However, the police slowly tightened the net around Escobar, exposing his safe houses and arresting his top bodyguards.

      Exploiting Escobar's imprisonment and subsequent refuge from justice, the rival Cali cartel increased its illegal drug activities. U.S. drug-enforcement authorities estimated that Cali controlled over 80% of drugs smuggled into the U.S. In what was seen largely as a publicity exercise, the Cali cartel announced in May that it would give up all illegal business activities if allowed to come out of hiding and, by implication, be pardoned for all crimes to date.

      Government action against guerrilla organizations continued. A state of emergency, originally imposed in November 1992, was renewed in February 1993 and again in May for a further 90 days. The government offered to renew talks with the guerrillas in March but only if they agreed to a unilateral cease-fire, a condition that was rejected. Violence occurred throughout the year, and the army claimed that from November 1992 to May 1993 over 1,200 rebels had been either captured or killed. Rigorous new legal measures and financial rewards were also introduced to try to bring an end to guerrilla activity. Judges' salaries were increased and extra safeguards provided for their protection. Awards were offered for the arrest of the leaders of the two main guerrilla groups: Manuel Marulanda Vélez of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and Manuel Pérez of the National Liberation Army. Some 10,000 more soldiers and 8,000 more police were recruited as part of a general increase of intelligence and counterinsurgency operations. (HUW CLOUGH)

* * *

officially  Republic of Colombia,  Spanish  República de Colombia  
Colombia, flag of   country of northwestern South America. Its 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of coast to the north are bathed by the waters of the Caribbean Sea, and its 800 miles (1,300 km) of coast to the west are washed by the Pacific Ocean. The country is bordered by Panama, which divides the two bodies of water, on the northwest, Venezuela and Brazil on the east, and Peru and Ecuador on the south. It is more than twice the size of France and includes the San Andrés y Providencia archipelago, located off the Nicaraguan coast in the Caribbean, some 400 miles (650 km) northwest of the Colombian mainland. The population is largely concentrated in the mountainous interior, where Bogotá, the national capital, is situated on a high plateau in the northern Andes Mountains.

      The only American nation that is named for Christopher Columbus, the “discoverer” of the New World, Colombia presents a remarkable study in contrasts, in both its geography and its society. The lofty snow-tipped peaks of the country's interior cordilleras tower high above equatorial forests and savannas where surviving Indian groups still follow the lifeways and traditions of their ancestors. In the cooler mountains, at intermediate elevations, modern cities are juxtaposed with traditional rural landscapes where mestizo farmers cultivate their small plots of coffee, corn (maize), and other crops. The more accessible Atlantic lowlands, dominated by large livestock haciendas and a tri-ethnic population, have a distinctively different character.

      Colombia strongly reflects its history as a colony of Spain. It is often referred to as the most Roman Catholic of the South American countries, and most of its people are proud of the relative purity of their Spanish language. Its population is heavily mestizo (of mixed European and Indian descent) with substantial minorities of European and African ancestry. The economy is traditionally based on agriculture, particularly coffee and fruit production, but industries and services are increasing in importance. Colombia is the most populous nation of Spanish-speaking South America. More than one-third of its inhabitants live in the six largest metropolitan areas, of which Bogotá is the largest. The nation's political instability has been historically tied to the unequal distribution of wealth, and the illicit trade in drugs (drug abuse) (mainly cocaine) remains a major disruptive factor in Colombian life.

The land

 Few countries boast such striking physical variety as does Colombia. Its broken, rugged topography, together with its location near the Equator, creates an extraordinary diversity of climates, vegetation, soils, and crops. The Andean cordillera (Andes Mountains), one of the world's great mountain ranges, dominates the landscape of the western part of the country, where most of the people live. North of the border with Ecuador the cordillera flares out into three distinct parallel ranges. Two great river valleys, those of the Magdalena (Magdalena River) and the Cauca (Cauca River), separate them and provide avenues of penetration from the Atlantic coastal lowlands into the heart of the country. Volcanic activity in the geologic past blocked the middle course of the Cauca River to form a great lake that once filled the western inter-Andean trough for some 120 miles (190 km) south of Cartago. The river eventually broke through the dam to leave the level floor of the Cauca valley at some 3,000 feet (900 metres) above sea level; today it is one of the nation's most productive agricultural areas.

 The Colombian cordilleras belong to the northern portion of the great Andean mountain system, which extends along the Pacific coast of South America. The Andes are among the world's most youthful mountain ranges and among the highest. The geologic history of this northern sector is less well understood than that of the central and southern parts. It is clear, however, that the entire cordillera has been thrust up through the subduction of the crumpled eastern margin of the Nazca Plate and, to the north, the Caribbean Plate under the more rigid but lighter South American Plate, which has been forced westward by the spreading Atlantic seafloor. These tectonic forces (plate tectonics), similar to those found elsewhere around the Pacific Rim, continue to operate, as is evidenced by the high frequency of often destructive earthquakes (earthquake). At the Pasto Massif, near the Ecuadoran border, the mountains divide into the Cordillera Occidental (“Western Range”), which runs parallel to the Pacific coast, and the Cordillera Central (“Central Range”), which, with its numerous volcanoes, forms the backbone of the system in Colombia and runs generally southwest to northeast. At the Great Colombian Massif of the Cordillera Central, near the San Agustín Archeological Park, the Cordillera Oriental (“Eastern Range”) branches off in a more decidedly northeasterly direction.

      Of the three ranges, the nonvolcanic Cordillera Occidental, which forms the barrier between the Cauca valley and the rain-drenched Pacific coast, is the lowest and least populated. Two passes at elevations less than 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) between Cali and Buenaventura on the Pacific coast mark the lowest depressions in the range. Elsewhere the crest is much higher, reaching 12,992 feet (3,960 metres) at Mount Paramillo in the department of Antioquia. From there the Cordillera Occidental fingers north into the three distinct serranías of Abibe, San Jerónimo, and Ayapel, forested ranges that drop gradually toward the piedmont plains of the Caribbean littoral. A lesser topographic feature on the Pacific coast is the Baudó Mountains, separated from the Cordillera Occidental by the valley of the Atrato River, which empties into the Caribbean Gulf of Urabá; the Baudó Mountains represent a southward extension of the Isthmus of Panama.

      The Cordillera Central is the highest of the Andean ranges of Colombia, rising to an average height of 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). It is a continuation of the Ecuadoran volcanic (volcano) structure. Crystalline rocks are exposed at several places on its flanks and are the foci of localized gold and silver deposits. Sandstones and shales of the Tertiary Period (about 66.5 to 1.6 million years ago) are also a part of the older basement that has been capped by ash and lava derived from some 20 volcanoes of the Quaternary Period (within the past 1.6 million years). Several of the latter reach well into the zone of permanent snow, above 15,000 feet (4,600 metres). The highest are Mount Huila (18,865 feet [5,750 metres]), southeast of Cali, and the Ruiz-Tolima complex (some 17,700 feet [5,400 metres]) between Manizales and Ibagué. The fertile ash from their eruptions has produced the high, cool plateaus of Nariño department and the often steep slopes to the north that support much of Colombia's coffee production. In November 1985 Mount Ruíz (Ruiz, Mount) erupted, melting the snow and ice that covered it and sending great mudflows downslope, destroying the city of Armero and killing more than 25,000 in one of the country's greatest catastrophes.

      North of Mount Ruíz, near Sonsón in the department of Antioquia, the volcanic Cordillera Central gives way to the deeply weathered, granitic Antioquia batholith (an exposed granitic intrusion), a tableland averaging some 8,000 feet (2,500 metres) above sea level. It is divided into two parts by the deep transverse cleft of the Porce River, which occupies the U-shaped valley in which is situated the expanding metropolis of Medellín, Colombia's second city. The batholith contains gold-bearing quartz veins, which were the source of the placer gravels that gave rise to an active colonial mining economy. Beyond Antioquia the lower, remote San Lucas Mountains extend northward toward the confluence of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers.

      The massive Cordillera Oriental, separating the Magdalena valley from the Llanos, is composed chiefly of folded and faulted marine sediments and older schists and gneisses. Narrow to the south, it broadens out in the high, unsettled massif of Sumapaz, with elevations up to 13,000 feet (4,000 metres). High plateaus were formed in the Quaternary Period by the deposition of sediments in depressions that had been occupied by lakes. The most important of these is the savanna area called the Sabana de Bogotá. Farther northeast beyond the deep canyons cut by the Chicamocha River and its tributaries, the Cordillera Oriental culminates in the towering Mount Cocuy (Sierra Nevada del Cocuy), which rises to 18,022 feet (5,493 metres). Beyond this point, near Pamplona, the cordillera splits into two much narrower ranges, one extending into Venezuela, the other, the Perijá Mountains (Perijá, Mountains of), forming the northern boundary range between Colombia and Venezuela. The Perijás then descend northward toward the Caribbean to the arid La Guajira Peninsula (Guajira Peninsula, La), the northernmost extension of the Colombian mainland.

      The isolated Santa Marta Mountains are an imposing fault-bounded granitic massif rising to 18,947 feet (5,775 metres) at the “twin peaks” of Cristóbal Colón and Simón Bolívar, the highest point in the country (for a discussion of the height of the Santa Marta Mountains, see Researcher's Note: Heights of the “twin peaks” of the Santa Marta Mountains); the massif ascends abruptly from the Caribbean littoral to snow- and ice-covered summits. The Atlantic lowlands spread out southward behind it. Although it is a distinct geomorphic unit and not a part of the Andes, some geologists have suggested that it might be considered an extension of the Cordillera Central, from which it is separated by the Mompós depression in the lower Magdalena valley.

      The steep and rugged Andean mountain masses and the high intermontane basins descend into plains that extend along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and across the eastern interior toward the Orinoco and Amazon river systems. From the shores of the Caribbean Sea inland to the lower spurs of the three major cordilleras extends a slightly undulating savanna surface of varying width, generally known as the Atlantic lowlands (also called the Caribbean coastal lowlands). Dotted with hills and with extensive tracts of seasonally flooded land along the lower Magdalena and the Sinú rivers, it surrounds the inland portion of the Santa Marta Mountains. A much narrower lowland apron extends along the Pacific shoreline from the point of Cape Corrientes southward to the Ecuadoran border.

      A wide range of features characterize the country's two coastlines. Steep and articulated bays, inlets, capes, and promontories accentuate the shoreline on the Pacific side toward the Panama border and on the Caribbean side where the sea beats against the base of the Santa Marta Mountains. These features are interspersed with sandy beaches, along with barrier islands and brackish lagoons.

