Colombia

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Colombia

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Colombia
Region: South America
Population: 39,685,655
Language(s): Spanish
Literacy Rate: 91.3%
Number of Primary Schools: 47,663
Compulsory Schooling: 5 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 4.1%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 4,692,614
  Secondary: 3,317,782
  Higher: 644,188
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 113%
  Secondary: 61%
  Higher: 17%
Teachers: Primary: 189,123
  Secondary: 169,816
  Higher: 66,538
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 25:1
  Secondary: 20:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 112%
  Secondary: 66%
  Higher: 18%

History & Background

Located in the northwestern part of South America, Columbia touches both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, bordering Ecuador and Peru on the south and Brazil and Venezuela on the east. In July 2000, the census reported the population to be 39,685,655, with the majority of people living in large cities in the center and the northern part of the country. The census reported that the population was divided into six ethnic groups: 58 percent mestizo or of Native American and Spanish ancestry; 20 percent white; 14 percent mulatto; 4 percent black; 3 percent were both black and Native American; and 1 percent Native American. Spanish is the official language, and over 90 percent of the people indicated that they were Catholic.

Since 1886, the official name of the country has been the República de Colombia. Administratively, the country is divided into 32 departments and one capital district. Geographically, three mountain ranges and two major rivers divide the country into four regions. Although the central executive branch dominates the government structure, Colombia has a long history of regionalism. The early constitutions reinforced the notion that Colombia was a loose federation of different regions, which allowed each region to develop its own government. While countries such as Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil built railways and systems of roads to unify their peoples, Colombia resisted such innovations. In 2000, although the country had a land mass of 1,038,700 square kilometers, there were only 3,380 kilometers of railways. There were a total 115,564 kilometers of roadways; however, only 13,864 kilometers of which were paved (Williams and Guerrieri; Central Intelligence Agency).

Columbia is a country of contrasts. There are large cities facing the common problems of industrialization such as air pollution from vehicle emissions. There are rural sections where underdevelopment is a problem. Only about 4 percent of the land is arable, and about 48 percent of it remains forests and woodlands. Despite these large natural areas in Colombia, deforestation and soil abuse persist as serious problems. The population suffers from extreme income inequality. In 1995, 10.0 percent of the population consumed 46.9 percent of the available income, while the lowest 10.0 percent of the population consumed only 1.0 percent. In 1999, this disparity of wealth and poverty was reflected in Colombia's per capita purchasing power of $6,200. An unemployment rate of 20 percent intensified the economic problems (Central Intelligence Agency).

Before the arrival of the Spanish, several Native American groups occupied the region. However, none of these people had developed the ability to write. Some groups, such as the Taironas constructed impressive roads, bridges, systems of platforms for large buildings, and mountainside terraces for agriculture. The Taironas also produced stone statuary, gold objects, and fine ceramics. The largest group was the Muisca, who lived in the intermountain basins of the Cordillera Oriental. Depending mostly on agriculture for survival, the Muisca made cotton textiles, worked gold, and made some stone sculptures. Although there is reason to believe the Muisca were unifying their society when the Spanish arrived, the group never demonstrated the engineering abilities of the Taironas. Within 100 years after the first Spanish settlement, nearly 95 percent of all Native Americans in Colombia had died. Many were killed during armed conflicts with European settlers, but the majority of deaths were caused by diseases such as smallpox and measles, which were imported by Spanish settlers (Bushnell).

The era of Spanish colonization began in 1510 with the founding of San Sebastian near Panama. In 1526, settlers founded Santa Marta, the oldest Spanish city still in existence in Colombia. For most of the colonial period, New Granada, which included the areas that became Columbia, Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador, fell within the Viceroyalty of Peru as part of the Spanish empire. In 1739, New Granada retained independent status as a Viceroyalty separate from Peru. Administrative divisions such as these influenced the boundaries of the countries when they sought independence (Bushnell).

Although many Spaniards began their explorations searching for gold, other colonists took advantage of the sedentary lifestyle of Native American groups such as the Muisca. The Spanish established themselves as the leaders and ruled through the existing native social organizations. The Spanish crown outlawed this system of exploiting Native American labor, called encomienda. However, the practice did continue for some time because it served as a type of educational institution through which the European leaders were able to teach the Native Americans the Christian faith and the ways of civilization.

Most Spanish colonists avoided the tropical grasslands of the interior. Jesuit priests went into those regions and established missions that gathered together the communities of semi-settled Native American groups who lived there. Depending on Native American labor, these missionaries created cattle ranches and plantations that passed into the hands of other religious orders in 1767 when the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish empire. Through these mission communities, Catholic priests served as mediators between the settled Native Americans and the Spanish state, and they provided education for the Native Americans that otherwise was unavailable. However, critics complain that the education Native Americans received in the missions actually was nothing more than an indoctrination into the Christian faith and instruction in Spanish. In spite of existing historical documents that show that the clergy was urged to teach the Native Americans, little education actually took place (Bushnell; Londoño).

The earliest missionary schools date to the mid-sixteenth century. In 1533, Fray Juan Luis de los Barrios founded a school, while Archbishop Luis de Zapata de Cárdenas established the Seminary San Luis. Although the seminary closed in 1586 due to student dissatisfaction, it later reopened. In 1580, the first university, Universidad de Estudios Generales, was opened in Bogotá by Orden de los Predicadores. This university later merged with the Santo Tomás School and taught religion under the new name Colegio-Universidad Santo Tomás. In 1622, the Jesuits opened Javeriana University, offering grammatical studies, and in 1635, Archbishop Fray Cristóóbal de Torres created the Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario. All of these schools were in Bogotá, and each had a curriculum that was theoretical and focused on subjects such as law, logic, grammar, theology, and oratory (Londoño).

In 1783, José Celestino Mutis, Barón de Humbolt, and Francisco José de Caldas came to New Granada, the area now known as Colombia, to start the Expedición Botánica. Their goal was to record all of the botanical species found in South America. Although this task was too great for the expedition to fulfill, group members spread scientific thinking through the colony and Mutis won honorary membership in the Swedish Academy of Science (Londoño; Bushnell).

Nonetheless, the educational efforts in New Grenada were extensive. By the end of the colonial period in 1819, the number of Catholic clericswhose calling essentially required spiritual and educational endeavorsrose to nearly 1,850. With a population of 1.4 million during the early 1800s, the ratio of priests to citizens reached 750 to 1. This ration exceeds the ratio found in any Latin American country in the 1990s (Bushnell; Low-Maus).

In 1819, when the famous leader Simón Bolívar addressed the Congress of Angostura, he called for the establishment of universal popular education, claiming that the Catholic religious orders had not created anything that resembled a proper system. The clerics could not provide education for children from rural areas or from lower classes, despite the large number of priests in colonial New Grenada. To some extent, Bolívar's request went unheeded. The members of the congress had not come together to improve education. Having broken with Spain, they sought to define the country's political organization. Thus, they unified the regions of the former New Granada, Venezuela, and Ecuador into what they named Gran Colombia. The members of the congress appointed Bolívar president and Francisco de Paula Santander vice president.

In 1821, the Congress of Cúcuta devised a constitution for this new country. However, before the regular Congress of Gran Colombia could form, the Congress of Cúcuta abolished all monasteries with fewer than eight members, confiscated their assets, and placed the money in an endowment for the development of secondary schools. Although these actions were driven more by anticlerical feelings than by educational concerns, Santander did open several new secondary schools. Despite opposition from the Catholic Church, Santander urged that works by unorthodox authors, such as Jeremy Bentham, be included in the school's curriculums. In the meantime, Bolívar continued as the head of the Colombian armies that were battling Spain for control of the country (Low-Maus; Bushnell).

According to the congressional delegates in 1821, Spanish indifference had caused widespread illiteracy, a condition they pledged to correct. Thus, in the constitution of 1821, the delegates chose 1840 as the date by which all voters would have to pass a literacy test. Unfortunately, for the next 10 years, educational reform moved slowly. In 1832, delegates met in a national convention to draft a new constitution. However, acknowledging that literacy had not spread throughout the new republic, the delegates postponed the date for voter literacy tests until 1850 (Bushnell).

A civil war called the War of the Supremes (1839-42) interrupted educational reform. After the war, because of the tendency of local leaders to inflate their positions, Colombian president Pedro Alcántara Herrán and his secretary of the interior, Mariano Ospina Rodríguez, introduced new methods and pedagogical principles. For example, they removed the controversial authors from the secondary curriculum, reduced the extent of theoretical studies, and increased studies that had more practical applications, such as natural science. In addition, Herrán invited the Jesuits back to become teachers and to continue their work in frontier missions (Bushnell; Low-Maus).

In 1849, after a close and controversial election, José Hilario López, a Liberal Party candidate, became president. In 1850, fulfilling the Liberals' desire to reverse many of the Conservative policies, the Congress enacted various policies that were intended to increase the freedom of education. The Congress disbanded all universities, placing those programs of higher education into colegios (secondary schools), and ended all academic requirements for people to practice any profession, with the exception of pharmacy. The citizens had the freedom to decide what training they needed, or if they needed any education at all, before entering a profession. In the same year, López reversed Herrán's invitation to the Jesuits. He argued that the sanction of 1697, which originally expelled the Jesuits from the Spanish empire, was still valid in New Granada. According to the anticlerical views held by some of López's associates, the Jesuits had to be expelled because their schools converted citizens to conservative Catholicism (Bushnell).

To consolidate their victories, the liberals adopted a new constitution in 1853. They offered universal male suffrage, removed the electoral college system, and increased the number of officials who were elected rather than appointed. The provincial legislature of Vélez extended suffrage to women. In addition, the new constitution guaranteed freedom of worship for all citizens and introduced civil marriage and divorce. In 1863, the liberals framed another constitution that changed the name of the state to Estados Unidos de Colombia (United States of Colombia) and advanced the regionalism of the country. The new constitution gave extensive authority to the then nine states, allowing them to determine their own suffrage laws and maintain their own services, such as postal delivery. To further limit the authority of the federal government, the constitution of 1863 reduced the president's term to two years and prohibited anyone from serving consecutive terms (Bushnell).

By 1867 the liberal government had started to undo the educational reforms of 1850. It established the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogatá. Emphasizing the traditional disciplines of law, medicine, and philosophy, the university offered technical studies to help Colombia enter the mechanical age. Three years later, the Congress made primary education in Colombia free and compulsory and established several teacher training institutionscalled normal schoolsto meet the sudden need for teachers. To assist in the process, German experts were brought in to serve as instructors at the normal schools. Fearing this represented the beginning of a godless education, church leaders called on parents to ignore the public schools. Some Catholics complained that the German educators imported to staff in the schools belonged to the Protestant faith. To alleviate the controversy, the government allowed church representatives to offer religious instruction in the public primary schools during specific hours to pupils whose parents requested it. Some states required religious teaching in the primary schools. These controversies continued to grow and became part of the civil war that erupted in 1876 (Bushnell; Londoño).


Constitutional & Legal Foundations


The Conservative Party ended the Liberal Party's domination of the federal government in 1882 with the election of Rafael Nuñez. After sitting out two years as required by the Constitution of 1863, Nuñez regained the presidency and called a convention to draft a new constitution. Adopted in 1886, this constitution, which remained in effect until 1991, offered free elementary education to any child who wanted it. However, the constitution reversed the 1870 law that made such elementary education compulsory. At the same time, the constitution declared Colombia a republic and recognized the Catholic Church as the national church. The following year, the government entered the Concordat of 1887, requiring that all public education be done in accordance with the Roman Catholic religion. As result, clergy could approve school texts, determine the curriculum, and appoint teachers (Bushnell, Hanson).

In 1903, the central government took responsibility for establishing a national system of education with the passage of the Organic Law of Public Education, which made education free but not compulsory. Together with its regulating decree of 1904, the Organic Law set up a system of national inspection, divided schools into elementary and secondary levels, and established professional, industrial, and artistic branches. Although the law of 1903 placed education under the control of the states, it gave the power to set policy for all public, private, state, and national schools to the Ministry of Education. Other levels of government took different responsibilities. For example, states had to pay teacher salaries while municipalities had to construct and furnish the schools. Unfortunately, the law perpetuated discrepancies between urban and rural education by ordering cities to provide six years of schooling and requiring rural areas to provide only three (Hanson).

In 1927, the Conservative government of Colombia made education compulsory, but did not provide funds to make this possible. Consequently, public education remained unavailable for most Colombians even though it was supposed to be free and compulsory. As a result, in 1930, most Colombians lacked basic literacy skills (Hanson; Bushnell).

With the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Conservative Party lost control of national politics. The Liberal candidate, Alfonso López Pumarejo, became president in 1934, and he increased spending on schools and rural roadways. To increase the status of teachers, López Pumarejo's Liberal government established registries, required high school teachers to have university degrees, and set up national salary scales for teachers. In 1936, the Liberal government adopted a law stating that neither race nor religion was an adequate reason to deny students admission to schools (Bushnell; Hanson).

In his most controversial act, López Pumarejo changed the constitution to remove the Catholic Church as the final authority on permissible practices in schools. Enacted in 1936, these amendments enabled the Colombian Ministry of Education to encourage coed education, even though Pope Pius XI urged Catholics to avoid this practice. At the same time, the Ministry of Education invited liberal humanist scholars from Europe to come to Colombia. In addition, while the Conservative government had mandated religious training in the public schools, the Liberal Party turned schools toward patriotic education. As a result, instructional materials and programs emphasized the patriotic duties of citizens, the accomplishments of traditional heroes, and the value of national goals instead of spiritual development. In reaction, Conservatives complained that the Liberal administration assaulted moral and religious values (Bushnell; Hanson).

The controversy over religion and education grew into the struggles known as the Violencia (The Violence). During the election of 1946, dissension split the Liberal Party. Marino Ospina Pérez, a Conservative Party member, won the presidential election. Two years later, a leader of the Liberal party was shot and killed. Liberals blamed Conservatives for the assassination and riots broke out. According to some estimates, the fighting claimed the lives of 300,000 people. Ironically, as the death rate rose, so did the economythe rate of industrial output increased 9 percent per year from 1945 to 1955 (Bushnell; Hanson).

In 1957, a military junta took control of the federal government. To bring peace, they adopted a set of mathematical guidelines to the Constitution that required the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party to share all elective and appointive offices. According to this agreement, the two parties alternated control of the presidency. Although criticized for being undemocratic, these rules created a coalition known as the National Front that ended the Violencia. Other violent outbreaks would occur in Colombia, such as the drug war of the 1980s, but the killings did not reach the levels of the 1940s and 1950s (Bushnell).

During the 1980s, the governor of each of the country's departments (equivalent to a U.S. state) served as the chief administrative officer of his or her department and controlled all the educational matters in that department. Each governor appointed a secretary of education, who directed the schools in his or her department and reported to the governor. In 1986, there were about 32,000 such schools in the different departments, which at the time numbered 22. On the national level, the president appointed a minister of education to oversee national schools, of which there were about 500, and private schools, of which there were about 8,000. At the same time, the president appointed the governors (Hanson).

In 1991, Colombia approved a new constitution. Although the constitution declared Colombia to be a unitary republic, it added that it was decentralized, with territorial entities remaining autonomous, democratic, participatory, and pluralist. In accord with the goal of making the country more open to popular participation in local affairs, the new constitution introduced the popular election of departmental governors. Under the previous constitution, the national president appointed the governors. The constitution of 1991 required proportional representation when electing members of upper house of the Congress. Among the other provisions, the constitution of 1991 made education compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 15 years and recommended one year of pre-kindergarten training. It recommended other changes, such as bilingual education for communities where the population spoke an indigenous language, and it repeated the requirement that all teachers had to be professionally trained (Hanson; Bushnell).

Reinforcing the growing secular influences in Colombia, the new constitution eliminated any reference to Catholicism as the national religion. It specifically placed all religious denominations on equal legal footing, and it made divorce subject to civil law, thereby making civil divorce legal (Bushnell). Unfortunately, it is unclear what effect this change in religious policy will have on educational matters. For example, in 1936, the government amended the constitution by removing the authority of the Catholic Church in educational matters. However, as late as 1971, critics had complained that, although the Ministry of Education was most responsible for education in the country's departments, the ministry could not regulate such things as private school tuition because these schools were Catholic. In the church dioceses bishops ensured that the Catholic faith was taught in public schools and that lessons did not contradict the Church's magesterium. The bishops approved religion textbooks adopted by elementary and high schools, and the archbishop of Bogotá decided what religion texts the universities used. If a religion teacher ignored a bishop's requirements the bishop could remove the teacher from his or her position (Londoño).

The practice of religious control of the schools continues despite constitutional changes because the Catholic Church has more influence in Colombia than in any other country in the Western Hemisphere. In Colombia, clerics wield their power informally through interpersonal relations. Consequently, though the constitution of 1991 sought to establish distance between the government and the church, church officials continued to appear in public forums offering their blessings to official acts. Thus, while private schools may have had to adjust to government regulations and conform to courses of study prescribed by the Ministry of Education, Catholic bishops unofficially retained authority over such matters in the public school (Williams and Guerrieri).


Educational SystemOverview


As a result of increased school enrollment, nearly 92 percent of the adults in Colombia over age 15 had at least the basic ability to read and to write in the year 2000. The increases in education were significant. In 1935, enrollment at the elementary school level reached about 550,000, while in 1980, that number had risen to nearly 4,200,000. A dramatic increase took place at the secondary level as well, although it was not as far reaching as the elementary increase. In 1935, enrollment in high schools totaled 45,670 students; by 1980, the number had grown to 1,824,000 (Hanson).

In 1999, the preschool enrollment for private and public schools in urban and rural areas totaled 1,034,182 students. This included 522,209 boys and 511,973 girls. In elementary schools, total enrollment reached 5,162, 260 students, including 2,632,187 boys and 2,530,073 girls. The total high school enrollment reached 3,594,083 students, including 1,734,012 boys and 1,860,071 girls. These figures imply that females were somewhat more likely to attend high school than boys.


Academic Year: In general, the academic structure of the educational system in Colombia remains relatively constant. Preschool or kindergarten is usually in private hands. A child may enter at age four and continue through age six. Primary schooling in Columbia begins with five years of elementary education followed by four years of secondary education. After this basic cycle, students proceed to a second level of secondary education, lasting two years. Generally, these six years of secondary education appear together. Upon finishing that level, the students may pass on to some kind of technical training or commercial studies, or they can attend university and eventually pursue graduate studies (Low-Maus; Wellington).

The National Ministry of Education offers two options for the school calendar. One option begins in February, offers a four-week vacation in June and July, and finishes in November. The second option begins in September, offers a four-week vacation in December, and finishes in June. Both systems offer 198 days of school attendance (Wellington).


Language of Instruction: Some schools offer bilingual opportunities and employ languages like French, German, or English for instruction. However, these are expensive, private academies serving the students of prosperous families. In general, Spanish is used in most schools, especially those in those rural areas where Spanish is the dominant language. In areas of the country where an indigenous language dominates, the law requires that schools offer bilingual programs using the native languages (Parra).


Grading System: In most high schools, grades are awarded on a scale extending from 1 to 10. This system was adopted in 1973, replacing a system that used a scale of one to five. However, universities retained the shorter system. In university courses, students take final exams that count for twenty percent of the grade. These tests are two hours long and the students take one per day for five days (Wellington).


Religious Schools: The distribution of enrollment between public schools and private schools, most of which are Catholic, illustrates that, while private elementary schools have become more popular, public high schools have also increased in popularity. In 1935, about 93 percent of the elementary age students attended public schools. However, at the high school level, about 46 percent attended public schools. In 1980, the proportion of students attending public elementary schools dropped to 85 percent, while the proportion of high school students attending public schools increased to about 56 percent (Hanson).

In general, schools do not buy textbooks. Instead, the parents must purchase school supplies after schoolteachers or administrators indicate which books they should buy from local sources. These books may come from publishers in Colombia or from foreign firms. Usually, when a school adopts a textbook, it uses the book for three years. For many years, the Instituto Colombiano de Pedagogía (ICOLPE) of the Ministry of Education developed primers, called cartillas, and used five of the primers per subject to enhance elementary school teachers' pedagogical skills and to provide materials and suggestions to facilitate their daily work. Distributed without charge, the cartillas were well received. A less successful effort was the Ministry's attempt to develop and publish textbooks that followed appropriate educational objectives for each subject (Londoño).


CurriculumDevelopment: Colombia has long sought to turn the secondary curriculum toward practical or vocational education. After the civil war of 1839, President Pedro Alcántara Herrán, and his secretary of the interior, Mariano Ospina Rodríguez, introduced new methods of instruction and pedagogical principles into the secondary schools. For example, they removed the controversial authors from the secondary curriculum that Santander had introduced in the 1830s, reduced the extent of theoretical studies, and increased studies that had more practical applications, such as natural science (Bushnell; Low-Maus).

From 1948 to 1970, the Ministry tried to spread vocational, technical, and agricultural schools throughout the country. Despite these efforts, in 1977, more than 70 percent of the high school students enrolled in academic programs. Unfortunately, very few of these students went on to any higher education, often leaving school unprepared to earn a living (Hanson 1986). Efforts were made to increase vocational education, but most secondary school students enrolled in academic programs. When colleges and universities opened new programs to meet the growing number of academic students, the programs were often poor quality.


Preprimary & Primary Education

In Colombia, the available pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs vary from day care programs that simply watch over the children to sophisticated programs employing specialized teachers and advanced technology. Almost 92 percent of the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten centers are Catholic, privately owned and operated, and are located in urban centers. In 1970, to increase educational opportunities, the Congress allowed universities to offer pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs. Thus, public universities currently offer programs to train early childhood teachers. While most of these require four or five years of study, the Universidad Pedagógica de Bogotá offers a three-year early childhood teaching program. However, this did not increase the number of public kindergartens because the graduates of these training programs chose to work in private kindergarten centers that offered better salaries and more opportunities for teachers than did the public schools (Londoño).

According to 1999 statistics (from the National Admistrative Department of Statistics), about 56 percent of preschool students enroll in public institutions. Although the public preschools enjoy a higher percentage of the total preschool enrollment, there are fewer public preschools because, public preschool centers are usually larger than the private ones.

Unlike preschools, most primary schools are free public institutions operated by the department government with the assistance of the National Ministry of Education. Although children may enter these public primary schools at six years of age, most children enter at age seven. Usually, the classrooms are self-contained and the instructional day lasts for six hours, divided into two sessions. Each day contains three 45-minute class periods and a 45-minute break. Instruction includes the following subjects, in order of their importance: Spanish, arithmetic, social studies, aesthetic and manual training, natural science, physical education, and religious and moral training (Wellington).

Early efforts to establish primary education did not enjoy great success. In the 1830s, under the direction of President Francisco de Paula Santander, public primary school enrollment rose from 17,000 children to 20, 000. Combined with private school attendance, this still meant that less than 15 percent of the primary school population was attending school. In 1870, when the Congress made primary education in Colombia free and compulsory, the national government offered 4 percent of its budget (200,000 pesos) to education, with 20 percent of that sum going to universities. Nonetheless, primary schools spread. In 1870, 60,155 students were enrolled, and by 1874, the number had grown to more than 84,000 (Bushnell).

In 1957, in an effort to stabilize public schooling, the Congress sought to dedicate 10 percent of the national budget to education. However, those efforts were inadequate, as the system needed more extensive funding. In 1970, for example, about 70 percent of rural school age children did not attend school. Nearly 77 percent of the rural schools had one classroom, and 80 percent of the rural schools had one teacher. Few students attended school for very long. As a result, of the students enrolled, 55 percent attended the first grade. Facilities were poor21 percent of the students lacked desks. Of the rural teachers, 68 percent lacked normal school preparation, and 52 percent had not registered as teachers (Hanson).

In fairness, the problems of rural education were complex. In 1970, when the majority of rural children received less than three years of formal education, a teacher could expect to meet only about one-third of the students enrolled. However, this did not signify a lack of interest. In some cases, the school calendar conflicted with the labor needs of the family, which depended on agriculture to survive. In other cases, the lack of paved roads made travel to school difficult during periods of heavy rain (Havens and Flinn).

In rural areas, schools tended to stress practical subjects. In the 1970s, educators repeatedly said that the rural schools should teach students about the problems that existed in the country. Unfortunately, this meant that current technology was little-used in classrooms. Worse, the department secretaries expected teachers to present problems at the central office. Consequently, the teachers closed their classrooms and rode buses to the reach the city where the office was located. In 1977, to solve this problem, the secretaries tried to divide each state into planning, administrative, and instructional systems. Since most rural primary schools offered programs that were shorter than five years, the plan tried to include one five-year school in each district, which were about 10 kilometers in length. Secondary schools almost never appeared in rural areas (Hanson).

In the 1980s, Colombian educators introduced an innovation called the New School Movement that spread throughout Latin America. It was an effort to encourage self-instruction. Specially written guides took the place of textbooks. These guides covered such subjects as math, social science, and language. They offered detailed instructions allowing students to proceed on their own. In addition, the guides suggested activities and exercises the students could pursue in school or at home. Such flexible programming allowed students to leave school to help the family during harvest time, for example, and to resume studies at the same point when they returned to school.

Teachers asked parents and community members to form school councils, tend school gardens, and help teachers during lessons. Some critics complained that the New School Movement reduced teacher involvement, and other critics complained that many teachers misused the guides by making the students work through them as they marched through textbooks. Although the new schools emphasized self-instruction, they cost about 10 percent more than traditional ones. Nonetheless, about 12,500 new schools spread throughout Colombia, and, in 1989, the World Bank recommended that other developing nations adopt the New School Movement. As a result, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, and the Philippines adopted the movement (Lopez).

Unfortunately, elementary education remained in poor condition. In the 1991 four-year plan, the government acknowledged that studies on primary education revealed the quality was low, the rate of school failure was high, and the curriculum was of little relevance to students (Hanson).


Secondary Education

In Colombia, secondary education is concentrated in urban areas. As a result, a disproportionate number of high school students come from wealthy families. This bias toward the wealthy children remains true even though about 60 percent of the students enroll in public schools. (Hanratty and Meditz).

Secondary education grew rapidly in Colombia. In 1970, 20 percent of children in the appropriate age group enrolled in some form of secondary education. However, by 1980, this number had doubled to 40 percent (Psacharopoulos and Loxley). In 1990, secondary school enrollments reached 1,849,243, which was about 46 percent of the school-age population (Hanson 1995).

In Colombia, secondary education is divided into two parts, middle school training (educación media ), and secondary school training (educación secundaria. ) Both terms refer to level 6 through 11 and are often offered together. The sole requirement to enter a public secondary school is to satisfactorily complete a primary school course. Generally, private schools require the students to pass an entrance examination. As a result, public secondary schools tend to serve the lower income groups and offer more diversified educational programs leading to employment as well as higher education. Most private secondary schools offer a Bachillerato Académico o Clásico. However, since 1974, the secondary schools have had to offer at least one other curriculum besides those leading to an academic diploma (Wellington).

In 1974, the Ministry of Education mandated that the curriculums operate on two cycles. The Ciclo Básico (Basic Cycle) occupies the first four years of instruction and all students receive the same fundamental academic instruction. In addition, they spend five hours per week in what might be called vocational exploration. The advanced secondary cycle takes up two years. It may be called Ciclo Vocacional (vocational cycle) or the Ensen nza Media Diversificada (diversified courses). In these programs, students may complete programs leading to different degrees, such as Bachillerato Acádemico o Clásico, Bachillerato Pedagógico, or Bachillerato Agropecuario (Wellington).


In general, there are three types of secondary schools. The bulk of the institutions include public and private schools that prepare the students for university training and teach humanities and science courses. In 1981, the enrollment in these schools included about 72 percent of overall secondary enrollment. The second type of secondary school includes vocational or teacher training institutes. Although students in these schools take the basic academic subjects, the schools emphasize vocational subjects through all six years. In 1981, about 25 percent of the students were enrolled in this type of school. Finally, a small percentage of students enroll in Institutos Nacionales de Enseñanza Media Diversificada, or comprehensive high schools (Psacharopoulos and Loxley).

In 1969, the Ministry of Education began the Institutos Nacionales de Enseñanza Media Diversificada to encourage vocational education. Offering academic courses and various vocational programs, these schools operate on the same four-year Basic Cycle and two-year Vocational Cycle pattern found in other schools. However, instead of different schools offering different specialties, many options are grouped together in the same building. These schools spread rapidly, in part because international organizations such as the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development and the United States Agency for International Development contributed to their establishment and support (Wellington 1984).

Another highly regarded vocational program in Colombia operates from the Ministry of Labor. Called Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA), this program provides on-the-job training to people who have completed a primary school education. It began in 1957 and is supported by a payroll tax. Shortly after the ministry introduced SENA programs, all the departments began offering them, enrolling more than 23,000 trainees annually. By 1987, more than 15 percent of the urban workforce had attended SENA training sessions (Renner; Hanratty and Meditz).

Higher Education


After completing secondary education, students wishing to attend a university must pass the official entrance examination, El Examen de Estado (The State Examination). For many years, students applying for higher education had to possess a Bachiller (secondary school) diploma and pass an exam. In 1980, the Ministry of National Education issued a decree that made this common practice a legal requirement. Although the state examination is administered through the Servicio Nacional de Pruebas, each institution weighs the results in accordance with its own academic requirements. Thus, universities and colleges determine what level of performance they can demand of students in order to fill their own enrollment quotas. Although admission is based on academic performance, the students in institutions of higher learning come disproportionately from high-income families (Wellington; Hanratty and Meditz).

In 1940, there were fewer than 3,000 students enrolled in universities studying to enter medicine, law, and engineering. The main objective of this system was to transmit information that students had to memorize. However, university programs changed as a result of the growth of national industries. Called "modernización " (moderization), these economic changes required more specialized technicians, workers, engineers, accountants, managers, and economists. Consequently, universities have diversified their programs and opened them to many social groups (Parra).

In 1980, the Ministry of National Education officially established four levels of higher education: intermediate professional studies, technological studies, university studies, and graduate studies. Within these categories, the number of institutions grew rapidly. In 1970, the Colombian Association of Universities recognized 25 public and private universities. However, the National University Fund identified 65 more institutions of higher learning. By the late 1980s, there were more than 235 institutions of higher learning, and in 1999, university enrollment exceeded 807,000 students. (Wellington).

The number of applications to public universities exceeded the schools' capacity to accept students. Facing such demand, public universities raised their admission requirements. One reason for the large number of applications was that tuition in a public university was based on the parents' declared income. This made education affordable. Furthermore, since 1950, completion of higher education has been the avenue for social mobility. To meet the increased demand for higher education, more private universities and technical institutes were opened (Parra).

In 1993, a study demonstrated the importance of finishing college in Colombia. After surveying 4,027 workers in Bogotá, the researchers found that students who dropped out of an institution of higher learning held jobs of lower status with less pay than students who successfully completed the programs. However, students who failed exams and had to repeat them, or who repeated some grades in any school, did not earn less or work at some lower level (Psacharopoulos and Velez).

When universities grew to meet the demand for higher education, the institutions could not find faculty to teach the classes. In 1970, for example, the University of Antioquia ranked as one of the best schools, with a well-planned new campus and above average financial support. Although it had eight basic departments, the staff in those departments was underqualified. In the department of mathematics, one professor had a master's degree. The other instructors included six civil engineers, one chemical engineer, an economist, eight teachers with bachelor's degrees in education, and two people without degrees in higher education (Waggoner).

At any rate, in the 1990s, higher education in Colombia expanded more than the other, lower levels of education. Private institutions grew faster than public ones. Unfortunately, most observers agreed that the institutions grew at the expense of quality. They offered courses in areas that did not meet the developmental needs of the country. Since the faculty members were often untrained, they did not engage in scientific or technical research (Hanratty and Meditz).


Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Until 1989, the major administrative problem was providing continual improvement in the face of traditional regionalism and the lack of resources in Colombia. The Ministry of Education, representing the national government, exerted control over the governors and departmental secretaries of education through a corps of inspectors who accredited individual schools. One way this control took place was for students to send their diplomas to the central ministry upon graduation. The ministry checked each diploma against university records of the student's progress, validated the diploma, and entered it in a registry. Such a process protected against fraud and allowed graduates to prove they were qualified for further education or to practice an appropriate profession (Londoño).

In 1957, in an effort to bring continuity to the process of educational development, organizations such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) persuaded the national government to add a planning office to the Ministry of Education. The planning office recommended, and the Congress adopted, the first five-year educational plan, which became a model for other Latin American countries. In the following years, the national government of Colombia adopted a series of four- and five-year educational plans. Frequently, the presidential platforms of the political parties included a four-year plan.

Although the Ministry of Education sought to offer nationwide planning to control the expansion that took place from 1945 to 1970, these plans were rarely implemented. Instead the educational system expanded rapidly, and local administrators hired people who belonged to the correct political party to become teachers, even though these new teachers lacked proper training. Administrators erected buildings that were not needed and spent money on schools that did not exist. Such abuses happened because the members of each community could obtain education for their children by pressuring local politicians. Unfortunately, the politicians could arrange the construction of a building, but they lacked the authority to find real teachers to staff the building. Worse, communities without political influence didn't get the buildings or even the teachers (Hanson).

Until 1968, the only way the Ministry of Education could influence department governors to conform to central policies was through the use of inspectors. To increase the authority of the central ministry, the national government adopted the Regional Funds Program (FER). This sent money from the national government to the departments to pay teacher salaries, providing the state education secretary followed established criteria, such as hiring qualified teachers, replacing unqualified teachers within two years, and allowing the ministry to supervise state budgetary expenditures.

The benefit of this model was that it allowed the national government to respect the division of authority among the regions while encouraging uniform national improvement. Delegates from the national Ministry of Education lived in the capital city of each department and devoted their attention to the schools in that area. This program increased the central government's control by making the Minister of Education responsible for paying teachers' salaries. Payments were made only if each department's Secretaries of Education met certain conditions, such as annually increasing state appropriations for education, hiring qualified teachers, and replacing unqualified teachers within two years. Although the program began with some difficulty, by 1975, bureaucracies developed within bureaucracies to try to ensure that the department secretaries followed the minister's expectations. In addition, governors were prohibited from hiring more teachers than the state budgets could pay (Hanson).

In 1975, the national government augmented the FER with a nationalization law. This law was intended to create a financial system that would standardize teachers' salaries and benefits, terminate the practice of hiring of teachers without authorization from the federal ministry, and eliminate the uncoordinated construction of school buildings. Unfortunately, education costs increased so rapidly that the central government could not maintain the system it sought to establish (Hanson).

Local officials resented the intrusion of delegates from the national ministry, and political leaders continued to appoint teachers whose only qualification was that they had been faithful campaign workers. Further, although the Regional Funds Program gave the ministry authority to direct changes in the departments, the ministry's recommendations sometimes contradicted local needs (Hanratty and Meditz).

In 1989, two years before the adoption of the new constitution, the Congress shifted school administration functions from the Ministry of Education and each department's secretaries of education to the 1,024 municipal mayors in Colombia. With this change in responsibilities, the Ministry of Education released more than 1,300 school inspectors. Officials in the different regional departments took over the responsibilities formerly handled by inspectors (Hanson).

This transition was uneven. In 1992, a report by the Ministry of Education noted that there was no way to coordinate the efforts of the central ministry members, department officials, and municipal mayors. In part, this happened because the average tenure of the ministers of education and of the department secretaries was often less than 18 months. No one could create the necessary bureaucratic structures because the leadership changed too rapidly (Hanson).

Worse, the decentralization reinforced unequal educational development. According to the policy, the mayor of a municipality oversaw the schools in his or her area. However, the mayor also had to supervise work in other areas of life, such as transportation, water, agriculture, and public health. The mayor and the city council members were elected officials who attained office because they won votesnot because they demonstrated the ability to manage daily affairs.

Colombia does not have a tradition of employing professional city managers. Most municipalities have their own secretary of education. Some cities employ nucleo directorsemployees who administer 8 to 20 schools that form a school district. Often, these secretaries and directors lack administrative training and leave their jobs quickly. While large cities have an advantage, the vast majority of municipalities have only a few thousand occupants. Further, a mayor can hold office for no more than three years, which means new people must be trained for these positions frequently (Hanson).