      The eastern two-thirds of the country, lying beyond the Andes, differs from cordilleran Colombia in practically all aspects of physical and human geography. The eastern lowland extends from the Venezuelan boundary along the Arauca (Arauca River) and Meta (Meta River) rivers in the north to the Peruvian-Ecuadoran border stream, the Putumayo (Putumayo River), some 600 miles (1,000 km) to the south and from the base of the Cordillera Oriental eastward to the Orinoco (Orinoco River)-Negro (Negro River) river line, a distance of more than 400 miles (650 km). A region of great topographic uniformity, it is divided into two contrasting natural landscapes by a major vegetation boundary. In southern Colombia the Amazonian rainforest (Amazon Rainforest), or selva, reaches its northern limit. From the Guaviare River northward the plains between the Andes and the Orinoco River are mostly grass-covered, forming the largest savanna complex in tropical America. This part of the lowland is called the Llanos Orientales (“Eastern Plains”) or simply the Llanos.

      In the central part of the plain, between the Guaviare and Caquetá rivers, the eroded rocks of the ancient Guiana Shield are exposed, producing a broken topography of low, isolated mountains, tablelands, and buttes with rapids in the streams. This slightly higher ground forms the watershed between the Amazon and Orinoco systems. Some 60 miles (100 km) south of Villavicencio the elongated, forested La Macarena Mountains rise 8,000 feet (2,500 metres) from the surrounding lowlands, an isolated tropical ecosystem.

Drainage and soils
      In Colombia's rugged terrain the rivers have been historically important as routes of transportation and settlement. By far the most important river system is the Magdalena (Magdalena River). Its drainage basin, including that of its major tributary, the Cauca (Cauca River), covers some 100,000 square miles (260,000 square km), or nearly one-fourth of the surface of the country. Within it are found most of the nation's socioeconomic activity and more than three-fourths of its population. Originating in the Andean Páramo de Las Papas, the Magdalena flows northward in the structural depression between the Cordilleras Central and Oriental for almost 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to empty into the Caribbean near Barranquilla. The Dique Canal, begun during the colonial period, links its lower course with the coastal city of Cartagena. The Cauca River, which contributes a substantial part of its total flow, rises in the mountains south of Popayán and, after passing through the floor of the Cauca valley near Cali, occupies deep canyons in most of its passage through the departments of Caldas and Antioquia before emerging onto the floodplain of the lower Magdalena.

 The Magdalena, a shallow, braiding stream in its upper and middle course, served as a major transport artery for most of the country's history, but deforestation and soil erosion have led to silting and increased flow variation so that its role has become less significant. Because of its rapids, the Cauca has never been of much importance for the moving of goods. Among the major affluents of the Magdalena, besides the Cauca, are the Sogamoso, Cesar, San Jorge, Saldaña, Lebrija, and Carare rivers. The Sinú and the Atrato (Atrato River) are other major streams that flow directly into the Caribbean.

      The great eastern watershed is subdivided into two sections, the waters flowing into the Orinoco (Orinoco River) and the Amazon rivers (Amazon River), which carry them to the Atlantic Ocean. The Arauca and Meta, the lower reaches of which cross into Venezuela, and the Vichada, Inírida, and Guaviare are among the main rivers that flow into the Orinoco. Among the streams that flow into the Amazon are the Vaupés, Caquetá, and Putumayo. The rivers that flow into the Pacific are relatively short, descending rapidly from the Cordillera Occidental to the sea. They carry large volumes of water, however, because they drain areas of extremely heavy rainfall. Among the rivers belonging to the Pacific watershed are the Baudó, San Juan, Dagua, Naya, San Juan de Micay, Patía, and Mira, which rises in Ecuador.

 The wide variety of soils encountered in the country reflects climatic, topographic, and geologic conditions. Those best suited for modern, mechanized agriculture are the alluvial soils found in the principal river valleys, such as the Magdalena, Cauca, Sinú, Cesar, and Ariguaní. The former lake beds of some of the inter-Andean basins, notably the Sabana de Bogotá and the Ubaté and Chiquinquirá valleys, also fall into this category. Elsewhere, soils of volcanic origin, especially in the coffee-growing districts of the Cordillera Central, can be exceptionally productive if protected from erosion. The Quindío department, west of Bogotá, is especially renowned for its rich soils.

      Because of the country's close proximity to the Equator, its climate is generally tropical and isothermal (without any real change of seasons). Temperatures vary little throughout the year. The only genuinely variable climatic element is the amount of annual precipitation. Climatic differences are related to elevation and the displacement of the intertropical convergence zone between the two major air masses from which the northeast and southeast trade winds originate. Human settlement is more oriented to vertical zoning in Colombia than anywhere else in Latin America.

      The climate of the tropical rainforest in the Amazon region, the northern Pacific coast, and the central Magdalena valley is marked by an annual rainfall of more than 100 inches (2,500 mm) and annual average temperatures above 74 °F (23 °C). A tropical monsoon climate, marked by one or more dry months but still supporting rainforest vegetation, occurs along the southern Pacific coast, on the Caribbean coast, and at places in the interior—the Quindío department and near Villavicencio.

      The tropical savanna conditions of alternately wet and dry seasons constitute the predominant climate of the Atlantic lowlands; the dry season occurs from November to April, and the wet season (broken by dry periods) from May to October. This climate is found also in the Llanos region and in part of the upper Magdalena valley. It is characterized by an annual rainfall of 40 to 70 inches (1,000 to 1,800 mm) and annual average temperatures usually above 74 °F (23 °C). The dry season, accompanied by dust and wind, coincides with the true winter of the Northern Hemisphere.

      A drier savanna climate prevails on the Caribbean littoral from the Gulf of Morrosquillo to the La Guajira Peninsula in the northeast. The rains normally occur in two brief periods (in April and in October–November, respectively) but rarely exceed 30 inches (760 mm) annually. The average temperature is hot—more than 81 °F (27 °C)—with the daily range greatest where the humidity is low. This type of climate also occurs in the rain shadows of the deep gorges of such rivers as the Patía, Cauca, Chicamocha, and Zulia and in parts of the upper Magdalena valley. The climate reaches near-desert conditions in the far northern department of La Guajira.

      In the mountain regions temperature is directly related to elevation. Average temperatures decrease uniformly about 3 °F per 1,000 feet of ascent (0.6 °C per 100 metres). Popular terminology recognizes distinct temperature zones (pisos térmicos), which are sometimes referred to as tierra caliente (up to about 3,000 feet [900 metres]), tierra templada or tierra del café (3,000 to 6,500 feet [900 to 2,000 metres]), and tierra fría (6,500 to 10,000 feet [2,000 to 3,000 metres]). The majority of Colombians live in the interior cordilleras in the tierra templada and the tierra fría zones. The tierra templada has moderate rainfall and temperatures between 65 and 75 °F (18 and 24 °C). In the tierra fría is Bogotá, which lies 8,660 feet (2,640 metres) above sea level and has an average of 223 days of precipitation, although the average rainfall is scarcely 40 inches (1,000 mm). The city's average temperature is 57 °F (14 °C). The climate of the high mountain regions—the páramos, ranging from about 10,000 to 15,000 feet (3,000 to 4,600 metres)—is characterized by average temperatures below 50 °F (10 °C), fog, overcast skies, frequent winds, and light rain or drizzle. At elevations above 15,000 feet (4,600 metres) there is perpetual snow and ice.

Plant and animal life
      The diversity of life-forms and habitats in Colombia has impressed observers since the days of the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt (Humboldt, Alexander von). The complex pattern of climate, soil, and topography has produced an extraordinary range of plants and plant communities that vary through both vertical and horizontal zones. They range from the mangrove swamps of the coasts, the desert scrub of La Guajira, the savanna grasslands and gallery ecosystems of the Atlantic lowlands and the Llanos, and the rainforest of Amazonia and the Chocó region to the widely diverse and complex montane ecosystems of the Andean slopes.

      Human intervention has vastly altered what must have been the original vegetation of the Atlantic lowlands and the Andean region. Forests probably covered all but the highest and driest areas, where the soils were unsuited to support them. Today they are restricted to the steepest, most inaccessible slopes and to areas of especially high rainfall in the inner Andes. Elsewhere pasture, crops, or degraded scrub and grass have replaced the original cover of broad-leaved evergreen trees. The first chroniclers often described the Andes as sparsely wooded, a condition they usually attributed to Indian agriculture and burning. In more recent times, with the increasing number of European cattle, the area in grassland has been vastly extended, both in the mountains and on the Atlantic lowlands. Introduced grass species of African origin are particularly conspicuous.

      Even in the most lush forest tracts that remain, such as those that flank the outer sides of the eastern and western ranges, there is much evidence of earlier human occupation. These wet montane forests are characterized by lianas, mosses, orchids, and bromeliads and by such economically valued plants as cinchona, the latex-bearing balata, ivory nut (tagua), and the giant American bamboo. Lumbering has had a minor role because of the singular difficulty of access as well as the absence of forests of any one commercial species. In modern times technological advances have made possible the exploitation of forest species in accessible parts of the Atrato River basin and on the Pacific coast near Buenaventura.

      The distinctive páramo biome of the equatorial high mountains reaches its greatest development in Colombia. This alpine vegetation is characterized by tussock grasses, cushion plants, and the treelike frailejón (Espeletia), a curious-looking hairy-leafed genus of some 50 different species. Fire-resistant and adapted to low temperatures and high humidity, it gives special character to the páramo landscape. The lower páramo, below 12,000 feet (3,650 metres), is a transitional belt in which scattered clumps of trees occur. Despite its bleak and forbidding climate, much of the páramo has been significantly altered by human activity, especially wood cutting and burning to promote better grazing. Agriculture has also impinged on its lower reaches, but extensive tracts remain relatively untouched by humans.

      The animal life of the forests of the Amazon and Pacific coastal Chocó regions is particularly rich and has supported a considerable export trade to North American and European zoos. It includes anteaters, sloths, several monkey species, tapirs, peccaries, spectacled bears, deer, and such large tropical rodents as agoutis, pacas, and capybaras. Carnivores include pumas and jaguars, which were considered endangered species by the 1980s, and raccoons.

      Bird habitats are influenced by elevation, and many species are specific to narrow altitudinal bands, ranging upward and downward only very short distances. The extremely lush birdlife encompasses more than 1,500 species, including toucans, hummingbirds, and those that migrate annually from North America. Among the reptiles, turtles, lizards, snakes, caimans, and crocodiles abound. Some quite unusual species inhabit the land, including earthworms that grow up to six feet in length. Freshwater fish include catfish, bocachica (“smallmouth”), and characins (small, brightly coloured tropical fishes). Electric eels also inhabit the inland waters. The Magdalena and Cauca once supported rich river fisheries, but pollution and unrestrained commercial exploitation have taken a heavy toll.

Settlement patterns
      Colombia can be divided into five traditional geographic regions: the Atlantic lowlands, the Pacific coastal region, the Andean region, the Llanos, and the Amazonian rainforest.

      Of early colonial importance, the Atlantic lowlands are now second to the Andean region in population and economic significance. The area is home to one-fifth of Colombia's population, partly concentrated in Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Santa Marta, the country's principal Caribbean ports. Cattle raising and mixed agriculture are the traditional economic activities, but large-scale commercial farming, especially of rice, cotton, and bananas, has been successful. Irrigation has expanded since the mid-20th century, especially in the valleys of the Sinú and Cesar rivers. Bananas are grown for export in the Urabá region.

      The Pacific coast, including the department of Chocó, with its lush rainforest and infertile soils, is sparsely inhabited. Most of its people are descendants of liberated African slaves who settled in agricultural clearings along the rivers. It has little commercial activity. The coastal city of Buenaventura is the only port of note and the main population centre.

 The Andean region (Andes Mountains) is the centre of national political and economic power, with most of the country's population and large cities, including Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali, the three most populous. The Cauca valley, with its vast tract of alluvial soil, the Sabana de Bogotá, and the Antioquia highlands are perhaps the most dynamic centres of economic activity and growth.

 Although the Llanos and the Amazonian rainforest (Amazon Rainforest) together make up nearly two-thirds of the country's land area, they contain only a tiny fraction of the population. About one-third of this number are in the department of Meta in the Llanos, where cattle raising has long been the traditional way of life. New penetration roads extending down from the Andes have encouraged colonization along the margins of both of these areas, as have discoveries of petroleum. The remoter areas of the Amazon region were sparsely inhabited only by small groups of Indians until the 1990s, when coca growers and guerrilla groups joined them.

The people

      In Colombia much care has been taken to preserve the linguistic purity of the official language, Castilian Spanish, and there are close ties between the Spanish and Colombian language academies. Spanish spoken in Colombia is nevertheless marked by the presence of numerous Colombianisms, many of which have been accepted by both academies. In addition to Spanish there are more than 180 indigenous languages and dialects belonging to such major linguistic groups as Arawakan, Chibchan, Cariban, Tupi-Guaraní, and Yurumanguí.

      Approximately three-fifths of the population is mestizo. People of African and mulatto (mixed African and European) ancestry account for nearly one-fifth of the population and are mainly concentrated in the coastal departments and in traditional sugar-growing areas such as the Cauca River valley. The European population, which is mainly of Spanish origin, has declined to about one-fifth of the total. Indians constitute only 1 percent of the population, a much lower share than in other Andean countries. Unlike most other South American republics, immigration has never been much encouraged in Colombia, although small numbers from the Middle East, non-Iberian Europe, and East Asia have been absorbed into the population.

 Nearly all Colombians are adherents of Roman Catholicism, the country's official religion. The church is deeply ingrained in Colombian society, usually taking a leading and authoritative role in the community and having great influence in government. The church has not generally been reform-minded, but some elements of liberalization were evident in the late 20th century. Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution, but the role of Protestant communities is small, as is that of the thinly spread Jewish community. A few Indian groups in remote areas still follow their traditional religions.

Demographic (Colombia) trends
      High rates of population growth after World War II peaked in the mid-1960s. They subsequently declined to more moderate levels compared with the rest of Latin America but were still high by world standards. The decline appears to have been in part the result of a variety of government programs to reduce fertility, including family planning and educational services. In addition, there has been a significant amount of emigration, especially to oil-rich Venezuela and to the United States. This emigration has been a matter of concern to Colombia, both because the loss represents a high proportion of skilled workers and because these often illegal immigrants experience human rights problems in the countries to which they move. The rate of internal migration from Colombia's rural areas to its cities continues to be high, partly driven by the search for better wages and living conditions and also because of guerrilla warfare and violence related to drug trafficking (drug abuse). The rates of growth in areas of the Llanos and the Caribbean coast, however, were disproportionately high in the late 20th century, suggesting a general migration from the mountains toward the plains. The rapid growth of the cities has been accompanied by high rates of unemployment.

The economy
      In the colonial period the economy was based almost entirely on gold mining, including the robbing of the metal from Indian graves (guacas). The modern economy is much more broadly based, with the exploitation of hydrocarbon fuels and several metals, agricultural production, and the manufacture of goods for export and home consumption. Private enterprise dominates the economy, and direct government participation is limited to such industries as the railways, petroleum, and telecommunications. The government has attempted to foster economic stability and to encourage private enterprise through indirect measures, such as a favourable system of taxation and the extension of credit to new industries. Regional development organizations, such as the Cauca Valley Corporation, have been established to promote more balanced industrial growth, with emphasis on hydroelectric power development and flood control. Economic growth was quite substantial through the mid-20th century, but in subsequent decades inflation and unemployment grew alarmingly as the growth rate declined. Nevertheless, Colombia was one of the few Latin American countries not to suffer a debt crisis in the 1980s, and in many ways during that decade it had the healthiest economy in the region.

      Agriculture remains a major component of the Colombian economy, although industrial development since the 1940s has been remarkable. A substantial proportion of Colombian land is uncultivated because of the prevalence of poor soils and unfavourable climatic conditions. The eastern plains are sparsely inhabited, the Pacific coast is still in forest because of high rainfall, and large areas in the Magdalena valley remain in open range or are unused.

      Colombia has an abundance of nonrenewable resources, including reserves of gold, coal, and petroleum; its renewable resources include rich agricultural lands and its rivers, which have been harnessed increasingly for hydroelectric power. gold deposits, particularly in the west-central section of the country, have been important since colonial times. In some areas the gold-bearing gravels also contain silver and platinum. The coalfields of La Guajira are the largest in all of northern South America. Ferronickel reserves are located along the San Jorge River, and there is a large copper deposit in western Antioquia. The Cordillera Oriental has long been an important source of rock salt, marble, limestone, and, especially, Colombia's highly prized emeralds (emerald); the country is the major world producer of emeralds.

      Petroleum reserves have long been exploited in the Magdalena and Catatumbo river valleys, and major new fields were opened in the Llanos and in Amazonia in the late 20th century. Colombia's potential for hydroelectric power is greater than any other nation on the continent except Brazil, and hydroelectric plants generate roughly three-fourths of the nation's electricity; however, severe droughts (notably in 1992–93) have occasionally interrupted service, and supplemental thermoelectric plants have been built in many areas.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
 The mountainous character of much of Colombia's territory, along with the attendant climatic variations of the different vertical zones, allows for the production of an unusually wide range of both tropical and temperate-zone crops, from bananas and sugarcane to wheat, barley, and potatoes. Modern agricultural techniques are employed chiefly in those areas where they are adaptable to the topography. Chemical fertilizers are widely used, and large tracts of flatter lands have been placed under irrigation. Many farmers with small holdings, especially in the mountains, nevertheless cling to traditional methods of farming.

 Coffee (coffee production) has long represented the backbone of the Colombian economy, bringing premium prices on the world market and constituting about half of all legal exports. Trade in coffee has always been sensitive to sharp price fluctuations, however. In 1975, after a severe Brazilian frost destroyed that nation's coffee crop, prices soared for Colombian coffee exports, and the nation consequently suffered high levels of inflation. During other periods, low coffee prices have stalled economic development. Although coffee had declined to about one-eighth of legal exports by the mid-1990s, the country was still second only to Brazil in its production. The labour-intensive crop grows best at elevations between 3,300 and 6,300 feet (1,000 and 1,900 metres). The farms or estates (fincas) on which it is produced are concentrated in the central parts of the three Andean ranges; a few are on the slopes of the Santa Marta Mountains. Holdings tend to be small. Colombian coffee traditionally has been grown under nitrogen-fixing leguminous shade trees, but, with the introduction of the high-yielding caturra variety, plantings have increasingly been made in the open sunlight.

      Bananas and plantains rank as important fruit crops. Most of the bananas are exported from plantations in the Urabá region of the Caribbean coast. Sugarcane is a major crop in the warm and temperate zones, but most of the large plantations and processing plants are located on the alluvial lands of the Cauca valley near Cali. Some of the sugar is exported, but domestic markets consume the bulk of the production.

      Corn (maize), the traditional staple of rural peoples, especially those in the mountains, is grown everywhere except in the páramos zones. In some areas it is widely consumed as a form of beer called chicha. In the cooler highlands of the Nariño plateau and in the Cordillera Oriental, potatoes are a prominent crop. In the lowlands the production of rice has increased rapidly, most of it grown under irrigation. Cassava (yuca) in the tierra caliente and wheat on the páramos margins are other major food crops. Kidney beans and sorghum are also widely grown.

      Locally grown cotton supplies the large Colombian textile industry. Other less significant crops are tobacco, sesame, African oil palms, cacao, peanuts (groundnuts), grapes, soybeans, and citrus fruits. Cut flowers are shipped by air freight in substantial volume from large greenhouses on the Sabana de Bogotá.

 Stock raising is a major activity and source of wealth, especially in the lowlands. The Sinú and San Jorge river valleys, the savannas of the Atlantic lowlands, and the Llanos are the regions with most of the beef cattle. Dairying is especially well developed on the high plateaus of the Cordillera Oriental. Poultry raising has expanded as a result of the application of modern techniques.

      The rich resource of the forests has not been fully exploited, because access roads to them are few. Where forests are accessible, cutting has been heavy and reforestation programs have been implemented both by the government and by private concerns such as paper manufacturers. The lumber industry is in the process of development, and by the late 20th century there were numerous factories for the manufacture of different types of plywood for domestic use and export.

      Ocean fishing is little developed for a country that faces two great seas. The maritime tradition is of minor proportion. River fish constitute the more abundant catch, although stocks have been reduced as a result of pollution and siltation.

      Before the enactment of neoliberal reforms in the 1990s, the Institute of Industrial Development supplied the necessary capital for enterprises too large to be privately financed, investing large sums to strengthen the metalworking industry, to set up motor-vehicle assembly plants, to stimulate the construction of railroad cars and fishing vessels, and to encourage the manufacture of paper, vegetable oils, and petroleum derivatives. Despite these developments, the greater part of Colombian industrial activity continues to be carried on by small enterprises that produce consumer goods.