The rationale behind the decentralization was that it would force the citizens to learn how to participate in civic life intelligently. Political education might grow slowly, but it seemed the best way to encourage people to become involved in their own government. Such decentralization and increased citizen involvement offered a way to reduce the political violence that racked the country. Thus, in the early 1990s, Colombians chose to reverse the program of central planning and enforcement that the external agencies and the Ministry of Education had encouraged since the late 1960s. To stem a growing rate of assassinations and kidnappings, they chose to emphasize participatory democracy instead of efficiency in educational planning (Hanson).

Through the 1970s and 1980s, the total public expenditure for schools remained approximately 3 percent of the gross national product (GNP). Private expenditures for schools during the same period represented approximately 2 percent of the GNP. Thus, total education expenditures in Colombia through the 1970s and 1980s somewhat exceeded 5 percent. By comparison, other Latin American countries made an average public expenditure of 4.3 percent of their GNPs. On the other hand, Colombia's private expenditures for education exceeded those of other similar countries (Hanson).

Within the Ministry of Education, various agencies direct funds to education. For higher education, the Colombian Institute for the Development of Higher Education (Instituto Colombiano para el Fomento de la Educación Superior ) is responsible for the coordination and distribution of central government funds to public and private universities. The Colombian Institute for School Construction (Instituto Colombiano de Construcción Escolar ) is responsible for carrying out Ministry of Education plans for school construction and for providing school equipment and teaching materials to primary and secondary schools. Further, the departmentsthrough the secretaries of educationplay a key role in financing primary and secondary education. They are responsible for building and maintaining schools and paying teachers and departmental university faculties. The municipalities provide the land for school buildings and they maintain the school buildings. Throughout the 1960s, however, many small, poor municipalities could not meet their educational obligations. As a result, the three biggest municipalitiesBogotá, Medellín, and Caliconsumed about 70 percent of the total amount of expenditures (Jallade).

In the 1960s, the industrialized cities had a much wider tax base from which to support schools than did rural areas. Consequently, the Ministry of Education allocated more funds for public education in less advantaged areas such as Boyacá and Cauca than in wealthy areas such as Antioquia and Valle. In 1971, the Congress passed the Situado Fiscal (financial security legislation) to require that the ministry follow a formula in deciding how to allocate these funds. According to this statute, the ministry was to divide 30 percent of its funds equally among the departments. It would divide the remaining 70 percent according to the size of the population in each region. In considering population size, the ministry used 1963 census figures that were out of date. The resulting bias helped rural areas, however, because those regions had been losing population (Hanson).

In 1975, the Congress passed the nationalization law that stipulated the central government would assume financial responsibility for all educational expenditures. In doing this, the Ministry of Education would set expense limits for each department. The departments and the municipalities would pay for any expenses beyond those limits. Although department governors would appoint teachers, the ministry determined how many appointments the governor could make. In addition, the ministry had to approve any new school construction (Hanson).

According to the nationalization law, the central government would gradually assume these responsibilities. Thus, from 1970 to 1978, the central government increased its share of the total educational expenditures from 65.5 percent to 83.7 percent. Departments reduced their expenditures from 34.5 percent of the total to 16.3 percent. Unfortunately, in 1980, the ministry realized it would never be able to pay for all school expenses and required the departments to continue making contributions to education (Hanson).

In 1989, when the Congress required that municipalities control education rather than the Ministry of Education, it adopted a strategy to finance those schools. Before decentralization, the national government provided about 84 percent of the needed funds. Departments offered approximately 13 percent, and municipalities contributed 2 percent. The national government froze its level of contributions and required that any needed expansions would have to come from the other contributors (Hanson).

Many mayors feared they could not adequately finance or administer the schools in their municipalities. Even in wealthy cities, the schools were understaffed, the buildings were in disrepair, and many classrooms were overcrowded. Consequently, by 1992, only 70 percent of the municipalities had accepted responsibility for the local schools. Twenty percent of the schools passed into the control of the departments, and 10 percent remained with the Ministry of Education (Hanson).

In 1993, to increase public financial expenditures, all branches of the government dedicated a sum equal to about 5 percent of the gross internal product (Producto Interno Bruto-PIB ) to education (Trujillo). The 10-year plan of 1996 called on those same parts of government to raise contributions to match 8.5 percent of the PIB.


Nonformal Education

During the early twentieth century, small towns and cities had local newspapers that produced issues of less than 10 pages to a small circle of readers. Not until the 1930s did a major newspaper achieve national circulation. In 1929, Elías Pellet Buitrago made the first radio broadcast in Colombia. However, there were only about 250 receivers in the country. By 1935, radio's popularity grew. Although news programs of that time consisted of nothing more than commentators reading stories from journals, politicians recognized radio's potential as a campaign tool and sought to use it to mobilize crowds of voters. As a result, in 1941 there were 70 stations in Colombia, most of which played a various forms of music. Occasionally, literature and theater found their ways on to the airways. In the 1950s, transistor radios became popular and appeared everywhere (Williams and Guerrieri).

To some extent, radio offered a means to help rural education. In 1947, Father José Joaquin Solcedo initiated a church-sponsored program namedAcción Cultural Popular (ACPO), or Popular Culture Action. The idea was to use a radio relay system to transmit classes in reading and writing to all parts of the country. The classes concentrated on basic literacy but included such items as agricultural extension programs and sanitation suggestions. ACPO offered paperback texts at a nominal cost that the parish priest could distribute. Usually, an assistant helped the students follow the instructions. Financed entirely by the church, ACPO claimed to have 16,000 radio schools in the rural areas of Colombia in 1970. Despite these claims, some researchers found that many priests did not invest the necessary time in the program and that the broadcasts rarely reached the more remote areas of the country (Havens and Flinn).

In 1954, television came to Colombia, where it was initially controlled by the state bureau of information and news (Oficina de Información y Prensa del Estado). In 1955, the authority passed to the national office of television (Televisora Nacional). Not long after that, the state monopoly passed to the Instituto Nacional de Radion y Televisíon (National Institute of Radio and Television), also known as Inravisíon. As a result of such governmental control, politicians used the television to campaign, and they cancelled programs that were critical of their policies. Nonetheless, television spread rapidly, covering 80 percent of the territory by 1960 and reaching almost two million viewers. Although most of the programming consisted of soap operas and sporting events, in 1961, television channels began carrying educational programs for children and agricultural information for farmers in rural areas. By 1970, there were two national television channels dedicated to educational programming (Williams and Guerrieri).

In 1972, more than 12,000,000 radios were in use in Colombia. In the 1970s, the number of member radio stations held by the major networks increased. However, the three principal networksCARACOL, RCN, and TODELARestablished ties with television and print media. Similarly, newspapers consolidated. In the late 1970s, there were 42 papers in 16 Colombian cities. Each had circulations of approximately 200,000 readers. Finally, in 1985, the national television network, Inravisíon, broke into three branches, and channels appeared in the different regions of Colombia (Williams and Guerrieri).


Teaching Profession


In 1979, The Congress of Colombia passed the Teacher's Law (Estatuo Docente ), which specified the rights and benefits of teachers throughout the nation. This statute established a salary scale for teachers with 14 levels and benefits. At the same time, the teachers were expected to enter a registry. The lowest level at which a person could enter this registry required completion of a teacher training program offered at a high school. The highest level demanded a post-graduate degree in education, or a university degree in education and the publication of a work in the field. To draw teachers to rural areas, the statute offered incentives, such as rapid advancement. Despite the incentives, many teachers transferred to urban areas, which led to a surplus of qualified teachers in urban areas and a lack of adequate personnel in rural areas (Hanson).

In Colombia, teacher training takes place at two levels. Some secondary schools offer a teaching diploma (Bachillerato Pedagógico), or an identical program called normal school training (Formación Normalista). These programs offer a basic cycle of academic courses and a second cycle of specialization. After receiving their diplomas, students may teach in primary schools or apply for admission into an institution of higher learning. To qualify to teach at a secondary school, the candidates have to graduate from a postsecondary institution or a university school of education. Critics complain that the normal schools are inflexible and offer poor quality specialized training. In 1980, to address these criticisms, the national Ministry of Education adopted Decree 80, which promised to promote the scientific and pedagogical training of teachers in universities (Hanratty and Meditz; Wellington; Hanson).

Despite the criticisms, the level of teacher preparation rose significantly. In the 1960s, 11 percent of primary school teachers had only a primary school education or less. At the same time, only 2 percent of primary school teachers had any postsecondary training. In the 1980s, the percentage of primary school teachers with primary school training or less dropped to about 1 percent. However, only 13 percent of the primary school teachers had postsecondary training. Among secondary school teachers, the level of preparation is higher. During the 1980s, about 55 percent of secondary school teachers had completed university studies (Hanratty and Meditz).


Summary

Since the inception of Colombia, the government has formulated laws to improve schools. These have included such efforts as standardizing educational programs, raising teacher qualifications, and making buildings more sanitary. Unfortunately, for several reasons, the different governments that held power could not implement the measures they mandated. One important reason was that the tradition of regionalism impeded the development of national plans to improve education. A second reason is the historical lack of financial resources and the extreme inequality among the people, which made educational reform difficult.

Unfortunately, educational development in Colombia has not been consistently successful in overcoming political obstacles and finding resources to support reform. For example, during the 1960s and 1970s, the central government took steps to increase its authority. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, maintaining a desire for local control, Colombians adopted measures that prevented central authorities from garnering the control needed to enact widespread improvements.

At the same time, economic improvement was inconsistent. In the 1970s, industry surpassed agriculture as the major contributor to the nation's economy. Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali became the manufacturing centers. Although coffee remained Colombia's most important crop, in areas such as Medellín, cocaine and heroin contributed billions of dollars to an underground economy and stimulated such legal trades such as construction. Thus, although most Colombians had no connection to the drug trade, a large part of the relative economic health of Colombia during the 1980s came from that trade (Williams and Guerrieri).

Colombia enjoys many natural resources and agricultural advantages. Thus, some citizens have achieved worldwide fame, but many other citizens languish in poverty. During the 1990s, Colombia enjoyed the prestige associated with being the home of novelist and 1982 Nobel Prize winner, Gabriel García Márquez. In addition, Colombia supported such world-class painters as Alejandro Obregón, Fernando Botero, and Enrique Grau. Unfortunately, in rural areas especially, children faced inadequate educational opportunities, and a high percentage left school early (Williams and Guerrieri).

Fortunately, opportunities to increase the level of popular learning exist within the culture. In Colombian cities, urban design and architecture is varied and interesting. Distinct regional traditions that have been preserved nurture a rich and varied body of Colombian music. Such cultural resources may sustain dramatic increases in all levels of education that will overcome the political and economic problems afflicting the nation (Williams and Guerrieri).


Bibliography

Bushnell, David. The Making of Modern Colombia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.

Chiappe, Clemencia. "Problemas del Método y de la Enseñanza de la Metodología." Revista Colombiana de Educación 6 (1980): 75-85.

DANE Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (Colombian Statistical Office) Web Site, 2001. Available from http://www.colombia.gov/educación/htm.

Hanratty, Diane, and Sandra Meditz, eds. Colombia: A Country Study. Washington: Government Printing Office, Federal Research Division, 1990.

Hanson, E. Mark. Educational Reform and Administrative Development: The Cases of Colombia and Venezuela. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1986.

. "Democratization and Decentralization in Colombian Education." Comparative Education Review 39(1) (1995): 101-119.

Havens, A. Eugene, and William Flinn. "Structural Blocks to Higher Educational Attainment." In Internal Colonialism and Structural Change in Colombia. New York: Praeger, 1970.

Helg, Aline. "La Educación Primaria y Secundaria Durante el Primer Gobierno de Alfonso López Pumarejo (1934-1938)." Revista Colombiana de Educación, 6 (1980): 4-36.

Jallade, Jean-Pierre. Public Expenditures and Income Distribution in Colombia. Washington: John Hopkins University Press, 1974.

Londoño, Felipe. Situación de la Educación en Colombia 1971. Bogotá: Centro de Investigación y Acción Social, 1971.

Lopez, Asbel. "Colombia Exports Its 'New School' Blueprint." UNESCO Courie 52(6) (1999): 14-16.

Low-Maus, Rudolfo. Compendium of the Columbian Educational System. Bogotá: N.P., 1971.

Moreno, Heladio. Ensayos Sobre la Educación Colombiana. Bogotá: Colombia Nueva Limitada, 1984.

Parra, Rodrigo. Escuela y Modernidad en Colombia: La Universidad, Tomo IV. Santafe de Bogotá: Tercer Mundo Editores, 1996.

Psacharopoulos, George, and Eduardo Velez. "Educational Quality and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from Bogotá, Colombia." Sociology of Education 2 (April 1993): 130-145.

Psacharopoulos, George, and William Loxley. Diversified Secondary Education and Development: Evidence from Colombia and Tanzania. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1985.

Restrepo, Gabriel. "Antonio Vargas Vega, Informe Relativo a las Enseñanzas Universitarias (1878)." Revista Colombiana de Educación 6 (1980): 105-108.

Renner, Richard R. "Colombia." The Encyclopedia of Education. New York: Macmillan Co, 1971.

Tezanos, Araceli. "La Escuela Primaria en Colombia." Revista Colombiana de Educación 6 (1980): 136-144.

Trujillo, Juan Pablo. "Educación Para la Interncacionalición." In Colombia ante de la Economía Mundial. Bogata, Colombia: T/M Editores, 1993.

Vivas, Jorge. "Ciencia, Tecnología y Estilos." Revista Colombiana de Educación 6 (1980): 87-101.

Waggoner, George R. "Latin American Universities." Journal of Higher Education 41(9) (1970): 739-741.

Wellington, Stanley. Colombia: A Study of the Educational System of Colombia and a Guide to Academic Placement of Students from Colombia in Educational Institutions of the United States. N.P.: World Education Series, 1984.

Williams, Raymond Leslie, and Kevin G. Guerrieri. Culture and Customs of Colombia. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1999.


Joseph Watras and Isabel Cavour

views updated

COLOMBIA

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS COLOMBIANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Colombia

República de Colombia

CAPITAL: Bogotá

FLAG: The national flag consists of three horizontal stripes; the yellow upper stripe is twice as wide as each of the other two, which are blue and red.

ANTHEM: Himno Nacional, beginning "O gloria inmarcesible, júbilo inmortal" ("O unwithering glory, immortal joy").

MONETARY UNIT: The Colombian peso (c$) of 100 centavos is a paper currency. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 centavos and of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pesos, and notes of 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 pesos. Commemorative gold coins of various denominations also have been minted. c$1 = us$0.00043 (or us$1 = c$2,324.08) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the official standard, but Spanish units such as the botella, vara, fonegada, arroba, and quintal also are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Epiphany, 6 January; St. Joseph's Day, 19 March; Labor Day, 1 May; Day of St. Peter and St. Paul, 29 June; Independence Day, 20 July; Battle of Boyacá, 7 August; Assumption, 15 August; Columbus Day, 12 October; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Independence of Cartagena, 11 November; Immaculate Conception, 8 December; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Ascension, Sacred Heart, and Corpus Christi. In addition there are six official commemorative days.

TIME: 7 am = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Colombia is the only South American country with both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. The fourth-largest country in South America, it has a total area of 1,138,910 sq km (439,736 sq mi), including insular possessions, and extends 1,700 km (1,060 mi) nnwsse and 1,210 km (750 mi) nnessw. Comparatively, the area occupied by Colombia is slightly less than three times the size of the state of Montana. Bordered on the n by the Caribbean Sea, on the ne by Venezuela, on the se by Brazil, on the sw by Peru and Ecuador, on the w by the Pacific Ocean, and on the nw by Panama, the Colombian mainland is located entirely within the tropics. Its total boundary length is 6,004 km (3,731 mi). Its coastlines extend 3,208 km (1,993 mi).

Also held by the Republic of Colombia (though claimed by Nicaragua) are the archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia in the Caribbean Sea, about 190 km (120 mi) off the coast of Nicaragua, and the islands of Malpelo, Gorgona, and Gorgonilla in the Pacific Ocean. (In 2001 Nicaragua filed a claim in the International Court of Justice regarding these islands.) Colombia also holds the uninhabited Caribbean islands of Quita Sueño Bank, Roncador Cay, and Serrana Bank, to which the United States renounced all rights under the Treaty of Quita Sueño, ratified by the US Senate in July 1981; Nicaragua also disputes this claim. Colombia has a dispute with Venezuela over maritime rights in the Gulf of Venezuela. Negotiations have been going on unsuccessfully since 1970, and in August 1987, a Colombian naval vessel entered the disputed region in an apparent attempt to make Venezuela more responsive.

Colombia's capital city, Bogotá, is located in the center of the country.

TOPOGRAPHY

The Andes Mountains divide just north of Colombia's southern border with Ecuador into three separate chains, or cordilleras, known as the Cordillera Occidental (western), the Cordillera Central, and the Cordillera Oriental (eastern). The western and central cordilleras run roughly parallel with the Pacific coast, extending northward as far as the Caribbean coastal lowlands. They are alike in geological structure, both being composed of massive crystalline rocks. The Cordillera Central is the highest range of the Colombian Andes, with several volcanic cones whose snow-covered peaks rise to about 5,500 m (18,000 ft), notably Huila (5,750 m/18,865 ft). The third chain, the Cordillera Oriental, runs northeastward, bifurcating into an eastern branch, the Sierra de los Andes, which slopes down to Venezuela, and a second branch, the Sierra de Perijá, which continues northward to terminate on the border between Venezuela and Colombia just south of the Guajira Peninsula. This range is composed of folded stratified rocks over a crystalline core.

On the margin of the Caribbean stands the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, an isolated block of mountains composed of a triangular massif of granite, whose highest elevation is Pico Cristóbal Colón (5,775 m/18,947 ft), the tallest peak in Colombia. In the town of Arboletes in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, there are a number of active mud volcanoes, one of the largest of which fills a volcanic crater and attracts many locals and tourists who swim and bathe in the mud lake. West of the Cordillera Occidental but not geologically a part of the Andean chain is the low Serranía de Baudó, which skirts the Pacific and extends into the Isthmus of Panama.

Separating the three principal Andean ranges are Colombia's two major rivers, the Cauca (1,014 km/630 mi), which flows northward between the western and central cordilleras, and the Magdalena (1,553 km/965 mi), which divides the central and eastern cordilleras. After emerging from the mountains, the two rivers become one and descend through marshy lowlands to the Caribbean. The area south and east of the Andean ranges is largely composed of river plains divided among the effluents of the Orinoco and Amazon rivers. Open plains immediately adjoin the mountains, but as the distance from the cordillera increases, the plains give way to largely uninhabited and unexplored jungle. The Pacific coastal area is also characterized by jungle vegetation. Principal rivers on the Pacific coast include the Baudó, San Juan, and Patía.

CLIMATE

Colombia's climatic variations are determined by altitude, and seasons are periods of lesser or greater rainfall, with little or no temperature change. The country may be divided vertically into four regions. The hot country, ortierra caliente, is the tropical zone, reaching from sea level to roughly 1,100 m (3,500 ft), where the mean annual temperature is 24°c to 27°c (7581°f); at sea level, temperatures have a mean maximum of 38°c (100°f) and a minimum of 18°c (64°f). Between 1,100 m (3,500 ft) and 2,000 m (6,500 ft) is the temperate zone, ortierra templada, where the average year-round temperature is about 18°c (64°f). Between 2,000 m (6,500 ft) and 3,000 m (10,000 ft) is the cold country, ortierra fría, with temperatures averaging a little over 13°c (55°f). Above the 3,000-m (10,000-ft) level the temperature varies from 13°c to -17°c (55°f to 1°f), according to altitude. The annual mean temperature at the capital, Bogotá (altitude 2,598 m/8,525 ft), is 14°c (57°f).

Rainfall is heaviest on the west coast and in the Andean area; rainy and dry seasons, or "winter" and "summer," generally alternate in three-month cycles, as in Bogotá, where precipitation occurs most heavily and consistently during the periods of April to June and October to December. Northern areas have only one long rainy season, from May through October. The annual average rainfall is 107 cm (42 in).

FLORA AND FAUNA

More than 45,000 species of plants have been identified in Colombia, but it is predicted that when the region is thoroughly explored that number may be doubled. At the highest (3,0004,600 m/10,00015,000 ft) and coldest level of mountain meadows, called páramos, the soil supports grasses, small herbaceous plants, and dense masses of low bushes. In the intermontane basins some vegetables, European-introduced grains, and corn are found, along with the bushes, trees, and meadow grasses indigenous to the region. The temperate areas support extensive and luxuriant forests, ferns, mosses, trees of the laurel family, Spanish cedars, vegetables, and grain crops. The tropical zone may be divided into four main groups according to the amount of rainfall received: desert like areas supporting arid plants, deciduous forests, rain forests, and grass plains. Palm trees of various species abound in the tropics and there are many edible fruits and vegetables.

Animal life is abundant, especially in the tropical area. Among carnivorous species are puma, a variety of smaller cats, raccoons, and mustelids. Herbivores include the tapir, peccary, deer, and large tropical rodents. Sloths, anteaters, opossums, and several types of monkeys are also found, as well as some 1,665 species and subspecies of South American and migratory birds. As of 2002, there were at least 359 species of mammals, 708 species of birds, and over 51,200 species of plants throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

Colombia's main environmental problems are soil erosion, deforestation, and the preservation of its wildlife. Soil erosion has resulted from the loss of vegetation and heavy rainfall, and the soil has also been damaged by overuse of pesticides. Deforestation has resulted from the commercial exploitation of the country's forests, which cover approximately 47.8% of the country. Between 1981 and 1985, 820,000 hectares (2,260,000 acres) were lost each year, and 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) were reforested. Between 1983 and 1993, Colombia lost another 5.8% of its forest and woodland. from 19902000, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 0.4% per year. Air pollution from vehicle emissions is also a problem, especially in Bogotá. Safe drinking water is available to 99% of urban dwellers and 70% of the rural population.

The Colombian government has initiated several programs to protect the environment. By 1959, the Amazon forests, the Andean area, and the Pacific coast were protected. In 1973, the government created the National Resources and Environment Code. The main environmental agency is the Institute for Development of Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment (INDERENA), established in 1969. Among other activities, it has undertaken extensive projects in the training of personnel in conservation, fishing, and forestry. The Colombian Sanitary Code, in force since January 1982, establishes pollution control standards. The National Environmental Education Plan for 199194 introduces environmental issues in the elementary schools. In 2003, about 10.2% of the total land area was nationally protected. Los Katios National Park is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are three Ramsar wetland sites.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 39 types of mammals, 86 species of birds, 15 types of reptiles, 208 species of amphibians, 23 species of fish, and 222 species of plants. Endangered species in Colombia include the tundra peregrine falcon, Cauca guan, gorgeted wood-quail, red siskin, pinche, five species of turtle (green sea, hawksbill, olive ridley, leatherback, and arrau), two species of alligator (spectacled caiman and black caiman), and two of crocodile (American and Orinoco). The Colombian grebe and the Caribbean monk seal have become extinct.

POPULATION

The population of Colombia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 46,039,000, which placed it at number 28 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 32% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 1.7%; the government sought to reduce adolescent fertility, which it viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 58,294,000. The population density was 41 per sq km (105 per sq mi), with about 95% of the population residing in the mountainous western half of the country.

A rapid transfer of population to urban centers has taken place since the 1950s, and during the 1990s, over a million people were internally displaced. The UN estimated that 75% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.96%. The capital city, Bogotá, had a population of 7,290,000 in that year. The populations of other major metropolitan areas were as follows: Medellín, 3,236,000; Cali, 2,583,000; and Barranquilla, 1,918,000. Other metropolitan areas include Cartagena, Bucaramanga, and Cúcuta.

MIGRATION

Despite government inducements, such as the granting of agricultural land in the eastern plains, immigration has been insignificant, partly because of guerrilla activity and violence. Emigration is small but significant, since many of those who leave the country are scientists, technicians, and doctors. Between 1951 and 1985, some 218,724 Colombians settled in the United States. In 1990 there were more persons in the United States of Colombian birth304,000than of any other South American nationality.

As of May 1997, more than 900,000 people had been internally displaced by the violence between the leftist guerrillas and government forces. Though estimates varied, studies agree that displacement is pan-national and on the rise. Twenty-seven provinces within Colombia have been affected by the internal displacement in as far as most of the displaced people have moved to the cities of Colombia. According to SISDESC (System of Information on the Families Displaced by Violence in Colombia), in 1997, every two hours two families were displaced by violence in the country. Between 1985 and 2004, Colombia's internally displaced population numbered 3,100,000.

While the level of external displacement does not match the level of internal displacement, there is a steady outflow of people fleeing the country. The three neighboring countries most affected by cross-border movements are Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela. In 1999, about 3,000 Colombians from the north of Santander Department fled to Venezuela in response to the armed conflict in the region. In 2004, there were 141 refugees in Colombia, 85 asylum seekers, and 2,000,000 internally displaced persons. As of 2005, the net migration rate of Colombia was estimated as 0.31 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migrant levels as satisfactory.

ETHNIC GROUPS

The predominant racial strain in Colombia is the mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian), constituting about 58% of the total population. An estimated 20% of the inhabitants are of unmixed white ancestry; 14% are mulatto (black-white); 4% are black; 3% are zambo (black-Amerindian); and 1% are pure Amerindian. Blacks and mulattoes are concentrated in the coastal regions and tropical valleys. Pure Amerindians are rapidly disappearing; the remaining few live mainly in inaccessible and barren regions. The principal Amerindian culture of Colombia during the pre-Columbian period was that of the Chibcha, whose descendants are today chiefly concentrated in the departments of Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Santander, and Norte de Santander. The Motilones, one of the few surviving Amerindian groups untouched by civilization in South America, inhabit the region west of Lake Maracaibo and the Venezuelan border; they are famous for their lethal weapon, the black palm bow and arrow. Small, diverse Amerindian groups also inhabit the eastern extremities of the Colombian plains region, the south, and the western coastal jungles.

LANGUAGES

The official language, Spanish, is spoken by all but a few Amerindian tribes. Spanish as spoken and written by educated Colombians is generally considered the closest to Castilian in Latin America.

RELIGIONS

Roman Catholicism was the country's official religion until the adoption of the 1991 constitution. The current law states that there is no official or state religion but adds that the state is "not atheist or agnostic, nor indifferent to Colombians' religious sentiment." Some have interpreted this as meaning that the Roman Catholic Church retains a privileged position; however, a 1994 constitutional court decision declared unconstitutional any official government reference to religious characterizations of the country.

According to a national poll commissioned by the nation's leading newspaper, El Tiempo, 81% of the people are Roman Catholic and about 14% belong to other Christian denominations. Officials from the Roman Catholic Church, however, estimate that 90% of the population is Roman Catholic. Protestant groups such as the Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints make up less than 1% of the population. Other religious faiths or movements include Judaism, Islam, animism, various syncretic beliefs, agnosticism, and atheism. A number of Afro-Colombians, particularly those residing in the department of Choco, practice a syncretic religion which combines elements of Catholicism with African animism. About 1.9% of the population claimed no religious beliefs.

According to a 1997 public law agreement, non-Catholic religious organizations must receive special permission from the state in order to provide chaplains to public institutions such as hospitals or prisons or to perform marriages recognized by the state. Total membership, social popularity, and the content of an organization's statutes and required behavioral norms are considered before permission is granted. As of 2004, only 13 non-Catholic churches had received the necessary status to perform legal marriages.

A 2004 report indicated that religious leaders and followers were regular targets of killings, kidnappings, and extortion by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). However, many of the incidents in question seemed to be motivated primarily by political and economic issues.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation lacks integration, owing to the mountainous terrain. For this reason, air transportation has become the most important means of travel for most passengers. Despite the development of roads and railways, river travel has remained the chief mode of transportation for cargo since the trip up the Magdalena River in 1536 by the Spanish conqueror Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada. Inland waterways navigable by riverboats totaled 9,187 km (5,742 mi) in 2004. The Magdalena, the fourth-largest river in South America, is navigable for 950 km (590 mi) and carries almost all of Colombia's river traffic.

The railroads, which were nationalized in 1954 and deregulated in 1989, had a combined 3,304 km (2,053 mi) of standard and narrow gauge track in 2004. Of that total, narrow gauge accounted for 3,154 km (1,962 mi).

Also in 2002 there were about 110,000 km (68,354 mi) of roads, of which only about 26,000 km (16,156 mi) were paved. Many roads are plagued by landslides and washouts. The 2,800-km (1,700-mi) Caribbean Trunk Highway, completed in 1974, links the Atlantic ports of Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta with the Pan-American Highway (south of Panama) and the Venezuelan highway system. In 2003 there were 850,000 passenger cars and 534,500 commercial motor vehicles.

Owing to inadequate land transport, air service is essential and well developed. A flight from Bogotá to Medellín takes only half an hour, while a truck requires 24 hours over a winding mountain road. In 2004 there were an estimated 980 airports. As of 2005, only 100 had paved runways, and there were also 2 heliports. Colombia's airline, Avianca, is the second-oldest commercial airline in the world and one of the largest in Latin America. Avianca handles about two-thirds of the domestic and international movement of passengers. Most of the country's air transportation is handled by the six principal airports at Bogotá, Barranquilla (E. Cortissoz), Medellín, Cali, Cartagena (Rafael Núñez), and San Andreas. In 2003, these airports serviced about 9.143 million passengers.

Colombia's merchant marine is dominated by the Grand Colombian Merchant Fleet (Flota), a stock corporation owned by the Colombian Coffee Federation. In 2005, merchant marine companies had an aggregate of 15 vessels with 1,000 GRT or over, totaling 35,427 GRT. The nation's chief ports on the Caribbean are Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Santa Marta. Buenaventura is the only important Pacific port.

HISTORY

Archaeological studies indicate that Colombia was inhabited by various Amerindian groups as early as 11,000 bc. Prominent among the pre-Columbian cultures were the highland Chibchas, a sedentary agricultural people located in the eastern chain of the Andes.

The first Spanish settlement, Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast, dates from 1525. In 1536, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and a company of 900 men traveled up the Magdalena River in search of the legendary land of El Dorado. They entered the heart of Chibcha territory in 1538, conquered the inhabitants, and established Bogotá. As a colony, Colombia, then called New Granada, was ruled from Lima, Peru, until it was made a viceroyalty. The viceroyalty of New Granada, consolidated in 1740, incorporated modern Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The area became Spain's chief source of gold and was exploited for emeralds and tobacco.

In the late 1700s, a separatist movement developed, stemming from arbitrary taxation and the political and commercial restrictions placed on American-born colonists. Among the Bogotá revolutionaries was Antonio Nariño, who had been jailed for printing a translation of the French Assembly's Declaration of the Rights of Man. Independence, declared on 20 July 1810, was not assured until 7 August 1819, when the Battle of Boyacá was won by Simón Bolívar's troops. After this decisive victory, Bolívar was tumultuously acclaimed "Liberator" and given money and men to overthrow the viceroyalty completely.

After 1819, Bolívar's Republic of Gran Colombia included Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. Venezuela and Ecuador seceded, but Panama remained part of Colombia. In 1831 the country became the State of New Granada. Political and financial order was attained under Francisco de Paula Santander, Bolívar's vice president, who took office in 1832. During Santander's four-year term and in the subsequent decade there was intense disagreement over the relative amount of power to be granted to the central and state governments and over the amount of power and freedom to be given to the Roman Catholic Church. Characterized by Bolívar as Colombia's "man of laws," Santander directed the course of the nation toward democracy and sound, orderly government.

By 1845, the supporters of strong central government had organized and become known as the Conservatives, while the federalists had assumed the Liberal label. The respective doctrines of the two parties throughout their history have differed on two basic points: the importance of the central governing body and the relationship that should exist between church and state. Conservatism has characteristically stood for highly centralized government and the perpetuation of traditional class and clerical privileges, and it long opposed the extension of voting rights. The Liberals have stressed states' rights, universal suffrage, and the complete separation of church and state. The periods during which the Liberals were in power (184957, 186180) were characterized by frequent insurrections and civil wars and by a policy of government decentralization and strong anticlericalism.

As effective ruler of the nation for nearly 15 years (188094), the Conservative Rafael Núñez, a poet and intellectual, restored centralized government and the power of the church. During his tenure as president, the republican constitution of 1886 was adopted, under which the State of New Granada formally became the Republic of Colombia. A civil war known as the War of a Thousand Days (18991902) resulted in more than 100,000 deaths, and the national feeling of demoralization and humiliation was intensified by the loss of Panama in 1903. After refusing to ratify without amendments a treaty leasing a zone across the Isthmus of Panama to the United States, Colombia lost the territory by virtue of a US-supported revolt that created the Republic of Panama. Colombia did not recognize Panama's independence until 1914, in exchange for rights in the Canal Zone and an indemnity from the United States.

Conservative presidents held power between 1909 and 1930, and Liberals from 1930 to 1942. During World War II, which Colombia entered on the side of the Allies, social and political divisions within the country intensified.

The postwar period was marked by growing social unrest in the capital and in the countryside. Politics became much more violent, especially after the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, the leftist Liberal mayor of Bogotá. This sparked protests that developed into riots, the "Bogotazo," in Bogotá, the end of which only lead Liberals and Conservatives into sporadic guerrilla fighting. This extended and bloody period is commonly known as La Violencia, it claimed 150,000 to 200,000 lives. The political system in the 1950s had become irrelevant in the midst of the violence. Three years of Conservative government were followed by a populist military government under Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, who managed a slightly successful recovery of arms from guerrillas. Rojas ruled as an absolute dictator, but could not quell the violence still raging in the field. Overthrown largely by a coalition of Conservatives and Liberals who used newsprint as their weapon, Rojas gave up power in May 1957 to a military junta, which promised and provided free elections.

When the fall of Rojas was imminent, Liberal and Conservative leaders met to discuss Colombia's future. The period of La Violencia had convinced Colombia's elite that there was a need to bring the rivalry between Liberals and Conservatives under control. Determined to end the violence and initiate a democratic system, the parties entered into a pact establishing a coalition government between the two parties for 16 years. This arrangement, called the Sitges Agreement, created the National Front and was ratified by a plebiscite in December 1957. Under the terms of this agreement, a free election would be held in 1958. The parties would then alternate in power for four-year terms until 1974. Thus, Liberals and Conservatives would take turns in the presidency. Parties were also guaranteed equal numbers of posts in the cabinet and in the national and departmental legislatures.

In 1958, the first election under the National Front, was won by Liberal Alberto Lleras Camargo. As provided in the agreement, he was succeeded in 1962 by a Conservative, National Front candidate Guillermo León Valencia.

During this time another civil war period began. A group of leftist liberals who had established small independent agrarian republics during La Violencia and who were cut out of the power-sharing Sitges Agreement, were attacked by the government in 1964. Two years later the survivors formed the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) with the stated goal of overthrowing the government. A year earlier in 1965, another group with roots in La Violencia, the ELN (Ejercito de la Liberacion Nacional), formed the second major revolutionary group after receiving training in revolutionary war tactics in Cuba.

In May 1966, Colombia held another peaceful election, won by Carlos Lleras Restrepo, a Liberal economist. Although lacking the necessary two-thirds majority required under the Colombian constitution to pass legislation, Lleras came to power with the firm support of the press and other important public sectors. His regime occupied itself with increasing public revenues, improving public administration, securing external financial assistance to supplement domestic savings, and preparing new overall development plans. In April 1970, Conservative Party leader Misael Pastrana Borrero, a former cabinet minister, was elected president, narrowly defeating former President Rojas. The election results were disputed but later upheld. A third major revolutionary group, the urban guerrilla M-19 (Movimiento 19) formed a few years later, taking their name from the 19 April 1970 elections dispute.

In August 1974, with the inauguration of the Liberal Alfonso López Michelsen as president, Colombia returned to a two-party system for presidential and congressional elections. As provided by a constitutional amendment of 1968, President López shared cabinet posts and other positions with the Conservative Party. In 1978, another Liberal candidate, Julio César Turbay Ayala, won the presidency, but because his margin of victory was slim (49.5% against the Conservatives' 46.6%), he continued the tradition of giving a number of cabinet posts to the opposition. In June 1982, just before leaving office, Turbay lifted the state of siege that had been in force intermittently since 1948.

Because of a split in the Liberal Party, the Conservatives won the 1982 elections, and a former senator and ambassador to Spain, Belisario Betancur Cuartas, was sworn in as president in August. He continued the tradition of including opposition party members in his cabinet, however, Betancur's most immediate problem was political violence. Since the late 1970s kidnappings and political murders by both left- and right-wing organizations had become common. In 1983, it was estimated that some 6,000 leftist guerrillas were active in Colombia in at least four guerrilla groups. The Betancur government pursued a policy of negotiation with the guerrillas. He offered amnesty and political recognition in exchange for the cessation of activity and for joining in the electoral process. Betancur's last year in office was marred when M-19 seized the Palace of Justice. Troops stormed the building; it was completely destroyed by fire and over 90 people were killed.

The 1986 election went resoundingly to the Liberals under the longtime politician Virgilio Barco Vargas, who campaigned on a platform of extensive economic and social reform that focused on poverty and unemployment. Barco won with a significant majority and the Conservative Party broke from the tradition started by the National Front by refusing cabinet and other government posts to the Liberals. President Barco did not match the rhetoric of his campaign with policies of any substance, and the economy continued to stagnate. Barco made no progress with drug traffickers, who arranged for the murder of his attorney-general. However, he was able to initiate a plan aimed at bringing guerrilla groups into the political system.

Also, in the 1980s a new military force came into being in Colombia, the paramilitary organizations. These were started by narcotics traffickers, wealthy civilians, businesses, political parties, and the military. This myriad of founders hired their paramilitaries for an equally variable number of violent ends: to assassinate, terrorize, protect from kidnappers, cleanse the country of socially unwanted peoples (such as drug addicts, thieves, prostitutes, beggars, street children, and others), and to fight against the rebels (such as the FARC, the ELN, and the M-19). By 1989 all paramilitary organizations were outlawed, but continued to operate with impunity. The complicated balance of military power in Colombia was then exercised through the government, the rebels, the narcotics traffickers, and the paramilitary organizations. It was estimated that during the 1980s Colombian drug traffickers controlled 80% of the world's cocaine trade.

The election of 1990 brought another Liberal, César Gaviria Trujillo, to the presidency. In that election, three candidates were assassinated. Gaviria continued Barco's outreach to the various leftist guerrilla groups, and in 1991 the notorious M-19 group demobilized and became a political party. The other groups chose to remain active. Gaviria responded to their intransigence in November 1992 by announcing new counterinsurgency measures and a hard-line policy against both guerrillas and drug traffickers. A constitutional assembly was also held to create a new constitution, which was promulgated on 5 July 1991. It included a number of reforms aimed at increasing the democratization of Colombia's elite-controlled political system.

The powerful Medellín cartel stepped up its terrorist attacks, including car bombings and political assassinations, but the new constitution strengthened government control and the leaders of the cartel surrendered to the Gaviria government in 1991. However, head boss Pablo Escobar escaped from government custody the following year, and was eventually hunted down and killed in 1993. Most top leaders of the Cali cartel, which had taken over much of the Medellín market, were arrested in 1995 and subsequently imprisoned. Even with the arrests, Colombia's lucrative drug trade continued to flourish.

In the 1994 elections, Colombians continued their preference for Liberal candidates, with Ernesto Samper Pizano winning a runoff election against Conservative TV newscaster Andrés Pastrana. In the general election, only 18,499 votes separated the two candidates. The campaign was again marked by widespread political violence. Samper's government was weakened by charges that he and other senior government officials had accepted money from drug traffickers during the 1994 election campaign. (Congress formally exonerated the president of these charges in 1996.)

As of 1996, there was a guerrilla presence in over half the country's villages and towns, and it was estimated that about one million Colombians had fled their homes between 1987 and 1997 as a result of rural violence. With forces estimated at 10,000, there was no apparent prospect that guerrilla groups would succeed in taking over the country, but they continued to thrive, relying heavily on funds from the drug cartels following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 1998, the Conservative Party came back to power when Andrés Pastrana won the presidential election with 50.5% of the vote, defeating Liberal Horacio Serpa. Pastrana was committed to negotiations, but the absence of peace kept interrupting any progress. In November 1998, Pastrana ceded a large area in south-central Colombia to FARC's control as a goodwill gesture, but the rebels continued to mount attacks, until finally Pastrana ordered the military to attack rebel positions and reassert control over the rebel zone. The FARC felt betrayed and withdrew into the jungle. Similarly, Pastrana sought more collaboration from the United States to fight the war, but his efforts proved fruitless. What would have been an aid package turned into the adoption of Plan Colombia in 2000, a multibillion dollar initiative funded by the US government aimed at combating drug production. This generated criticism for its heavy focus on military action rather than economic incentives that could lead peasants to abandon coca leaf production.

In the 2002 presidential election, former Liberal Party leader turned independent Álvaro Uribe won with 53.1% of the vote. Campaigning on a tough platform against guerrilla leaders and drug traffickers, Uribe promised a relentless fight against organized crime if elected. In the first term Uribe's government increased the military and police presence throughout the country, increased social spending and health care, nationalized or reorganized many state-owned companies, and increased the number of indicted and extradited narcotics traffickers.

The two major developments in Uribe's first term were the demobilization of the paramilitary groups and the constitutional amendment to allow a president to run for a second term in office. The demobilization of the paramilitaries was controversial internationally because the leaders were penalized very lightly for their involvement in the drug trade, for the violent acts which they perpetrated, and because there appeared to be few guarantees that they would completely disarm or completely demobilize. Plan Colombia was pushed forward but the drug trade was not subdued. During his first term in office, Uribe enjoyed popular support and was able to build a coalition of Liberal and Conservative legislators to push through his tough plans against the guerrillas, as well as to amend the constitution to allow for a second term in office. As of December 2005, initial peace talks were ongoing with the ELN.

GOVERNMENT

Colombia is a unitary republic, organized democratically under the constitution of August 1886, substantially amended in 1910, 1936, 1945, 1957, 1959, 1968, and 1979, and superseded by the constitution of 1991, which included provisions guaranteeing health care, social security, and human rights protection.

The Congress consists of a 161-member Chamber of Representatives and a 102-member Senate. Members of both houses are elected directly for four-year terms. Colombian congressional representation is determined by the size of the population. Some seats are reserved for blacks, Indians, and other minorities. The chief executive is granted the initiative in fiscal policies and the power to declare a state of emergency during times of economic and social stress. Under such a declaration, the president may rule by decree for a period of not longer than 90 days in any one year. There is universal suffrage for those 18 years of age and over.

Historically, Colombia had an officer called the designado (designate), elected by Congress every two years, who served as a sort of vice president and was responsible for exercising the executive function in the president's absence. The 1991 constitution introduced a formal vice presidency. The Constitution was amended in 2005 to increase the number of terms a president is allowed to serve, from one to two consecutive four-year terms.

POLITICAL PARTIES

For many years, the Colombian constitution allowed only two political parties, the Liberal and the Conservative, to participate in the national government. These two parties consistently dominated Colombian politics. Recent changes allow for more parties, and several have emerged, but the Conservative and Liberal parties control the majority of elected offices.

The Liberal Party (Partido LiberalPL) continues to support religious toleration and a positive response to the social and economic demands of the masses. The Liberals theoretically support separation of church and state, though in practice a strong church is accepted. Federalism, while important in theory, has been abandoned in practice by Liberal leaders. In general, Liberals have been more successful in elections since the end of the National Front than the Conservatives and have controlled the majority of seats in both houses.

The policy of the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador SocialPCS) has been characterized by close cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church, a lack of tolerance for nonRoman Catholic religious beliefs, maintenance of class privileges, and highly centralized government with local authority strictly subservient to national rule. Before universal suffrage, the Conservatives sought to allow only heads of families to vote. Under the leadership of Andrés Pastrana, the son of former Conservative president Misael Pastrana, the PCS regained the presidency in 1998.

Despite the spread of suffrage and the rise of industrialization and a middle class, both parties continue to be dominated by a wealthy oligarchy. Both are controlled at the national level by a convention and a directorate, and congressional discipline is strong. Since the National Front agreement of 1958, the two parties have become increasingly similar ideologically.

Congressional and presidential elections from 1958 through 1982 primarily constituted votes of confidence in the National Front. Perhaps as a means of protest, 60% of eligible voters abstained from the presidential election in 1978, and 80% of the electorate abstained from the municipal and local elections of March 1980. In 1982 and 1986, however, Colombian voters turned out in record numbers, with 55% of the electorate participating in the presidential ballot in 1982 and 57% in 1988.

The Colombian Communist Party (Partido Communista de ColombiaPCC), a traditional, Marxist-oriented party, combined with the nation's largest guerrilla group, the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de ColombiaFARC), to form the Patriotic Union (UP); the group has not become a major force in electoral politics.

There is considerable independent party activity in Colombia, and it has been increasing. Traditionally, the third force in Colombian politics was provided by former dictator Rojas Pinilla, whose National Popular Alliance (Alianza Nacional PopularANAPO), now defunct, was a strong party movement. The election dispute of 19 April 1970 gave rise to the extremist rebel group M-19, which stood for the April 19th Movement. After over two decades of military action against the government, M-19 demobilized in 1991. M-19 is part of a coalition of leftist parties and other dissident groups, called Democratic Alliance M-19, which no longer had a presence in Congress as of 2006. Several militant leftist groups remain outside the political system, including the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación NacionalELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Although officially a member of the Patriotic Union political party, the FARC also refuses to demobilize. The People's Liberation Army (EPL) began to demobilize in 1993, but a dissident faction refused orders to lay down arms, and returned to the field.

The traditional parties have lost so much power that President Uribe was elected as an independent. It was the first time since 1957 that the president was not elected under the Liberal or Conservative party tickets.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Colombia is divided into 32 departments (states) and the Bogotá federal district, and subdivided into 1,011 municipalities. Departments control their own finances, as well as administration, within the limits set by the constitution. Governors of departments, once appointed by the president, are now elected. Each departmental assembly meets yearly for a session of two months. Assembly members are elected by universal suffrage, one for each 40,000 inhabitants.

The departments have the power to establish municipal districts and to review the acts of the municipal governments to determine their constitutionality. Each municipality has a popularly elected municipal council. Another reform from the 1991 constitution is the direct election of mayors; previously mayors were chosen by the president and were directly under the control of their respective governors. Mayors are elected for a two-year term by direct vote.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The judicial system is comprised of a Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Justice, Council of State, the Higher Judiciary Council, and superior and municipal courts. The Supreme Court in Bogotá is composed of 24 magistrates selected for lifetime terms by justices already in office. The Supreme Court reviews state and municipal laws, frames bills to be submitted to Congress, and proposes reforms. It acts as an advisory board to the government and can veto decrees. It has original jurisdiction in impeachment trials and constitutional interpretation and appellate jurisdiction in ordinary judicial matters. The court is divided into four chamberscivil cassation, criminal cassation, labor cassation, and constitutional procedure.

The 1991 constitution extensively revised the judicial system. It established an independent prosecution system and a national people's defender office to investigate human rights cases. Traditional courts on Indian reservations were validated. A Constitutional Court reviews the constitutionality of proposed legislation.

There is a superior court of three or more judges in each of the judicial districts and a number of municipal courts. A judge of minors in the capital of each department has jurisdiction throughout the department. There are also special labor courts. In criminal cases, the judge chooses a five-member jury; jury duty is obligatory. There is no capital punishment and the maximum penalty for crimes is 20 years in prison. Although the right of habeas corpus is guaranteed by the constitution, suspects in security cases have been detained incommunicado for 10 days or longer.

The judiciary is independent, both in theory and in practice, from the executive and legislative branches. In 1991, the government set up five regional jurisdictions to handle narcotics, terrorism, and police corruption cases in which anonymous judges and prosecutors handle the major trials of narcotics and terrorists. However a 1996 law dictated that the regional justice system would cease to exist by 30 June 1999.

The jurisdiction of the regional justice system included drugrelated crimes, crimes against the state and constitutional order, arms manufacturing and trafficking, terrorism, and membership in illegal armed groups, but in practice, a wide array of cases were processed by the regional justice system. The inadequate description of the crimes which fell within its competence and the imprecise jurisdiction of the regional justice system elongated processing and led to situations in which either influential individuals avoided this jurisdiction or less fortunate individuals were unable to do so, and often served the applicable sentence for the crime charged before the case even went to trial.

ARMED FORCES

Colombia's armed forces in 2005 had 207,000 active personnel, with 60,700 reservists. The Amy had 178,000 active members. Equipment included 12 light tanks (all in storage) 135 reconnaissance vehicles, over 192 armored personnel carriers and 639 artillery pieces. The Air Force had 7,000 active personnel. Equipment included 22 combat capable aircraft under the service's Air Combat Command and another 30 under the Tactical Air Support Command. The Navy had 22,000 personnel, including 14,000 Marines and 100 naval aviation personnel. Major naval units included four tactical submarines, four corvettes and 179 patrol/coastal vessels. The naval air arm had seven transport and two utility fixed wing aircraft and one antisubmarine warfare and two utlity helicopters. The country's paramilitary forces consisted of an 8,000 member rural militia and a 121,000-member national police force.

Colombia's defense forces are frequently occupied in opposing rural violence, often stemming from militant guerrilla groups and drug lords' armies. Opposition forces include the Coordinadora Nacional Guerrillera Simón Bolívar (CNGSB) which is in collaboration with guerrilla groups numbering around 18,000. The rightwing paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) has approximately 10,600 members. The defense budget in 2005 totaled us$3.5 billion.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Colombia is a charter member of the UN, having joined on 5 November 1945, and participates in ECLAC and many specialized agencies, such as FAO, ILO, IMF, IAEA, UNESCO, UNHCR, the World Bank, and WHO. Colombia became a member of the WTO on 30 April 1995. The nation is a member of the Andean Community of Nations and a nonregional member of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE). It also participates in the Caribbean Development Bank, G-3, G-24, G-77, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), OAS, and the Río Group. Colombia is an observer in CARICOM and an associate member of Mercosur.

The nation is part of the Nonaligned Movement, the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. It is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The country is a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty, an inter-American security agreement. In environmental cooperation, Colombia is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.

ECONOMY

With the expansion of the manufacturing sector, Colombia has become more dependent upon industry (34.3% of GDP in 2005) than agriculture (12.5% of GDP). Historically, coffee was by far the most important crop: its share of total exports ranged from about 4065% of the annual total between 1964 and 1986, depending on crop yields and international commodity prices. In 1997, this share had dropped to only 21%, and by 2000, to 8%. A fall in coffee prices in 2001 reduced coffee's share further, to 6.2%. Nontraditional exports, however, increased 5% in 2001. Colombia's policy has been to reduce its dependence on coffee exports because of widely fluctuating world market conditions, and to encourage other agricultural exports, especially sugar, bananas, rice, potatoes, and cotton. The government has also attempted to attract investment in manufacturing and mining projects. Colombia became a net exporter of petroleum in 1986, and coal has become a major export as well. New oil output from the Cusiana field and other fields helped Colombia reach a record production level in 1999830,000 barrels per day. By 2002, production had been reduced to 591,250 barrels per day. The share of oil exports to total exports dropped from 34.8% in 2000 to 24.9% in 2001. There is concern that without substantial new crude oil discoveries, Colombia will revert to being a net importer of crude oil again within a few years. Exploration of vast areas of likely territory is inhibited by the occupation of about 40% of the country by groups (mainly the FARC and the ENL) that are not only trying to overthrow the government, but which have made the oil industry infrastructure the prime target of their guerrilla attacks. The Trade Development Bureau's PROEXPO Fund (since renamed the Foreign Trade Bank) was established in 1967 to increase the volume of nontraditional exports and to provide a flexible exchange rate and special tax incentives. Foreign direct investment (FDI), which reached a yearly rate of us$5.56 billion in 1997, fell to a little over us$2 billion a year in 2001 and 2002, as the guerrilla attacks continued unabated (an estimated 3,500 persons were killed in attacks in 2002, with another 2000 kidnapped), reaching into urban areas and targeting prominent politicians. In February 2002, the government broke off negotiations that had been going on for three years with no progress towards a resolution.

During the 1970s, Colombia's economy struggled with an inflationary spiral that rose from a rate of 15.4% in 1972 to 25% during the following decade. Inflation remained close to 20% annually through the 1980s and much of the 1990s. After 1983, however, the economy improved significantly, and growth rates rose above the world and hemispheric averagesan average of 4% between 1988 and 1998. In 1990, President Cesar Gaviria instituted an economic restructuring plan known as apertura (opening). The program emphasized trade expansion through tariff reduction, free trade agreements, and privatization of state-owned enterprises, including banks, power plants, airports, seaports, roads and telecommunications networks. After the initial burst, the pace of privatization was slowed.

In 1995, domestic political considerations constricted Colombia's economic liberalization. In 1996 and 1997 the administration of US president Bill Clinton decertified Colombia as a country fully cooperative with US narcotics policy. The move was taken in response to continued narco-guerrilla activity in the countryside and to allegations that President Samper had solicited and received campaign contributions from drug cartels. The decertification made it difficult for US companies to further invest in the country, and halted the growth of trade; though the United States remained the biggest foreign investor in the country. The decertification was lifted in 1998, but by then the economy was being impacted by intensified guerrilla activity, fiscal shortfalls, and external shocksthe Asian financial crisis in 1997, the Russian financial crisis in 1998, and the Brazilian financial crisis in 1999. In 1998, GDP growth fell to 0.6% and then in 1999, Colombia experienced its first contraction (-4.2%) since 1983. Growth returned in 2000, but only at the anemic level of 2.7%. Domestic instability and the external economic slowdown combined to reduce growth to 1.4% in 2001 and 1.6% in 2002. In December 1999, the government entered into a three-year arrangement with the IMF under its Extended Fund Facility (EFF), and there was a marked decline in the inflation rate across this period: inflation fell from 18.7% in 1998 to 5.7% in 2002. Unemployment in 2002 was estimated at 17.7%, with subemployment at 35%.

In 1999, due to economic instability in 1998, Colombia signed its first agreement with the IMF for a us$3 billion approved standby line of credit. The government also unveiled plans to renew the privatization many state-owned enterprises to revitalize the economy. Nevertheless, guerrilla warfare put off potential investors.

In late 2002, the government offered reform legislation in five areas: taxes, pensions, labor, public administration, and banking. In January 2003, the government entered into a us$2.5-billion standby arrangement with the IMF to support these reforms.

From 2000, the annual average GDP growth was 2.9%; in 2004, it was 4.1%, the highest level since 1995 (as reported by the Economist Intelligence Unit). Figures show that GDP growth continued at this pace in 2005, as well. This growth could be tied to the increases in private investment and household consumption during Alvaro Uribe's term, in which he sought to boost investor confidence ion the country. The increase in growth rates was also aided by good international economic conditions.

As of May 2004, Colombia had begun to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the United States (as did Peru and Ecuador). The talks were expected to culminate in a deal in 200607 that would increase liberalization by reducing tariffs and restrictions on trade and capital flows, and strengthening property rights protection (including intellectual property rights).

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Colombia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at us$303.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at us$7,100. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.3%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 12.5% of GDP, industry 34.3%, and services 53.3%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled us$3.076 billion or about us$69 per capita and accounted for approximately 3.8% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to us$802 million or about us$18 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.1% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Colombia totaled us$50.79 billion or about us$1,139 per capita based on a GDP of us$80.0 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.8%. It was estimated that in 2001 about 59% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.

LABOR

In 2005, Colombia's labor force was estimated at 20.52 million. As of 2000, the service industry employed an estimated 58.5% of the workforce, with 22.7% in agriculture and 18.7% in industry. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 11.8%.

The right to organize unions is provided by the constitution, although violence and discrimination against union members are major obstacles to engaging in union activities. Less than 5% of the workforce was unionized in 2005, with the vast majority of these workers in the public sector. The right to strike is guaranteed by the constitution with the exception of essential workers, such as those in the armed forces or the police.

The basic source of Colombian labor legislation is the Substantive Labor Code. The standard workday is eight hours with a 48-hour workweek. A minimum eight-hour rest period is also required per week. The minimum wage is reviewed each January to set the standard for wage negotiations. As of 2005, the minimum wage was us$167 per month. This amount does not provide a decent standard of living for a family.

The law prohibits children under the age of 12 from working. Those in the age 12 to 13 category are severely limited as to the kind of work they can perform. Minors between the ages of 14 and 17 are limited in the number of occupations they can enter. In spite of these regulations, child labor remains a significant problem especially in the informal sector and in agriculture. Only 38% of children that worked also attended school.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture, despite an endemic problem of poor productivity, remains the most important segment of the Colombian economy. In 2005, agriculture accounted for 12.5% of the GDP.

Only about 3.7% of Colombia's land area is cultivated, most of it in elevated regions of the temperate zone. The small area of cultivation is due in part to the rugged Andean terrain and in part to lack of irrigation. In 200002, 21.5% of cropland was irrigated, up from 13.1% during 198991. The flat, fertile valleys are generally devoted to livestock, limiting cultivation to the slopes, an uneconomical practice that is gradually being changed. Hand cultivation, especially by machete and hoe, predominates, but mechanization is making headway on the larger farms. Fertilizer is expensive and not sufficiently used. The small size of farms is another constraint on agricultural growth: in the mid-1980s, farms of less than 20 hectares (50 acres) accounted for 80% of all agricultural land.

Coffee, by far the most important crop, is grown mainly on the Andean slopes at altitudes of 1,3001,800 m (4,2006,000 ft). Colombia, the world's second-largest coffee grower, contributes 1316% of the total world production each year. In 2004, coffee-growing farms, many under 6 hectares (15 acres), accounted for about 800,000 hectares (2 million acres), about 40% of the land under permanent crops. In 1992, despite a severe drought, the amount of coffee exported increased by over 30% as a result of a successful strategy for expanding the external markets. In 1993, coffee production increased to 1,080,000 tons, but dwindled to only 678,000 tons in 1994. Production in 2004 was 663,660 tons. In 2004, coffee accounted for 28% of agricultural exports.

Sugar, also important, is grown chiefly in the Cauca Valley, with its center at Cali. Many varieties of bananas are grown; bananas for export are produced in the Uraba and Santa Maria regions. Colombia is the world's third-largest banana exporter (after Ecuador and Costa Rica) and supplies about one-sixth of the world export market. Corn, yucca, plantains, and, in high altitudes, potatoes have been traditional food staples since before the Spanish conquest. Beans, rice, and wheat, introduced in the 19th century, are also important in the diet. Other export crops include freshcut flowers, cotton, and tobacco. Cocoa is produced in limited amounts for domestic consumption. Colombia produces much of its domestic food requirements, but it has to import wheat, barley, fats, oils, and cocoa.

Since 1940, the government has taken an increasing part in the control, organization, and encouragement of agriculture. Through the Colombian Institute of Agrarian Reform (Instituto Colombiano de la Reforma AgrariaINCORA), farmers are given financial support, technical aid, and social assistance for better housing, education, and health facilities. INCORA acquires land for equitable distribution to farmers and helps to develop potentially valuable but uncultivated land and to increase agricultural productivity. The production-oriented Rural Development Program, begun in 1976, gave technical assistance and credit to about 30,000 small landholders. Farmers have also benefited from the us$150-million rural electrification program, introduced in 1981, and from a program to extend irrigation and drainage systems, initiated in the early 1980s.

Agricultural production (in thousands of tons) for major crops in 2004 was: sugarcane, 37,100; plantains, 2,950; potatoes, 2,959; rice, 2,663; cassava, 2,218; bananas, 1,450; corn, 1,458; sorghum, 285; cotton, 52; palm kernels, 144; cocoa, 49; and dry beans, 135. Marijuana, coca leaf, and opium are also grown for the production of illicit drugs. In 2003, there were an estimated 144,000 hectares (356,000 acres) producing coca leaf, generating 680 tons of cocaine base, 80% of the world estimate.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Occupying about 42 million hectares (104 million acres) of pasture, livestock farming (especially cattle breeding) has long been an important Colombian industry. Of this total area, about 19 million hectares (46.9 million acres) are actually used for livestock production. The Ministry of Agriculture maintains experimental stations in Antioquia and Bolívar departments to improve breeds, but the quality of livestock is still low. Cattle are driven to market by truck. This practice often entails crossing high mountains, with much wastage; accordingly, there has been a movement to construct slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants near the ranges. Dairy farming, not important in the past, expanded in the 1970s, especially near the big cities. Colombian sheep produce about one-third of the wool used by the country's textile industry. The government maintains an experimental station for sheep in Cundinamarca and for goats in Norte de Santander. In 2004 there were 25 million cattle, 2.2 million sheep, and 2.3 million pigs. The production of beef and veal was 690,000 tons in 2004.

FISHING

Colombia has an abundance of fish in its Caribbean and Pacific coastal waters and in its innumerable rivers. Lake Tota in Boyacá and Lake La Cocha in Nariño abound in trout, as do the artificial reservoirs of Neusa and Sisga in Cundinamarca. About half of the annual catch consists of freshwater fish. Tarpon are caught in the delta waters of the Magdalena, and sailfish, broadbills, and tuna in the Caribbean. The 2003 fish catch was 157,794 tons. The development of crustacean aquaculture has expanded since the mid-1980s, especially for Penaeid shrimps. Aquaculture production totaled 60,895 tons in 2003 and consisted primarily of tilapia and rainbow trout.

FORESTRY

Colombia's forested area is some 50 million hectares (123.6 million acres), or nearly 50% of the total area. Although much timberland is inaccessible or of limited value, the nation is self-sufficient in lumber. Roundwood production was 9.9 million cu m (350 million cu ft) in 2003; exports of roundwood were valued at us$3 million that year. The soft tropical woods that predominate are also suitable for plywood production, for paper pulp, and for furniture manufacture; total export of forest products amounted to us$142.8 million in 2003.

MINING

Historically, Colombia has been the world's leading exporter of emeralds, although the fuel sector now dominates the country's mineral production. It also produced a significant amount of gold (ranking second in the region), was Latin America's only producer of platinum, ws the third-largest producer of cement, and was a leading producer of nickel. In terms of value, the main minerals produced in Colombia (after petroleum) were coal, emeralds, gold, and platinum, respectively, in 2003. Colombia also produced sizable amounts of common clay, kaolin, dolomite, gypsum, limestone, hydrated lime and quicklime, magnesite, nitrogen (content of ammonia), rock and marine salt, sand, gravel, marble, feldspar, phosphate rock, and sodium compounds (sodium carbonate), as well as small quantities of sulfur (native, from ore), asbestos, bauxite, bentonite, calcite, diatomite, fluorite, mercury, mica, talc, soapstone, prophyllite, dolomite, and zinc.

Production figures for principal nonfuel minerals in 2003 were: gold, 46,515 kg, up from 20,823 kg in 2002; emeralds, 8.963 million carats, up from 5.390 million carats in 2002; nickel, 70,844 metric tons, compared with 58,196 in 2002; iron ore and concentrate, 625,002 metric tons, down from 688,106 metric tons in 2002; silver, 9,511 kg, up from 6,986 kg in 2002; and feldspar, estimated at 55,000 tons. Production of nickel content of ferronickel increased to 47,868 metric tons in 2003, up from 43,987 metric tons in 2002.

According to estimates by the Colombian government, 90% of emerald production is destined for exports. Emerald deposits are located in the sedimentary basin of the Cordillera Oriental, in Boyacá in the Cinturón Esmeraldífero Oriental and Cinturón Esmeraldífero Occidental; more than 60 production licenses were active. Most gold production came from small- and medium-sized alluvial operations, which employed artisanal methods of extraction. All platinum was mined by small mining cooperatives or individual prospectors, at Río San Juan, Choco. Silver was produced in Segovia and Río Nechi, Antioquia.

The country's substantial copper, iron, nickel, and lead reserves were of major importance to the future development of the economy. The El Roble copper mine produced output for Japan. A copper deposit with reserves estimated at 625 million tons was discovered at Pantanos, Antioquia, in 1973. Cerro Matoso S.A., a subsidiary of BHP Billiton PLC, was the country's sole producer of nickel and ferronickel, near Monetlíbano, Córdoba. Reserves of the lateritic nickel mine were estimated to be 39.9 million tons with a nickel content of 2.3%. A second production plant, completed in 2001, ahead of schedule, doubled Cerro Matoso's ferronickel production capacity to 55,000 tons per year of nickel.

Under Article 332 of the 1990 constitution, the state retained the rights to all surface and subsurface nonrenewable and natural resources; the government granted concessions for exploration and production. In 1989, a new mining code sought to encourage mineral exploration and development by expediting the processing of claims, improving the security of mineral occupancy and tenure, and providing financial aid to small- and medium-scale miners. The mining code of 2001 sought to encourage exploration and production of mineral resources and limit the role of the government to one of a regulatory and administrative entity, with more production transferring to the private sector. The law also clarified the provisions for establishing mining contracts.

ENERGY AND POWER

Colombia's mountainous terrain and network of rivers offer one of the highest potentials in the world for the generation of hydroelectric power. These resources remain largely undeveloped, despite intensive government efforts. In addition, the nation's energy sector, particularly oil, has had to deal with an ongoing civil war involving a pair of leftist insurgent groups: the Fuerzas Armadas Revolutionaries de Colombia (FARC) and the Ejercito de Liberacion National (ELN); and the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary group. Further complicating the security situation has been the problem of narcotics trafficking.

Electric generating capacity was estimated for 2002 to stand at 13.1 GW, of which hydropower accounted for 63.3% and thermal 36.7%. The output of electricity has been estimated for 2002 at 44.9 billion kWh (77% hydroelectricity; 21% thermal), up from 2000, in which output stood at 42.9 billion kWh. Colombia's heavy reliance upon hydroelectric power makes to country vulnerable to drought, such what happened in 1992, when a severe drought led to power blackouts and rationing. Although the government has attempted to encourage the construction of natural gas and coal-fired plants to diversify the nation's electric power supply, since the early 1990s, hydropower has continued to increase its share as a source of power generation. Estimated consumption of electricity rose in 2002, from 2000, to 41.1 billion kWh. In the latter year, consumption of electricity totaled 40.3 billion kWh. Colombia in 2003 had an estimated 7.3 billion short tons in recoverable coal reserves. For the same year, coal production totaled 52.5 million short tons.

According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Colombia has estimated proven petroleum reserves of 1.54 billion barrels and an estimated oil refining capacity of 285,850 barrels per day, as of 1 January 2005. Production of oil rose rapidly from 7.4 million tons in 1982 to 30.1 million tons in 1995. In 1999 it hit an all-time high of 826,000 barrels per day, before declining to 616,000 barrels per day in 2001. In 2004, oil output was estimated at 530,000 barrels per day, of which crude oil accounted of 508,000 barrels per day. Domestic oil consumption was estimated for 2004 at 261,000 barrels per day. The Colombian government since 1999 implemented new measures to encourage increased exploration and production, and to attract foreign investment. While these moves have spurred an increase in the upstream sector, a major contributing factor in the revival of interest, has been an improvement in the nation's security situation. In 2004, the number of kidnappings fell by 60% and attacks against Colombia's oil infrastructure fell significantly in 2003. For example, attacks against the Cano-Limón oil pipeline dropped from 170 in 2001 to 34 in 2003.

The production and consumption of natural gas have grown since the mid-1970s. According to the Oil and Gas Journal, as of 1 January 2005 Colombia had estimated proven natural gas reserves of 4.0 trillion cu ft, down from 4.5 trillion cu ft in 2004. In 2003, production and consumption of natural gas were each estimated at 215 billion cu ft. As with the oil sector, the nation's gas sector has been targeted by saboteurs and guerrillas. However attacks against the natural gas infrastructure and the costs associated with lost production and repairs have been cut, due to increased security measures.

INDUSTRY

The National Association of Manufacturers (Asociación Nacional de IndustrialesANDI) represents firms engaged in some 40 different branches of manufacturing. ANDI was founded in 1944 to assist both large and small businesses. Since 1940, the Industrial Development Institute (Instituto de Fomento IndustrialIFI), a government-operated finance corporation, has been investing in enterprises that otherwise might not be undertaken because of high risk or lack of capital. It provides direct financing for construction, acquisition of essential machinery and equipment installation services, and working capital. Most of the industrial activity is concentrated in and around Bogotá, Medellín, Barranquilla, and Cali. Industries in Medellín produce textiles, clothing, chemicals, plastic, and printed materials.

Manufacturing accounted for 15% of GDP in 1950, 24% at its peak in 1977, and 14% in 1998. Colombia is almost self-sufficient in consumer products, which represent about half of total industrial production. The 1970s witnessed a shift in industrial development policies from import substitution to expansion of exports. While the pace of industrial growth declined slightly in the mid-1970s, it increased by 2.5% between 1977 and 1987. This growth continued into the early 1990s, but slowed by mid-decade. Industry declined by 2.3% in 1998. Manufacturing growth began to pick up after the 199799 recession, registering a 9.7% growth rate in 2000.

Export-oriented industries include coal and oil derivatives, chemicals, porcelain, and glass. In 1995, mining and hydrocarbons grew by 17%, the highest growth sector in the Colombian economy. That the rest of the industrial economy has been sluggish in recent years is due to a cluster of factors, including the lack of infrastructure, labor difficulties, and most significantly, the civil unrest in the countryside caused by bands of paramilitaries loyal to drug traffickers and political extremists. The decline in industry also reflects an ebb in the country's construction boom. The construction sector grew by nearly 10% a year through the early part of the 1990s, but fell to just 5.3% in 1995. Due to the effects of the recession, construction saw negative growth rates of 14.4% and 19.9% in 1998 and 1999, respectively. The construction sector began to stabilize in 2000, contracting by only 1.5%.

Colombia has five oil refineries. Hydrocarbon production decreased by 15.5% in 2000, but due to the rise in international oil prices, revenues were maintained. Though industrial growth was fairly widespread from 20002005, the construction industry appeared to have benefited the most.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

The government of President Turbay Ayala (197882) emphasized research in farming in order to help raise agricultural production. The Academy of Exact, Physical, and Natural Sciences (founded in 1933) and the National Academy of Medicine (founded in 1890), are both located in Bogotá. As of 1996, there were 24 specialized agricultural, medical, scientific, and technical learned societies, and 13 scientific research institutes in Colombia, and the country had 43 universities offering degrees in basic and applied sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 28% of college and university enrollments.

In 2002, Colombia had 81 researchers and 46 technicians per million people engaged in research and development (R&D). For 2001 (the latest year for which data is available), Colombia's R&D expenditures totaled us$450.758 million, accounting for 0.17% of GDP. Of that amount, business accounted for 46.9%, followed by higher education at 38.3%, the government at 13.2%, and nonprofit institutions at 1.7%. High technology exports in 2002 totaled us$319 million, or 7% of manufactured exports.

DOMESTIC TRADE

There are four primary marketing areas: the Caribbean coast region, the Antioquia region, the Cauca Valley region, and the Bogotá region. Firms desiring distribution of their products to all important national markets generally appoint agents in the leading city of each of the four regions (Barranquilla, Medellín, Cali, and Bogotá, respectively). Most small purchases are made for cash, but many stores offer installment credit facilities. A 16% value-added tax applies to most goods and services. As of 2002, there were about 80 franchise companies operating stores through the country. These are primarily foreign-based fast-food establishments.

Small, individually owned retail establishments predominate, although chain stores are increasing. Variety stores and department stores on the pattern of those in the United States are becoming popular, and food supermarkets are increasing in larger cities. Local farmers' markets, however, are still more generally patronized even in the cities, and in rural areas they are often the only trading centers. Direct marketing is gaining in popularity.