Mining and quarrying
      Coal, petroleum, and gold are chief among Colombia's long list of extraction and processing industries. Gold production comes largely from dredges operating in the west-central departments of Antioquia and Chocó. The export of ferronickel was initiated in 1985 from a major ore deposit, Cerro Matoso, in the upper reaches of the San Jorge River. Coal is mined in the Andean region for local markets, but production now centres on the great Cerrejón deposits in La Guajira, connected by rail to a modern port at the extreme end of the peninsula.

  petroleum development began in the Magdalena River valley in the early 1900s, and by the early 1980s some 100,000 barrels per day were being produced. With the development of two major petroleum fields in the northern Llanos and in Amazonia in the late 1980s and '90s, production jumped to 440,000 barrels per day in 1990 and some 800,000 by the end of the decade. Pipelines across the Andes linking these fields to ocean terminals have also raised the export potential, although terrorist attacks on the lines have interrupted production and caused enormous environmental damage. The older fields in the Magdalena River valley and in the Catatumbo River region facing Venezuela still produce important quantities of petroleum. The industry is controlled as a government monopoly, but foreign companies are partners in exploration and development. The major refineries are at Barrancabermeja on the Magdalena River and Cartagena on the Caribbean coast.

      The tendency toward import substitution (substituting domestically produced goods for imports) began during the Great Depression of the 1930s and continued into the 1950s and '60s, when Colombia became practically self-sufficient in the production of nondurable consumer goods. Development later slowed, and in the 1980s and '90s manufacturing accounted for the same one-fifth of the gross domestic product that it had in the early 1960s.

      The textile industry employs the largest share of workers and contributes a substantial part of the national income. In addition to supplying the national market, the larger firms, concentrated in Medellín, also export fabric and yarn. Food processing and chemical production rank with textiles as leading Colombian industries. Production of industrial chemicals, in part to supply the textile industry, has increased steadily. There is also an important output of pharmaceuticals. The integrated iron and steel mill at Paz de Río, in Boyacá department, utilizes local raw materials and supplies a large share of the country's ferrous metal needs.

       Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali, along with the Caribbean coastal cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena, are the principal industrial centres. The interior location of the first three has placed them at a significant disadvantage in both processing of imported materials and producing for export, but the demands of the growing domestic market, coupled with substantial investments by foreign concerns in productive facilities, have enabled them to sustain substantial growth, especially since World War II. Cheap electric power distributed through a national grid has been an important developmental factor.

Finance and trade
      The banking system is composed of a central bank (the Banco de la República) and more than 30 general banking institutions, some of which are partly foreign-owned. The Monetary Commission, created by the government in 1963, is the highest authority in matters involving the extension of credit. Such credit is extended through the central bank, which also issues currency, acts as banker for the government and other banks, serves as a guardian and administrator of the country's international reserves, and acts as a clearinghouse.

      Foreign trade is concerned principally with the exportation of raw materials and the importation of machinery and manufactured goods. Colombia's single largest trading partner is the United States. Trade with the countries of the European Union also is significant, as is trade with neighbouring Andean countries.

      Exports consist largely of crude petroleum and petroleum products, coffee, chemicals, textiles, fresh-cut flowers, and coal. By the 1970s and '80s the illegal trade (drug abuse) in Colombian marijuana and cocaine, especially with the United States, had become a major source of income, at times exceeding the value of legal exports. Despite government efforts to combat the Colombian drug cartels, intercept cocaine shipments, and eradicate coca fields through aerial spraying, cocaine remained a potent factor in the national economy. In addition, opium poppy cultivation and heroin trafficking grew in prominence by the late 1990s. Imports consist mainly of machinery and transportation equipment, chemical products, crude petroleum and petroleum products, base metals and metal products, and paper and paper products.

      Transportation plays a particularly vital role in Colombia, where the problems of a diverse and difficult terrain are being overcome to unify the country. By far the most important means of surface transportation is the road system, about one-eighth of which is paved. Two parallel main roads extend toward the interior from the Caribbean ports, one following the Cordillera Oriental to Bogotá and Santa Marta, the other passing through Medellín, Cali, and Popayán to the Ecuadoran border. A branch from the first leads to Cúcuta and into Venezuela. There is, however, no overland communication with Panama and Central America, because of the difficult terrain of the Darién Gap, which separates Panama and Colombia and breaks up the northern and southern sections of the Pan-American Highway. Road extension and improvement is a priority of the government, for most domestic cargo today moves by truck. Frequent landslides make highway maintenance difficult. One of the most important transverse routes passes through the Cordillera Central, linking Bogotá with Cali (in the Cauca valley) and Buenaventura, the major Pacific port.

      Perhaps in no other country has air transport played so major a role as in Colombia. The government-controlled airline Avianca claims to be the oldest commercial airline operating in the Western Hemisphere. Frequent flights link all important cities, reducing travel times inordinately from those on the tortuous, indirect, and slow mountain highways. Most people travel by air in Colombia, which is claimed to have proportionally the highest rate of air travel in the world, and airlines handle four times more cargo tonnage than the national railroad system. The principal international airport is Bogotá's El Dorado, and there are others at Medellín, Cali, Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Isla San Andrés. The last serves the large tourist industry there.

      The role of railroads has become increasingly secondary. The standard-gauge lines are owned by the government. The main line is the Ferrocarril del Atlántico, which runs north for 600 miles (1,000 km) between Bogotá and the seaport of Santa Marta. At Puerto Berrío in the Magdalena valley the main line connects with another that passes westward through Medellín and on southward to Cali and the port of Buenaventura. This and other regional lines are frequently closed by landslides.

      The Magdalena River no longer plays the vital role in transportation that it once did, although it still carries some bulk cargo, especially petroleum. Travelers en route to Bogotá in earlier times moved by riverboat as far as La Dorada, where the trip to the interior capital continued overland. The Sinú, Atrato, and Meta rivers are also navigable, but these, too, are used less frequently. Consideration has been given to the possibility of uniting the nation's Caribbean and Pacific coasts by the construction of a canal between the Atrato and San Juan rivers; that project has not gained momentum, however, because the nearby Panama Canal has proved a convenient and cost-effective link.

      Cargo ships ply the waters of both the Caribbean and the Pacific, which are joined to the north by the Panama Canal. The Caribbean ports of Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta have relatively deep water and are equipped with modern port facilities and services; however, silt deposited by the Magdalena River at its mouth requires constant dredging to maintain shipping access to the Barranquilla wharves. On the Pacific coast the port of Buenaventura, on a mangrove-lined embayment, offers easy access and modern installations.

Government and social conditions

      Under the constitution of 1991 Colombia is a republic, the public powers of which are divided between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The president, who can serve up to two consecutive four-year terms, is elected by universal suffrage. The executive is assisted by a ministerial cabinet. A Senate and a House of Representatives constitute the bicameral legislature, whose members are elected to four-year terms. The House members are elected by districts corresponding to the departments, while 100 of the 102 members of the Senate are elected by a nationwide constituency and two by the indigenous communities.

      The country is divided for administrative purposes into 32 departments and the capital district of Bogotá. The departments are headed by elected governors, and each has an elected legislature. The departments are subdivided into municipalities, which are headed by elected mayors.

      The Colombian political process originated during the formation of the republic. Since then, the two largest political parties—the Liberals and the Conservatives—have almost constantly vied with each other for power, the exception being 1957–74 when they formed a coalition government (see La Violencia, dictatorship, and democratic restoration (Colombia)). Suffrage is extended to all citizens 18 years of age and older. Citizens are guaranteed civil rights, including the right to strike, to assemble, and to petition; freedom of the press is also guaranteed. All male citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 may be called for military service.

      The educational system includes kindergartens (preschool facilities), primary schools, secondary schools, and other educational facilities that offer training in industry, domestic science, veterinary science, business, nursing, theology, and art. The majority of the country's universities are located in the capital city, although there also are colleges in other major cities such as Medellín, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Popayán, and Cali. Public institutions of higher learning in Bogotá include the National University of Colombia, the Francisco José de Caldas District University, and the National Pedagogical University, and major private schools there include the University Foundation, the Xavieran Pontifical University, and the University of the Andes.

Welfare and health
      Welfare services date to the 1930s. Social security programs include health and maternity benefits, workers' compensation, and allowances for those unable to work. As in most Latin American countries, housing is in short supply, a problem that is especially serious in large cities, which attract a large migrant class that settles in slums. The Housing Institute addresses the problem, directing the construction of housing for the low-income rural and urban population.

      The Ministry of Public Health seeks to arouse the interest of individual communities in seeking solutions to health problems through independent efforts. Projects include the construction of systems to supply drinking water; public education in the matters of basic sanitation, home maintenance, balanced diet, and personal cleanliness; and the control of industries and organizations whose operations might be hazardous to health. Malaria and dysentery are common health problems in the rural areas, particularly in the poorly drained lowlands, and there are occasional cholera epidemics. Hookworm is troublesome in the damp environments of the shaded cafetales, or coffee plantations. Yellow fever, once of serious concern in the port cities, has been eradicated. Although health conditions have improved, serious problems still exist, especially among the poor and in remote areas, including problems caused by malnutrition.

Cultural life

Cultural origins
      Geography has played a critical role in shaping Colombian culture, particularly in regard to regional isolation. Prior to the arrival of the first Europeans in the 16th century, the aboriginal populations (South American Indian) of the area that was to become Colombia had achieved a high level of cultural development. Because they built largely of wood and occupied a tropical area of generally moderate to high rainfall, they left little evidence of their achievements. All groups had some form of social organization, but, except for the Chibcha of the Cordillera Oriental, they were organized in small chiefdoms (cacigazcos) under chiefs (caciques) whose authority was sharply limited geographically. Agriculture, pottery making, and weaving were all but universal. Some groups—for example, the Chibcha, Quimbaya, Tairona, Sinú, and Calima—had developed great skills in metalworking (especially goldsmithing), sculpture, and ceramics. The San Agustín culture, centred in the headwaters area of the Magdalena River, left giant anthropomorphic figures carved of stone that have been an enigma for archaeologists. While groups of Caribbean origin were warlike and practiced ritual cannibalism, others from the interior possessed a rich mythology and a religion that upheld ethical standards and norms on questions of private ownership and the prevention of crime.

      Until the mid-1970s it was thought that no indigenous group had left any large architectural monuments such as those erected by the Aztecs, Mayas, or Incas. The excavation, beginning in 1976, of a 1,500-acre (600-hectare) city apparently built about AD 900 by the Tairona in the Santa Marta massif, however, marked a turning point in the study of Colombia's prehistory.

      The Andean Indians, particularly the Chibcha, practiced sedentary agriculture and were able to offer but small resistance to the Spanish invaders. They became the great biological and cultural contributors to the process of racial amalgamation, or mestizaje. The low demographic density of the pre-Hispanic population and its swift destruction during the colonial period led to the formation of a rather open society and to the substitution of Hispanic forms of culture for the indigenous ones. The most widely used native language, Chibcha (Chibchan languages), virtually disappeared in the 18th century.