Business hours vary largely with climatic conditions; however, the usual workday is from 7:30 or 8 am to noon and from 1 to 4:30 or 5 pm. Most businesses close on Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and on state or religious holidays. Banking hours are generally from 9 am to 3:30 pm. Retail establishments are generally open from 9 am to 7 or 8 pm on weekdays and from 9 am to 9 pm on Saturdays. Restaurants and other food stores may be open on Sundays and some holidays. Major credit cards are now generally accepted in most cities and ATM machines are prevalent.

The principal advertising media are newspapers, magazines, radio, and television; in motion picture theaters, it is also customary to display advertisements on the screen between features. There are a number of advertising and public relations firms.

FOREIGN TRADE

Beginning in 1990, Colombia opened up its economy to greater international trade and investment. The program of liberalization resulted in mass privatizations and lifting of restrictions on foreign investment; and substantially reduced import tariffs while eliminating most import licensing requirements. The government also signed the Andean Free Trade Agreement (ANCOM) with Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia; the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) with Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras; a Bilateral Free Trade Agreement with Chile; and an agreement with Mexico and Venezuela called the Group of Three (G-3).

Colombia also has several free-trade zones, the largest of which is Barranquilla, on the Caribbean. Other free-trade zones providing benefits for importers and exporters, as well as for manufacturers located within the zone boundaries, are the Buenaventura Harbor, Cúcuta, Palmaseca (near Cali's international airport), and the Caribbean port of Santa Marta. The illicit trade in marijuana and cocaine, especially to the United States, is known to be substantial, but there are no reliable estimates of its volume or its value. The Colombian government estimated in 1999 that drug traffickers smuggled us$5 billion annually in contraband into the country.

Colombia exports 1020% of the world's coffee, which is the country's second-largest commodity export. Fuels contribute largely to the export market, including crude and refined petroleum; and coal, lignite, and peat. Agricultural exports like fruit, nuts, vegetables, sugar, and honey account for a smaller percentage of Colombia's exports.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 13,092.2 13,880.6 -788.4
United States 6,160.2 4,112.7 2,047.5
Ecuador 779.0 409.7 369.3
Venezuela 694.3 727.4 -33.1
Peru 395.4 193.4 202.0
Mexico 358.2 744.4 -386.2
Dominican Republic 342.4 342.4
Netherlands 301.1 103.5 197.6
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 285.2 289.9 -4.7
Germany 264.4 611.7 -347.3
Belgium 227.8 86.7 141.1
() data not available or not significant.

In 2004, Colombia exported 42.1% of its products to the United States, 9.7% to Venezuela, and 6% to Ecuador, totalling over us$23 billion. On the other hand, 29.1% of its imports came from the United States, 6.5% from Venezuela, 6.4% from China, 6.2% from Mexico, and 5.8% from Brazil.

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

When President Carlos Lleras Restrepo took office in August 1966, the economy of Colombia was unstable; inflation was spiraling, and there was a lack of centralized economic planning. Lleras embarked on an austerity program that included trade and exchange controls, tight credit policies, tax reforms, a balanced budget, and the determination of priorities in the field of public investment. The cutback in imports had repercussions in the industrial sector, but controls were then loosened and business activity stepped up rapidly.

Colombia succeeded in building up a national account surplus during the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. Emphasis on export expansion, import substitution, and continuation of foreign assistance led to further progress. The second half of the 1990s, though, brought a consistently negative balance of payments of about 5% of GDP. The Pastrana government implemented austerity measures through an IMF us$2.7-billion loan in the hopes of cutting the fiscal deficit to 3.6% by 2000 and 1.5% by 2003. In 2000, Colombia had a trade surplus of us$1.5 billion, in contrast with a us$3.8 billion deficit in 1988. Recent rises in exports have focused on nontraditional exports such as bananas, flowers, gold, emeralds, chemical products, machinery, textiles and apparel, and plastic products. In 2000, due to lower international commodity prices for coffee and coal, those exports decreased.

The CIA estimated that in 2005, the current account balance was in deficit at -us$917 million.

Current Account -1,456.0
   Balance on goods 326.0
     Imports -13,258.0
     Exports 13,584.0
   Balance on services -1,551.0
   Balance on income -3,447.0
   Current transfers 3,216.0
Capital Account
Financial Account 877.0
   Direct investment abroad -923.0
   Direct investment in Colombia 1,746.0
   Portfolio investment assets -1,741.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities 130.0
   Financial derivatives -45.0
   Other investment assets 1,651.0
   Other investment liabilities 59.0
Net Errors and Omissions 391.0
Reserves and Related Items 188.0
() data not available or not significant.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The Bank of Bogotá, founded in 1879, was the first Colombian credit establishment. The Bank of the Republic was established in 1923 as the semiofficial central bank. This bank is the sole note-issuing authority. The notes must be covered by a reserve in gold or foreign exchange of 25% of their value. The Bank of the Republic also operates the mint for the government. It rediscounts and makes loans to official and semiofficial institutions. In 1963, the Monetary Board was set up to assume from the bank the responsibility for setting required reserve rates for managing general monetary policy; this board, which formulates monetary, credit, and exchange policy, is thus the most influential financial agency in Colombia. The government supervises the banking system by means of a special governmental body, called the Superintendency of Banks.

In 2000, the Colombian financial system included 29 commercial banks (four of them state-owned), the Colombian Export Promotion Bank (BANCOLDEX), 107 foreign bank offices, six savings and loans corporations (CAVs), 10 development banks, 32 commercial finance companies, 37 trust companies, 33 insurance companies, and a state-owned mortgage bank. The Bank of the Republic and the commercial banks supply mainly short-term loans, and investment corporations make long-term loans.

In 1982, in the wake of a scandal that led to the liquidation of a commercial bank and a finance company, the government moved to reform the banking sector by placing limits on the equity any individual (or his family) could hold in a financial institution and on the credit any lending institution could extend to any individual or entity. Several more crises in the ensuing years shook public confidence in the financial system, but tight government control over the sector has brought it back to a state of partial recovery.

Beginning in 1989, the government began to privatize the banks. Several bank liquidations took place in 1999, including Pacifico, Andino, and Selfin. Two government owned banks merged (Estado and Uconal), while the largest government bank, Caja Agraria, was liquidated and replaced by the new Banco Agrario. The goal was to reduce the number of banking institutions to about 17. The Central Bank devalued the peso by 9% in 1998 and by 10% in 1999 in an effort to stimulate economic growth. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to us$8.0 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas us$22.6 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 10.4%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 16.4%.

The Bogotá Stock Exchange, organized in 1928, is the largest official stock exchange in the country. The Medellín Exchange was established in 1961, and the Occidente Stock Exchange in Cali was established in 1983 and began operations in 1993. The Bogotá exchange accounts for about 57%, the Medellín 28%, and the Cali exchange 15%. In 2004, a total of 114 companies were listed by the combined Bogotá, Medelin and Cali stock exchanges (Colombia Stock Exchange), which had a market capitalization of us$25.223 billion. The IGBC rose 86.2% from the previous year in 2004 to 4,345.8.

INSURANCE

The government regulates the insurance industry through the Insurance Section of the Superintendency of Banks. A social insurance system, the Institute for Social Insurance (Instituto para Seguros Sociales-ISS) established by law in 1946, was organized by the Ministry of Labor to provide life and disability insurance, a pension plan, and a health program for employees in the modern private subsector. In 1999, there were 27 insurance companies in operation, two of which were governmental. In Colombia, third-party automobile liability, workers' compensation, personal accident, professional liability, earthquake, and aviation third-party insurance are compulsory.

During 1995, regulations were issued that require insurance companies to adjust investments to market or equity values and to account for such changes through the income statements. Prior to 1995, any such unrealized adjustments were adjusted directly to policy holders' surplus funds. A relatively modest number of insurers, a competitive environment, and a few dominant companies in terms of market share characterize the Colombian market. A number of foreign insurers operate in Colombia, but foreign insurance companies may not establish local branch offices in lieu of opening major offices. Foreign investment in domestic insurance companies is now up to 100%, although a few restrictions may apply. In 2003, direct premiums written totaled us$1.998 billion, with nonlife premiums accounting for us$1.449 billion. Colombia's top life insurer that year was Previsora, with us$144.5 million in gross nonlife premiums written. The country's top life insurer that same year was Suramericana, with us$224.7 million in gross life premiums written.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Much of Colombia's foreign debt has been accumulated by financing infrastructural rather than industrial projects, the latter being more common among Latin American nations during the 1970s and 1980s. Considerable sums were spent in the 1990s to stimulate the development of industry, and higher than normal military expenditures were necessitated by the continuing and disruptive guerrilla activity. The inflationary conditions that prevailed from 1961 into 2000 also stimulated government expenditures. For political reasons, the national government was unable to raise tax revenues sufficient to cover sharply expanding investment outlays. Loans from external financial agencies (including the IMF, IDB, and IBRD) were substantial, but insufficient to permit a buildup in the level of public investment operations. The recession of the early 1980s brought another round of deficits as spending increased far more rapidly than revenues. By the 1990s, reforms in the public sector had greatly improved the efficiency of public expenditures.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Colombia's central government took in revenues of approximately us$46.8 billion and had expenditures of us$48.7 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately - us$1.9 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 44.2% of GDP. Total external debt was us$37.06 billion.

Revenue and Grants 42,446 74.4%
   Tax revenue 31,472 74.1%
   Social contributions 124 0.3%
   Grants
   Other revenue
Expenditures
   General public services
   Defense
   Public order and safety
   Economic affairs
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities
   Health
   Recreational, culture, and religion
   Education
   Social protection
() data not available or not significant.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues in pesos were c$42,446 billion. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$15 million, based on a principal exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = c$2,877.65 as reported by the IMF.

TAXATION

In addition to income taxes, Colombia levies a value-added tax (VAT), as well as municipal and property taxes. Many stamp taxes are imposed on legal documents. Personal income tax rates are based on income and there is a flat tax on corporate income. Indirect taxes include a tax on exported goods and services, surcharges on imports, a gasoline tax, and local taxes on vehicles and property.

Colombia's corporate income tax, as of 2005, stood at 35%. However, a 10% surcharge also applies. Branches of foreign companies resident in Colombia are taxed at the same rate as domestic companies, but there is a remittance tax of 7% for foreign companies. A 0.3% tax is charged on debit transactions in the financial system. In 2002, a one-time 1.2% tax on companies and individuals with assets over c$170 million (about us$65,000) was assessed to fund increased military spending.

Individual income is taxed according to a progressive schedule with 35% as the highest marginal rate. The main indirect tax in Colombia is its value-added tax (VAT), with a standard rate of 16%. The VAT applies to most transactions, although items such as utilities, insurance, financial and property leasing, and healthcare are exempt. The VAT also varies, with higher rates of 2040% applied to certain items, such as vehicles, alcoholic beverages (including wine) and pleasure boats. The VAT for automobiles ranges from 22% for nonluxury vehicles and 40% for luxury automobiles. A lower VAT rate of 10% is applied to nuts and almonds, while games of chance (excluding lotteries) have a 5% VAT.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Colombian import tariffs have been significantly reduced and simplified. There are four tariff levels: 5% for raw materials, and intermediate and capital goods not produced in Colombia; 10% and 15% for goods in the first category but with domestic production in Colombia; 20% for finished consumer goods; and 35% and 40% for automobiles and some agricultural products. The average tariff lies between 11% and 13.5%. The four-tariff system also acts as the common external tariff for the Andean Community, which became effective for Colombia in 1995.

Nontariff barriers to trade include restrictions on poultry parts, powdered milk, wheat, and other agricultural products. Tariff rates for some of these selected basic commodities ranged up to 119% in 1999. Import and export licenses are required for most items.

Colombia maintains free trade agreements with Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Mexico. There are also international agreements for preferential duty rates with the Caribbean Common Market and the Central American Common Market, and Colombia has requested consideration for NAFTA accession and entry into the future Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Several free trade zones are in operation.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

After the serious crisis in Colombia's capital markets in the 1980s, the Gaviria administration implemented an aggressive economic liberalization program known as apertura, or opening, in the early 1990s, including increased promotion of foreign investment. Under Law 9 of 1991, together with administrative resolutions from the Council on Economic and Social Policy (CONPES) and Resolution 21 of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank, foreign companies were put on an equal legal footing with local ones and most sectors were opened to foreign investment, barring only investments touching on security and the disposal of hazardous wastes.

In order to continue boosting the economy, the government has negotiated free trade agreements with several countries. A free trade pact among Colombia, Venezuela, and Central America (except Costa Rica) came into operation on 1 July 1993. In addition, an agreement was signed between Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico (G-3) on establishing a free trade zone in 1994. In 1993, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia achieved a customs union, with free trade between the four countries under the auspices of the Andean Pact. Effective 1 January 1994, pact members implemented a common external tariff (CET) based on a four-tier tariff range. In June 1999, the clause in the Colombian constitution permitting expropriation without indemnification was repealed opening the way for ratification by Colombia of bilateral investment agreements (BITS) with Peru, the United Kingdom, Spain, Cuba, and France. Colombia ended its monopoly over telecommunications in 1998, limiting foreign ownership to 70%. In 2003, the US Trade Representative (USTR) was raising objections that restrictions on foreign entry into Colombia's telecommunications sector violated its obligations under the World Trade Organization.

The petroleum industry is one industry that has enjoyed significant foreign investment; international investment grew from us$458 million in 1993 to us$890 million in 1997. In 1996, CONPES eliminated the requirement of government authorization for investment in public services, mining, and hydrocarbons. Despite this allowance, investment in the hydrocarbons sector requires an association contract with the state-owned oil company ECOPETROL. Due to the apertura program, the sectors that have seen the largest growth in international investment have been infrastructural. Investment in the utilities sector (electricity, gas, and water) leapt from us$145 million in 1996 to us$2.3 billion in 1998. The transportation and communications sectors, which have been mostly privatized in recent years, grew from us$5.7 million in 1993 to us$360 million in 1997. The increased foreign investment coincided with increased borrowing in foreign financial markets (enabled by the opening of the financial sector in 1991) and a large inflow of capital from increased petroleum exports. The excess liquidity led to a credit boom and a sharp increase in interest rates, which rose further as the Central Bank tried to support the peso's exchange rate. Aggravated by political uncertainty, the economy was in another financial crisis by 1998.

Annual direct foreign investment (DFI) inflow reached a peak of us$5.56 billion in 1997 and then fell to us$2.83 billion in 1998 and to us$1.47 billion in 1999. For 2000 to 2002, average annual FDI inflow was about us$2.2 billion. FDI inflow from the United States in 2002 was us$317 million.

Security concerns remained a major deterrent to foreign investment in 2003 as the government continued its 40-year fight against two major leftist guerrilla groups that had come to control about half of the country. In 2003, hostage taking and hostage execution involving increasingly prominent individuals and a bombing in a Bogotá nightclub indicated the penetration of guerrilla activity into major urban centers. In June 2003, as part of a us$98 million military aid package, the United States sent about 60 Special Forces members to train local soldiers to guard the Occidental Petroleum pipeline; the Cano Limón pipeline, which had been bombed 40 times in 2002 and 170 times in prior years.

In terms of portfolio investment, the total market valuation of companies listed on the Colombia Stock Exchange peaked in 1997 at us$19.5 billion (189 listed companies) and had fallen to us$9.56 billion in 2000 (126 listed companies). In 2001, total market valuation had risen to us$13.2 billion with 123 listed companies, but turnover was at a record low of 3.2%.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

In 1974, President Alfonso López outlined to Congress a long-range development plan with a major objective of achieving maximum growth while raising the living standards of the poorer half of the population. Efforts were to be concentrated in four main areas: exports, agriculture, regional development, and industry. An economic program published in 1980 during the administration of President Julio César Turbay, listed investment in energy, economic decentralization, regional autonomy, improvements in communications and transportation, mining development, and social improvement as its principal aims. A national development plan for the years 198184 provided for acceleration of public works. In 1982, during the Belisario Betancur presidency, economic emergencies were declared so that decrees to revise banking and fiscal policies could be issued without the need of congressional approval. The Virgilio Barco administration formulated an economic program similar to that proposed in 1974 by López, whose objectives were to attack unemployment and poverty while encouraging growth.

In 1990, President Cesar Gaviria instituted a national system of economic liberalization known as apertura, or opening. The system called for greatly increased international investment, a lowering of trade barriers, and massive state sell-offs. These began in earnest in the early 1990s as the government sold off seaports, airports, power plants, telecommunications networks, bankseven roads. In addition to these measures, the government aggressively pursued the creation of regional trading blocs and became a major voice in support of a hemispheric free trade area. Colombia became a member of Latin American Integration Association (LAIA), a bilateral free-trade pact with Chile and the G-3.

Liberalizations secured Colombia as a reliable regional market. The country saw positive growth every year for over two decades and was one of the only Latin American countries not to default on its international loans during the 1980s. Impeding further development are domestic political scandals, poor infrastructure, and narco-terrorism. In 1998, growth slowed, and even turned negative in 1999.

A us$2.7 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan in 1999 was needed in order to save the shrinking economy, which improved from the inflow and austerity measures during the next year. In 2000, the US government gave us$1.3 billion in aid to Colombia's government and army, chiefly to help the war against drugs, but guerrilla armies continued to operate in at least two-fifths of the country.

President Uribe, elected in 2002, pledged to restore order to the country and to increase security measures. He planned to raise defense spending from 3.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 5.8% by the end of his term in 2006, and the government in 2003 was training 10,000 new police and 16,000 part-time "peasant soldiers" to secure close to 200 towns previously lacking police. US troops were also enlisted to guard Colombia's main oil pipeline. Uribe employed crop-dusting aircraft supplied by the United States, which in 2002 resulted in a 30% fall in coca cultivation. The government in 2003 also pledged to raise social spending, and depended on lending from international bodies such as the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, and Andean Development Corporation to augment the lack of sufficient revenue. In exchange for the assistance, the government was planning to implement structural reforms, such as pension and labor reforms to cut costs, and other spending cuts to reduce the deficit. In January 2003, Colombia negotiated a two-year, us$2.1-billion Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF.

Though Colombia has been embroiled in armed conflict, the economy has managed to take a turn for the better, possibly due to export promotion and government budgets designed to decrease public debt. Business confidence in Colombia has increased due to Uribe's economic and democratic strengthening. Also, Colombian coffee has been earning greater market shares in developed countries, raising the price of the prized export. Furthermore, from 2002 to 2005, unemployment dropped slightlyfrom 15.7% in 2002 to 15.2% in July 2005, as reported by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The CIA had slightly more optimistic predictions for Colombia's 2005 unemployment, at 11.8%. However, unemployment, along with pension reform and the need to increase oil production, continued to be challenges to be faced by President Uribe. Yet, as of 2005, Uribe was praised by various international financial institutions for the benefits that had come of the administration's economic policies. In addition to unemployment, the inflation rate was also on the declinea rate that previously had persisted at a near 20% throughout the 1990s (with the exception of the recessionary years of 199899, when inflation was less than 10%). In 2002, inflation dropped further due to weak domestic demand. Throughout the increase in economic growth in 200305, inflation still remained consistently lownear 5%due to the strengthening currency.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Social security coverage extends to all employees with the exception of some agricultural workers. Coverage is voluntary for the self-employed. Both employers and employees contribute to the program, while the government guarantees a minimum pension. All private-sector employees are covered by unemployment, and there is voluntary coverage for public workers. A worker's compensation program is funded fully by employers and provides benefits in proportion to the degree of incapacity. Employers also fund the family allowance benefits available to low income families.

The law provides women with extensive civil rights and prohibits any form of discrimination against women. However, there is still discrimination against women, especially in rural areas. They earn less than men for doing similar work, and occupy few of the top positions in government. Sexual harassment is pervasive. Rape and other acts of violence against women are widespread, and traditionally the law has not provided strict penalties for offenders. Trafficking in women for sexual exploitation continues to be a major problem.

Urban Colombia, and especially Bogotá, has acquired a reputation for street crime: pickpockets and thieves are a common problem. Drug trafficking flourishes on a large scale, despite government efforts to suppress cocaine smuggling and to eradicate the coca and marijuana crops. Kidnapping, both for political reasons and for profit, is widespread.

Human rights excesses by security forces continue with reports of extrajudicial killings and disappearances. Human rights abuses are committed by many groups, including guerrillas, narcotics traffickers, paramilitary groups and the military. Prison conditions are harsh, but international monitoring of conditions is allowed by the government. The constitution provides for special rights and protection for Colombia's many indigenous minorities, but these are not always respected in practice.

HEALTH

Health standards have improved greatly since the 1950s, but malaria is still prevalent in areas up to 1,100 m (3,500 ft) in altitude. In the mid-1990s, malaria was at epidemic numbers with nearly 130,000 cases reported. Many Colombians suffered from intestinal parasites. Malnutrition, formerly a very serious problem, with nutritional goiter, anemia, scurvy, and pellagra frequent, had become less severe by the early 1980s, when the per capita calorie supply was estimated at 102% of requirements. As of 2000, an estimated 15% of children under five years old were considered to be malnourished. In 2000, 91% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 85% had adequate sanitation. In 1990, the government began an initiative to improve the national health system at every level. Health care provisions (doctors and beds) do not compare favorably with other countries of the region. As of 1999, total health care expenditure was estimated at 9.4% of GDP.

In 1993, Colombia departed from its older health care system to one of payment by capitation and structured competition among integrated health care service delivery systems; 5 million people in the poorest groups, previously excluded from the medical system, were given access to health services. Approximately 87% of the population had access to health care services. As of 2004, Colombia had an estimated 135 physicians, 237 nurses and 78 dentists per 100,000 people.

Average life expectancy in 2005 was 71.72 years. The infant mortality rate decreased from 99.8 per 1,000 live births in 1960 to 20.97 in 2005. As of 2002, there were an estimated 22 births per 1,000, with 77% of married women (ages 15 to 49) using contraception in 2000. In 1999, children up to one year of age were immunized against the following: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 74%, and measles, 74%. Colombia's estimated death rate as of 2002 was 5.66 per 1,000 inhabitants. Between 1986 and 1992, there were approximately 22,000 civil war-related deaths.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.70 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 190,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 3,600 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

The disease is mostly spread by sexual activity. The first case of perinatal transmission occurred in 1987 and there have been 195 cases reported since then.

HOUSING

Colombia's housing shortage is largely a result of the rapid growth of the urban population. With the annual urban population growth rate at over 5%, the housing deficit was estimated to be around 800,000 units in the early 1980s and is expanding annually. Total housing units numbered approximately seven million in the mid-1990s. About 6,923,945 units were privately owned. About 81% of privately owned units were detached homes; about 13% were apartments, and the remainder were mobile units, natural shelters, and nonresidential housing. Roughly 70% were owner-occupied, and 25% were rented. Three-fourths of all dwellings were made of bricks, adobe, mud or stone; nearly 15% had external walls of wattle or daub; 7% were wood; and 3% were mostly cane.

In 2005, Habitat for Humanity reported that about 11.5 million homes are still without basic necessities. About 40% of these homes are overcrowded and of inadequate structures. The housing deficit is at about 900,000 and growing. In rural areas, poverty-stricken residents often construct their own tin huts called cambuches. Rural housing problems in Colombia are dealt with primarily by the Credit Bank for Agriculture, Industry, and Mining, and by the Colombian Institute of Agrarian Reform.

Public resources are channeled into urban housing through the Central Mortgage Bank, whose mortgages, because of interest rates, down-payment requirements, and repayment terms, have usually been accessible only to upper-middle-income groups; and the savings and loan corporations, whose interest rates are pegged to inflation through daily monetary correction factors known as units of constant purchasing power value (UPACs). In addition, through AID, substantial private funds from US investors have been used for various housing programs.

EDUCATION

The constitution provides that public education shall not conflict with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church; courses in the Roman Catholic religion are compulsory, and the Church is in virtual control of the public schools. Private schools have freedom of instruction, and there are a number of Protestant schools, principally in Bogotá. The national government supports secondary as well as university education and maintains a number of primary schools throughout the country.

Education is free and compulsory for nine years, beginning with one year of preschool starting at age five or six. Primary school covers five years of study and is followed by four years of basic secondary school. For their remaining two years of secondary school, students may choose a general course of studies or a technical school program. The government has established two basic programs for improving secondary educationthe integration of practical training into high-school academic curricula and the training of agricultural experts at the secondary levelso that students who do not go on to college are prepared to receive further technical training or to earn a living. The National Apprenticeship Service offers technical and vocational training in fields that contribute to national development; the program is financed by compulsory contributions from private enterprises and employees.

In 2001, about 36% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 87% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 55% of age-eligible students. Dropout rates are high at the primary level, particularly in rural areas, where the students frequently live at considerable distances from their schools. Almost all secondary schools are in the larger cities; thus, little educational opportunity is open to rural children, except those reached by educational radio and television broadcasting. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 27:1 in 2003. The ratio for secondary school was about 21:1.

By law, Colombia must spend at least 10% of its annual budget on education. Financing and supervision of public education is the joint responsibility of the Ministry of Education, the departments, and the municipalities. Secondary and technical education and universities are administered by the Ministry of Education. The central government also pays teachers' salaries. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.2% of GDP, or 15.6% of total government expenditures.

The National University in Bogotá, founded in 1572, is one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Other important universities include the Universidad Javeriana (founded 1622), which is operated by the Jesuits; the Universidad de los Andes, a private institution based on a US model; and the Universidad Libre, a private university with active liberal leanings. In 1964, the Colombian Overseas Technical Specialization Institute (ICETEX) was formed to coordinate scholarship and fellowship funds for Colombians wishing to study abroad. Graduates of foreign schools who return to Colombia reimburse ICETEX from their subsequent earnings. In 2003, about 24% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 94.2%.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The National Library, founded in 1777 in Bogotá, has over 800,000 volumes. It also acts as a public library, maintaining a small circulating collection and a children's room, and serves as a depository library of the United Nations. The cities have municipal libraries and the towns have village libraries, which are under the control of the Colombian Institute of Culture. There are two valuable private libraries in Bogotá, established by Dr. Luis Agusto Cuervo and Dr. Antonio Gómez Restrepo, respectively; each contains about 50,000 volumes. The Bank of the Republic maintains the Luis Angel Arango Library, an important cultural center holding some 400,000 volumes. The library of the National University in Bogotá has approximately 230,000 volumes. The University of the Andes in Bogotá has 210,000 volumes. The Library of Congress holds 140,000 volumes. There are over 1,000 local branches of the public library.

The most notable of Bogotá's museums are the National Museum, which concentrates on history and art since the Spanish conquest, the founding of Bogotá, and the colonial period; the National Archaeological Museum, which exhibits indigenous ceramics, stone carvings, gold objects, and textiles; the Museum of Colonial Art, formerly part of the National University, which specializes in art of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries; and the Gold Museum, located in the Bank of the Republic. There are more than 50 provincial museums, including many archeological and anthropological sites.

MEDIA

Telephone and telegraph networks link all provincial capitals and connect these centers with surrounding rural areas. Each local system is independent; most are municipally owned, but a few are in private hands. Long-distance service is provided by the national government and is based on an agreement among local and departmental systems. In the early 1980s, the National Telecommunications Enterprise (TELECOM) had one of the largest automatic telephone service networks in Latin America. Its high-capacity microwave system connected the 40 largest cities in the country. Colombia launched its own communications satellite in 1985. In 2003, there were an estimated 179 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; nearly one million people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 141 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Most of the nation's 498 (463 AM, 35 FM) radio stations are privately owned. In 1997 there were 60 television stations. Color television was introduced in 1979. Radiodifusora Nacional de Colombia is the government owned radio station. Intravision is a government-owned television station that operates two commercial and one educational station. Caracol is a prominent private commercial station for both television and radio. In 2003, there were an estimated 548 radios and 319 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 49.3 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 53 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 159 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

Almost every town publishes at least one daily newspaper. The press varies from the irregular, hand-printed newspapers of the small towns of the interior to such national dailies as El Tiempo, one of the most influential newspapers of the Spanish-speaking world. The leading newspapers in Bogotá, with their political orientation are El Tiempo, liberal; El Espacio, liberal; and El Nuevo Siglo, conservative. La Republica in Bogotá reported a 2004 circulation of 55,000. In Cali, the leading newspapers are El País, conservative, 60,000 circulation in 2004 and Occidente, conservative, 25,000. In Medellín, the conservative El Colombiano had a 2004 circulation of 90,000. The same year, the Barranquilla El Heraldo (liberal) had a circulation of 70,000. and the Bucaramanga El Vanguardia liberal had a circulation of 48,000.

In general, the authorities are said to respect free speech and free press; most media are able to resist pressure from the government concerning sensitive issues, though censorship has been exercised occasionally in times of national emergency, and journalists exercise some self-censorship.

ORGANIZATIONS

The National Federation of Coffee Growers, organized in 1927, is a semiofficial organization partly supported by tax revenue. The organization carries great weight as the representative of Colombia's leading industry, and its influence is felt in many spheres. Other trade associations include the National Association of Manufacturers, the People's Association of Small Industrialists of Colombia, and chambers of commerce in the larger cities. The Bank Association is an association of both national and foreign banks in Colombia. The Colombian Livestock Association, the National Federation of Cotton Growers, and the National Association of Sugar Growers serve their respective industries. Most farmers belong to the Agricultural Society of Colombia.

Learned societies include the Academy of History, the Colombian Academy of Language, the Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical, and Natural Sciences, the Academy of Medicine, the Colombian Academy of Jurisprudence, the Colombian Geographical Society, the Colombian Institute of Anthropology, and a number of regional bodies. The National Association of Colombian Writers and Artists includes most of the country's writers, painters, sculptors, and composers. Journalists have national and local organizations.

There are a number of youth organizations, some of which are affiliated with political or religious groups. Scouting programs are active throughout the country as are organizations of the YMCA and YWCA. A wide variety of sports organizations are active in the country.

In 2004, there were over 60,000 human rights and civil society nongovernmental organizations in the country. The Center for Popular Research and Education, sponsored by the Jesuits, is a prominent human rights organization. Others include the Colombian Commission of Jurists and the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers' Collective. There are national chapters of the Red Cross, UNICEF, and Habitat for Humanity.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Colombia has mountains, jungles, modern and colonial cities, and resorts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, all of which the Colombian Government Tourist Office (CORTURISMO) has aggressively promoted.

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport, followed by basketball, baseball, boxing, and cockfighting; there are also facilities for golf, tennis, and horseback riding, and bullrings in the major cities. Visas are not required, but all visitors need a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for entry.

The tourist industry in Colombia developed greatly in the late 1970s but declined in the 1980s. Spurred by the government's economic liberalization program, earnings from tourism rose from us$755 million in 1993 to us$955 million in 1997. In 2003, about 625,000 tourists arrived in the country and tourism receipts reached us$1.1 billion. There were 54,820 hotel rooms with 109,940 beds and an occupancy rate of 50%.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Cartagena at us$234 per day; in Bogotá, us$184; in Cali, us$186; and in Medellín, us$160.

FAMOUS COLOMBIANS

Outstanding political and military figures in Colombian history include Francisco de Paula Santander (17921840), who served as a general in the war of independence and was the first president of independent Colombia, and José María Córdoba (1800?1830), a brilliant young soldier of the war of independence, who was made a general at 22 by Simón Bolívar.

Colombia, famous for its literary figures, has produced three outstanding novelists widely read outside the country: Jorge Isaacs (183795), whose most famous work, María, is a novel in the Romantic tradition; José Eustacio Rivera (18801929), whose outstanding novel, La Vorágine (The Vortex), written after World War I, is a drama of social rebellion; and Gabriel García Márquez (b.1928), a Nobel Prize winner in 1982, who is best known for Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude ). Colombia has had a number of noteworthy poets. The 19th-century Romantic school included Julio Arboleda (181492), José Eusebio Caro (181753), Gregorio Guitiérrez Gonzales (182672), and Rafael Pombo (18341912). Caro, who was influenced by the English poets, is generally rated as the most important Colombian Romantic. José Asunción Silva (186596) is regarded as the father of Latin American symbolism; his Nocturnos are among the finest poems in the Spanish language. Guillermo Valencia (18731945), the author of Anarkos, was a polished poet of the classical school, and León de Greiff (18951976) was a well-known poet. Miguel Antonio Caro (18431909) and Rufino José Cuervo (18441911) were philologists and humanists of great erudition who influenced scholars and students in the 19th century. The Instituto Caro y Cuervo in Bogotá is devoted to the study and publication of their works. Well-known literary critics include Baldomero Sanín-Cano (18611957) and Antonio Gómez-Restrepo (18681951).

Colombia's most notable painter was Gregorio Vázquez Arce y Ceballos (16381711), whose drawing and coloring have been compared to the work of the Spanish painter Murillo. Fernando Botero (b.1932) is a contemporary painter and sculptor whose human and animal subjects are known for their corpulence and exaggerated proportions. Francisco José de Caldas (17701816) was a brilliant botanist who discovered a system for determining altitude by the variation in the boiling point of water and began the scientific literature of the country. Guillermo Uribe-Holguín (18801971) and José Rozo Contreras (18941976) are noted composers. The works of historian Germán Arciniegas (190099) are well known to the English-speaking world through translation.

DEPENDENCIES

The archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia, administered as an intendancy, is located 729 km (453 mi) from the Caribbean coast northwest of Cartagena and about 190 km (118 mi) off the Nicaraguan coast. Grouped roughly around the intersection of longitude 82° w and latitude 12° n, the archipelago consists of the islands of San Andrés and Providencia and 13 small keys. The population is mostly black. Both English and Spanish are spoken. The principal towns are San Andrés, San Luis, and Loma Alta on the island of San Andrés and Old Town on Providencia.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, Yonah (ed.). Combating Terrorism: Strategies of Ten Countries. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 2002.

Bruhns, Karen Olsen. Archaeological Investigation in Central Colombia. Oxford: Tempus Reparatum, 1995.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Davis, Robert H. Historical Dictionary of Colombia, 2nd ed. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1993.

Garretón, Manuel Antonio, and Edward Newman, (eds.). Democracy in Latin America: (Re)constructing Political Society. New York: United Nations University Press, 2001.

Giraldo, Javier. Colombia: The Genocidal Democracy. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1996.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Molano, Alfredo. Loyal Soldiers in the Cocaine Kingdom: Tales of Drugs, Mules, and Gunmen. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

Moser, Caroline O. N. Encounters with Violence in Latin America: Urban Poor Perceptions from Colombia and Guatemala. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Simons, G. L. Colombia: A Brutal History. London, Eng.: Saqi, 2004.

Tertiary Education in Colombia: Paving the Way for Reform. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2003.

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COLOMBIA

Republic of Colombia

Major Cities:
Santafe de Bogota, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Bucaramanga

Other Cities:
Armenia, Bello, Buenaventura, Cúcutu, Girardot, Itagüi, Leticia, Manizales, Montería, Neiva, Palmira, Pasto, Popayán, Santa Marta, Tuluá, Tumaco, Tunja, Valledupar, Villavicencio

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated January 1997. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

COLOMBIA , washed by the waters of both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is a land of geographical diversity and broad historical interest. It is a bridge between two great civilizations that flourished before the discovery of the New Worldthe Aztec to the north and the Inca to the south. It is a nation of cosmopolitan Andean cities and booming coastal ports, and yet it spreads across thousands of square miles of mountains, plains, and rain forests. Also, it is the most Spanish of the South American countries, although it has been independent since 1819.

Colombia is steeped in history. During its colonial era, it was one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World. Its present capital, Bogotá, was the seat of the viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. After Colombia attained independence, Panama remained part of the republic for 90 years. Simón Bolívar, the great South American patriot, was the country's first president.

MAJOR CITIES

Santafe de Bogota

Bogota is considered a high-threat area for both terrorism/insurgency and crime. Individuals must exercise caution and follow effective security measures to minimize risks and vulnerabilities while in country. Although the security situation is closely monitored, caution must be exercised at all times.

The city of Bogota is nearly 8,700 feet above sea level, on a plateau of the Eastern Cordillera (range) of the Andes and is surrounded by peaks rising to 10,500 feet. The climate is cool and there are only two seasons, wet and dry; however, it is frequently wet in the dry season, and there can be lengthy dry periods in the wet season. The weather resembles early fall or spring in the north-central U.S. average temperature is 55 degrees F. The San Andres Fault line also runs through Colombia, and there are occasional earthquakes. The most recent, on June 6, 1994, was centered about 250 miles from Bogota, measured 6.2, and caused hundreds of deaths and did extensive damage.

Besides being the capital and largest city (population 6,834,000), Santafe de Bogota is also the cultural and economic center of the country. While a modern metropolis in some respects, the city's infrastructure has failed to keep pace with its growth. Combined with occasional power outages, traffic jams are frequent and monumental.

Well-kept residential areas, schools, shopping malls, grocery stores, and many restaurants and movie theaters assist in adjusting to living in this city.

The city has a mixed look from old world Spanish architecture which dominates in the southern part of the city, to modern high-rise apartments which dominate the north. Scattered throughout all areas of the city, however, are structures in severe conditions of decay. The lower windows of old and modern structures are heavily barred for security.

Bogotanos are proud of their cultural achievements. The city supports museums, universities, art galleries and many bookstores.

The English-speaking community is bolstered by a significant number of British and Canadian citizens, and many other people of European origin who live in the city. While Bogota is not considered a tourist center, about 1,000 Americans, mostly business representatives, visit the city annually.

Food

Bogota has an abundance of fresh foods and many varieties of fruits and vegetables; frozen seafood is carried by the better stores. Meat markets have large assortments of fresh meat. The quality is adequate, although meats are usually not aged and cuts often differ from those in the U.S.

Pasteurized milk is available in any supermarket and powdered milk is available, although expensive.

Local supermarkets are similar in style to those in the U.S. There is a variety of local and imported items, but fewer, smaller than in the U.S. There is usually a full stock of staple items. Some local supermarkets offer a variety of high-quality imported foods such as pate and smoked oysters, at very high prices.

Clothing

Clothing needed in Bogota is similar to that worn on the East Coast in the late fall season. The weather can be crisp and temperatures chilly. All-weather coats and umbrellas are a good idea. Styles for both men and women are fashionable and similar to that worn in the U.S.

Men: Colombian men tend to dress conservatively. Suits are worn more than sport coat-and-slacks combinations. Colors are also conservative-greys, dark blues and black predominate. Lightweight wool suits are recommended.

A wide variety of ready-made 100% wool and fine blended fabric suits and sport coats are available locally, but prices can be high. You will experience difficulty in obtaining ready-made suits in long sizes larger than 42.

Men's shirts must be tailor-made for sleeve length greater than 34.

Several tailors do excellent work and hand-tailored suits or of either imported or locally made material. Repair services are also available and reasonable. Socks and underwear are available, but do not equal U.S. quality.

Shoes are manufactured in Colombia, although it can be difficult to find a proper fit and the variety of styles is limited. Shoes and boots can be made to measure at reasonable cost.

Women: Shorts are rarely worn in Bogota, but are useful for tennis and trips to the "hot country." Skirts and sweaters or blouses are popular for daytime wear, as are lightweight suits and skirt-blouse-blazer combinations.

Jackets, short coats, and full-length fall coats are useful. Bring rain gear, including raincoat and umbrella.

Some name-brand lingerie is sold, but at higher prices than in the U.S.; therefore, bring a good supply of preferred items. Although nylons are sold, sizes are not U.S. standard. There are tailors and dressmakers who do good to excellent work at reasonable rates Beautiful fabrics are available locally, but are expensive.

Locally made shoes are not made to American specs, and sizes vary. Narrow sizes and larger sizes are especially hard to find. Shoes can be made to order at prices similar to good quality, ready-made American shoes.

Children: Children wear the same type of clothing worn in early spring or late fall in the U.S. Heavy clothing is not necessary, but a supply of wool sweaters or jackets is recommended. Wool sweaters are available locally, as are good-quality blue jeans of local manufacture (prices are higher than in the U.S., and quality is poorer.) Children's tennis shoes compare with U.S. makes and sell for similar prices.

Bring raincoats, umbrellas, and boots. Bring baby supplies in your luggage.

Small girls wear jeans for play and cotton dresses with sweaters or skirts and sweaters for school. Older girls can use wool suits, skirts and sweaters. Lightweight coats and jackets are useful.

Warm clothing such as sweaters, long-sleeved T-shirts, corduroy creepers, etc., are desirable for babies.

Slim and husky sizes are hard to find and children with narrow feet cannot be fitted locally.

Supplies and Services

Many popular American brand-name cosmetics and toiletries are sold in Bogota at high prices. If you prefer special brands, bring a supply. Toothpastes and shaving cream are reasonably priced and many U.S. name brands can be found. It is best to bring a supply of family medical and cosmetic needs.

Bogota has several good dry-cleaning establishments. Since quality of work varies even in the best establishments, it is often necessary to re-press clothing which has been cleaned. Most laundry is done in the home by maids.

Bogota has many good beauty shops, and barbershops. Major hotels give inexpensive, quality haircuts.

General Electric, Philco, Westinghouse, Phillips and Whirlpool are represented locally, but appliance repairs are generally of fair quality.

Religious Activities

There are a large number of Catholic churches in the city, and services are frequent during the week. There is one Catholic school which offers an English-speaking Mass on Sundays at 10:15 am. Masses are conducted by a group of American priests from the Mission of the Sacred Heart, and an order of Franciscan nuns offers instruction to the children. The chapel, located at Gymnasio Moderno, is located on Calle 74 between Carreras 9 and 11.

English-language Protestant, non-sectarian services are held in the Union Church on Sundays at 11:00 am. They also offer Sunday morning adult Bible study, Sunday School for children and a nursery service. The Union Church is located at Carrera 3a No. 69-06.

Additionally, there are three Jewish Synagogues, as well as a Baptist Chapel, Christian Science Church, and a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Education

Several English-language schools are available in Bogota. Parents are advised that all private schools in Colombia are Colombian-oriented and are administratively controlled by the Colombian Ministry of Education. Therefore, these schools are not, in the true sense, international in nature.

If you require special schooling for your child or desire some special type of education, curriculum, or extracurricular activities, contact either your agency or the school directly in Colombia for more information.

Colegio Nueva Granada is located at Carrera 2E No. 70-10. The mailing address is as follows:

Colegio Nueva Granada
Director
Apartado Aereo 51339
Bogota, Colombia

Instruction is in English, but Spanish is a required course for all students. The school is divided into elementary (kindergarten-5); middle school (grades 6-8); and high school (grades 9-12). Each of the three sections has its own principal and counselor. The director of the school is a US citizen and U.S.-trained, as are most of the administrative staff.

Nearly all the staff are trained teachersabout 70% hired locally (both American and Colombian) and 30% brought from the U.S. The school is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The school year runs from late August to June.

A placement exam is required of all entering students before they are enrolled. It is given frequently during the summer months and at various times throughout the school year.

The school is coeducational with an enrollment of approximately 1,500 students. About 75% of the students are Colombian, 10% North American, and 10% dual citizenship (U.S./ Colombian) 5% represent some 25 other countries.

The uniform of Colegio Nueva Granada as of the 1996-7 school year is as follows:

  • White tennis shirts, plain while turtlenecks or mock turtlenecks, or white oxford shirts with the CNG monogram.
  • Navy blue V-neck sweaters with two white stripes on the right sleeve.
  • Navy blue gabardine trousers for boys and girls.
  • Navy blue gabardine culotte-skirts for girls (optional).
  • Navy blue CNG jacket-School tie for boys/girls on Fridays (middle and high school).
  • Navy blue blazer with school emblem for boys and girls in middle and high school (optional).
  • White, blue, or black tennis shoes or black, navy or brown leather shoes to be worn with white or blue socks
  • A navy blue sweatsuit with CNG emblem required for elementary school.

The school sells uniforms on campus; plan to spend about $200 per child. Jewelry and hair accessories are to be conservative and blue and white color and size for use with a school uniform. Only stud earrings for girls are allowed. No earrings will be permitted for boys, and length of hair must be appropriate for school. NOTE-"Appropriate" in Colombia means conservative.

Special Educational Opportunities

Locally, both the Universidad de los Andes and the Universidad Javeriana provide instruction in Spanish and other languages using the most modern teaching techniques.

Those interested in linguistics will find the Instituto Caro y Cuervo one of the best of its kind in the world.

Classes in painting, sculpture, and music can be arranged at the following institutions: Universidad de los Andes, Universidad Javeriana, Galeria de Arte Moderno, and Conservatorio de Música. Teachers of piano and guitar are available and fees are reasonable.

Bogota has several good universities in addition to Andes and Javeriana. Worthy of special mention are Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Universidad Externado de Colombia, and Universidad de la Sabana. Special extension and night courses in many fields are offered at each. Instruction is in Spanish.

Recreation, Social Life, and Sports

Facilities for sports are limited and expensive. Although several country clubs have excellent golf and tennis courts, memberships are expensive.

Bogota has few public golf courses or public tennis courts. No swimming pools are open to the general public.

Arrangements can be made for horseback riding, and expert instruction is available at a reasonable cost. Many families make periodic weekend trips to the lower, hot country where swimming pools and tennis courts are available at the hotels and resorts. Spectator sports include soccer, boxing, wrestling, horseracing, and bullfighting. Plaza de Santa Maria, the bull rink in the center of the city, has fights on Saturdays and Sundays between December and February. Soccer is very popular and fans avidly follow various local teams.

Lake Tota, northeast of Bogota, is a favorite fishing spot for foreigners and Colombians alike. The lake is high in a mountain basin in the Department of Boyaca. The lake can also be reached by flying to Sogamoso and taking a taxi about 18 miles to the lake. Its crystal clear waters are stocked and offer good trout fishing. Outboard motorboats can be rented. Two rustic hotels, plus the Tisquesusa, the Rocas Linda, and the Pozo Azul, offer comfortable accommodations. A small outboard motorboat (5-15 hp) is useful for trolling.

Trout fishing also can be found in Lake Neusa. Neusa is approximately a 1-1/2 hour drive north of Bogota. The drive is easy, and the roads are generally in good condition. Winding through the mountains, the roads take you through Pine and Eucalyptus forests. The entire trip is a steady climb into the mountains, probably 100 feet or more above Bogota. In Neusa, you can take a boat tour, or rent your own by the hour.

Deep-sea fishing is possible off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and the fishing enthusiasts will find trips to these areas rewarding. Fishing tackle is available in Bogota, but it is expensive.

Sailing is done on two of the man-made lakes near Bogota.

Scuba-diving and snorkeling can be done on the coast in Cartagena (l-hour flight from Bogota) or in the nearby island of San Andres or Santa Marta (both about a 2-hour flight from Bogota).

Hunting in Colombia requires a certain amount of planning and time. Dove hunting is popular, but the current security situation has resulted in the closing of many traditional hunting areas.

The hills surrounding Bogota offer ample opportunity for the mountaineer, and the snowpeaks of the Andes are a real challenge to the serious climber. The Laguna de Guatavita, origin of the legend of El Dorado, offers a delightful one-day adventure.

Additionally, there are a number of gyms and spas for weight-lifting and aerobics. Monthly or yearly membership fees are similar to those in the U.S. Many have saunas and/or steam rooms, and some offer massages, facials and other cosmetic features.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

By virtue of certain characteristics, such as dress, speech, mannerisms, cars and homes, Americans are susceptible to criminal attack. Consequently, common-sense security precautions should always be practiced when touring and sight-seeing in Bogota and elsewhere in Colombia. For example, women should not wear elaborate jewelry when visiting crowded shopping areas of the city. Carry as little money as possible and guard your wallet, purse, watch and valuables carefully.

Several museums display the historical, cultural and artistic heritage of the country. A fascinating collection, consisting of gold objects fashioned by the Indians who lived in Colombia before the arrival of the Conquistadores, is in the Museo de Oro at the Banco de la República.

On a mountaintop, 1,500 feet above the city, stands the Spanish-style church of Monserrate, considered the characteristic landmark of Bogota.

The original church, built in 1650, was destroyed by fire. About 25 years old, the present church commands a magnificent view of the city and surrounding plains. You can reach the church by the old, almost perpendicular "funicular" railway or the newer Swiss-built aerial cable car both of which take about three minutes.

A neighboring mountain peak, higher than Monserrate, is the site of the chapel of Guadalupe. This peak was the location of several earlier chapels dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of Latin America. The present chapel, with its huge dominating figure of the Virgin, is a 20th century work.

At the falls of Tequendama during the wet season, the Bogota River plunges 475 feet into a narrow gorge below. Only 15 miles southwest of Bogota, this waterfall can be reached by road.

Thirty miles north of Bogota by train or car lies the salt mine of Zipaquiraa solid mountain of rock salt. The mine has been worked since before the Spanish arrived, and while its tunnels penetrate deep into the mountain, the supply of salt has hardly been touched. On this site a massive Gothic-style cathedral has been carved out of the mountains. Illuminated by indirect lighting and severely simple in its decorations, the cathedral is impressive and unique. An interesting, colonial-style inn with a restaurant is on the grounds of the salt mine.

For a change of scenery and relief from the altitude and cool climate, the warm, tropical valleys that lead to the Magdalena River are ideal. Several resorts are within a few hours of Bogota. Girardotl/2 hour by plane, three hours by caris one of the most popular warm weather spots. Here, a large variety of tropical fruits and unusual pottery can be purchased in the town's center plaza.

Paipa, at about the same altitude as Bogota, can also be reached in about four hours by car. The Hotel Sochagota, in addition to its excellent conference facilities, is a popular first-class hotel fronting on a small lake. Activities center around the thermally-heated swimming pool but also include horseback riding, pool and billiards, and ping-pong. The hotel also has 12 detached cabañas, each with sleeping facilities for six, fireplace, efficiency-type kitchen, two bathrooms and private thermal bath facilities.

Barranquilla, with a population of over 1.2 million is the principal seaport on the mouth of the Magdalena River. One hour by jet from Bogota, the city is popular for its February carnival. Its famous Hotel del Prado is a large country club-like hotel with air-conditioned rooms, swimming pool, tennis courts and exercise facilities including a sauna. The hotel also maintains the Prado Mar Beach Club at Puerto Colombia for ocean bathing and fishing.

In March, Barranquilla is the site of the international tennis tournament called the "South American Wimbledon."

Cartagena, population 918,000, is about 70 miles southwest of Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast. The walled city dates back to the days of the Spanish Main. Its famous fortress of San Felipe de Barajas and ancient churches, including the Shrine of St. Peter Claver, make Cartagena one of the most interesting cities in Colombia. The city boasts a number of modern beach-front high-rise hotels as well as the older, colonial-style El Caribe Hotel. Most hotels have swimming pools; some have tennis courts. Nearby restaurants offer good seafood. In November, Cartagena commemorates its independence in a carnival atmosphere which includes the national beauty contest for the crown of "Miss Colombia."

Leticia is Colombia's principal town on the Amazon River, 670 miles southeast of Bogota. Accessible by air, Leticia provides tourists with such attractions as Amazon River excursions, visits to primitive Indian villages, and trips through dense rain forests. Leticia is located at the northern end of the Peru-Brazil border, and it is easy to cross over to one country for lunch and then to the other for dinner, and return to Leticia for the night.

Entertainment

The National Symphony has regularly scheduled concerts during most of the year, often with world-famous guest artists. Dance companies, chamber music groups, and concert artists perform seasonally. Theater is available from time to time, but its enjoyment is limited to those fluent in Spanish.

Movie theaters and video clubs are numerous; those in the downtown section and better residential areas are equal to theaters in the U.S. First-run American films are shown with Spanish subtitles, three-four months after their U.S. premiere. Movies at the best theaters cost about USD 8.00 per person. Bogota has few American-type nightclubs; however, several clubs have floor shows and dancing and offer a welcome change on a night out. Many restaurants serve continental and regional dishes.

The changing of the guard outside the Presidential Palace at 5:00 PM every afternoon is a colorful ceremony. Soldiers dress in 19th-century-style uniforms, including spiked helmets. Various festivals are held throughout the year in Colombia. Cartagena has a world-famous film festival, and annual fairs are held in Barranquilla.

Social Activities

Social life in Bogota depends greatly on your own initiative. Because of the large number of Americans and educated Colombians, it is possible to have a wide, varied circle of friends.

The American Women's Club admits all American women in Colombia and meets monthly. The American Society is open to all Americans living in Colombia. This club sponsors monthly social activities and a number of charitable programs.

Social contacts among Colombians who enjoy having foreign friends can be also be made through the Bi-National Center (BNC) and its various groups and activities and through a number of charitable, religious and social organizations.

Bogota has some resident business representatives from countries friendly to the US as well as about 40 other diplomatic missions. It is relatively easy to develop a circle of friends from among these groups.

Medellín

Medellín, with an estimated population of 3.8 million, is Colombia's second largest city. It is the capital of the Department of Antioquia, one of the country's most progressive areas. Although it was settled earlier, it was not officially established or named until 1675.

Medellín is an important industrial, commercial, and banking center and is located in a valley three to seven miles wide and about 25 miles long in the Central Cordillera of the Andes, about 150 air miles northwest of Bogotá.

Medellín, at an altitude of 5,000 feet, has a mild climate year round. Annual mean temperature is 70°F, with a temperature spread of 27°F. There are two rainy (winter) and two dry (summer) seasons of varying length each year. Rainfall averages about 55 inches annually.

The metropolitan area includes the city of Medellín and adjoining municipalities in the same valley. Total population of the valley is estimated at slightly above two million. The center of the city contains many large, modern office and apartment buildings. Despite a significant boom in recent years, however, a number of small businesses are still housed in converted residences.

Typical residential architecture is the one-story modern house, with red tile roof. There are two pleasant suburbs, 10 to 15 minutes from the city center, where the bulk of the foreign population resides. Comfortable, modern apartments are also available in the city.

Medellín, the original industrial heart of Colombia, remains a major center of indigenous capital, and supplies wealth and talent to all parts of the country. It is a banking and insurance center and headquarters for ANDI, the Colombian equivalent of the National Association of Manufacturers. Medellín's industries include food processing, woodworking, automobiles, chemicals, and metallurgy. The principal industry is the integrated manufacture of textiles, cotton, cotton-synthetics and, to a lesser degree, wool. Other important products are steel and steel products, tobacco, plastics, leather, cement, glass, beer, ceramics, electrical appliances, soft drinks, and packaging materials. Medellín is also an important marketing center for coffee, bananas, cement, and cattle. The Federation of Coffee Growers, which exports Colombia's foremost dollar-earning product, has a regional office in the city.

Americans, British, and Germans, with lesser numbers of Italians and French, comprise the small foreign community. The American element, about 600 persons, is almost indistinguishable, as many are married to Colombians, or are the product of Colombian-American marriages. There is a large number of English-speaking people in Medellín. Many Colombian professionals are U.S.-college educated, and still others are acquainted with the language through travel and study.

Although the city dates from the middle of the 17th century, only slight traces remain of the colonial era. Many social customs still reflect the Spanish past, but these too are being rapidly modified.

Antioquenos, as the people of the department are called, consider themselves apart from other Colombians. The colony of Antioquia began with the immigration of a small number of Spanish Basques and Andalusians. The early settlers, noted for their large families, occupied themselves primarily with gold mining. As the population grew and the gold supply diminished, the people turned to the land and cleared the high, healthful regions for food crops, and the middle levels for coffee production. Usually, the land was opened by the man who tilled it, and the small landholder pattern persists to this day. Larger families also meant forced migration, and the Antioqueno was the principal colonizer of the Departments of Caldas and Valle. Antioquia's population continues to grow rapidly, especially in Medellín proper (now over 1.6 million), which has attracted people from the rural areas in search of greater opportunities.

Antioquia is mountainous and, except for some fertile valleys and a banana-producing area in its northwest corner, is not well suited for agriculture. Cattle production is of growing importance. The Department of Chocó, which represents the other extreme within the Medellín district, is jungle-like, sparsely populated, and very undeveloped economically. Antioquia is Colombia's conservative stronghold and the Antioquenos, nearly all Roman Catholic, are devout supporters of the Church. A fairly rigid class structure persists and a large percentage of the wealth remains concentrated in the hands of a few families. Nonetheless, the region has traditionally provided opportunities for economic mobility to the industrious (or the fortunate), and an important and growing middle class exists.

Air travel is the most practical means of transportation in and out of Medellín. The airport, which operates during daylight hours only, is 10 minutes by car from the city center. Because of frequent fog and the lack of navigational aids, the airport is often closed and flight delays are common.

Driving in Medellín has certain risks, although the traffic is somewhat tamer than in Bogotá. Drivers in general, and bus and truck drivers in particular, are aggressive and undisciplined, and pay little heed to traffic lights or other controls. The size of the vehicle usually determines who gains the right-of-way, and under no circumstances should pedestrians compete. Driving outside of the city calls for nerves of steel. The road network is limited, poorly maintained, and heavily used. Collisions are frequent and, although labor for bodywork is less expensive than in the U.S., import regulations result in much higher pricesand often delaysfor repair parts.

Education

Two private schools in Medellín are considered adequate for the academic needs of American children. The Columbus School is a coeducational day school for kindergarten through grade 12. Founded in 1947 and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, it is accredited in the U.S. by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The school follows both American and Colombian curricula. Most instruction is in English. French and Spanish are also offered. Extracurricular activities include computers, chorus, gymnastics, drama, newspaper, yearbook, and several participant sports. With a student body of about 900 (90% are Colombian), Columbus School employs 80 full-time and four part-time teachers; 43 are American. The staff also includes a counselor.

The school year runs from mid-August to mid-June, with a one-month vacation from mid-December to mid-January.

Columbus School is located on a mountainside, three miles northwest of Medellín. Facilities include seven buildings, 48 classrooms, science labs, computer lab, cafeteria, gymnasium, playing fields, and a 15,000-volume library. The mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 5225, Medellín, Colombia.

The Montessori School in Medellín is relatively new and plans to extend its grade structure by adding one grade each year. Currently, classes from kindergarten through grade eight are taught. The Colombian and American curricula are followed, with emphasis on English. Enrollment is divided between Americans, Colombians, and several other nationalities. The school's directors are American. The mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 623, Medellín, Colombia.

Colegio Montelibano is a coeducational, day, company-sponsored school for pre-kindergarten through grade 12. It is located in the village of Montelibano, in the Córdoba Department, which is northwest of Medellín. Founded in 1980, the school is accredited by the Colombian Ministry of Education.

The school's curriculum is both U.S. and Colombian. Spanish is a required language; other courses offered include French, art, computer science, physical education, and vocational studies. Extracurricular activities are varied.

The school year, in English, runs from August to mid-June; in Spanish, the year runs from February to mid-December. Both calendars have a 10-day Easter vacation. The student body totals 387; enrollment capacity is 594. Of the 41 teachers, three are American.

Colegio Montelibano's facilities include science laboratories, an audiovisual room, and athletic fields. The school, on a 15-acre campus, is air-conditioned throughout. The mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 6823, Bogotá, Colombia.

Recreation

Because of the condition and extent of the roads, touring is not a popular pastime in the Medellín district. Nonetheless, a few nearby areas within a two-hour drive offer a change of scenery, and one of the prime pleasures of Colombians and Americans alike is the enjoyment of the surrounding countryside. Many Colombians own country homes, and these become the center of family life during weekends and the long Christmas season. Although Americans usually have no such refuge, nearby mountain areas provide many lovely spots for picnics.

Santa Fe de Antioquia is the original capital of the Department of Antioquia. It has a population of about 18,000 and is a three-hour drive from Medellín. Situated on the bank of the Cauca River in what is locally termed the "hot country," the city contains many examples of Spanish colonial architecture.

Rionegro is about an hour's drive from Medellín. It is in an attractive valley at about 6,000 feet elevation. Rionegro was the site of the signing of the Constitution of 1863.

Quibdó, capital of the Department of Chocó, is on the banks of the Atrato River, which empties into the Caribbean Sea near the Colombian border with Panama. Chocó is sparsely populated by the descendants of escaped slaves who made their way to the hot, jungle-covered area bordering the Pacific coast of Colombia. The northern part of Chocóis said to have one of the most abundant rainfalls found anywhere in the world. Quibdó, with a population over 47,000, is about one hour by air, 15 hours by car.

La Pintada is a small town on the Cauca River two-and-a-half hours from Medellín and located in the "hot country." As another alternative for weekend outings, it offers an attractive landscape and a modest hotel with swimming pool. The model ranch of the Antioquian Cattle Fund is also located here.

Medellín's public athletic facilities are seldom used by Americans. There are private sports clubs, where membership is possible; Medellín also has two attractive private country clubs, each with a golf course, tennis courts, and swimming pool. Initial membership fees are expensive.

Spectator sports in Medellín consist chiefly of soccer matches, but baseball games are becoming popular among Colombians. Bullfights are held seasonally. Hunting and fishing are available, but facilities and accommodations within a reasonable distance from the city are almost completely lacking.

Horseback riding at country fincas (estates) is a popular pastime. Water-skiing and sailing are possible on a man-made lake about three hours from Medellín.

Entertainment

Among the many movie theaters in Medellín, 10 are considered first-class. Newly released American films with Spanish subtitles are shown.

Local civic organizations and private industries sponsor occasional concerts and musicals. Good amateur plays are presented several times during the year at the Pablo Tobon Theater. Several private clubs offer floor shows, and a few nightclubs are acceptable.

Medellín has active Rotary, Lions, and Kiwanis clubs, through which it is relatively easy to broaden one's contacts among other working professionals. Many women join the Pan-American Women's Association, a group composed mainly of members of the English-speaking colony, including Colombians. There are a number of opportunities in Medellín for international contacts.

Although Colombians are favorably disposed to the U.S., most Americans find that it requires a major effort to develop close personal relationships with them.

Special Note

In recent years, Medellín has been the center for a violent drug cartel. Because of this, the U.S. State Department advises against travel to this area. Visitors should check with the Embassy for further details.

As in many areas of the world, personal and physical security are increasing problems in Medellín. Nonviolent purse and jewelry snatchers abound on the streets, especially at night. Large amounts of money should not be carried, nor should jewelry be worn in public places.

Cali

Cali, Colombia's third largest city, rests in the southwest corner of the pear-shaped Cauca River valley, the principal center of cattle and sugar production. The city is also a manufacturing and distribution center between the Pacific coast port of Buenaventura and Bogotá. Cali is the capital of the Department of Valle del Cauca.

One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Cali was founded in 1536 by Sebastián de Belalcázar, who marched northward from Peru after aiding Francisco Pizarro in subjugating the Incas. Belalcázar's conquests afterwards were made a dependency of the Spanish viceroyalty of Lima. Parts of central Cali reflect the tastes of the colonial period, with palmed plazas lined by wood-roofed buildings. Charming bridges and walks along the river in the city's center date from the late 19th-century period. Newer sections of the city have incorporated varied contemporary influences.

Cali's elevation of 3,319 feet poses no physical challenge. Temperatures vary little throughout the year. Maximum daytime temperatures are in the low 80s; at night temperatures drop a little below 70°F, making it pleasantly cool in most residential sections of the city. Humidity remains at a comfortable low year round. Most of Cali's moderate rainfall occurs during the Northern Hemisphere's fall and spring months. Heaviest storms cause flooding in low sections of the city, but the rain usually comes in brief showers. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and cyclones are unknown. However, several minor earthquakes have struck the city in recent years.

Cali's metropolitan population is approximately 2.1 million, and its physical size is about that of Washington, DC. The city center is compressed into a small area. Growth of better suburbs has been along and into the foothills, while poorer sections have pushed out across the valley floor. The city's main activity, industry, is a product of favorable location and transportation. Moreover, more than half of Colombia's foreign trade passes through Cali en route to and from Buenaventura, on the Pacific coast. It is also headquarters for units of the departmental government, the Third Brigade of the National Army, and the Air Force Academy at Marco Fidel Suarez Base.

About 3,000 U.S. citizens reside in the district, more than two-thirds of whom live in Cali. Most are associated with some 100 partially-or wholly-owned U.S. firms doing business in the area. Some of the larger ones are Grace, International Paper, Goodyear, U.S. Rubber, Container Corporation, Corn Products, Home Products, Colgate-Palmolive, Gillette, Union Carbide, Squibb, and Quaker Oats. A substantial number of Americans are working with the Universidad del Valle at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Cali is becoming increasingly a center for tourism. The Pan American Games of August 1971 helped to bring the city to international attention, and its new Hotel Intercontinental and Palmaseca Airport have served as attractions to visitors. The Feria de Cali, with its week of bull-fights, beauty contests, and parties, is perhaps the major social event in Colombia during the Christmas and New Year period.

Education

Most American children in Cali attend Colegio Bolívar. It is a coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The school was organized in 1948 through the efforts of the American business community, and receives help from the U.S. Government Inter-American Schools Service. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Colombian Ministry of Education.

The curriculum is U.S.-and Colombian-based. Classes are in English, with additional mandatory instruction in Spanish beginning in the third grade. Elective classes include art, vocal music, computer science, and physical education. Among the extracurricular activities are year-book, newspaper, literary magazine, field trips, scouting, and various sports. There is also a special program for children with learning disabilities.

The school year runs from the end of August to the middle of June, with vacations at Christmas and Easter. In 1991, the student body totaled 1,050; of the staff of 90 full-time and two part-time teachers, 45 were American. The staff also includes a counselor and a nurse.

Colegio Bolívar is located on 10 acres of land in a rural area about 10 miles from Cali. Facilities include 10 buildings, 42 classrooms, cafeteria, auditorium, an audiovisual room, science laboratories, computer lab, gymnasium, playing fields, swimming pool, and a 20,000-volume library. The mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 26300, Cali, Colombia.

Cali has three other English-language schools: Colegio Bennet, for kindergarten through grade 12; Jefferson School, offering courses through the 12th grade; and the British-American School, which accepts children from kindergarten through grade 12.

The Centro Colombo-Americano offers Spanish courses, and also maintains an English-language lending library. The city's main bookstore, Librería Nacional, has a limited selection of American paperbacks. Most principal American newspapers are available, as is Time magazine, but often these are a week old.

Recreation and Entertainment

The Cali area offers several points of interest for outings or weekend excursions. Twenty miles northeast of the city, near El Cerrito, is El Paraiso, a country house which was the scene of the 19th-century romantic novel, La María, written by Jorge Isaacs and describing life in his native valley. Operated by the Colombian Government, the house is preserved in minute detail complete with original furnishings, and is beautifully located at the foot of the Andes. A similar country house, Canasgordas, lies six miles south of Cali. It too was the setting for a novelEustaquio Palacios El Alferez Real. The house earlier served as the residence of Spanish colonial governors.

Within an hour's drive are various sugar refineries; Manuelita, in the city of Palmira, offers tours. Another site of interest is the Calima Dam and hydroelectric project, about a two-hour drive from Cali, in the western hills. En route to Calima lies the tranquil valley town of Buga, where lunch and an afternoon at Hotel Guadalajara's swimming pool provide a popular Sunday excursion. Buga's handsome 17th-century cathedral is being meticulously restored.

The nearest available beach with adequate hotel facilities is close to Tumaco (in Nariño Department), an hour away by plane. Hotel accommodations are adequate, but unpretentious. Other weekend trips can be made to the mountainous lake region near Pasto, where an attractive Swiss-run lodge is located, and to the interesting pre-Columbian archaeological site of San Agustín (in Huila).

Within certain limits, good recreational facilities are available in Cali year round. While no beaches are nearby and river swimming is discouraged, many Americans belong to one of several social clubs having excellent pools. Golf and tennis also are available.

Lake and ocean sport-fishing is possible within the district, but not near Cali. The Calima reservoir, one-and-a-half hours' drive from the city, is excellent for sailing, water-skiing, picnicking, or just for a change of scene. Dove hunting is available in the area, but big-game hunting requires a trans-Andean trip.

A number of good movie houses feature American films in English, with Spanish titles. Admission prices are low. Concerts and plays by local or visiting artists are given on occasion at the Teatro Municipal and at the conservatory. Visiting musical and dance troupes sometimes perform in Cali. Bullfights, featuring some of the world's best matadors, are given during the December feria week, and are also held at various times during the rest of the year. Boxing, baseball, soccer, and swimming meets are the available spectator sports.

Cali has many small nightclubs and discotheques, usually packed on Saturday nights. A handful of good restaurants in the city offer dinner at reasonable prices.

Cali has an American Women's Club and an American Men's Society.

Barranquilla

Barranquilla, capital of the Department of Atlántico, is the largest and most important northern coast city in the country. It is called the "Gateway to Colombia."

Although founded in 1629, it lacks the colonial atmosphere of many South American cities because there was little development here prior to the 20th century. Barranquilla emerged as an important seaport and industrial city with the completion of the Bocas de Ceniza project, which created a deep-water river port at the mouth of the Magdalena River. This river serves as a major transportation link with the interior of the country.

Barranquilla spreads south from the river to a hilly area where most of the new housing and businesses are located. The city center and older suburbs show the effects of rapid growth and overcrowding found in most of the developing cities of the Third World. The population explosion (the estimated figure is over 1.2 million) has created a strain on city services, but new development programs are now underway, and municipal improvement has a high priority.

The biggest celebration in Barranquilla is Carnival, a four-day festival of parades, dancing, parties, and general festivities during which the city comes to almost a complete standstill. The popularity of Barranquilla for this mardi gras celebrationwhich in some cases rivals Rio in costumes and enthusiasmis shown by the throngs of celebrants converging on the city. Pre-Carnival and post-Carnival celebrations abound as well and the outgoing Barranquillero is at its best during this joyous occasion.

Barranquilla is hot and humid year round, with cooling breezes during the windy season of December through February. The rainy seasons, April through June and September through November, bring torrential downpours which inundate certain streets and turn them into raging rivers. In parts of the city, curbs are 3-4 feet high in an effort to channel the water into the Magdalena River and out to sea. Knowledgeable Barranquilleros avoid these streets at all costs at the first sight of rain, since people, cars, and buses are frequently washed away.

Barranquilla's varied industrial base consists of chemical manufacturing, cement, metal fabrication, food processing, automobile assembly, textiles, shoes, publishing, sugar, beer, glass, perfume, and clothing manufacturing. The city is the major air terminus for northern Colombia and is served by several international airlines. A darker side to the recent growth of Barranquilla has been the massive drug-smuggling trade. Both the U.S. and Colombian governments have active control programs, and the U.S. Consulate is a focal point of this activity.

The American community in Barranquilla is small, but should expand with the development of the El Cerrejón coal mining project. This project will exploit vast coal reserves in the César and Guajira Departments and involve the construction of two airports, a seaport facility, and a railroad to transport coal to the coast.

The consular district includes the Departments of Atlántico, Córdoba, Sucre, Norte de Santander, Cesar, Bolívar, Guajira, Magdalena, and the Intendencia of San Andrés y Providencia.

Education

Barranquilla has three English-language schools. Colegio Karl C. Parrish is a coeducational institution for pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Colombian Ministry of Education, the school was founded in 1938. The Parrish School and other private schools in the area offer excellent bilingual education at the primary and secondary levels, and graduates are accepted at major universities throughout the world.

Colegio Karl C. Parrish follows the American-Colombian curriculum, with the study of Spanish required of all students. French is also offered, as well as computer science and physical education. Extracurricular activities include computer, newspaper, yearbook, and varied sports.

The school year extends from mid-August to the beginning of June, with vacations at Christmas and Easter. The student body totaled 727 in 1991; there were 66 teachers, 13 of them American. The staff also includes a reading specialist and a counselor.

Colegio Karl C. Parrish is situated on 20 acres just outside the city. Facilities include eight buildings, 35 classrooms, an audiovisual room, science laboratories, computer lab, playing fields, tennis courts, and an 8,000-volume library. Some of the classrooms are air-conditioned. The mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 52962, Barranquilla, Colombia.

The Marymount School is a coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Founded in 1953, it is accredited by the Colombian Ministry of Education, and is operated by the nuns of the Order of the Sacred Heart.

The school uses both U.S. and Colombian curricula. The study of Spanish is required of all students. French is also offered, along with other electives and several extracurricular activities.