  From colonial times, Bogotá—the “Athens of South America”—has been the nation's cultural centre, and most cultural institutions are located within the metropolitan area. Other cities of cultural prominence include Cali, Medellín, Manizales, Tunja, and Cartagena.

The arts
 The arts in Colombia are fostered and developed by conservatories and schools in several cities either in connection with the universities or independently and by the growing number of concert halls and galleries. Persons of middle income levels display considerable curiosity and the desire to be informed about contemporary artistic developments, and this same spirit is found among the artists themselves. There is no distinct national school of art. The most outstanding Colombian artist is the painter and sculptor Fernando Botero (Botero, Fernando), whose themes reach beyond regional tastes and temporal values to people worldwide. Numerous exhibitions in the 1990s exposed Botero's work to a broad international audience.

 The Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Gabriel García Márquez (García Márquez, Gabriel) in 1982 provided recognition of a national literary tradition that Colombians believe constitutes a basic element of the national character, as they boast that more poets than soldiers have occupied the presidency. García Márquez is best known for his Cién años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude), a novel steeped in magic realism, chronicling a century of life in the fictional town of Macondo, which is seen as a microcosm of Colombian society. Many of his other works are also inspired by events in Colombian history and culture, yet their symbolism and significance extend to Latin America as a whole.

      Handicrafts suffered a decline from the colonial period to the early years of the republic, but since the early 1930s interest in them has revived. Most notable are the growth in textile production and renewed activity in the manufacture of ceramics and pottery, chiefly in the municipalities of Ráquira, Espinal, and Malambo. Basket weaving, harness making, and passementerie (fancy edging or trimming on clothing or upholstery) are also popular.

      Popular traditions concerning manners and customs, music, legends, and food preparation continue in somewhat attenuated form in their places of origin. Perhaps the most deeply rooted folkloric form of expression is that of music. The tunes and melodies of the indigenous groups are sung only in limited geographic areas. The music of the mestizo can be divided into that of the Andes, the plains, and the Atlantic lowlands and the Pacific coast and include such genres as the bambuco, the cumbia, and the vallenato. Some musical forms of the colonial period also have survived.

Cultural institutions
      The history and culture of Colombia's indigenous peoples are revealed in several museums of outstanding reputation. The Gold Museum in Bogotá possesses the world's finest and largest collection of worked gold (goldwork), the product of extraordinarily skilled craftsmen, whereas the Bogotá Museum of Colonial Art has a rich collection of criollo ( Creole) religious sculpture and painting. The National Museum displays treasures and relics dating from prehistoric times to the present and possesses various collections of Colombian painting and sculpture. The July 20 Museum contains documents from the period of independence.

      No less important vehicles for the diffusion of culture are the National Library and the Bank of the Republic Library, the latter containing a vast amount of reading material, exposition and music halls, and a concert theatre. Outside Bogotá there are other institutions of this kind, including the Zea Museum in Medellín and the House of Don Juan de Vargas in Tunja.

Daily life and social structure
      Although regional differences are slowly disappearing, people are often known by the administrative department in which they live, and Antioqueños, Santandereanos, Tolimenses, Nariñenses, Bogotanos, and Boyacanses are recognized by their dress, diet, and speech. The most socially and economically prominent group is the Antioqueños, who migrated from Antioquia southward along the Cordilleras Central and Occidental during the 19th century. Numbering some five million, the Antioqueños grow about three-fourths of the nation's coffee crop and control much of Colombia's trade, banking, and industry. Until the death of drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar in 1993, Antioqueños dominated the drug trade (drug abuse).

      Colombian class structure is still based on a combination of occupation, wealth, and ethnicity, albeit with some regional differences. The vast majority of the population belongs to the “marginal” classes, who lack steady employment and must eke out a living by any possible means, and the lower classes, who are mainly physical labourers. Members of these two groups are largely of African, American Indian, or mixed descent. At the middle and upper echelons of the social structure are those who have more highly skilled work, including the professions. Although the middle classes have such occupations, they lack the wealth (and perhaps the European heritage) of the upper class. At the apex of the upper class is a tiny group of wealthy, traditional families, of which almost all are of pure Spanish background.

      A major preoccupation among traditional Colombian elites is the protection of one's family pride and name—known collectively as one's abolengo. Family ties are key in business and political life, and it is common to find young men or women following their fathers' footsteps into the political arena. In addition, elite cliques called roscas (the name of a twisted pastry) often act behind the scenes in business and political dealings, and learning how to associate with these controlling groups is requisite for members of the middle class and aspirants to the upper classes.

      Popular regional foods include arroz con coco (“rice with coconut”) in coastal areas, ajicaco (a stew) in and near Bogotá, and frijoles (beans) and chicharrones (pork rinds) in Medellín. White rum is a typical drink of the Caribbean coast, as is aguardiente (an anise-flavoured liqueur) in the highlands, and Colombian beer is ubiquitous.

Sports and recreation
      Since the 1960s regional fairs have been held in various parts of the country to celebrate occurrences of local importance. They are government-subsidized and, with the aid of modern means of communication, have promoted and preserved popular tunes and dances as well as traditional costumes. Fiestas in Colombia vary locally, but the pre-Lenten Carnival is especially celebrated nationally, reaching a particular intensity at Barranquilla and elsewhere along the Caribbean coast.

      Organized sports have grown steadily in popularity among the Colombians, and without question the most widely played and watched sport is football (soccer (football (soccer))). The most intense football rivalries are between pairs of teams in each of the three largest cities—Millonarios and Santa Fé in Bogotá, Nacional and Deportivo Independiente in Medellín, and América and Deportivo in Cali. The Colombian national team has qualified for several World Cup finals.

      Basketball and baseball draw an increasing number of fans, and golf, tennis, and skiing are played by the smaller numbers who can afford them. Automobile racing is another attraction. Bicycle racing culminates each year with the Tour of Colombia (Vuelta de Colombia), covering some 1,200 miles (2,000 km) in 12 days. Perhaps the only indigenous sport is tejo, a game derived from the Chibcha Indians that is similar to quoits. Colombians enjoy gambling, especially at government-sponsored lotteries that fund social programs. Like many other Latin American peoples, Colombians attend bullfights, an inheritance of their Spanish culture.

Press and broadcasting
      Although freedom of the press has generally been established in Colombia, the degree to which the press can exercise its rights has been somewhat dependent upon the government in power, as well as the danger of retaliation from drug bands and guerrilla groups. Newspapers have traditionally been the most widely available source of political information and have been the least controlled, while radio and television, regarded more as entertainment media, have received stricter government control. Newspapers have often been the voices of particular political parties; two noted Bogotá newspapers, El tiempo and El espectador, for instance, have usually been identified with the Liberal Party philosophy.

Clemente Garavito James J. Parsons Harvey F. Kline

      The following treatment focuses on Colombian history from the time of European settlement. For events in a regional context, see Latin America, history of.

      Even before the Spanish conquest, the western mountainous part of Colombia attracted the bulk of the population. The more advanced Indian cultures were found in this region, and the most favourable location for the growth of civilization was the high plateau in the Cordillera Oriental of the Colombian Andes. The present capital city of Bogotá is located near the southern terminus of the plateau, which extends northward to the mountains dividing it from the drainage of the Cesar River. There the Spanish found the major concentration of the Chibchan-speaking (Chibchan languages) peoples. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the Chibcha were in the process of consolidation by warfare and had not achieved firm union and political institutions.

      Except for the invading Carib peoples in the deep mountain valleys, there was considerable similarity among the Chibcha, sub-Andean, and other cultures of Colombia. All were characterized by intensive agriculture, fairly dense populations living in villages, organized religion, class divisions, and matrilineal inheritance of political and religious offices. The sub-Andean culture in the Cordillera Central and the narrower portions of the Cauca valley generally lacked large villages because the terrain was unsuitable for them. The more advanced Chibcha made war for political ends, using large forces armed with darts and dart throwers.

      Geographic and climatic conditions placed limits on the development of the Chibcha and other cultures in Colombia. Of the total Indian population at the time of the conquest, probably about one-third were Chibcha. None of the larger domesticated animals and their wild related species found in the Central Andes existed in Colombia. The Chibcha were adequate craftsmen, but their work shows more interest in utility or in the expression of ideas in contrast to the skilled workmanship among some sub-Andean peoples.

      European exploration of the Colombian coastline was accomplished by Rodrigo de Bastidas, who in 1500–01 sailed the Caribbean coast from Cape of La Vela to Point Manzanilla in Panama, and by Francisco Pizarro (Pizarro, Francisco), who sailed the Pacific coast in 1525. The actual conquest of Colombia began in 1525 when Bastidas founded Santa Marta on the north coast. In 1533 Pedro de Heredia founded Cartagena, which became one of the major naval and merchant marine bases of the Spanish empire. Bogotá was founded by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada (Jiménez de Quesada, Gonzalo) in 1538. By the end of 1539 all but one of the major inland colonial cities had been founded, as well as the most important communications centres along the routes connecting them. By mid-century the conquest was complete.

Colonial (colonialism, Western) period
      Establishment of the audiencia (an administrative and judicial tribunal) of Santafé de Bogotá in 1549 opened the colonial era. The conquerors had organized local governments in accordance with the terms of their contracts with the crown. The crown then rapidly repossessed the broad powers granted the conquerors and formed its own institutions to rule the empire. The governments of Popayán, Antioquia, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Ríohacha, the New Kingdom of Granada (Bogotá), and the llanos of Casanare and San Martín were made subject to the new audiencia. The president of the audiencia was the executive head of government, subject to the viceroy of Peru in administrative matters. The difficulties of travel, however, impeded communications and checked centralized control. The indigenous population of the area declined through the introduction of European diseases and the economic demands made upon the Indians (South American Indian).

      As elsewhere in the Spanish empire, the downward trend in population seems to have reversed itself at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century. Acculturation and intermarriage rapidly destroyed most of the special cultural traits of the remaining Indians. Subordinate political jurisdictions developed strong regional characteristics as a result of isolation, which fostered intense local loyalties and rivalries. The economy was based on mining and agriculture, but a small yet important textile industry grew up in Socorro, north of Bogotá, by the mid-18th century. slavery was introduced during the conquest and became common in the placer mining areas of the Chocó and western Antioquia and in the agricultural regions of the Cauca valley, the lower Magdalena valley, and the coastal lowlands. Indians were treated much like slaves; from the early 16th century they were subject to the encomienda system (requiring tribute in the form of gold or labour). By 1700 most of the privately held encomiendas had reverted to the crown, and they were rarely granted thereafter; however, the Indian population continued to be abused.