The school year runs from the beginning of September to the middle of June, with a three-week vacation at Christmas and a one-week vacation at Easter. The student body in 1991 numbered 1,325, under the tutelage of 110 full-time and 20 part-time teachers, of whom 35 are American. The staff also includes a counselor.

Marymount is located in a residential section in the northern part of the city. Facilities include ten buildings, 80 classrooms, a gymnasium, two playing fields, two science labs, swimming pool, auditorium, and a 17,000-volume library. The library and a typing room are air-conditioned. The mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 51766, Barranquilla, Colombia.

Colegio Albania is a coeducational, company-sponsored school for children in kindergarten through grade eight. The school is sponsored by Morrison Knudsen International and accredited by the Colombian Ministry of Education.

The curriculum is U.S.-and Colombian-based, offering the study of Spanish as well as other electives, and a variety of extracurricular activities, including a Boy Scout troop, drama, dance, yearbook, newspaper, and field trips.

The school year follows the usual calendar here. In 1991, the school had 746 students. There were 85 full-time teachers, 25 of whom were Americans.

Colegio Albania is located one hour by air from Barranquilla in an isolated camp. Its facilities include science and computer laboratories, tennis courts, two swimming pools, three playing fields, and two libraries. The school is completely air-conditioned. The mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 52499, Barranquilla, Colombia.

Another school attended by Americans is Fundación Colegio Bilingue, located in Valledupar, about 150 miles east of Barranquilla. The school is a coeducational day school covering pre-kindergarten through grade 12. It was founded in 1979 and is accredited by the Colombian Ministry of Education. The curriculum here is both U.S. and Colombian. French is offered in the secondary grade levels; other elective classes are art and vocational studies. There is also a program for students with learning disabilities.

The school year at Colegio Bilingue runs from the end of August to the first week in June, with vacations at Christmas, Carnaval, Easter, and national holidays. The student body currently totals 380. There are 32 full-time and three part-time teachers, of whom 11 are American. The staff includes a counselor. Fundación Colegio Bilingue is located just outside the central business district. The mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 129, Valledupar, Colombia.

Several other private elementary and secondary schools in Barranquilla follow the Colombian system, and classes are conducted in Spanish. Also, universities here offer both graduate and undergraduate courses in a wide field of subjects, taught in Spanish. Anyone enrolling in these classes will need a working knowledge of that language.

Recreation and Entertainment

Several national parks located near Barranquilla have limited facilities, and their quality of maintenance is very low. They do, however, offer a chance to view local wildlife. No acceptable camping facilities are in the area, but interesting day trips can be made.

San Andrés Island, a one-hour flight from the city, offers excellent hotel accommodations, crystal clear waters abounding with fish and marine life, and white sand beaches. This island is also a free port, and its markets stock a wide variety of U.S. toiletries, appliances, clothing, and food.

In Barranquilla, tennis, golf, bowling, and water sports are available, but most facilities are in private clubs. The Barranquilla Country Club has swimming pools, tennis courts, and an 18-hole golf course. The Club Caujaral offers full recreational facilities. Guest membership cards can be obtained for temporary use of these clubs.

Each March, the city is the site of the international tennis tournament called the "South American Wimbledon."

Santa Marta, one-and-a-half hours by car from Barranquilla, has excellent beaches and good hotels. This Caribbean city is also noted for its Spanish architecture.

There are several beaches within a half hour of Barranquilla. Unfortunately, the sea here tends to be quite dirty because of silt from the Magdalena River, and swimming is not recommended. Many people spend the afternoon at local beaches sunbathing, people-watching, and eating fried fish and patacones (fried banana slices).

Barranquilla has several air-conditioned movie theaters showing recent releases of both U.S. and European films. These are reasonably priced and serve as a major form of entertainment. A film club shows revivals of classic films in one of the local theaters.

Another major form of entertainment here is the video cassette recorder. Rental centers with cassettes in English abound. Local television transmission is compatible with that in the U.S. and offers black-and-white and color programming in Spanish. Several current American series are dubbed in Spanish.

Radio programs range from cumbia (Colombian folk dance) to classical music. Stations broadcast in Spanish. A shortwave set is necessary for the reception of Voice of America (VOA), Radio Canada, and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Barranquilla has a wide range of excellent restaurants. French, Italian, Chinese, Arabic, and other specialties are available, as are restaurants featuring steak and ribs. Restaurants serving typical Colombian food, such as seafood or chicken with coconut rice, are also very popular. Fast-food restaurants are opening.

English-language editions of Time and Newsweek, the Miami Herald and, occasionally, the New York Times, are available. A small, cooperative lending library has books in English, and the Centro Colombo-Americano Library may be used by expatriates. The Centro Colombo-Americano often hosts art exhibits. Barranquilla public libraries do not shelve English-language books.

Cartagena

Cartagena, whose walled city dates back to the days of the Spanish Main, lies about 70 miles south of Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast. It was founded in 1533, and during the 17th century was a center of such importance in the Western Hemisphere that it was second only to Mexico City. During Spanish times, Cartagena (full name, Cartagena de Indias) was a strongly fortified town on an island, but one of its two entrances to the bay was barricaded by the Spanish after a heavy attack by English forces, and the city is now permanently linked to the mainland. The greatest of the Latin American heroes, Simón Bolívar, made Cartagena his headquarters in the Magdalena campaign of 1811.

The famous fortress of San Felipe Borajas, towering over the approaches to the city, and the ancient churches, including the Shrine of St. Peter Clavar, make Cartagena one of the most interesting cities in Colombia. The old town is a maze of narrow streets, houses with tiled roofs and balconies, and small shopping stallsa contrast to the new, commercial city with its wide boulevards and the Plaza Bolívar, where a huge statue honors the memory of "The Liberator." Cartagena is a busy, modern city, handling the export of platinum, coffee, timber, and oil products. Cosmetics, textiles, sugar, tobacco products, leather goods, and fertilizer are produced here. Cartagena is one of Colombia's major ports. Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia (AVIANCA) flies in from New York and Miami, bringing businessmen to its industrial and commercial houses, and tourists to its fascinating historical sites and cosmopolitan attractions. The population of Cartagena was 918,000 in 2000.

Cartagena commemorates its independence each November in a carnival atmosphere, which includes the national beauty contest for the crown of "Miss Colombia." Candlemas Day, the religious feast of the Virgin de la Candelaria, is fervently observed every year on the second day of February at the monastery of La Popa, in the hills outside the city.

Cartagena is known throughout Colombia for its fine restaurants and its jazz and disco clubs. There are good hotels in the new city, attracting tourists throughout the year.

Education

George Washington School is a coeducational, day, proprietary school for children in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Founded in 1952 and sponsored by the Office of Overseas Schools and the U.S. Department of State, it is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Colombian Ministry of Education.

Both U.S. and Colombian curricula are used. Spanish is offered, along with art, computer science, and physical education. Extracurricular activities include drama, gymnastics/dance, literary and news publications, field trips, and varied sports.

The school year extends from mid-August to the beginning of June, with vacations at Christmas, Easter, and U.S. and Colombian holidays. In 1991, the enrollment at George Washington School was 483. Of 27 full-time and seven part-time teachers, eight were Americans.

George Washington School is located on beach front property in Cartagena. Facilities include 20 classrooms, science and computer laboratories, athletic fields, cafeteria, and a 11,000-volume library. The mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 2899, Cartagena, Colombia.

Bucaramanga

Bucaramanga, the capital of Santander Department, is in north central Colombia, about 200 miles northeast of Bogotá. It is situated in the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 3,340 feet. The city was founded in 1622, and many of its colonial monuments and buildings are still in evidence. Today, with a population of 1.5 million, Bucaramanga is a leading commercial city in the center of the country's coffee and tobacco area. Cacao and cotton are also produced. Several manufacturing ventures in the city produce cigars, cigarettes, textiles, straw hats, and iron products.

Known for its beautiful parks, Bucaramanga is often called Colombia's "garden city." It is also noted for the modern Universidad Industrial de Santander, which opened here in 1947.

Many American children in the area attend the Pan-American School, a coeducational, day, proprietary institution. Implementing a U.S. and Colombian curriculum (French is a required language), the school year extends from February to December, with vacations at Christmas, Easter, and from mid-June to mid-July. In 1991, the school had 318 students. Nine of the school's 24 full-time teachers were American. The school has a cafeteria, science lab, computer lab, and playing field. The school is located on five acres of land just outside the city; the mailing address is Apartado Aéreo 522, Bucaramanga, Colombia.

OTHER CITIES

ARMENIA , located in west-central Colombia, about 100 miles west of Bogotá, is a relatively new city. The city is situated in a rich agricultural region, best known for coffee and for the production of food and beverages. Other crops grown include corn, beans, silk, sugarcane, and plantains. Its population, counted with neighboring Calarcá, has already reached 306,000. As the capital of Quindío Department, it is the seat of a university, founded in 1962.

BELLO , at 4,905 feet above sea level, is located in northwestern Colombia. Situated on the Río Porce, in a fertile region, Bello was once a commercial center. Today, it is a part of the industrial complex of Medellín, located six miles south. The major industries are textile milling and brush manufacturing. Bello's estimated population is 370,000.

BUENAVENTURA is a Pacific port, about 50 miles west of Cali. Located on Cascajal Island in Buenaventura Bay, the city is the shipping point for the tobacco and sugar produced in the nearby Cauca Valley. Other items exported from here include coffee, hides, platinum, and gold. The city was founded in 1540, but was destroyed by Indian raids in the 16th century. Buenaventura's importance as a port increased with the building of the Panama Canal. It has steamer connections with Panama and is also the terminus of railroads in western Colombia. The current population is 271,400.

CÚCUTU (also known as San José de Cúcuta) is in northeast Colombia, 250 miles north of Bogotá. It is the capital of Norte de Santander Department, near the Venezuelan border on the Colombia-Venezuela highway. Cúcutu was founded in 1733 and captured from Spanish forces by Simón Bolívar in 1813. From here, Bolívar set out on his march to Caracas. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1875, Cúcutu was rebuilt, and today its population, including the environs, is 682,325. Cúcutu is an industrial city and the center of a rich coffee, oil, and mineral region. The city is linked by air, river, and railway connections with the cities of northeastern Colombia and Venezuela.

GIRARDOT is about 50 miles southeast of Bogotá, and one of the most popular warm-weather spots in the country. The city is noted for its numerous acacia trees. Also, large varieties of tropical fruits, as well as unusual pottery, can be purchased in the town's central plaza. Founded in 1853, Girardot is a commercial center whose principal products include coffee, livestock, and tobacco. The current population is close to 125,000.

Located in northern Colombia near the Río Porce, ITAGÜI was formerly a resort and local commercial center. Today, like other cities in the area, Itagüi is a part of the industrial complex of Medellín, located five miles northeast. The important industry in Itagüi is textile milling. Its population is close to 435,000 (2001).

LETICIA , capital of the Amazonas comisaria (lesser territory), is Colombia's principal town on the Amazon River, 670 miles southeast of Bogotá. Accessible by air, it provides tourists with such attractions as Amazon River excursions, visits to primitive Indian villages, and trips through dense rain forests. Leticia has practically no industry and relies on rubber gathering as a major economic activity. Leticia is located at the northern end of the Peru-Brazil border, and it is easy to make border crossings among the three countries in one day. The town, with a population of approximately 8,000, has been the site of several border disputes between Peru and Colombia. Peru ceded it by treaty in 1922, but seized it back 10 years later. The region was ultimately awarded to Colombia by the League of Nations in 1934.

MANIZALES , capital of Caldas Department, is 100 miles west of Bogotá and 125 miles north of Cali. Located at an altitude of 7,063 feet, it is a commercial and agricultural center in an area producing much of the country's coffee. The city was founded in 1847 by gold prospectors and there are gold and silver mines nearby. A cement plant is located in the city, as are factories producing agricultural machines, textiles, refrigerators, furniture, and leather goods. Manizales is the site of the University of Caldas. An earthquake destroyed Manizales in 1878, and it was leveled by fire in 1925. Situated in a higher and cooler setting than Cali, Manizales straddles a narrow ridge beneath snow-capped Mt. Ruiz, where adventurous souls have tried skiing on the 16,000-foot slope of year-round snow. The population today, including nearby Villamaria, is over 330,000.

MONTERÍA , with a population of over 230,000, is the capital of Córdoba Department. Situated in northwestern Colombia, it is an inland port on the Río Sinú. The city was originally a Zenúe Indian village used as a hunting postMontería means "hunting" in Spanish. Industries here include lumbering, stock raising, and tagua nut production. The University of Córdoba is located here.

NEIVA , the capital city of Huila Department, is located in south-central Colombia, over 100 miles south of the nation's capital. Capt. Diego de Ospina claimed Neiva for the Spanish crown in 1612, after several others had tried unsuccessfully to establish the settlement. The city is basically agricultural, producing corn, rice, cotton, and sesame. It manufactures cement and cotton goods and processes marble. Neiva has excellent water, land, and air routes. The city's population in 2001 was approximately 349,000.

PALMIRA , with a population of well over 150,000, is located on the Pan-American Highway about 50 miles east of Cali and 175 miles southwest of Bogotá. At an altitude of 3,000 feet, Palmira is situated in the Cauca River valley, and is known as the agricultural capital of Colombia. Major crops in the area include coffee, tobacco, rice, corn, and sugarcane. Tours of the sugar refineries in Palmira are open to the public.

The city of PASTO is located in southwestern Colombia, just over 100 miles north of Quito, Ecuador. It is the capital of Nariño Department and is situated on a high plateau at the foot of the Galeras volcano. Pasto has flour and textile mills, sugar refineries, distilleries, and tanneries. Its principal product is wooden bowls finished with locally produced varnish. Founded in 1539, the city served as royalist headquarters during the revolutionary wars. The University of Nariño is located here. Pasto's population is almost 405,000 (2001 est.).

POPAYÁN , 75 miles south of Cali, is situated at an altitude of 5,500 feet on a volcanic terrace above the Cauca River. The city was founded in 1536 by Sebastián de Benalcázar and was the most important settlement in southwest Colombia during the colonial and immediate post-independence periods. During colonial times, Popayán prospered as a religious, cultural, and aristocratic trade center. Following Colombia's independence, Popayán lost much of its commercial importance, but retained its cultural prominence. There has been a university here since 1827. With a population of 230,137 (2001 est.), it is the capital of the Department of Cauca. Coffee is the chief commercial activity; mining is also done in the surrounding region. The city has several small manufacturing enterprises. These industries process food and beverages and manufacture building materials and clothing. Popayán is the repository of many priceless examples of Spanish colonial art and architecture. Numerous buildings destroyed in a recent devastating earthquake are now being restored. A visit to the city during Holy Week to view the internationally famous religious processions is worthwhile.

SANTA MARTA is situated in northern Colombia on the Caribbean Sea, 50 miles east of Barranquilla. Founded in 1525 by Rodrigo de Bastidas, Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia. It became an important banana shipping center in the late 19th century; today, the city's banana industry is operated by the United Fruit Company and is one of the most important in South America. The Atlantic Railway, which climbs through the beautiful mountains to connect Santa Marta with the interior, was completed in 1961. The city is also accessible by highway and air. With a population over 235,000, Santa Marta has fine beaches and is a tourist resort. Santa Marta is the home of the Technological University of Magdalena. Simón Bolívar died on an estate near here in 1830.

TULUÁ is situated in western Colombia, over 100 miles from Bogotá. It was originally settled by the Putimáes Indians and called Villa de Jerez by the explorers. The Indians resisted the Spanish attempts at conquest and, in 1636, Tuluá was established as a large cattle ranch and Indian village. It was not until 1814 that the city won municipal status. Primarily an agricultural center, Tuluá produces yeast, beef, and milk. An annual fair is held to display prize cattle and industrial goods. It is located near the Puerto Berío-Popayán railroad and the Pan-American Highway. The population here is almost 185,000.

TUMACO is located in southwestern Colombia, 375 miles from Bogotá. Situated on a small island just off the coast, it is Colombia's southernmost Pacific port. A commercial center, with about 160,000 residents, the city is the center of lumbering activity including plywood and molding factories. Gold mines are in operation near Tumaco. Tumaco exports ivory, nuts, cacao, tobacco, vegetables, coffee, and other items produced in the country's interior.

TUNJA , 85 miles northeast of Bogotá, on the Pan-American Highway, is the capital of Boyacá Department. The city was founded in 1529 and became independent from Spain in 1811. Many of its early structures are still standing. Situated in the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes, Tunja is a commercial center and distribution point for coal, emeralds, mineral water, and agricultural products produced in the area. Tunja is the home of the Pedagogical and Technological University of Colombia. The city is linked by rail and highway to Bogotá. Tunja's population is about 123,000 (2001 est.).

VALLEDUPAR , the capital city of César Department, has a population of approximately 354,000 (2001 est.). It is situated in northern Colombia, just west of the Venezuelan border. Founded in 1550, the city was prosperous during the colonial period but experienced setbacks during the 19th-century civil wars. Today, as a commercial hub, Valledupar produces bricks and ice. A large sawmill is also located here.

VILLAVICENCIO lies on the Meta River, about 50 miles southeast of Bogotá. Its position in the eastern foothills of the Andes makes it the gateway to the eastern plains of Colombia and the primary urban center of the llanos and forest region in this area of the country. Villavicencio is the capital of Meta Department. The climate here is warm, and the town is a cattle center with a frontier atmosphere. Industries include a distillery, a brewery, soap factories, coffee-roasting plants, and saddleries. Other products are coffee, bananas, rubber, and rice. The current population is about 340,300.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

The Republic of Colombia (about 440,000 square miles), roughly the size of Texas, Arkansas, and New Mexico combined, is in northwest South America. Its location on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, proximity to the Panama Canal, and economic potential give it a position of international importance.

As well as its frontier with Panama on the northwest, Colombia shares borders with Ecuador and Peru on the south, with Brazil on the southeast, and with Venezuela on the northeast.

The Andes dominate the western two-fifths of Colombia, giving it a very different character from the remaining three-fifths in the east. The Amazon region of southeastern Colombia lies below the Equator.

Well over 90% of the population is concentrated in the mountainous west and along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The remainder live is the Eastern Llanos, a large plains area, constituting 54% of the nation's area.

Most live on plateaus and mountain slopes, where elevation reduces the heat of the equatorial climate and contributes to the health and vigor of the people. By concentrating people in isolated pockets at high elevations, the mountain ranges determine not only settlement patterns, but also lines of communication and travel, which parallel the ranges in a north-south direction. Movement from rural to urban areas has been heavy, and nearly three-quarters of the population is now urban.

Colombia's climate varies with its different altitudes. Its three climatic zones are called "hot country," "temperate country," and "cold country."

Population

According to Colombian government statistics, the 2000 population was over 40 million. The population growth rate is 1,6%. Colombia is unique in Latin America in that 26 cities have populations over 100,000.

Due to recent improvements in health and sanitary conditions and a decrease in infant mortality, the population is relatively young: 31% are under 15 years of age, and only 5% are over 65.

In terms of total area, population density is a low 39 persons per square mile. This figure is misleading because the density per arable square mile is about 1,500 persons. Whether this ratio can be maintained or held down to a reasonable level through productive use of large jungle, forest, and plains areas is a major socioeconomic problem.

Settlement is divided into several broad regions. Each has been rather isolated by geologic obstacles to travel, so each has a high degree of economic independence of essential raw materials and fuel. Much of the prevalent regional sentiment can be traced to early settlement patterns.

When the Spanish Colonists entered what is now Colombia, they found a rather well-organized Indian population on the plateaus and high valleys of the Eastern Cordillera. A moderate climate, adequate natural resources, and Indian labor allowed the Cundinamarca-Boyaca area and parts of Tolima and Huila to develop into an economic entity which today has the heaviest concentration of people in the country. Here, Bogota became the economic, political, and cultural center of Colombia.

In the early 19th century, another population center developed along the northern end of the Eastern Cordillera when the export of cinchona bark became highly profitable. White settlers then appeared in significant numbers in what are now Santander and Norte de Santander.

A third population center developed in the area of the Departments of Antioquia and Caldas, usually called the Antioquia region. Other major population concentrations are in the Cauca River Valley (from Popayan to Cali and Cartagena), and the ocean ports: Buenaventura and the Pacific coast and the Cartagena-Barranquilla-Santa Marta region along the Atlantic shore.

Among the countries of Latin America, Colombia is commonly described as a mestizo nation, rather than a white or an Indian one, with a mixed and diverse society.

Colombians describe their society as tri-ethnic, due to mingling between Caucasians and peoples of African decent with the original Indians to form a new combination. This fusion has taken nearly four centuries and, consequently, most Colombians are of mixed origin. Ethnic boundaries have not been completely erased. Colombians still attach importance to ancestral characteristics, although these no longer demarcate distinct social groups.

Spanish is spoken throughout Colombia, except by small groups of Indians who still speak aboriginal languages; however, these groups are becoming increasingly bilingual. San Andres, a small island Department in the Caribbean, is another exception; San Andreans speak English as a first language. Colombians are proud of their Spanish and consider it, especially that spoken by the upper classes in Bogota and other large cities, as the purest form of that language in Latin America today.

Colombia is overwhelmingly a Catholic country (approximately 90%.) Although freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Constitution, the Catholic Church receives some funds from the government and exercises considerable, although diminishing, influence over education. The church is the major social force in Colombia.

Public Institutions

The Republic of Colombia was established in 1823. In the same year, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new Republic and establish a resident diplomatic mission.

Colombia, unlike many Latin American countries, established an early tradition of civilian governments and regular free elections. Despite this background, Colombia's history has been marred by periods of violent political conflict. The period known as "La Violencia" in the 1940s and 1950s claimed between 100,000 and 200,000 lives. More recently, drug and guerrilla-related violence have plagued Colombian society. Since the early 1980s, the Colombian government has engaged in intermittent peace talks with guerrilla groups. In 1990, the guerrilla group M-19 (Movement of April 19) delivered its weapons to the government and scored surprising electoral gains as a legal political party. However, the two political parties, the Liberal and Conservative, soon shadowed the M-19 emergent preponderance. Two older and larger guerrilla armies, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), remain in armed conflict with the government.

A military coup in 1953 brought General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla to power. Initially, Rojas enjoyed wide popular support, partly for his success in reducing La Violencia. When he did not promptly restore democratic government, however, he was overthrown by the military with the backing of the two major political parties (the Liberals and the Conservatives), and a provisional government took office in 1957.

In July 1957, the last Conservative president, Laureano Gomez (1950-53), and the last Liberal president, Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46), proposed the formation of a "National Front," under which the Liberal and Conservative parties would govern jointly. Through regular elections, the presidency would alternate between the two parties every four years; the parties would also share all other elective and appointive offices.

The first three National Front Presidents brought an end to La Violencia and the blind partisanship which had afflicted both parties. They committed Colombia to the far-reaching social and economic reforms proposed in the Charter of the Alliance for Progress, and, with assistance from the United States and international lending agencies, achieved major economic development.

The 1886 Constitution was substantially amended in 1991 by a 74-member Constituent Assembly. On July 4, 1991 a new Colombian Constitution was enacted. The new Constitution, one of the largest in the world, expanded citizens' basic rights. Among others, the most relevant is the "tutela" (immediate court action at the request of a citizen if he/she feels his/her constitutional rights have been violated and no other legal recourse is available). However, keystones to the constitutional reform in 1991 were the need to reform Congress and to strengthen justice administration by introducing the accusatorial system. Other relevant amendments were the approval of freedom of religion (in the past, Colombia's official religion was the Roman Catholic), civil divorce for all marriages, the election of a Vice-President, the election of governors, and dual nationality.

Colombia remains a democratic republic under a presidential system with Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government. Elected for a 4 year term, the President is the chief of the Executive Branch. He may not be reelected. The Vice-President runs for election on the same ticket as the presidential candidate, and both should be members of the same political party. The Vice-President fulfills the duties of the President in case of the President's resignation, serious illness, or death. However, the Vice-President may be assigned other special responsibilities, hold public positions, and even fulfill special presidential functions at the President's request. During the President's temporary absences, such as international trips, the Minister of the Interior or another minister in order of precedence performs his duties.

Colombia's bicameral Congress consists of a 102 member Senate elected on the basis of a nationwide ballot, and a House of Representatives whose number, currently 165, is elected proportionally by adult residents (age 18 and over) of the Departments and the Capital District. Congressional elections are held every four years, on a different date from the Presidential election. If a member of Congress is absent temporarily or permanently, his seat is taken by an alternate elected at the same time as the member.

Congress meets in two sessions annually, from March to June and from July to December. The president may convene special sessions at other times.

The country is divided into 32 departments, 1,025 municipalitiesof which 30 cities have over 100,000 inhabitantsand the Capital District of Santa Fe de Bogota (herein referred to as Bogota). Governors and mayors are elected for a 3-year term.

Judicial power is exercised by subordinate courts and four high tribunals: The Constitutional Court (9 members elected by the Senate), the Supreme Court (20 members, highest criminal, civil and labor tribunal), the Council of State (26 members, highest tribunal for contentious administrative matters), and the Judiciary Superior Council (13 members, highest tribunal for justice administration and disciplinary issues of the judicial branch). The high court justices are elected for an 8-year term. Justices of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Council of State may not be reelected.

The Office of the Prosecutor General (Fiscalía General de la Nación) was created under the 1991 Constitution and serves as the driving force in Colombia's accusatorial model of criminal investigation. The Prosecutor General is elected by the Supreme Court for a 4-year term and may not be reelected.

The Office of the Attorney General or Public Ministry (Procuraduría General de la Nación) oversees the performance of public servants. The Attorney General is elected by the Senate for a 4-year-term oversees the performance of public servants. The Attorney General is elected by the Senate for a 4-year term.

The Office of the Public Defender (Defensoría del Pueblo), under the Attorney General, is elected by the House of Representatives for a 4-year term to protect and defend human rights.

Arts, Science, and Education

Bogota is a cultural center with thriving theaters, orchestras, opera, museums and art galleries. Other major cities in Colombia also support the arts. The Centro Colombo-Americano in Bogota and its counterpart Binational Centers around the country also provide venues for art presentations.

Visiting dancers, musicians and actors from all parts of the world perform in Bogota. Films from around the world are also screened in the many cinemas, including current U.S. movies in English with Spanish subtitles.

Bogota's bookstores, among the finest in Latin America, offer titles in English, French and German as well as Spanish. The American Library at the Centro Colombo-Americano has a solid and current collection of books and recent periodicals in English.

A small video library is also maintained there, and the annex where it is located offers service to visitors and students on weekend hours. Other libraries also hold small selections of English-language collections.

Colombia's literacy rate is over 91%. The basic structure of education in Colombia includes two years of pre-school, five years of primary school, and six years of secondary school. Curricula for public and private elementary and high schools are developed by the Ministry of Education.

Under the 1991 Constitution, education is compulsory up to age 15. Previously, only the first five years were mandatory. The student population, including 500,000 at the university level, is estimated more than 4.5 million. The more than 230 institutions of higher education in Colombia offer programs in a wide variety of disciplines and at different types of institutions which grant degrees at the technical and/or professional levels. The biggest public university is Universidad Nacional de Colombia, with the main campus in Bogota and others in Medellin, Manizales and Palmira. Some of the oldest and most reputed private universities are Universidad de Santo Tomas, founded in 1580; Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, founded in 1622; and Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, founded in 1653. Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota and Universidad del Valle in Cali are among the leading universities in the country and are known internationally for their academic excellence. Universidad Javeriana offers summer programs in Spanish language. Many Colombians do their graduate studies abroad.

Commerce and Industry

Colombia has a diversified economy which has enjoyed steady growth throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Contrary to popular opinion, cocaine trafficking does not play a major role in the overall Colombia economy nor does it provide significant foreign exchange earnings for the nation. Colombia is rich in natural resources and fertile agricultural land. It is the world's second largest producer and exporter of coffee. Other agricultural products include sugar, cotton, rice, bananas, corn, potatoes, yucca, cocoa, barley, flowers and sisal-like fiber ("fique"). Livestock also accounts for a large share of agricultural output, although in recent years the cattle industry has been in decline. Other products include petroleum, gold, platinum, silver, coal, iron, lead, limestone and salt. In addition, nickel exports are an important source of foreign exchange. Colombia's emeralds are world famous.

Coal and petroleum have become important exports in the last ten years. An affiliate of EXXON and the Colombian National Coal Company (Carbocol) together developed Colombia's giant north coast coal field. The project, named Cerrejon North, required an investment of US $3.2 billion and represents the largest U.S. investment in Colombia. Production began in 1985, and exports grew quickly to over US$600 million in 1990.

Occidental Petroleum Company and the Colombian national oil company Ecopetrol, jointly developed Caño-Limon, a major oil field in the Llanos near the Venezuelan border. Development includes facilities for extraction and transport, and storage and export facilities in Coveñas on Colombia's north coast. The field's proven reserves are over one billion barrels. Production from the field has helped make Colombia self-sufficient in crude oil and a significant Latin American oil exporter (approximately 250,000 BPD). Colombia must still import a large percentage of its gasoline, due to insufficient refining capacity within the country.

Drummond Ltd. recently began operations in La Loma coal deposit. This bituminous coal has similar characteristics to that mined at the Cerrejon deposit and La Loma's project infrastructure is capable of producing up to 10 million tons a year to be exported via a private port venture. The government can create incentives for foreign investors in mineral development projects under the Mining Code.

Colombia enacted its 1991 Constitution under the principles of sustainable development and the protection of the country's rich biodiversity. The creation of the Ministry of the Environment and the National Environmental System sets a new framework for the government to plan strategies for the development of an environmental conscience in the public and private sectors; to develop policies for the efficient use of natural resources; to enforce environmental regulations; to control industrial pollution sources; and, to improve the institutional and legal framework of the environmental entities within the system.

In 1990, Colombia greatly accelerated an ambitious program of economic opening, called apertura, which is designed to make Colombia globally competitive. The country's industrial base, while growing slowly, is undergoing changes as Colombia frees its trade regime to allow more imports to enter at lower tariff rates. Less efficient industries are facing foreign competition, forcing them to modernize, improving technology and efficiency.

As part of the apertura program, legislation was passed at the end of 1990 to liberalize and modernize the foreign investment, foreign exchange, labor, tax and foreign trade regimes. Changes include legalization of 100% ownership of financial institutions by foreign investors, a reduction in currency controls, increased profit remittance ceilings, and more flexible hiring and firing practices. Prior licenses for imports have been virtually eliminated. Tariffs, although still high for luxury goods, have been reduced substantially. These laws will improve the already close financial and commercial ties between Colombia, the U.S. and Europe.

Foreign investment is permitted in all sectors of the Colombian economy with the exception of public security (defense and police) and nuclear energy. The government is interested in privatizing or bringing private investment into previously restricted sectors such as telecommunications and public works. Long distance telephone services are scheduled to be provided by competing private companies starting in 1997. Private oil and mineral extraction projects must still be approved by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and financial sector investments must have the prior approval of the Banking Superintendency.

Until recently, the Colombian government maintained a policy of gradual devaluation (crawling peg) of the peso against the dollar to keep Colombian products competitive in world markets. Colombia's principal exports are coffee, oil, coal, textiles, leather products, bananas, cut flowers, fruits and citrus, cotton, sugar, tobacco, cement, lumber, shrimp, rice, cowhides, and precious metals.

Approximately 80% of Colombia's population lives outside Bogota. Much of the country's economic activity is spread among several modern and urbanized industrial centers. The cities of Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Bucaramanga, Pereira, among others, play a significant role in the country's economy. The existence of four major ports and six international airports guarantees that goods may flow freely to and from Colombia without dependence upon Bogota.

The United States continues to be Colombia's largest trading partner, accounting for about 35% of its exports and 39% of its imports. The two nations formed the Joint Commission on Trade and Investment (TIC) in July 1990 to further economic ties and reduce barriers to trade between Colombia and the U.S. The TIC met most recently in May 1996.

Transportation

Local

Taxis are easily available and rates are reasonable. You may call via telephone, and one will be radio dispatched, or you can wave them down on the streets. As in most large cities, your wait may be long during rush hours and on rainy days. All taxis are metered and inexpensive by U.S. standards, except the green-and-white tourist taxis, which provide transportation to and from the first-class hotels.

Special arrangements can be made to hire taxis by the hour for local shopping trips, sight-seeing tours, etc. Bogota and most other cities in Colombia have bus service, but security and safety are poor.

Regional

Airline service within Colombia is good, ranging from Avianca's modern jet fleet to some "budget" airlines' DC-3s. Fares are expensive by U.S. standards for jet service. Connections between major cities are frequent and schedules are generally adhered to.

Bogota has a major international air terminal, with daily flights to the U.S., Europe, and other parts of Latin America. Barranquilla and other major cities also have adequate airport facilities with many international flights. Air fares for international routes are expensive; a round-trip excursion between Bogota and Miami between June through August and December through February, including taxes is approximately US$700. At other times, the fare is approximately US$500. Off-season special fares are currently offered twice annually. Both Continental and American Airlines service Colombia. The Colombian Government imposes a departure tax on international travelers of approximately US$23 which can be paid in local currency or U.S. dollars.

Colombian drivers are very aggressive and often do not obey local traffic regulations. Traffic is heavy, road conditions are often bad due to numerous potholes. Minor accidents are frequent. Maintenance and body work are normally good, but parts and labor are expensive.

Traffic moves on the right. All distances and speed limits are given in kilometers, and international symbols are used for stop signs, railway crossings, etc.

Communications

Telephone and Telegraph

Long distance telephone service is satisfactory. Calling the U.S. from Bogota is expensive, and you may wish to apply for a long-distance telephone credit card such as AT&T. A three minute call to Washington, D.C., costs about US$8.48 (plus US$1.49 per minute thereafter) during the week and US$4 (plus US$l per minute thereafter) on Sundays.

Colombia has complete domestic and international telegraph and FAX service.

Radio and TV

Colombia has many commercial radio stations and reception is good.

Programs are mostly Latin American music; however, some stations broadcast classical music and cultural programs and others give heavy play to American popular music, including rock and jazz. All broadcasts are in Spanish. English-language newscasts are heard on shortwave broadcasts by the VOA and American Forces Radio (AFRTS); reception is good. Numerous FM stereo stations operate in Bogota.

In 1992 the government began a program of restructuring Colombian television. Ownership has changed from completely government-controlled to shared public and private hands with the air-waves, transmission infrastructure and some of the production facilities owned by Inravision, the government's broadcasting regulatory authority. Sixty percent of airtime must be given to Colombian-produced programs. Foreign programs are shown to supplement local production.

Inravision operates three national channels. Programming includes local and world news, soap operas, sports, educational, entertainment and movies. There is also parabolica satellite antenna and Cable TV available for an additional fee, which offers several English-speaking movie channels as well as CNN and ESPN.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

All major cities have at least two daily newspapers; the two major dailies in Bogota, El Tiempo and El Espectador, are available in all cities and on the Internet. Most papers lack comprehensive coverage of international events, but El Tiempo and El Espectador offer adequate coverage. An English-language weekly newspaper is available. Internet access is relatively expensive.

A satellite edition of the Miami Herald is printed in Bogota on a same-day basis. The International Herald Tribune and the New York Times are sold in major tourist hotels one or two days after publication.

The Latin American editions of Time and Newsweek magazines are regularly available in all major cities Copies of most US magazines available locally are scarce and at least double Stateside prices.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Reputable and reliable doctors, dentists and optometrists practice in Colombia. Many have been trained in the U.S. and speak English.

The Santa Fe Clinic (Hospital) is generally recommended, although there are several other local facilities which offer good care. Equipment and technology at the Santa Fe Clinic are equal to those available in good hospitals in the U.S. Nursing care is acceptable and improving. Support services such as laboratories are also above average.

Barranquilla has a University Hospital and private facility, Clínica Bautista, where medical attention of good quality can also be obtained. Doctors and support services are also adequate.

Common medications are available in Colombia and cheaper than in the U.S. Bring any specific/prescription or other medicines (allergy, etc.) in airfreight or household effects, since many brand names are unavailable locally.

Community Health

The Colombian environment is generally healthy. Sanitation in Colombia varies, depending on the area, from adequate to lax. Diarrhea, amebiasis, infectious hepatitis and other diseases caused by contaminated food and water are more prevalent than in the U.S. Water is considered safe in some large cities, but not in villages or outside the cities. Pasteurized milk and milk products of high quality are available in the supermarkets in large cities, as is bottled water. As in the U.S., mumps, measles, chicken pox, and poliomyelitis as well as other viral infections are encountered here.

Rabies is prevalent is some areas of Colombia; however, at present, cases of rabies transmission to humans are very rare in the cities. Antirabies campaigns are nagging in Colombia.

Preventive Measures

Most foods can be freed of contamination by cooking or boiling, or, with fruits, by peeling. Lettuce and leafy vegetables are treated by washing well and rinsing. A soaking for 30 minutes in an iodine or chlorine solution provides added protection.

Recommended inoculations include typhoid, tetanus, polio, yellow fever, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A. Have your shots checked before departing, and keep them current.

Bogota's high altitude causes short-term breathing difficulties, insomnia, and weight loss in some healthy individuals. Normally, these symptoms quickly subside.

Malaria suppressant pills (i.e., Aralen) are unnecessary in the major cities, but are suggested for individuals who plan to visit eastern Colombia, the Pacific Coast and the lower Magdalena River Valley.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Passage, Customs & Duties

Air travel to Colombia is recommended; all major cities have airports American Airlines and Continental are currently the only U.S. flag carriers.

A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and depart Colombia. Tourists must also provide evidence of return or onward travel. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a tourist stay of 60 days or less. Stiff fines are imposed if passports are not stamped on arrival and if stays exceeding 60 days are not authorized by the Colombian Immigration Agency (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, Jefatura de Extranjeria, "DAS Extranjeria"). U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Colombia must obtain a new passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the main immigration office in Bogota to obtain permission to depart. An exit tax must be paid at the airport when departing Colombia. For further information regarding entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Colombian Embassy at 2118 Leroy Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 387-8338; Internet website-http://www.colombiaemb.org; or the Colombian consulate in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco or San Juan.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments, including Colombia's, have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Colombia's specific procedures mandate that minors (under 18), regardless of nationality, who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Colombian Embassy or a Colombian consulate within the United States. If documents are prepared in Colombia, only notarization by a Colombian notary is required. A permission letter prepared outside of Colombia is valid for 90 days. A permission letter prepared in Colombia is valid for 60 days.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Colombia are encouraged to register and obtain updated information on travel and security in Colombia either at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota or via the Embassy's website (see website address below). The Consular Section is open for citizens services, including registration, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday through Thursday, excluding U.S. and Colombian holidays. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida El Dorado and Carrera 50; telephone (011-57-1) 315-0811 during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or 315-2109/2110 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (011-57-1) 315-2196/2197; Internet website-http://usembassy.state.gov/bogota. The Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which provides some limited consular services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (011-57-5) 353-2001; fax (011-57-5) 353-5216; e-mail:[email protected].

Firearms & Ammunition

Colombian law prohibits tourists and business travelers from bringing firearms into Colombia. The penalty for illegal importation and/or possession of firearms is three to ten years in prison. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Colombia in Washington or one of Colombia's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Pets

Pets must be accompanied by vaccination and health certificates certified by a Colombian consul. It is recommended that pets NOT be shipped as unaccompanied baggage.

Pets arriving at the airport as unaccompanied baggage after 2:00 PM cannot be cleared for entry until the next business day; unfortunately, the customs warehouse has no facilities for their proper care.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The basic monetary unit in Colombia is the Colombian peso (COP), a decimal currency. In writing, the same sign is used for both the peso ($) and the U.S. dollar ($) so they are often written either Col$, COP or Ps. Both paper currency and metal coins are used; the most common bills are in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 pesos. Coins are minted in values of 50, 100, 500, and 1000 pesos. The exchange rate in June 2002 was roughly COP$2,331.72 pesos per US$1.

Among U.S. banks with partially owned subsidiaries in Colombia are the First National City Bank and Bank of America.

Colombia is officially metric, with all distances measured in kilometers, heights in meters and temperature in Celsius. Many bulk commodities, however, such as coal and wood, are sold in "cargas," which vary according to the material weighed. Generally, it is the amount which can be loaded on a horse or burro. Bulk foodstuffs, such as fruits, vegetables, etc., are sold by the pound rather than by the kilo, and gas is sold in liters.

Disaster Preparedness

Colombia is an earthquake-prone country. U.S. citizens in Colombia may refer to information on dealing with natural disasters on the U.S. Embassy's web site athttp://usembassy.state.gov/bogota/wwwhacsc.html. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan.1 New Year's Day

Jan.6 Epiphany

Mar. St. Joseph's Day*

Mar/Apr. Holy Thursday*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

May 1Labor Day

May/JuneFeast of the* Sacred Heart

May/JuneAscension Day*

June Corpus Christi*

June Saints Peter & Paul*

July 20 Independence Day

Aug. Battle of Boyaca*

Aug. Assumption Day*

Oct. Columbus Day*

Nov.1 All Saints' Day

Nov. Independence of Cartagena*

Dec. 8 Immaculate Conception

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

*variable

RECOMMENDED READING

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Bergquist, Charles, et al., eds. Violence in Colombia: The Contemporary Crisis in Historical Perspective. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1992.

Bogota: Cost of Living Survey. Rector, 1995.

Clancy, Tom. Clear & Present Danger. Putnam Publishing Group, 1989.

Colombia: A Country Study. USGPO, 1990, 4TH Ed. (Area handbook series)

Colombia: Financing Foreign Operations. Rector, 1995

Colombia in Focus: a Guide to the People, Politics & Culture. Monthly Review, 1996.

Colombia in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1987.

Davis, Robert H., ed. Colombia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1990.

Decker, David R. & Duran, Ignacio. The Political, Economic, & Labor Climate in Colombia. University of Pennsylvania the Wharton School, Center for Human Resources, 1982.

Dix, Robert H. The Politics of Colombia. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 1986.

DuBois, Jill. Colombia. New York:Marshall Cavendish, 1991.

Dydynski, Krzysztof. Colombia: A Travel Survival Kit. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 1988.

Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Harper & Row: New York, 1970.

Giraldo, Javier. Colombia the Genocidal Democracy. Common Courage, 1995.

Gudeman, Stephen & Gutierrez, Alberto R. Conversations in Colombia: The Domestic Economy in Life & Text. Cambridge University Press, l990.

Gugliotta, Guy & Leen, Jeff. Kings of Cocaine: An Astonishing True Story of Murder, Money, & Corruption. Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., l990.

Hartlyn, Jonathan. The Politics of Coalition Rule in Colombia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Haynes, Tricia. Let's Visit Colombia. Bridgeport, CT: Burke Publishing, 1988.

Henao J. History of Colombia. Gordon Press Publishers, 1976.

Henderson, James D. When Colombia Bled: a History of the Violence in Tolima. Univ. of Alabama, 1985.

Herman, Donald L., ed. Democracy in Latin America: Colombia and Venezuela. New York: Praeger, 1988.

Hutchinson, William R.; Poznanski, Cynthia A. & Todt-Stockman, Laura. Living in Colombia: A Guide for Foreigners. Intercultural Press, Inc., 1987.

Kline, Harvey F. Portrait of Unit & Diversity. Westview Press, 1983.

Lael, Richard L. Arrogant Diplomacy: US Policy Toward Colombia, 1903-22. Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1987.

Lang, James. Inside Development in Latin America: A Report from the Dominican Republic, Colombia & Brazil. University of North Carolina Press, 1988.

Morrison, Marion. Colombia. Chicago: Children's Press, 1990.

Oquist, Paul. Violence, Conflict, & Politics in Colombia. Academic Press, Inc., 1980.

Osterling, Jorge P. Democracy in Colombia: Clientelistic Politics & Guerrilla Warfare. Transaction Publishers, 1989.

Parks, Taylor E. Colombia & the United States. Gordon Press Publishers, 1976.

Pearce, Jenny. Colombia: Inside the Labyrinth. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1990.

. Colombia: The Drug War. New York: Watts, 1990.

Rosenberg, Tina. Children of Cain: Violence & the Violent in Latin America. New York: Morrow, 1991.

Stewart, Gail B. Colombia. New York: Macmillan Children's Book Group, 1991.

Washington Office on Latin America Staff. Colombia Besieged: Political Violence & State Responsibility. Washington Office on Latin America, 1989.

Wiarda, Howard J. The Democratic Revolution in Latin America: History, Politics & US Policy. Holmes & Meier, 1990.

Wickham-Crowley, Timothy P. Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America. Princeton Univ. Pr., 1992.

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COLOMBIA

Republic of Colombia

República de Colombia

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Shaped like an odd-looking pear with a thin top, Colombia is located in the northwestern corner of South America, alongside the Caribbean Sea between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the Pacific Ocean between Panama and Ecuador. Colombia has an area of 1,138,903 square kilometers (439,733 square miles) and a total coastline of 3,207 kilometers (1,993 miles) distributed between the Caribbean Sea and North Pacific Ocean. It shares borders with Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, Peru and Ecuador to the south-southwest, and Panama to the northwest. With the fifth-largest area in Latin America in terms of size, Colombia is one-ninth the size of the United States, and is approximately the same size as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany combined. The capital city, Bogotá, is located in the center of the country in a mountainous setting.

Topographically, Colombia is divided into 4 regions: the central highlands, the Caribbean lowlands, the Pacific lowlands, and Eastern Colombia (east of the Andes mountains). In this diverse geography one important feature is the 3 chains of high mountains (cordilleras) that cut the country from south to northeast.

POPULATION.

In Latin America, Colombia ranks fourth in overall population and tenth in population density. Its population was estimated at 39.68 million in July of 2000, up from 25.4 million in 1975. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 22.85 per 1,000 while the death rate was 5.73 per 1,000. With a projected annual growth rate of 1.6 percent between 2000 and 2015, the population is expected to reach 53.2 million by the year 2015.

At the end of World War II, Colombia's population growth accelerated dramatically, peaking at about 3.2 percent per year by the 1960s. In 1951 Colombia's population was 11.5 million, and by 1973 it had doubled to 22.9 million. Beginning in the late 1960s the annual population growth rate dropped dramatically, such that between 1973 and 1985 it stood at only 2 percent. This drop was partly the result of a control policy initiated during the Lleras Restrepo administration (1966-70). Colombia was one of the few Latin American countries to adopt family planning as an official policy and to integrate it into development plans.

Population distribution is highly uneven. Roughly 94.5 percent of the population is concentrated in 42 percent of the territory, mostly in the plateaus and basins scattered among the Andes cordilleras and the valleys of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers, which run south to north in the western half of the country. Some 58 percent of the territory, mostly the 9 eastern departments (administrative units, much like provinces), accounts for a scant 5.5 percent of the population. Three-fourths of the population live in the Central Highlands in the temperate and cool zones and the remainder in the Caribbean lowlands.

Visitors travelling to Colombia during the 1950s and 1960s were struck by the social and economic changes in the country. The population explosion was accompanied by significant migrations from the countryside to intermediate and big cities, which led to rapid urbanization. According to the 1938 census, 30.9 percent of the population lived in urban municipal towns. By 1951 this had increased to 38.7 percent and continued to increase sharply so that by 1985 it had reached 67.2 percent. By the mid-1980s urban growth had consolidated the change from a predominantly rural to an urban economy. According to the 1993 census, Bogotá, the capital city, had a population of 5,399,000. Other major cities are Medellín (2,556,000 people) in the western province of Antioquia; Cali (2,064,000), southwest of Bogotá; and Barranquilla (1,329,000), on the Caribbean.

Colombia is one of the most Spanish of all South American nations, although persons of pure Spanish descent constitute only 20 percent of the population. The mestizos (people who are a mixture of white and indigenous Amerindians) comprise 58 percent. The mulattos (a mixture of African and white ethnicities) make up 14 percent, and those of African descent are only 4 percent of the population. The zambos (those of mixed African and Amerindian origins) comprise 3 percent of Colombia's people.

Colombia is a country composed primarily of young people, with 63 percent aged between 15 and 64 years, 32 percent below the age of 14, and 5 percent of the population older than 65.

An important feature of the latter half of the twentieth century has been a strong tendency for Colombians to emigrate . The 2 main destinations of emigrants are the United States and Venezuela. Up until the end of the 1980s, most of the emigrants to the United States were professionals, which represented a considerable brain drain (when talented professionals leave their home country due to better pay and living conditions abroad). However, in the 1990s the composition of emigrants also included less qualified professionals. Emigration to Venezuela has also been a major demographic phenomenon. The number of Colombians living illegally in Venezuela has been variously estimated at between half and three-quarters of a million. If legal migrants are considered, there may be as many as a million Colombian migrants in that neighboring country. The illegal migration is virtually impossible to control because the border is long and open, and Colombians are indistinguishable from Venezuelans. During the 1990s the trend has diminished due to Venezuela's economic problems. Overall, Colombia's emigration problem has been the result of not only better economic opportunities elsewhere, but rampant insecurity in the country.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Colombia is a market economy with major commercial and investment links to the United States, and more recently to its neighbor countries in the Andean region. For close to a century the country was known as a "coffee economy." As the twentieth century came to close, Colombia remained a major coffee producer, though coffee was second to oil as a generator of foreign exchange earnings. By the end of the century, even chemicals had surpassed coffee in export earnings. In the last 25 years the country has also gained an unfortunate reputation as a haven for illegal drug cultivation and manufacture.

Colombia has attained greater diversification both in terms of production and exports, allowing the country to cushion the external shocks typically felt by less developed countries which are dependent on shifting world prices for their major exports. Apart from oil production, recent examples of success range from the export of fresh-cut flowers to the chemical industry, a leading exporter to other Latin American countries.

The net result has been an economy growing steadilythough moderatelyover the last 50 to 60 years, with an important positive impact upon the welfare of the population measured by almost any indicator. Life expectancy, nutrition, and access to health and education have all improved. Major services such as electricity, urban sewage, roads, and telecommunications have increased substantially. Furthermore, GDP per capita has risen, although it is still unevenly distributed.

To continue this process, Colombia has required many technology inputs, both in terms of equipment, chemical products, and raw materials for production, as well as consumer products to match the needs of a sophisticated urban society. Colombia's growth has been close to the average of developing countries, but this growth has not been steady. Annual GDP growth in the 45 years after World War II was about 4.8 percent, but it varied from a high of 6.08 percent between 1967 and 1972 to a more modest 2 percent between 1990 and 1997. In 1999 GDP diminished by about 5 percent, the only negative result in close to 70 years as investment activity and demand plummeted.

Topographical conditions have made internal communications very difficult, isolating most regions from one another. For close to a century such difficulties prevented the consolidation of an integrated national market. Today, modern transportation infrastructure is still lacking, both for the internal market and for exports.

Unlike most other Latin American countries, Colombia was never very cut off from the world in economic terms. During the second half of the twentieth century, the country managed a mixture of relatively open and moderate economic strategies combined with industrial and export promotion policies. One good example is currency management. Up to 1967 the currency had several values through multiple exchange rates . The government then chose to have one rate, with its value fluctuating over time using a crawling peg mechanism. In addition, several other mechanisms were designed to promote exports. Following such changes, exports expanded, bring in new sources of foreign exchange.

Such policiesunusual in the regionallowed Colombia to avoid the hardship of the 1980s, known throughout the area as the "lost decade." One major difference was the national debt . During the 1980s Colombia managed to avoid the "debt trap" with a debt of roughly 7 percent of GDP, although in the last 7 years it increased to 30 percent. The country's total external debt by 1998 was US$35 billion. So when the times were ripe for major changes, Colombia was able to launch economic reforms without the strains suffered by other countries. The first 5 years of liberalization in the late 1980s and early 1990s were characterized by higher economic growth than the previous decade (between 4 to 5 percent annually). Subsequently, the GDP growth rate fell to 0.6 percent in 1998, and close to-5.0 percent in 1999 during the recession which affected all of Latin America.

Despite its comparative advantages, Colombia has suffered from the introduction and expansion of a powerful illegal drug industry that today stands as a major threat to the consolidation of the country as a democratic society and operates as a major fuel to social and political violence. Originating in the early 1970s, the narcotics business managed to profit from weak social and legal controls, political corruption, and the collusion of some authorities. With their headquarters established in the regions of Antioquia and Cauca, the Medellín and Cali cartels set up a vast international network of coca, marijuana, and poppy cultivation, the manufacture of cocaine and heroine, distribution channels, and money laundering .

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Colombia was one of the first South American nations to gain independence from Spain in 1824. A part of the Gran Colombia (comprising also Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama) until 1830, from the 1840s the country started on its own route, oriented toward a mild form of economic and social liberalism. From those early years onwards the country has been characterized by 3 major political features: first, a dominance of 2 major parties, the Liberals and Conservatives. From around the mid-19th century, traditional political parties have dominated the political scene, adapting to major social, economic, and international conditions. Second, the pervasive presence of political violence. The greatest bloodshed came in the War of the Thousand Days (1899-1902) in which 100,000 people died, and the "Violencia" (1948-66) during which between 100,000 and 200,000 lost their lives. Currently Colombia is plagued by violence from several leftist guerrilla groups and high levels of violence involving both street criminals and drug lords.

Paradoxically, the third feature has been a relatively long stability of democratically elected governments from 1910 onwards, with the exception of the period from 1949 to 1958. Apart from that brief period, Colombia's military forces have been known for their support of civilian-elected governments. In response to the mid-twentieth-century violence, the 2 traditional parties formed the National Front coalition under which Liberals and Conservatives alternated the presidency and shared power in Congress and the government bureaucracy from 1958 to 1974.

The political regime is presidential, with presidents elected directly every 4 years with no opportunity for reelection. The current president is Andrés Pastrana, elected in 1998. Every now and then there have been pressures toward more provincial autonomy, but the regime remained quite centralized from the enactment of the 1886 Constitution until a new one was drafted and approved in 1991. Regarding the judiciary system, the top of its hierarchy is selected by Congress. There is a bicameral (2-chamber) Congress; governors, mayors, and local councilors are also elected every 4 years, though on different dates. Although political confrontation has been bitter and even violent occasionally, the 2 parties have shared power most of the time, either through implicit agreements or under constitutional provisions, such as those forming the National Front.

The National Front era contributed to diminishing differences over policy, especially in economic matters, and served as a positive factor for stability and growth. At the same time, however, it was a means to exclude other players in the legal arena, which created incentives for armed struggle. During the National Front period as well as other periods when compromise governments formedit was virtually impossible to create a political organization outside the Liberal or Conservative parties.

For more than half a century Colombia has suffered from the action of left-wing guerrillas. From the late 1940s, growing discontent over poverty and social inequities in rural areas led to the formation of guerilla groups, which evolved into 2 major organizations, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC, communist oriented), and the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN, which supported Cuban leader Fidel Castro). During the 1970s and 1980s, the guerrillas turned their attention to the cities, and several attempts toward peace ended in bloodshed. Today the 2 former guerrilla groups have turned to the narcotics business in their search for financial support. In their pursuit of total power, the guerrillas have failed to topple the government but have caused major disruptions. That is also the case of the growing power of the drug cartels and paramilitary groups.

In 1991 a new constitution was drafted by a Constituent Assembly and later approved by a majority of Colombians. It cleared the way for new entrants to the political scene, instituted direct elections of provincial governors and mayors, and strengthened the office of the Attorney General, Constitutional Council, and the Electoral Authority. Other constitutional provisions regarding the political system, such as banning re-election and a 4-year presidential period, were maintained.

The strategy of the Pastrana administration has been to reinitiate peace negotiations with the 2 major groups (FARC and ELN) while at the same time obtaining important financial support from the U.S. government. This programcalled Plan Colombiais designed to combat the illegal drug plantations, laboratories, and the commercial drug network, thus depriving the guerrillas of financial support.

The size and influence of government over the economy has been rather mild. According to the World Bank, the central government revenues in 1998 were only 12 percent of GDP. Though the level of state involvement increased from the 1940s to the 1970s, Colombia never concentrated major portions of wealth creation in the hands of the state. Coffee production, with its wide participation of private growers and commercial retail networks, has been an important factor both in terms of tax collection and the presence of private capital.

For many years financial policy was shared between the executive branch and congress, with participation of the private sector , but from the mid-1960s, most of the responsibility has rested with the former, with monetary policy in the hands of the Banco de la Republica (central bank). Traditionally, the government has regulated the prices of electricity, water, sewage, telephone services, public transportation, rents, education tuition, and pharmaceuticals. During the 1960s the government also established a set of public financing institutions and in the 1980s, amid a financial crisis, it nationalized a number of private banks.

In general terms, Liberals and Conservatives have agreed on major policy issues like monetary stability, the avoidance of high inflation , export promotion, and the cautious development of oil. During the 1980s and 1990s, most differences between the parties were over the pace of economic reforms. The Liberal party advocates milder and slower reforms while Conservatives tend to support more open market policies. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization, or apertura, and it has continued since then, though at a slower pace. It consists of tariff reductions, financial deregulation , privatization of state-owned enterprises, and the adoption of a more flexible foreign exchange system. After a period of lack of interest in liberalization during the Samper administration (1994-98), the Pastrana administration has regained the pace of economic reforms.

According to the World Development Indicators 1999 more than one-quarter of Colombia's current revenues come from indirect taxes , primarily from domestic taxes on goods and services, and another quarter from direct taxes on income, profit, and capital gains. An unfavorable aspect of the tax situation in Colombia has been a recurrent tendency of several administrations to pardon unpaid taxes accumulated by firms and individuals over the years.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

For many decades Colombia suffered from a weak and even non-existent infrastructure that made national market integration difficult. The 3 mountain chains that cut through the most populated areas rendered road and railroad construction very costly. After the 1930s important programs of public investment in infrastructure began, and in recent decades the situation has somewhat improved, though infrastructure still does not meet general needs. Colombia has 115,543 kilometers (71,811 miles) of roads, of which only 13,866 kilometers (8,618 miles) are paved. The rail system is small and outdated, with only about 3,379 kilometers (2,100 miles) in the whole country.

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Colombia 46 581 217 16.7 49 4.8 27.9 7.51 664
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Brazil 40 444 316 16.3 47 3.1 30.1 18.45 3,500
Ecuador 70 419 293 11.7 25 N/A 18.5 1.42 35
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Colombia has a network of 1,101 airports, of which only 90 have paved runways. There are 10 international airports, with heavy traffic in Bogotá, Cali, Barranquilla, Medellín, and Cartagena. The most important airport is "El Dorado," located in the capital city. The difficulties in land communication and transport have made aviation profitable, so for many years Colombia was far ahead of its neighbors in this area. The airports are served by 9 large and medium airlines and also a group of small airlines. In addition, Colombia has 18,136 kilometers (11,272 miles) of waterways navigable by river boats and a number of important ports and harbors, mostly related to tourism.

Electrical power capacity in Colombia falls short of current and projected needs. Electricity production was 45.02 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 1998, with 69 percent of production coming from hydroelectric sources, 30.11 percent from fossil fuel, and the rest from other sources. According to World Bank sources, electricity use decreased from 904 kWh per capita in 1996 to 885 kWh per person in 1998. It is also very decentralized, with 37 companies providing power. Among these firms are Interconexion Electrica ISA, Generadora Union, Codensa, Transelca, Genercauca, Centrales Electricos del Norte de Santander, Electrocost, Electromag, Conelca, and EEPP.

Electricity became a lagging sector during the 1990s. Programmed cuts during the mid-1990s ran for several hours a day in the main cities for as long as 2 years. As a result, by 1999 imports of electricity jumped to 94 million kWh. These shortcomings, however, have not affected exploitation of new natural resources such as oil and coal, since investment in those areas usually involve their own infrastructure requirements, like pipelines, integrated camps, and airfields.

Colombia has a relatively modern telephone system represented by a nation-wide relay system, a domestic satellite system with 41 earth stations, and a fiber optic network linking 50 cities. The telecommunications business in Colombia is experiencing a major boom: there were 75 telephone lines per 1,000 people in 1990, doubling in 1998 to 173 lines per 1,000 persons. Cellular subscribers have also increased substantially. In 1990 cell phones were nonexistent, while in 1998 there were 49 subscribers per 1,000 people. Among the many telecommunications companies are Globalnet Telecom, Energia Integral Andina, Skytel, Intelsa, Americatel, Metrotel, Andicel, Cetell ISP, and Colomsat.

According to the CIA World Factbook 2000, Colombia had 5,433,565 telephones main lines in use by 1997 and 1,800,229 cellular telephones in 1998. By 1999 Colombia had 13 Internet service providers. Thus Colombia is moving towards greater connectivity, higher density in mass media, and dynamism in the telecommunications sector.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

Colombia is the world's second-largest coffee grower and coffee exporter (after Brazil), accounting for 31.2 percent of the world's production. Coffee production and exports were a major engine of growth during most of the twentieth century. However, by the end of the century, the country had achieved greater diversification. By 1999, agriculture accounted for 19.7 percent of GDP, while manufacturing attained 18.9 percent, and the banking and insurance sector accounted for 15.8 percent. Of less significance were commerce, restaurants and similar activities with 8.8 percent, mining at 4.2 percent, government services with 8.9 percent, construction at 3.4 percent, and electricity, gas, and water with only 1.1 percent. An overview of the productive landscape shows agriculture diminishing over time, with a considerable increase in services, a mining sector (mostly oil and coal) growing in terms of output and exports though diminishing in terms of employment, and a stagnating manufacturing sector. Although these sweeping changes led to the diminishment of agriculture, some agricultural products have seen higher levels of revenue over the last forty years, either through modernization in the production of established crops (cotton, sugar cane, bananas, and cocoa) or through introduction of new ones, like cut flowers.

Changes in population growth have been accompanied by a major shift in the distribution of the economically active population. In 1960, 50.1 percent of the labor force was engaged in agriculture, 19.5 percent in industry, and 30.4 percent in services. By 1980 the figures were 34.3, 23.5, and 42.2 percent, respectively, and by 1999 they stood at 30 percent, 24 percent, and 46 percent, respectively. These shifts reflect a different composition of economic output and have altered many economic relations in the country.

AGRICULTURE

For a long time agriculture was the main source of living for many Colombians. By the year 2000, however, it accounted for roughly 19 percent of GDP, though still employing 30 percent of the population and accounting for 17.4 percent of exports, with coffee the major export. Coffee employs one-fourth of the agricultural labor force, accounts for 20 percent of the cultivated area, and contributes nearly 9 percent to GDP. Production by 1998 was estimated by Colombia's Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Colombia (DANE) at 2,445,224 metric tons.

Colombia has a diversity of other agriculture products, including bananas for export (2,061,992 metric tons), rice (1,818,726 metric tons), potatoes (1,476,869 metric tons), sugarcane (1,061,272 metric tons), cassava (970,951 metric tons), oilseed (378,481 metric tons), and other products like cotton, cocoa beans, and tobacco. There are an estimated 167,000 cattle ranches in the country, of which 40 percent are in the departments of Atlantico, Bolivar, Cordoba, and Magdalena, and 15 percent in Boyaca, Meta, and Arauca.

Of the total land area of Colombia (113,891,400 hectares), an estimated 27 percent is agricultural land, most of it in elevated regions of the temperate zone. Mechanization trends have stagnated in the last twenty years. By 1980 the number of hectares of arable land per tractor was 183, and by 1997 the number rose only slightly to 211 hectares per tractor. Under the traditional system of slash-and-burn agriculture, fields are usually cleared at the beginning of the dry season and the brush from the cleared land is burned. This practice results in soil exhaustion and erosion. Yields are generally low and variable because of the inadequacy of flood control systems and irrigation. Although the country receives adequate rainfall, droughts are common. The U.S. government is working with the Pastrana administration to modernize the agricultural sector and provide incentives for farmers to switch from coca production to other crops.

Colombia ranks high in terms of land concentration and disparities in land ownership. Of the total farmland, 68 percent is owned by 4.3 percent of landowners, and half of Colombia's farms account for less than 2.3 percent of the farmland. Although 69 percent of the farms and 75 percent of the farmland are owned by individual farmers, 62 percent of these farms are too small to provide a living. The number of landless workers is estimated at 1 million, representing close to a third of the population engaged in agriculture. Traditional rural labor markets have virtually disappeared. Migration from traditional agricultural areas to the cities has contributed to more modern hiring and land tenancy systems.

The economic reforms of the 1990s ended most special protective measures for particular sectors, which led to a weakening in the production of some traditional crops like corn, cotton, and cassava. As a member of the Andean Community (formerly Andean Pact), a common trade agreement established during the 1960s and revamped in the 1990s, Colombia still enjoys special protection for many agricultural products. To do this, the "Andean price band system" is employed, which imposes tariffs on certain commodities that vary according to a pre-determined range. Fourteen basic agricultural commodities including wheat, sorghum, corn, rice, barley, milk, and chicken parts are subject to tariffs under the price-band system employed as part of this agreement.

Colombia is also an illicit producer of the drugs coca, opium poppies, and cannabis. According to recent information disclosed by Colombia's Ministry of Defense, the country is the world's leading coca cultivator (coca is used in the production of cocaine). The country was responsible for 67 percent of world supply by 2000, and total land area devoted to coca was approximately 122,500 hectares by the end of 1999, more than a 35 percent increase from 1997, with a refining potential of 710 tons of pure cocaine per year. Cultivation of opium in 1998 remained steady at 6,600 hectares a year.

As of 1999, most small farmers were involved in coca cultivation, largely because of the steady demand from markets in the United States and elsewhere. Coca is harvested from 3 to 6 times a year. Payment is in cash, and this helps farmers maintain a steady source of income. Nevertheless, the U.S. Department of State reports that small coca farmers "barely manage to survive, partially due to the 'protection' fees charged by the guerrilla and paramilitary forces." Small farm plots may account for roughly one-quarter to one-third of coca cultivation, or 30,000 to 40,000 hectares.

INDUSTRY

MINING.

One significant part of the transformation of the Colombian economy from the 1970s has been the expansion of the mining sector, mostly comprised of oil production and coal, though it also includes gold and valuable gems such as emeralds. Oil production in Colombia has been declining as of late, with 700,600 barrels a day (bbl/d) in 2000, down 125,000 bbl/d from the previous year. The country's reserves are estimated at about 2.6 billion barrels, but the potential reserves are much higher. Colombia's main oil export market is the United States, with 332,000 bbl/d in 2000. Production is located mainly in the Cusiana and Cupiagua fields in the Andes foothills and in the Cano Limón field near the Venezuelan border. British Petroleum has major operations at Cusiana and Cupiagua, while the Cano Limón field is operated by U.S.-based Occidental.

All foreign investment in petroleum exploration and development in Colombia must be carried out under a profit-sharing association contract between the investor and the state petroleum company, Ecopetrol. In the face of U.S. oil companies' interest in increasing exploration and production if contract and tax requirements are smoothed, the Pastrana administration has responded by liberalizing contracting terms.

Colombia produces more than 90 percent of the world's emeralds; it is the second-largest South American producer of gold and the most important coal producer in Latin America. Coal reserves have been estimated between 12 billion and 60 billion tons, approximately 40 percent of all Latin American reserves. Important levels of production began in 1984, attaining 4,000 metric tons, which jumped to close to 13,000 metric tons by 1993 and 28,500 metric tons in 1997. Excluding oil production, there was a relative decline in mining from 1992 to 1996, accompanied by a decline in the number of persons employed to almost 20,000.

MANUFACTURING.

The economic landscape of Colombia has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, and one clear example is the changes in the manufacturing industry by the late twentieth century. Industrial manufacturing is quite varied. According to DANE, by the year 2000 the most important products included basic chemicals (5.3 billion pesos), beverages (3.5 billion pesos), milling and cereal processing (3 billion pesos), oil refining (2.9 billion pesos), and pulp, paper and derived products (2.1 billion pesos). Though an important proportion of production is for the domestic market, the relative level of sophistication in some of these products can be measured by the extent to which they are exported. In 2000 manufactured products accounted for nearly 40 percent of all exports, with chemicals and textiles ranking near the top.

Manufacturing is located mostly in the provinces of Antioquia, Cauca, in the capital district, and to a lesser extent in Barranquilla, on the Atlantic coast. The number of people employed by this sector is 588,681ap-proximately 20 percent of the economically active population.

The lowering of many trade barriers in the 1990s served to streamline Colombian industry, and most sectors have managed to remain competitive with other Latin American competitors, leading to an increase in exports to those countries.

The construction industry, one of the largest employment sectors in Colombia, has been very dynamic over the last 2 decades, totaling close to 7,000 companies. In the years from 1998 to 2001, however, it was hit hard by the recession and tight credit conditions.

SERVICES

FINANCIAL SERVICES.

Colombia has an extensive banking sector. According to DANE, it accounted in 1995 for close to 16 percent of GDP, clearly the most important service activity. It is headed by the Bank of the Republic, which functions as the central bank. There are approximately 1,700 companies devoted to financial services, of which 37 are established banks, 30 are investment companies, nearly 70 stock and bond brokers, and a small number of leasing and real estate leasing. There are 17 long-term and development financial institutions, including the government-owned Industrial Development Institute. The government has played an important role in the financial sector since the 1970s because of the unwillingness of banks to make long-term loan commitments to riskier projects such as coal development, and because of the necessity for periodic public intervention to stabilize financial markets.

The 6 largest of these corporations hold 86 percent of all assets in this sector. In the mid-1980s there was a crunch in the banking system that forced the government to nationalize a number of troubled domestic banks. It also created the Financial Institutions Guarantee Fund (Fondo de Garantias de Instituciones Financieras) as the authority to intervene or recapitalize those financial institutions in great need of support. By the end of the 1980s the government set out plans for privatization, the second phase of which took place by the end of the 1990s.

TOURISM.

Tourism is a relatively minor activity in the country. In 1997 inbound tourists to Colombia numbered 1,193,000 people, contributing US$955 million in foreign exchange, representing 6 percent of exports. In 1980 the corresponding figures were US$357 million and 6.7 percent of exports, so in twenty years there was a slight decline in tourism's contribution to the economy. If hotels and travel agencies are included, the number of people involved in tourism by 1997 was only 23,700. Most tourist activities are concentrated in the Atlantic coast, in the cities of Cartagena, Santa Marta, and Barranquilla. Tourists are mainly attracted to a mixture of beaches and historic sites. As part of the viceroyalty of Nueva Granada during colonial times, the coastal cities retain a good part of this heritage. With Colombia suffering from violence for 2 decades and targeted as a high-risk country, it is quite understandable that there are not more tourists.

RETAIL.

The commercial sector is very important in most urban areas, and it has modernized substantially over the years, though suffering from the recession from 1998 to 2000. According to the most recent DANE survey, by 1997 personnel employed in supermarkets, "hypermarkets," and malls was nearly 84,000, with sales of 2.87 billion pesos. These figures declined to 74,000 persons employed and 2.02 billion pesos worth of sales in 2000. Main lines of sales are food, clothing, and pharmaceuticals, though automobiles have increased their share over the last 5 years. Although most retail is regionally based, there are 3 main chain storesAlmacenes Exito, Vivero, and Carullawhich have remained strong despite the downturn of the economy by the end of the 1990s. Also important national and regional companiesincluding the 3 just mentionedhave forged alliances or have opened participation to foreign owners, mostly in the coastal area, while new foreign firms have established retail operations of their own.

TRANSPORTATION.

Despite geographical and political difficulties, transportation has become over the years an activity of increasing importance, attaining 8.8 percent of GDP by 1997. According to the Asociación Nacional de Instituciones Financieras (ANIF), the transport of cargo and passengers by land represents 76 percent of revenues in the sector, while air transportation accounts for 10 percent, and maritime only 3.3 percent. Passenger transportation accounted for 75 percent of revenues, with the rest going to cargo. According to ANIF, rail transportation's importance diminished by 1997 to a third of the value in 1987.