      During the era of the audiencia, from 1549 to 1740, the population was politically quiet. The Roman Catholic church (Roman Catholicism) played an important role, providing most welfare services and operating most schools. The church was an effective instrument of the crown, since the latter controlled much of its activity.

Viceroyalty of New Granada (New Granada, Viceroyalty of)
      The Viceroyalty of New Granada (New Granada, Viceroyalty of), which included present-day Colombia, Panama (after 1751), Venezuela, and Ecuador, was created in 1717–23 and reconstituted in 1740, opening a new era. In the next decades the crown introduced political and economic measures to reorganize and strengthen the empire by greater centralization of authority, improved administration and communication, and freer development and movement of trade within the empire. Population grew, trade increased, and prosperity touched the colonial subjects. There was a spurt of intellectual activity and the formation of a corps of intellectuals and professional men among Creoles (Creole) (whites born in Spanish America), many in government positions. The small Creole officer corps came into being when Charles III, then king of Spain, authorized militia defense units in the colonies. A relatively large group of wealthy landowners and merchants constituted the economic community that supported these new groups. In 1781 peasants and artisans at Socorro originated the Comunero Rebellion in response to tax increases; although some Creoles helped lead the rebels to Bogotá, most hesitated to support the uprising or even helped to undermine it. Between 1785 and 1810 in New Granada the outlook of the Creole upper and middle groups changed from resistance against political and economic change to a quest for specific changes in imperial policies. In 1809 they moved toward the free enterprise system, the abolition of slavery, restrictions on government, and worldwide freedom of trade.

      Educational reforms played an important role in the changing outlook of the Granadine Creoles. Archbishop Caballero y Góngora as viceroy (1782–88) made education one of his main interests. He modernized the program of studies in the schools, opened a school of mines, and initiated the botanical expedition under the able guidance of naturalist José Celestino Mutis (Mutis, José). The new institute trained many of the major figures of the independence movement. The first newspaper and theatre were introduced during the 1790s. A new interest in writing developed, and intellectual gatherings for discussion were introduced. In 1808 the allegiance of the Granadines to the crown remained unquestioned except for a few individuals. The once warm loyalty of the Creole middle and upper classes, however, was cooling under the pressure of economic interests, scandals in the royal family, and persistent social tension between Creole and European Spaniards.

Revolution and independence
      The French invasion of Spain (Spain) in 1808 caused an outburst of loyalty to the king and country and excited grave concern for the church. Profound Granadine anxiety over the fate of the empire and conflicting courses of action attempted by colonial and peninsular subjects over control of government during the captivity of the Spanish king Ferdinand VII led to strife in New Granada and to declarations of independence. In 1810 the subordinated jurisdictions in New Granada threw out their Spanish officials, except in Santa Marta, Ríohacha, and what are now Panama and Ecuador. The uprising in Bogotá on July 20, 1810, is commemorated as Independence Day in Colombia, although these new governments swore allegiance to Ferdinand VII and did not begin to declare independence until 1811. Idealists and ambitious provincial leaders desired federation. Creole leaders sought to centralize authority over the new governments. A series of civil wars ensued, facilitating Spanish reconquest of the United Provinces of New Granada between 1814 and 1816. A remnant of republican forces fled to the llanos of Casanare, where they reorganized under Francisco de Paula Santander (Santander, Francisco de Paula), a Colombian general who remained a prominent figure in Granadine politics until his death in 1840.

      Any remaining loyalty to the crown was alienated by the punitive arbitrary conduct of the European and partisan troops, whose actions gave validity to the attack on Spanish civilization that began late in 1810 and continued through the 19th century. The rebel forces in Casanare joined those of Simón Bolívar (Bolívar, Simón) in the Orinoco basin of Venezuela. By 1819 arrangements for a regular government were completed, and a constitutional convention met at Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela) with delegates from Casanare and some Venezuelan provinces. In that same year Bolívar invaded Colombia and decisively defeated the Spanish forces on August 7 at Boyacá (Boyacá, Battle of). There followed the decisive Battle of Carabobo, Venezuela, in 1821 and that of Pichincha, Ecuador, in 1822. Mopping-up operations were completed in 1823, while Bolívar led his forces on to Peru.

 The Congress of Angostura laid the foundation for the formation of the Republic of Colombia (1819–30), which was generally known as Gran Colombia because it included what are now the separate countries of Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The republic was definitively organized by the Congress of Cúcuta in 1821. Prior to that time the government was highly military and hierarchically organized, with regional vice presidents exercising direct power while its president, Bolívar, was campaigning. Organized as a centralized representative government, the republic retained Bolívar as president and acting president Santander as vice president.

      Gran Colombia had a brief, virile existence during the war. Subsequent civilian and military rivalry for public office and regional jealousies led in 1826 to a rebellion in Venezuela led by General José Antonio Páez (Páez, José Antonio). Bolívar returned from Peru to restore unity but secured only the acknowledgment of his personal authority. As discontent spread, it became clear that no group loved the republic enough to fight for its existence. By 1829 Bolívar had divided the land into four jurisdictions under Venezuelan generals possessing civil and military authority. Meanwhile the convention of Ocaña had failed to reorganize the republic, and the brief dictatorship of Bolívar (1828–30) had no better success. Bolívar then convoked the Convention of 1830, which produced a constitution honoured only in New Granada (the name then referring only to Colombia, with the Isthmus of Panama). During this convention Bolívar resigned and left for the northern coast, where he died near Santa Marta on Dec. 17, 1830. By that time Venezuela and Ecuador had seceded from Gran Colombia. New Granada, a country of 1.5 million inhabitants in 1835, was left on its own.

Robert Louis Gilmore

The republic to 1930
      Santander, the vice president under Bolívar and then leader of the opposition to Bolívar's imperial ambitions in 1828, held the presidency from 1832 until 1837 and was the dominant political figure of that era. The 1830s brought some prosperity to the new nation, but a civil war that broke out in 1840 ended a nascent industrial development, disrupted trade, and discouraged local enterprise. The seeds of political rivalry between liberals and conservatives had already been sown, and they bore fruit in the bloody revolution and costly violence that ravaged the country in the years between 1840 and 1903.

Conservative-Liberal struggle, 1840–80
      Colombia's modern political history began in the late 1840s with the delineation of the Liberal and Conservative parties. Gen. Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera (Mosquera, Tomás Cipriano de), a Conservative, during his first term as president (1845–49) replaced the government monopoly on tobacco sales with a private monopoly and expanded international trade. These changes increased the production and export of tobacco but reduced the tax income of the national government.

      In 1849 Gen. José Hilario López, of the radical faction of the Liberal Party, became president. It was his task to implement the reforms passed in 1850, which galvanized political sentiment and divided the country politically and economically for half a century. The guiding principle of the radical Liberals under General López was greater liberty for the people of Colombia. His government ended slavery, ended communal ownership of Indian lands, diverted tax resources from the central to local governments, and eliminated a number of taxes and monopolies held by the central government.

      Rather than eliminating the institutional barriers to self-fulfillment by the people, however, the reforms of 1850 tended to eliminate the traditional proscriptions that had stood as safeguards against the exploitation of the poor by the rich. The reforms, despite the liberal rhetoric that accompanied them, legalized—indeed encouraged—a redistribution of landed property and tended to strengthen the position of the wealthy landowners, merchants, and professionals against the mass of poor Indians, peasants, and artisans. Since there were only 25,000 slaves (in a country of 2,000,000 in 1851), the effects of manumission were small compared with those of the breakdown of the Indian (South American Indian) communal system, which affected a third of the population. The Indians were induced to give up their little plots of land and the small amount of independence they enjoyed. Within a few years the ownership of Indian lands was concentrated in a few hands; the Indians had become tenants, their land used for grazing cattle.

      While class conflict seethed under the surface in Colombian society, the struggle between members and groups within the elite was more open. Two issues in particular divided the upper class: first, whether a centralist or federalist political system would be the best arrangement for Colombia and, second, what role was appropriate for the Roman Catholic (Roman Catholicism) Church and particularly for its clerics in Colombian society. Adherents of federalism were strongest in the years between 1863 and 1880, during which time the country was called the United States of Colombia. Subsequent government publications were to refer to that period as the “Epoch of Civil Wars.” In 51 of the 240 months that passed in the 1860s and '70s, there was some form of civil conflict taking place within the country. The Colombian army was so small that public order could not be maintained.

      The power of the anticlerical faction reached a peak in the early 1860s. A revolutionary government headed by Mosquera expropriated church lands in 1861, and a constitution adopted in 1863 guaranteed freedom of religious practice, thus bringing to an end the traditional intimate relationship between church and state in Colombia.

The return of the Conservatives, 1880–1930
      Both actions were reversed during the period of Regeneration (1880–95) under Rafael Núñez (Núñez, Rafael) and the Conservatives who followed him. After further civil conflict in the 1880s, Núñez was able to promulgate a new constitution in 1886, to reestablish relations with the Vatican via the Concordat of 1887, and to promote some internal improvements and industrial development. But the political struggle between Liberals and Conservatives was far from over. Armed civil conflict reached its peak in the War of a Thousand Days (Thousand Days, The War of a) (1899–1903). The estimates of the number of deaths in that struggle range from 60,000 to 130,000.

      The devastating civil war was followed by the loss of Panama. The Colombian Congress refused an offer from the United States to build a canal (Panama Canal) across the isthmus, and in 1903 the Panamanians revolted against the government in Bogotá. They negotiated a treaty with the United States that created a Canal Zone 10 miles (16 km) wide under U.S. sovereignty in exchange for an agreement by the United States to build the canal and to provide a regular annual payment to Panama. Although the U.S. government later agreed to pay $25 million to Colombia, the episode embittered Colombian-U.S. relations for many years. (See also Panama: Transcontinental railroad and canal projects (Panama).)

      Colombia's internal development quickened after 1905, with coffee (coffee production) exports expanding by nearly 10 percent per year between 1909 and 1928. At the beginning of the 20th century Colombia supplied about 3 percent of world coffee exports; by 1923 its share had risen to nearly 10 percent. In the late 1920s coffee accounted for nearly one-fifth of Colombia's gross domestic product.

Colombia, 1930–2000
      The new dependence on exports was not without its pitfalls. In the late 1920s coffee, petroleum, and bananas accounted for, respectively, 69, 17, and 6 percent of total Colombian exports, and all three dropped precipitously in value during the worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s. This economic collapse had an immediate political result: the Conservatives lost the presidential election of 1930 to Enrique Olaya Herrera, a Liberal who served until 1934.

The era of the Liberals, 1930–46
      In addition, the Liberals came to power because of popular opposition to Conservatives' use of the army against labour unions in the banana industry and because of the lack of unity in the Conservative Party itself. Although Olaya ruled much like his Conservative predecessors had, the presidency of Alfonso López Pumarejo (1934–38) brought a series of reforms called the “Revolution on the March.” The most important social act of the López regime established effective occupancy as the legal basis for tenure (1936), thus upholding the rights of thousands of peasant squatters against the claims of landowners who had been holding land without using it productively. In the coffee-growing zone of Cundinamarca, west of Bogotá, thousands of families obtained recognition of their ownership by occupation. (Subsequent governments took a more conservative stance toward the question of land rights of the poor, but in 1961 continuing social pressure finally resulted in legislation to create the Colombian Institute of Agrarian Reform. By the mid-1970s more than 135,000 land titles had been distributed by the institute.)

      Rapid industrial development started in the 1930s. Medellín became the principal producer of cotton textiles and other fabrics. The limited availability of imports during the Depression was a major factor that enabled local manufacturing to get its start.

La Violencia, dictatorship, and democratic restoration
      Liberal hegemony continued through the 1930s and the World War II era, and Alfonso López Pumarejo was reelected in 1942; however, wartime conditions were not favourable to social change. In the elections of 1946, two Liberal candidates, Gabriel Turbay and Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (Gaitán, Jorge Eliécer), stood for election and thus split the Liberal vote. A Conservative, Mariano Ospina Pérez, took office. Conservatives had been embittered by political sidelining and, since 1930, had suffered violent attacks at the hands of Liberal supporters. With the electoral victory of 1946 they instituted a series of crude reprisals against Liberals. It was the initiation of the period that was dubbed La Violencia. On April 9, 1948, Gaitán, leader of the left wing of the Liberal Party, was assassinated in broad daylight in downtown Bogotá. The resulting riot and property damage (estimated at $570 million throughout the country) came to be called the bogotazo.

      La Violencia originated in an intense political feud between Liberals and Conservatives and had little to do with class conflict, foreign ideologies, or other matters outside Colombia. Authoritative sources estimate that more than 200,000 persons lost their lives in the period between 1946 and 1964. The most spectacular aspect of the violence, however, was the extreme cruelty perpetrated on the victims, which has been a topic of continuing study for Colombians. La Violencia intensified under the regime of Laureano Gómez (Gómez, Laureano Eleuterio) (1950–53), who attempted to introduce a fascist state. His excesses brought his downfall by military coup—Colombia's first in the 20th century. Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (Rojas Pinilla, Gustavo) assumed the presidency in 1953 and, aided by his daughter, María Eugenia Rojas, began an effort to end La Violencia and to stimulate the economy. Rojas was a populist leader who supported citizens' demands for the redress of grievances against the elite. Support for Rojas began to collapse when it appeared that he would not be able to fulfill his promises, when he showed reluctance to give up power, and when the economy faltered as a result of a disastrous fall in coffee prices in 1957. He was driven from office that year by a military junta.

      The arrangement for the National Front government—a coalition of Conservatives and Liberals—was made by Alberto Lleras Camargo, representing the Liberals, and Laureano Gómez, leader of the Conservative Party, in the Declaration of Sitges (1957). The unique agreement provided for alternation of Conservatives and Liberals in the presidency, an equal sharing of ministerial and other government posts, and equal representation on all executive and legislative bodies. The agreement was to remain in force for 16 years—equivalent to four presidential terms, two each for Conservatives and Liberals. The question of what governmental structure would follow the National Front was left unsettled.

      It had been contemplated that a Conservative would be the first to occupy the presidency in 1958. When the Conservative Party could not agree on a candidate, however, the National Front selected Lleras, who had previously served in that office for 12 months in 1945–46. During Lleras's tenure an agrarian reform law was brought into effect, national economic planning for development began, and Colombia became the showcase of the Alliance for Progress (a U.S. attempt to further economic development in Latin America). But severe economic difficulties caused by low coffee prices, domestic unemployment, and the apparent end of the effectiveness of import substitution were only partially offset by Alliance aid. The Alliance increased Colombia's economic dependence on the United States, which, to some Colombians, had serious disadvantages. By 1962 economic growth had come almost to a standstill.

      The precarious state of the economy and the degree of social tension were revealed when only about half of those eligible to vote did so in the 1962 presidential elections, which brought Guillermo León Valencia (Valencia, Guillermo), a Conservative, to the presidency. During Valencia's first year in office internal political pressures led to devaluation of the peso (Colombia's currency), wage increases among unionized workers of some 40 percent, and the most rampant inflation since 1905. Extreme deflationary policies were applied in the next three years, raising the unemployment rates above 10 percent in the major cities and turning even more Colombians against the National Front. Less than 40 percent of the electorate went to the polls in the 1964 congressional elections.

      Marxist guerrilla groups began appearing in Colombia during Valencia's presidency. The first was the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional; ELN), which was created by a group of Colombian students who had studied in Cuba. Founded in 1964, the ELN followed strategies espoused by Che Guevara (Guevara, Che). Another guerrilla group, which followed two years later, was the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia; FARC), which was more connected to Soviet-influenced communist movements. Much of FARC originated in the “resistance committees” that had appeared in Colombia during La Violencia.

      Carlos Lleras Restrepo was the third National Front president (1966–70). He returned the economy to a sound footing, improved government planning for economic development, and pushed through political reforms essential to an orderly end to the Front (which seemed increasingly to constitute a monopoly of power by the Conservative-Liberal oligarchy). Although the constitutional reform of 1968 stipulated that elections would become competitive again after 1974, the president was still required to give “adequate and equitable” representation to the second largest political party in his cabinet and in the filling of other bureaucratic posts.

      Also during the Lleras years, some semiautonomous government corporations expanded their services to the private sector: the capital and reserves of the Institute of Industrial Development, for example, were increased from 6.6 million pesos in 1967 to some 77 million pesos in 1969. Colombia achieved its best rate of economic growth near the end of the Lleras administration, when the real gross domestic product increased by some 7 percent. These successes were in part due to high coffee prices, but effective government policy was of undeniable importance.

      In the 1970 presidential election Misael Pastrana Borrero, the Conservative candidate backed by the National Front, nearly lost to former dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (Rojas Pinilla, Gustavo) as the urban vote went strongly against the Front. (For the first time Colombia's population was more than 50 percent urban.) A rapid migration from country to city had created new urban interest groups—particularly in the lower middle and working classes—that felt unrepresented by the traditional parties; nonetheless, the traditional parties prevailed and were not again successfully challenged.

      Unhappiness with the 1970 election gave rise in 1973–74 to another guerrilla group, the 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril, or M-19), named for the date that the group asserted the election was “stolen” from Pinilla. The M-19 launched itself to national attention when its members stole a sword that had belonged to Simón Bolívar. The group tended to rely on audacious militant actions, such as the kidnapping and murder of a labour leader in 1976, tunneling into a Bogotá arsenal and stealing arms in 1979, and kidnapping the guests attending a cocktail party at the embassy of the Dominican Republic in Bogotá in 1980.

The growth of drug trafficking (drug abuse) and guerrilla warfare
      The process of change brought with it new political, economic, and social problems, which stemmed from uneven development, unequal gains, and a growing perception that the benefits of higher income were not widely shared. Since 1974 limited progress has been made on those issues; however, the Colombian economy has grown despite pervasive violence, fed both by guerrilla insurgencies and traffic in narcotics.

      As the National Front era was ending, a new problem surfaced in Colombia—narcotics. The country's role as a supplier in the international drug market developed rapidly following the major interdiction efforts launched by officials in Mexico in 1975. Colombia soon was providing as much as seven-tenths of the marijuana being imported into the United States. Using the profits from marijuana, drug leaders—especially from Medellín—diversified to cocaine trafficking, and shipments grew from individuals carrying small amounts to large quantities on boats and low-flying airplanes. Two major Mafia-like organizations—dubbed drug cartels—evolved from this illicit, lucrative trade: the first in Medellín, led by Pablo Escobar, and the second in Cali.

 In the political sphere the transition from National Front to moderate political competition between Liberals and Conservatives in 1974 was reasonably smooth. Alfonso López Michelsen (López Michelsen, Alfonso) of the Liberal Party served his four-year term as president (1974–78) and handed power to Julio César Turbay Ayala (Turbay Ayala, Julio César), a centrist Liberal. Low rates of voter participation continued, keeping alive fears that military alternatives to democratic elections might be sought from the right or the left.

      In 1982, however, the Liberal vote was split, and Belisario Betancur Cuartas, the Conservative candidate, was elected president. His presidency was marred by extremes of violence that tested Colombia's long-term commitment to democracy. In 1984 individuals linked to the international drug trade assassinated the minister of justice. The next year M-19 guerrillas entered the Palace of Justice in Bogotá and took scores of hostages; when the military assaulted the building, some 100 people were killed, including half of the Supreme Court judges. These events pointed to an ominous growth in the power of drug traffickers and to an apparent inability of the government to control terrorist activities.

William Paul McGreevey
      Betancur attempted to end guerrilla violence. In November 1982 he signed a law granting amnesty to almost all insurgents, and in the following years he was able to convince the FARC and the M-19 to enter into cease-fire agreements. At the same time there was an increase in vigilante groups in the country, which, depending on one's point of view, were called either “self-defense” or “paramilitary” organizations. In many cases these groups represented attempts by landowners to protect themselves from guerrillas. Quite often the Colombian army helped equip and train the groups, which existed within the law and had been encouraged by the government since the 1960s.

      The presidency of Virgilio Barco Vargas, a former mayor of Bogotá, began in August 1986 with hopes of improving civil order, but instead guerrilla groups became more active than ever, and paramilitary groups caused even more deaths than the leftist insurgents. Drug groups, especially the Medellín cartel, also began using terror to increase their bargaining power with the government. As a result, homicide became the leading cause of death in the country and 1989 was the most violent year in Colombia's brutal history, with more deaths per capita from violence than during any year of La Violencia.

      Barco's other main challenge was to reverse the long-term decline in the rate of economic growth, which was confounded by low efficiency in manufacturing. The discovery in 1985 of a large petroleum reserve was a major boost toward improving the economy and reducing Colombia's dependence on external energy sources.

      The drug trade, while always a political problem, was at times an economic asset, making annual trade balances positive when they were negative for legal goods. Further, as drug dealers became wealthier, they spent money refining cocaine, organizing groups for protection, and constructing buildings (both residential and commercial), ironically benefiting more Colombians than the legitimate economy.

      In the 1990 presidential campaign, three presidential candidates, including the poll-leading Liberal Luis Carlos Galán, and hundreds of other people were killed by drug traffickers in a backlash against tougher drug-trade policies. Despite threats of terrorism, however, about half of the population voted in the peaceful May election, which was won by former finance minister and hard-line anti-drug candidate César Gaviria Trujillo of the Liberal Party.

      During the Gaviria years the question of continuing violence was addressed more than ever before. The president played a leading role by calling a constituent assembly, which replaced the 1886 constitution with the constitution of 1991; negotiating with the FARC and ELN, especially in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1991 and in Tlaxcala, Mexico, in 1992; and striking plea-bargain agreements with drug cartel chiefs and with paramilitary leaders.

      The constitutional changes were significant, at least on paper. Presidents, who were limited to one term, were to be elected by an absolute majority, with a second-round vote if need be. The Senate was to be elected by a national constituency, which in theory gave minority parties a chance to elect a senator with only 1 percent of the vote. New electoral rights (including initiative and recall) were instituted, and a new National Prosecutor's Office (Fiscalía) was set up to make the Colombian prosecutorial system more like that of the United States.

      Gaviria's negotiations with the guerrilla groups yielded no agreements. Plea bargaining did lead to the surrender of most leaders of the Medellín drug group, although the most notable one, Pablo Escobar, escaped after only 13 months in jail. (Following an extensive manhunt, Escobar was killed soon afterward by government forces.) Statistics indicate that violent activities were as common at the end of the Gaviria years as they were previously, despite the attempts to negotiate peace.

      The Gaviria government continued the economic opening begun by Barco. In keeping with the neoliberal mood throughout Latin America, the Colombians began a new economic order, with lower tariffs on imports, fewer subsidies for the poor, and a lower role of the government in the economy. The fact that Colombia privatized fewer state-run industries than did other Latin American countries did not indicate a lower enthusiasm for the neoliberal order; rather, it reflected a lower level of initial governmental ownership.

      The 1994 presidential election, the first under the new constitution, was won in the second round by Ernesto Samper Pizano, a Liberal, over the Conservative candidate, Andrés Pastrana. Samper's entire term was coloured by the accusation made by Pastrana that he had an audiotape of Samper advisers bargaining with representatives of the Cali drug mafia for campaign contributions. Ironically, during the Samper presidency the leaders of the Cali cartel surrendered, were tried, and were sent to jail.

      Although Congress later refused to impeach Samper, he was considered guilty by the extralegal guerrillas and paramilitary units and by the U.S. government. Violence increased over previous levels, and the paramilitary groups, under the leadership of Carlos Castaño, founded a national organization called the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia), who emblazoned their group's initials (AUC) across their battle fatigues but typically wore ski masks to conceal their identities.

      The 1998 election was won by Andrés Pastrana, whose first years in office included controversial attempts to negotiate with the FARC and the ELN, such as granting them de facto control over a large portion of the southern state of Caquetá. Also during that period the Colombian economy entered its worst recession since the Great Depression.

Harvey F. Kline

Colombia in the 21st century
      In 2000 the U.S. Congress approved a controversial aid program that supplied Colombia with military assistance to help control the cocaine trade. The FARC continued to expand coca production, however, and economic uncertainties and the spectre of political violence remained major issues at the end of Pastrana's term. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, an independent, was elected president in 2002 on promises to end the long-standing and violent conflict with guerrilla groups and restore security to the country. In December 2003 a peace agreement was negotiated between the government and the AUC, and by 2004 AUC members had disarmed. Some members of the FARC and the ELN gave up their weapons as well in exchange for a “lighter punishment.” Uribe was reelected in 2006. Overall, Uribe's intensive security operations against the FARC were productive, as the number of crimes, kidnappings, and terrorist attacks in Colombia had significantly decreased since 2000. Political tensions in the region escalated in 2008 when the Colombian military crossed the border into Ecuador to raid a FARC encampment.


Additional Reading

General works
Basic descriptive information is available in The South American Handbook (annual); and Dennis M. Hanratty and Sandra W. Meditz (eds.), Colombia: A Country Study, 4th ed. (1990). See also relevant sections of Arthur Morris, South America, 4th ed. (1995); and Preston E. James, C.W. Minkel, and Eileen W. James, Latin America, 5th ed. (1986). A general atlas is Instituto Geográfico “Agustín Codazzi,” Atlas de Colombia, 4th ed., rev. and enlarged (1992). Statistical information may be found in Colombia estadística (annual). Essays on politics, economics, and literature are found in Mario Arrubla et al., Colombia, hoy (1996). Prehistoric cultural developments in Colombia are outlined in G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, Colombia (1965); and in Warwick Bray, Gold of El Dorado (1979).

The land and the people
William F. Jenks (ed.), Handbook of South American Geology: An Explanation of the Geologic Map of South America (1956), contains technical information on the physical features of the continent, including those of Colombia. See also Víctor Manuel Patiño, Los recursos naturales de Colombia: aproximación y retrospectiva (1980); and Ernesto Guhl, Henry Corredor T., and Francisco Sánchez H., La Sabana de Bogotá, sus alrededores y su vegetación (1981). Distribution of plants and animals is discussed in E.J. Fittkau et al. (eds.), Biogeography and Ecology in South America, 2 vol. (1968–69). Steven L. Hilty and William L. Brown, A Guide to the Birds of Colombia (1986), is an authoritative work. Analyses of Colombia's agricultural progress include T. Lynn Smith, Colombia: Social Structure and the Process of Development (1967); and Dieter Brunnschweiler, The Llanos Frontier of Colombia: Environment and Changing Land Use in Meta (1972). Studies of the people and geography of specific areas are found in Orlando Fals-Borda, Peasant Society in the Colombian Andes: A Sociological Study of Saucío (1955, reprinted 1976), a highly recommended work on social organization, culture, and ecology; B. Le Roy Gordon, Human Geography and Ecology in the Sinú Country of Colombia (1957, reprinted 1977), a regional study of northern Colombia; and James J. Parsons, Antioqueño Colonization in Western Colombia, 2nd rev. ed. (1968), and Antioquia's Corridor to the Sea: An Historical Geography of the Settlement of Urabá (1967). Race relations are considered in Peter Wade, Blackness and Race Mixture: The Dynamics of Racial Identity in Colombia (1993, reissued 1995).

The economy
Economic development and current policy are discussed in Colombia: Economic Structure (annual), a report issued by the Economic Research Department of Colombia's Banco de la República; William Paul McGreevey, An Economic History of Colombia 1845–1930 (1971), and “The Transition to Economic Growth in Colombia,” in Roberto Cortés Conde and Shane J. Hunt (eds.), The Latin American Economies: Growth and the Export Sector, 1880–1930 (1985), pp. 23–81; Miguel Urrutia, Winners and Losers in Colombia's Economic Growth of the 1970s (1985); World Bank, Colombia: Economic Development and Policy Under Changing Conditions (1984); R. Albert Berry and Ronald Soligo (eds.), Economic Policy and Income Distribution in Colombia (1980); R. Albert Berry and Miguel Urrutia, Income Distribution in Colombia (1976); and David Morawetz, Why the Emperor's New Clothes Are Not Made in Colombia (1980).

Books that place 20th-century Colombian government in the historical context of the country are Harvey F. Kline, Colombia: Democracy Under Assault, 2nd ed. (1995); John D. Martz, Colombia: A Contemporary Political Survey (1962, reprinted 1975); and Robert H. Dix, Colombia: The Political Dimensions of Change (1967). Also useful are Robert H. Dix, The Politics of Colombia (1987); Jonathan Hartlyn, The Politics of Coalition Rule in Colombia (1988); Jorge Osterling, Democracy in Colombia: Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla Warfare (1989); Eduardo Posada-Carbó (ed.), Colombia: The Politics of Reforming the State (1998); Francisco Leal Buitrago and Andrés Dávila L., Clientelismo: el sistema político y su expresión regional (1990); and John D. Martz, The Politics of Clientelism: Democracy & the State in Colombia (1997).

Cultural life
Jorge Arango and Carlos Martínez, Arquitectura en Colombia: arquitectura colonial 1538–1810, arquitectura contemporánea en cinco años 1946–1951 (1951), is a fine text in Spanish, English, and French covering these two important periods. George List, Music and Poetry in a Colombian Village: A Tri-Cultural Heritage (1983), is a study of the indigenous musical heritage. Ernesto Porras Collantes, Bibliografía de la novela en Colombia (1976), includes plot summaries, excerpts from reviews, and lists of translations.

General works include Academia Colombiana de Historia, Historia extensa de Colombia, ed. by Luis Martínez Delgado (1964– ), a multivolume work covering all facets of Colombian history from precolonial to contemporary times, useful to the specialist; and Robert H. Davis, Historical Dictionary of Colombia, 2nd ed. (1993), a convenient reference for people, events, and other aspects of Colombian history, with an excellent bibliography. Also useful is David Bushnell, The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself (1993).Treatments of specific periods in Colombian history include Marco Palacios, Coffee in Colombia, 1850–1970: An Economic, Social, and Political History (1980; originally published in Spanish, 1979), an outstanding resource; David Bushnell, The Santander Regime in Gran Colombia (1954, reissued 1970); Charles W. Bergquist, Coffee and Conflict in Colombia: 1886–1910 (1978, reissued 1986); Stephen J. Randall, The Diplomacy of Modernization: Colombian-American Relations, 1920–1940 (1977); Vernon Lee Fluharty, Dance of the Millions: Military Rule and the Social Revolution in Colombia, 1930–1956 (1957, reprinted 1975); James D. Henderson, When Colombia Bled: A History of the Violencia in Tolima (1985); Herbert Braun, The Assassination of Gaitán: Public Life and Urban Violence in Colombia (1985); Paul Oquist, Violence, Conflict, and Politics in Colombia (1980); and R. Albert Berry, Ronald G. Hellman, and Mauricio Solaún (eds.), Politics of Compromise: Coalition Government in Colombia (1980). See also Orlando Fals-Borda, Subversion and Social Change in Colombia, rev. ed. (1969; originally published in Spanish, 1967). Drugs, guerrilla groups, paramilitary squads, and violence in Colombia are considered in Carlos Gustavo Arrieta et al., Narcotráfico en Colombia: dimensiones políticas, económicas, jurídicas e internacionales, 3rd ed. (1991); Charles Bergquist, Ricardo Peñaranda, and Gonzalo Sánchez (eds.), Violence in Colombia: The Contemporary Crisis in Historical Perpective (1992); Francisco Leal Buitrago and León Zamosc (eds.), Al filo del caos: crisis política en la Colombia de los años 80 (1990); Eduardo Pizarro Leongómez and Ricardo Peñaranda, Las FARC (1949–1966): de la autodefensa a la combinación de todas las formas de lucha (1991); and Harvey F. Kline, State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia, 1986–1994 (1999).Harvey F. Kline

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