Colombia's domestic air-transport market was deregulated in 1990, a move that led to domestic passenger traffic doubling to just over 6 million people by 1996. International traffic more than doubled to 1.7 million passengers by the same year. Colombia also concluded an agreement with Venezuela, which led to flights between Venezuela and Bogotá increasing dramatically.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

One of the most striking aspects of Colombia's economic performance over the years has been the change in the export mix. Once predominantly a coffee economy, by the year 2000 coffee accounted for only 8.43 percent of foreign exchange earnings, while oil and related products jumped to 35.34 percent and manufacturing products accounted for 39.54 percent of exports. However, Colombia still exports oil and coffee to the developed world (the United States, Japan, Germany, and Belgium), while most of its exports to countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, and Ecuador are manufactured products.

At the same time, the relative importance of Colombia's partners has also changed. The United States remains the main trading partner, receiving 37.2 percent of Colombia's exports and providing 32 percent of Colombia's imports in 1998. However, the role of Venezuela as a trading partner has increased substantially. In 1996 the United States was the destination of US$5,991 million of exports, while Venezuela had climbed to US$1,178 million. Ecuador accounted for US$413 million, Germany US$353 million, Peru US$338 million, and Japan US$216 million. This trend diminished after 1997, mostly due to the recession on both sides of the Venezuela-Colombia border. The year 2000 has shown a relative recovery between both partners.

More than 70 percent of Colombian exports to the United States are primary products such as food (mainly coffee, bananas, cut flowers, tuna, shrimp, and sugar), and fuel (petroleum and coal). The United States also holds the largest share of foreign direct investment , with US$4.3 billion, or 28.1 percent of the estimated total direct foreign investment of US$15.4 billion.

Imports to Colombia also grew extensively during the 1990s, creating a trade deficit until 1998. Through

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Colombia
Exports Imports
1975 1.465 1.495
1980 3.924 4.739
1985 3.552 4.141
1990 6.766 5.590
1995 10.126 13.853
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

September 1999, Colombia's overall trade balance has swung from a US$2.7 billion deficit to a US$1.1 billion surplus, while the U.S.-Colombia trade balance swung from a US$292 million U.S. surplus to a US$1.8 billion deficit. The type of imports also show the overall changes in the Colombian economy. While during most of the twentieth century imports were mainly consumer goods , and later capital goods , the trend has changed. According to DANE, in the year 2000 21.9 percent of imports were capital goods, 51.99 percent were raw materials, 8.57 percent were transportation equipment, and 18.72 percent consisted of consumer goods.

MONEY

The value of the Colombian peso per US$1 was 2,179.3 in December 2000. This reflects a loss of over half its value against the dollar since 1995, when it traded at 912.83 pesos to the dollar.

Colombia's monetary policies are formulated by the Junta Monetaria (Monetary Board), and banking operations are regulated and supervised by the Superintendencia Bancaria. The Central Bank conducts monetary policy based on behavior of the financial sector, and determines the amount of money in the system and makes other decisions in line with indicators such as inflation and growth of the economy at large.

The Colombian peso has floated freely against the dollar and other currencies since 25 September 1999, when the Central Bank abandoned the crawling band exchange regime, which acts like a crawling peg. Under that system, the Bank intervened in the market by buying or selling dollars to keep the dollar's price in pesos within the band. Soon after abolition of the bandby December 1999the peso had depreciated 20 percent from the beginning of the year, increasing the competitiveness of Colombian exports to the United States.

Inflation has always been moderate in Colombia, with peaks in the mid-twenty percent range. By the end of 1999 inflation was 9.2 percent, more than 5 percentage points below the previous year, mainly as a consequence of the recession. The figure for 2000 was 10 percent

Exchange rates: Colombia
Colombian pesos (Col$) per US$1
Jan 2001 2,241.43
2000 2,087.90
1999 1,756.23
1998 1,426.04
1997 1,140.96
1996 1,036.69
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

as consumption reversed the downward trend and the government restrained wage hikes. Despite economic recovery and a slight weakening of the peso, officials were not able to relax monetary policy later in year 2000. Average interest rates were 19.5 percent in 1999 and about 15.3 percent in 2000.

In August 1989 the government authorized plans to return to private ownership 65 percent of the assets of all financial institutions nationalized after the financial crisis of 1987.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Colombia is neither a poor nor a rich country. Income per person was by year 1999 roughly equal to the world average. According to the Andean Community, GDP per capita was US$1,487 in 1993, and rose to US$2,090 by 1995. The CIA's World Factbook estimates income per capita for 1999 at US$6,200. More interesting, however, are changes over time. By 1980 income per capita was about 108 percent higher than in 1950, with most of the growth having occurred between 1969-1979 when it increased by 50 percent. During the 1980s economic growth declined significantly, but income per capita managed a modest percent increase given a population growth slowdown.

Income distribution has also shown important changes during the last fifty years. Total income inequality peaked in the 1960s. Later on, when education levels improved drastically and the relative income of agricultural workers improved somewhat, inequalities in income levels became less extreme. Among the poorest workers, the picture is also positive. In Political Economy and Illegal Drugs in Colombia, Francisco Thoumi sums up the trends this way: "Based on a constant poverty line, the incidence of poverty has declined continuously during the fifty-year period. A head-count index shows that three-fourths of the population was poor in 1938, half in the mid-1960s, and one-fourth in the late 1980s. The poor declined from 70.5 percent of the country's population in 1973 to 45.6 percent in 1985, while the extreme poor declined from 44.9 to 22.8 percent." All the changes notwithstanding, according to the ANIF, Colombia's income

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Colombia 1,612 1,868 1,875 2,119 2,392
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Brazil 3,464 4,253 4,039 4,078 4,509
Ecuador 1,301 1,547 1,504 1,475 1,562
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Colombia
Lowest 10% 1.1
Lowest 20% 3.0
Second 20% 6.6
Third 20% 11.1
Fourth 20% 18.4
Highest 20% 60.9
Highest 10% 46.1
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

inequality is still one of the highest in Latin America, and deteriorated greatly between 1997 and 2000, particularly in the urban areas. Rural GDP is only 50 percent of that of urban areas.

Education has also improved substantially in the last forty years. According to Thoumi, in 1951 "44 percent of the population was illiterate [and] in 1955 it was estimated that only 57 percent of 7 to 12-year-olds were enrolled in elementary schools. Under state control, elementary school enrollment reached nearly 100 percent by 1970. Increases in high school and college enrollments have also been substantial. In 1960 high school enrollment was only 11.9 percent, while college enrollment was only 1.8 percent. By 1980 these rates had increased to 44 and 10.6 percent respectively, the latter achieving 28 percent by 1997."

In health care, Colombia also shows continuous improvement. First of all, the control of tropical diseases like malaria in the countryside and improvement in sewage systems in the cities strongly contributed to a diminishing trend in infant mortality rates (from 123.3 for each 1,000 new births in the early 1950s to 48.6 by the end of the 1980s, and 23 by the year 2000). Life expectancy has risen in Colombia; by the end of the 1980s the figure stood at 68 years, and reached 70 years in 2000. This is a far cry from the early 1950s, when the average was barely 50 years. A contributing trend has been the construction of a health care network for the growing urban population. A pension system created in 1993 allows access to both public and privately-funded health care for all employees. This program has both taken the pressure off of the public health system and has supplemented it, leading to a net improvement in the quality of health facilities in the country.

The quality of housing has also improved. According to data quoted by Thoumi from the 1951 census, "52.7 percent of the housing units had earth floors and 90.3 percent had walls made of 'precarious' materials. By the 1985 census these percentages had dropped to 17.1 and 24.4 respectively. Similarly, in 1951 only 28.8 percent of the units had running water, 25.8 percent had electricity, and 32.4 percent had sewage or septic tanks. By 1985 these figures had increased to 69.7, 78.2, and 77 percent respectively. In urban areas these percentages were much higher: 89.8, 95, and 93.6 respectively."

While the physical standard of living has improved, the country has actually become less livable. Colombians today enjoy better housing, health services, and education; they own cars, telephones, and have greater access to information about their country and the world. They are more broadly traveled and they have more material goods than in the past. But many fundamental aspects of the quality of life, such as physical security and property protection, have deteriorated sharply due to the increase in political and criminal violence associated with both guerrilla terrorism and the narcotics war. According to ANIF, life expectancy among male Colombians dropped 3 to 4 years between 1994 and 1997 largely due to the rise in violence, both political and criminal.

WORKING CONDITIONS

The workers' movement emerged by the end of World War I. From that time, the labor movement was greatly influenced by episodes of violent confrontation. The most critical of these occurred during the first massive industrial action, aimed at the United Fruit Santa Marta complex in 1928 when railroad, banana, and field workers went on strike to force changes in wages, hours, and non-wage compensation. The human toll was 1,000 dead. The aftermath of this tragedy diminished the dominance of the Conservative Party and contributed to the Liberal Party winning the presidency. The incoming government had a more open and pragmatic stance toward labor activities and pressed for important labor reforms, which helped in union expansion nation-wide. During this period, there was a greater participation of labor in national politics, mainly through the Liberal Party. The Confederation of Colombian Workers (Confederacion de Trabajadores Colombianos, CTC) was created in 1935, and represented the first successful attempt at uniting smaller unions from various professions into a collective organization. Later, Cold War ideological confrontation led to fears by more conservative elements that the CTC was too left-wing; thus in 1946 the Catholic Church established the Union of Colombian Workers (Union de Trabajadores Colombianos, UTC), which gained important support from the more moderate unions.

A second labor confrontation occurred in 1947 during a strike by port workers on the Magdalena River, which also ended in the loss of lives. During the "Violencia" (1948-66), organized labor became increasingly demoralized and weakened. After 1960, however, 2 more labor federations emerged: the Trade Union Confederation of Colombian Workers (Confederacion Sindical de Trabajadores Colombianos, or CSTC) and the General Confederation of Workers (Confederacion General de Trabajadores, or CGT). The former was aligned with the communists and the latter with the tiny Social Christian party. However, although the percentage of workers enrolled in unions more than doubled from 1959 to 1965, union membership was still a very low 13.4 percent.

Later on, in September 1986, an important group of independent unions and those affiliated with the CSTC joined forces to create the United Workers Central Organization (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, or CUT). The CUT represented 70 to 75 percent of the organized workforce, and emerged as a major voice against organized violence. This organization proved to be less timid in terms of industrial action, and by the late 1980s the labor movement appeared to play a greater role in representing workers' social and political rights. Working conditions and wages are governed by the Labor Code of 1950 and some additional laws. The work week is 48 hours, except in agriculture. Fringe benefits include annual vacations and sick benefits. Employees are eligible for a retirement pension after 20 years of service. Social security is compulsory with the employer paying half the cost and the employee and the government paying a quarter each.

The total workforce of Colombia reached 18 million by 1999, with a record 20 percent unemployment level due to the recession, which has affected living standards and poverty levels, especially in the countryside.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1821. Gaining independence from the Spanish empire, Colombia emerges from colonial rule as part of Gran Colombia, together with Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama.

1859. Emergence of the Liberal Party. Tobacco accounts for 28 percent of exports while gold's share is down to 33 percent.

1860S-70s. Liberal constitution establishes liberal economic principles and quasi-federal autonomy to provinces. The 1870s marks efforts in railroad building. The Conservative Party is founded. By late 1870s coffee production, carried by rail and financed by banks, becomes even more important.

1886. A conservative constitution is promulgated, marking a major swing toward a more centralized state.

1898. Coffee reaches 50 percent of exports.

1899. Colombia's greatest civil war ruins the country. Coffee-producing areas are greatly affected, and chaos shakes the economy.

1903. Panama is separated as a consequence of the war, supported by U.S. intervention. After the war, Congress reforms monetary system, budget, customs, tariff legislation, and some protectionist policies .

1904-09. Rule of dictator Rafael Reyes. His conservative administration starts reconstruction under economic orthodoxy.

1910-30. Bipartisan consensus emerges with constitutional reform. Paper money is banned, and minority party representation established. Coffee production takes place on larger farms, and has a greater impact on the domestic economy.

1920s. A strong coffee export trend (11.3 percent of world production by 1930) allows for the tripling of public spending, mostly in infrastructure.

1930-46. Known as the Liberal Republic, this is a period of social reform, slower economic development, and growing tension between the parties. The collapse of coffee prices is partially compensated for by greater exports and the strengthening of domestic industry. Liberal dissident Jorge Eliecer Gaitan rises to prominence.

1946. Split in Liberal party ends the period of liberal rule. Gaitan dominates the Liberal party.

1948. Assassination of Gaitan leads to a virtual civil war known as "The Violence" (1948-66).

1950. Extreme Conservative Laureano Gomez comes to power, unleashing terror against liberal insurgencies in the countryside. Exports start a diminishing trend.

1953. A military coup supported by both traditional parties brings in General Rojas Pinilla. Political calm is affected by a downturn in coffee prices and a weak economic performance.

1958. Beginning of the National Front, under which Liberals and Conservatives alternate the presidency and share government posts at all levels.

1960s. After economic difficulties and currency instability, the largest post-war economic expansion period comes after 1964.

1969. Colombia joins the Andean Pact, a trading agreement among several South American countries.

1974-84. A period of economic instability and political stability. An increase in coffee prices reduces foreign exchange constraints, allowing an upward trend in income, lower unemployment, and an increase in international reserves. After 1980, a collapse in coffee prices produces slow growth, an industrial setback, rising unemployment, and an increase in deficits.

1987-89. Political violence starts again; prominent politicians are kidnapped or assassinated by drug dealers trying to overthrow the government.

1990-94. The Cesar Gaviria administration opens up the economy and leads the approval of a new constitution.

1994-98. The Ernesto Samper administration begins under accusations of campaign financing by drug dealers. The pace of economic reforms slow down, while the narcotics business and the guerrilla activities grow.

1998-2000. Peace negotiations with the guerrillas begin under President Andrés Pastrana. Plan Colombia against illicit drug production and trafficking is launched.

FUTURE TRENDS

Most of Colombia's dilemmas at the beginning of the 21st century are political rather than economic. The confrontation between guerrilla groups allied to the narcotics industry has become highly delicate, and is likely to remain so throughout the rest of the Pastrana presidential period, which will end in 2002. This situation will also affect the modernization of the political system and any economic recovery. Despite a better structural situation than other countries in the region, the continuous violence not only stops major advances, due to the uneasiness of foreign investors, but also creates major incentives for the emigration of the elite and professional groups. Putting all his eggs in the basket of the peace process has led to frustration over the failure of Pastrana's efforts. The weak economic performance has additionally undermined the popularity of the president. His administration has enjoyed strong support from the U.S. government, which in 2000 agreed to an aid package of US$1.7 billion (Plan Colombia) to combat illegal drugs in the south, southeast, and northern areas.

According to most sources, peace talks with the guerrillas that started in 1999 continue against a background of violence. Although some progress has been made, the conflict has escalated and the guerrillas' commitment to ending the hostilities is questionable. Negotiations with the largest guerrilla group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), have followed a stop-and-go trend, stagnating for half a year and then resuming after continuous confrontations. So far the clashes have not ended. Pastrana and his successor are likely to come under increasing pressure to abandon talks and opt for a purely military solution if progress continues to prove elusive. Despite the eventual promise of military support from the United States, it is unlikely that such an option will be followed, mostly because of the risks involved in an open civil war against well-armed and widely dispersed guerrilla forces. Also, the peace talks still enjoy the support of important civil sectors, including the Church and non-government organizations (NGOs). While Bogotá continues to try to negotiate a settlement, neighboring countries worry about the violence spilling over their borders.

Colombia's leading exports, oil and coffee, face an uncertain future. New exploration is badly needed to offset a pending decline in oil production, and the coffee harvest has dropped because of aging plantations and natural disasters. The lack of public security is a key concern for investors, making progress in the government's peace negotiations with insurgent groups an important driver of economic recovery. Net foreign direct investment fell to about US$675 million in 1999 from US$2.5 billion in 1998, reflecting poor business confidence. The tide changed again in 2000, more than doubling the previous figure amid lower interest rates, greater oil investment, and privatization. Officials are also offering better contract terms to encourage greater foreign investment in the oil industry. In spite of pipeline bombings and kidnappings, current oil prices remain a powerful incentive for further oil investments, especially since Colombia's untapped oil reserves are estimated to be huge. According to the International Energy Agency, oil production is expected to top 1.2 million barrels a day within the next 5 years and show little decline through 2020.

Despite the end of the recession, investor sentiment and economic recovery will remain vulnerable to further troubles in the beleaguered financial sector and the delicate peace process.

DEPENDENCIES

Colombia has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Asociación Nacional de Instituciones Financieras. <http://www.anif.org>. Accessed February 2001.

Bergquist, Charles, Ricardo Peñaranda, and Gonzalo Sánchez, editors. Violence in Colombia: The Contemporary Crisis in Historical Perspective. Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources Books, 1992.

Bushnell, David. The Making of Modern Colombia. Berkeley:University of California Press, 1993.

"Colombia." Energy Information Administration. <http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/colombia.html>. Accessed August 2001.

DANE: Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Colombia. <http://www.dane.gov.co>. Accessed February 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Colombia. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Kurian, George Thomas, editor. Encyclopedia of the Third World. New York: Facts on File, 1987.

Ocampo, José Antonio, editor. Historia Económica de Colombia .Bogotá: Presidencia de la República, Imprenta nacional, 1997.

Thoumi, Francisco E. Political Economy and Illegal Drugs in Colombia. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1995.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed August 2001.

Leonardo Vivas

CAPITAL:

Bogotá (Santa Fe de Bogotá).

MONETARY UNIT:

Colombian peso. One peso equals 100 centavos. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 centavos and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pesos, and notes of 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000 pesos.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Petroleum, coffee, coal, bananas, chemicals, gold, cut flowers.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Industrial equipment, transportation equipment, consumer goods, chemicals, paper products, fuels, electricity.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$245.1 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$11.5 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$10 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.).

views updated

Colombia

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
DEFENSE
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the September 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Colombia

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 1.14 million sq. km. (440,000 sq. mi.); about three times the size of Montana; fourth-largest country in South America.

Cities: Capital—Bogota (pop. 2005 projected: 7.1 million). Other major cities include Medellin, Cali, Barran-quilla and Cartagena.

Terrain: Flat coastal areas, with extensive coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, three rugged parallel mountain chains, central highlands and flat eastern grasslands.

Climate: Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Colombian(s).

Population: (July 2007) 44.38 million.

Annual population growth: 1.4%.

Religions: Roman Catholic 90%.

Languages: Spanish.

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—80% of children enter school. Only 5 years of primary school are offered in many rural areas. Literacy—93% in urban areas, 67% in rural areas.

Health: Infant mortality rate—25/ 1,000. Life expectancy—total population 72.27 yrs., men 68.44 yrs., women 76.24 yrs.

Ethnic groups: Mestizo (58%), white (20%), Afro-Colombian (18%) mixed black-Amerindian (3%) and Amerindian (1%).

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: July 20, 1810.

Constitution: July 1991.

Government branches: Executive—President (chief of state and head of government). egislative—Bicameral Congress.Judicial—Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Superior Judicial Council.

Political subdivisions: 32 departments; Bogota, capital district.

Political parties: Conservative Party of Colombia, Liberal, National Unity, Radical Change, Alternative Democratic Pole, and numerous small political movements.

Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over.

Economy

GDP: (2006) $125 billion; base year 1994: $105.9 billion.

Annual growth rate: (2006) 6.8%.

Per capita GDP: (2006) $2,976.

Government expenditures: (2006) 22.2% of GDP.

Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds.

Manufacturing: (14.4% of GDP) Types—textiles and garments, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, wood products, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electrical equipment.

Agriculture: (13.1% of GDP) Products—coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum. Cultivated land—8.2% of total area.

Other sectors: (by percentage of GDP) Government, personal and other services—18.6%; financial services—17.1%; commerce—11.2%; transportation and communications services—7.9%; construction and public works—5.4; mining and quarrying—4.5%; electricity, gas, and water—2.9%.

Trade: Exports (2006)—$24.3 billion: petroleum, coal, coffee, flowers, textiles and garments, ferronickel, bananas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, gold, sugar, cardboard containers, printed material, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds. Major markets—U.S., Venezuela, Germany, Netherlands, Japan. Imports (2006)—$24.5 billion: machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, metals/metal products, plastic/rubber, paper products, aircraft, oil and

gas industry equipment, supplies. Major suppliers—U.S., Germany, Japan, Panama, Venezuela.

PEOPLE

Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Thirty cities have a population of 100,000 or more. The nine eastern lowlands departments, constituting about 54% of Colombia's area, have less than 3% of the population and a density of less than one person per square kilometer (two persons per sq. mi.). Ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous peoples, Europeans and Africans. Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully indigenous on the basis of language and customs.

HISTORY AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

During the pre-Columbian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous societies situated at different stages of socio-economic development, ranging from hunters and nomadic farmers to the highly structured Chibchas, who are considered to be one of the most developed indigenous groups in South America.

Santa Marta was the first permanent Spanish settlement founded in 1525. Santa Fe de Bogota was founded in 1538 and, in 1717, became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. Bogota was one of three principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World.

On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogota created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed to include all the territory of the former Viceroyalty (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama). Simon Bolivar was elected its first president with Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president. Conflicts between followers of Bolivar and Santander led to the formation of two political parties that have since dominated Colombian politics. Bolivar's supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, sought strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church and a limited franchise. Santander's followers, forerunners of the Liberals, wanted a decentralized government, state control over education and other civil matters, and a broader suffrage.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time. Colombia maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free, elections. Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia's history also has been characterized by wide-spread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties: The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1903) claimed an estimated 100,000 lives and La Violencia (the Violence) (1946-1957) claimed about 300,000 lives.

La Violencia (The Violence) and the National Front

The assassination of Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in 1948 sparked the bloody conflict known as La Violencia. Conservative Party leader Laureano Gomez came to power in 1950, but was ousted by a military coup led by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla in 1953. When Rojas failed to restore democratic rule and became implicated in corrupt schemes, he was overthrown by the military with the support of the Liberal and Conservative Parties.

In July 1957, an alliance between former Conservative President Lau-reano Gomez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) led to the creation of the National Front. It established a power-sharing agreement between the two parties and brought an end to “La Violencia.” The presidency would be determined by regular elections every 4 years and the two parties would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices. This system was phased out by 1978.

Post-National Front Years

During the post-National Front years, the Colombian Government made efforts to negotiate a peace with the persistent guerrilla organizations that flourished in Colombia's remote and undeveloped rural areas. In 1984, President Belisario Betancur, a Conservative, negotiated a cease-fire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Democratic Alliance/M-19 (M-19) that included the release of many imprisoned guerrillas. The National Liberation Army (ELN) rejected the government's cease fire proposal at that time. The M-19 pulled out of the cease-fire when it resumed fighting in 1985. The army suppressed an M-19 attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogota in November 1985, during which 115 people were killed, including 11 Supreme Court justices. The government and the M-19 renewed their truce in March 1989, which led to a peace agreement and the M-19 reintegration into society and political life. The M-19 was one of the parties that participated in the process to enact a new constitution (see below), which took effect in 1991. The FARC ended the truce in 1990 after some 2,000-3,000 of its members who had demobilized had been murdered.

A new constitution in 1991 brought about major reforms to Colombia's political institutions. While the new constitution preserved a presidential, three-branch system of government, it created new institutions such as the Inspector General, a Human Rights Ombudsman, a Constitutional Court and a Superior Judicial Council. The new constitution also reestablished the position of Vice President. Other significant constitutional reforms provide for civil divorce, dual nationality and the establishment of a legal mechanism (“tutela”) that allows individuals to appeal government decisions affecting their constitutional rights. The constitution also authorized the introduction of an accusatory system of criminal justice that is gradually being instituted throughout the country, replacing the previous written inquisitorial system. A constitutional amendment approved in 2005 allows the president to hold office for two consecutive 4-year terms.

Colombian governments have had to contend with the combined terrorist activities of left-wing guerrillas, the rise of paramilitary self-defense forces in the 1990s and the drug cartels. Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential candidates during the election campaign of 1990. After Colombian security forces killed Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar in December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with his organization abated as the “cartels” were broken into multiple and smaller trafficking organizations that competed against each other in the drug trade. Guerrillas and paramilitary groups also entered into drug trafficking as a way to finance their military operations.

Pastrana Administration

The administration of Andres Pastrana (1998-2002), a Conservative, faced increased countrywide attacks by the FARC and ELN, widespread drug production and the expansion of paramilitary groups. The Pastrana administration unveiled its “Plan Colombia” in 1999 as a strategy to deal with these longstanding problems, and sought support from the international community. Plan Colombia is a comprehensive program to combat narco-terrorism; spur economic recovery; strengthen democratic institutions and respect for human rights; and provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons.

In November 1998, Pastrana ceded a sparsely populated area the size of Switzerland in south-central Colombia to the FARC's control to serve as a neutral zone where peace negotiations could take place. The FARC negotiated with the government only fitfully while continuing to mount attacks and expand coca production, seriously undermining the government's efforts to reach an agreement. Negotiations with the rebels in 2000 and 2001 were marred by rebel attacks, kidnappings and fighting between rebels and paramilitaries for control of coca-growing areas in Colombia. In February 2002, after the FARC hijacked a commercial aircraft and kidnapped a senator, Pastrana ordered the military to attack rebel positions and reassert control over the neutral zone. FARC withdrew into the jungle and increased attacks against Colombia's infrastructure, while avoiding large-scale direct conflicts with the military.

Uribe Administration

Alvaro Uribe, an independent, was elected president in May 2002 on a platform to restore security to the country. Among his promises was to continue to pursue the broad goals of Plan Colombia within the framework of a long-term security strategy. In the fall of 2002, Uribe released a national security strategy that employed political, economic and military means to weaken all illegal narco-terrorist groups. The Uribe government offered to negotiate a peace agreement with these groups with the condition that they agree to a unilateral cease fire and to end drug trafficking and kidnapping.

In December 2003, the Colombian Self-Defense Forces (AUC) paramilitary group entered into a peace agreement with the government that has led to the collective demobilization of over 31,000 AUC members. In addition, over 10,000 members of the AUC and other illegal armed groups have individually surrendered their arms. In July 2005, President Uribe signed the Justice and Peace Law, which provides reduced punishments for the demobilized if they renounce violence and return illegal assets, which are to provide reparations to victims.

The ELN and the government began a round of talks with the Colombian Government mediated by the Mexican Government in mid-2004. The ELN withdrew from the talks after the Mexican Government voted to condemn Cuba's human rights record at the United Nations in April 2005. In December 2005, the ELN began a new round of talks with the Colombian Government in Cuba that led to two more meetings, the latest one being held in July 2007. The dialogue is expected to continue.

As a result of the government's military and police operations, the strength of the FARC has been reduced in major areas. Since 2000, the FARC has not carried out large scale multi-front attacks, although it has mounted some operations that indicate it has not yet been broken. The FARC has rejected several government proposals aimed at bringing about an exchange of some 45 hostages. Three American citizens, who were working on counternarcotics programs, were captured by the FARC in February 2003. Their safe return is a priority goal of the United States and Colombia.

Colombia maintains an excellent extradition relationship with the United States. The Uribe administration has extradited more than 500 fugitives to the United States. Among those extradited in 2005 were Cali Cartel leaders Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel, and FARC leaders Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda (aka “Simon Trinidad”) and Omaira Rojas Cabrera (aka “Sonia”).

In 2004, the Uribe government established, for the first time in recent Colombian history, a government presence in all of the country's 1,099 municipalities (county seats). Attacks conducted by illegally armed groups against rural towns decreased by 91% from 2002 to 2005. Between 2002 and 2006, Colombia saw a decrease in homicides by 37%, kidnappings by 78%, terrorist attacks by 63%, and attacks on the country's infrastructure by 60%.

Although much attention has been focused on the security aspects of Colombia's situation, the Uribe government also is making significant efforts on issues such as expanding international trade, supporting alternate means of development, and reforming Colombia's judicial system.

President Uribe was reelected with 62% of the vote in May 2006. In congressional elections in March 2006, the three leading pro-Uribe parties (National Unity, Conservative Party, and Radical Change) won clear majorities in both houses of Congress. In late 2006, the Supreme Court began investigations and ordered the arrest of some members of Congress for actions on behalf of paramilitary groups. In January 2007, Colombian leaders presented a new strategy to consolidate and build on progress under Plan Colombia, called the “Strategy to Strengthen Democracy and Social Development.” The new strategy continues successful Plan Colombia programs while increasing state presence by improving access to social services, and supporting economic development through sustainable growth and trade.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Alvaro URIBE Velez

Vice Pres.: Francisco SANTOS Calderon

Min. of Agriculture & Rural Development: Andres Felipe ARIAS Leiva

Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Tourism: Luis Guillermo PLATA

Min. of Communication: Maria del Rosario GUERRA de La Espriella

Min. of Culture: Paula MORENO Zapata

Min. of Defense: Juan Manuel SANTOS Calderon

Min. of Education: Cecilia Maria VELEZ White

Min. of Energy & Mines: Hernan MARTINEZ Torres

Min. of Environment, Housing, & Territorial Development: Juan LOZANO

Min. of Finance & Public Credit: Oscar Ivan ZULUAGA Escobar

Min. of Foreign Relations: Fernando ARAUJO Perdomo

Min. of Interior & Justice: Carlos HOLGUIN Sardi

Min. of Social Protection: Diego PALACIO Betancourt

Min. of Transportation: Andres Uriel GALLEGO Henao

Dir., National Planning: Carolina RENTERIA

Prosecutor Gen.: Mario German IGUARAN Arana

Pres., Bank of the Republic: Jose Dario URIBE Escobar

Ambassador to the US: Carolina BARCO Isakson

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Claudia BLUM

Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Juan and Washington DC.

DEFENSE

Colombia's Ministry of Defense is charged with the country's internal and external defense and security, and exercises jurisdiction over an army, navy—including marines and coast guard—air force, and national police under the leadership of a civilian Minister of Defense. Real spending on defense has increased every year since 2000, but especially so under President Uribe. Colombian spending on defense grew over 30% after inflation from 2001 to 2005, from $2.6 billion to more than 3.9 billion. Projected defense spending for 2006 was $4.48 billion. The security forces number about 350,000 uniformed personnel: 190,000 military and 160,000 police. President Uribe instituted a wealth tax in 2002, which raised over $800 million, with 70% used to increase 2002-2003 defense spending. A similar tax to be imposed from 2007-2011 is expected to raise up to $3.6 billion.

Many Colombian military personnel receive training in the United States or from U.S. instructors in Colombia. The United States provides equipment to the Colombian military and police through the military assistance program, foreign military sales and the international narcotics control program.

Narcotics and Terrorism

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that more than 80% of the worldwide powdered cocaine supply and as much as 90% of the powdered cocaine smuggled into the United States is produced in Colombia.

The Colombian Government is committed to the eradication of all illicit crops, interdiction of illegal drug shipments and financial controls to prevent money laundering. Between 2004 and 2006, Colombian security forces interdicted 562 metric tons of cocaine, coca base, and heroin. Coca cultivation decreased by 15% from 2001 to 2005, while opium poppy cultivation decreased by 68% from 2001 to 2004.

Terrorist groups in Colombia are actively engaged in narcotics production and trafficking. The FARC is believed responsible for more than half of the cocaine entering the United States.

ECONOMY

Colombia is a free market economy with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. Transition from a highly regulated economy has been underway for more than 15 years. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization or “apertura,” with tariff reductions, financial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises and adoption of a more liberal foreign exchange rate. These policies eased import restrictions and opened most sectors to foreign investment, although agricultural products remained protected.

Unlike many of its neighboring countries, Colombia has not suffered any dramatic economic collapses. The Uribe administration seeks to maintain prudent fiscal policies and has pursued tough economic reforms including tax, pension and budget reforms. A U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) study shows that Colombian tax rates (both personal and corporate) are among the highest in Latin America. The unemployment rate in December 2006 was 11.4%, down from 15.1% in December 2002.

The sustained growth of the Colombian economy can be attributed to an increase in domestic security, the policies of keeping inflation low and maintaining a stable currency (the Colombian peso), petroleum price increases and an increase in exports to neighboring countries and the United States as a result of trade liberalization. The Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which has been extended through February 2008, also plays a pivotal role in Colombia's economic growth. Signing a free trade agreement in November 2006 portends further opportunity for growth once it is approved by the legislatures of both countries and implemented.

Industry and Agriculture

The most industrially diverse member of the five-nation Andean Community, Colombia has four major industrial centers—Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla—each located in a distinct geographical region. Colombia's industries include textiles and clothing, leather products, processed foods and beverages, paper and paper products, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement, construction, iron and steel products and metalworking.

Colombia's diverse climate and topography permit the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. In addition, all regions yield forest products, ranging from tropical hardwoods in the lowlands, to pine and eucalyptus in the colder areas. Cacao, sugarcane, coconuts, bananas, plantains, rice, cotton, tobacco, cassava and most of the nation's beef cattle are produced in the hot regions from sea level to 1,000 meters elevation.

The temperate regions—between 1,000 and 2,000 meters—are better suited for coffee, flowers, corn and other vegetables, pears, pineapples, and tomatoes. The cooler elevations— between 2,000 and 3,000 meters—produce wheat, barley, potatoes, cold-climate vegetables, flowers, dairy cattle and poultry.

Trade

In 2006, Colombia was the United States’ fifth-largest export market in the Western Hemisphere behind Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela and the largest agricultural export market in the hemisphere after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries. U.S. exports to Colombia in 2006 were $6.9 billion, up 13.2% from the previous year. U.S. imports from Colombia were $9.6 billion, up 4%. Colombia's major exports are petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, and nontraditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, gold, bananas, semiprecious stones, sugar, and tropical fruits). The United States is Colombia's largest trading partner, representing about 40% of Colombia's exports and 26.6% of its imports.

Colombia has improved protection of intellectual property rights through the adoption of three Andean Pact decisions in 1993 and 1994 as well as an internal decree on data protection. The United States remains concerned over deficiencies in licensing and copyright protection.

Mining and Energy

Colombia has considerable mineral and energy resources, especially coal and natural gas reserves. New security measures and increased drilling activity have slowed the drop in petroleum production, allowing Colombia to continue to export through 2010 or 2011, given current production estimates. In 2006, gas reserves totaled 7,349 billion cubic feet. Gas production totaled 680 million cubic feet per day. The country's current refining capacity is 299,200 barrels per day.

Mining and energy related investments have grown because of higher oil prices, increased demand and improved output. Colombia has significantly liberalized its petroleum sector, leading to an increase in exploration and production contracts from both large and small hydrocarbon industries.

Colombia is presently the 16th-greatest coal producing country, accounting for about 1% of the world's total annual coal production, and the largest producer in Latin America (65.8 million tons in 2006). Colombia has proven recoverable coal reserves of about 7.4 billion short tons, the majority of which are located in the north of the country. Ferronickel production decreased from 116 million pounds in 2005 to 112.7 million pounds in 2006. Colombia historically has been the world's leading producer of emeralds, although production has fallen in recent years. Emerald production fell from 116.3 million carats in 2005 to 112.7 million carats in 2006. Colombia is also a significant producer of gold, silver, and platinum.

Foreign Investment

The United States is the largest source of new foreign direct investment (FDI) in Colombia, particularly in the areas of coal and petroleum. In 2006, new FDI totaled $6.3 billion, an increase of 294% from 2002. The bulk of the new investment is in the manufacturing, mining, and petroleum sectors. The only activities closed to foreign direct investment are defense and national security, and disposal of hazardous wastes. Capital controls have been implemented to reduce currency speculation and to keep foreign investment in-country for at least a year. In order to encourage investment in Colombia, Congress approved a law in 2005 to protect FDI.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

In 1969, Colombia, along with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, formed what is now the Andean Community. (Venezuela joined in 1973 and announced its departure in 2005; Chile left in 1976 and returned in 2006.) In the 1980s, Colombia broadened its bilateral and multilateral relations, joining the Contadora Group, the Group of Eight (now the Rio Group) and the Non-Aligned Movement, which it chaired from 1994 until September 1998. In addition, it has signed free trade agreements with Chile, Mexico and Venezuela. The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was signed by President Bush in November 2006, and is awaiting congressional approval as of September 2007.

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the United Nations and the Organization of American States and in their subsidiary agencies. Former President Gaviria became Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) in September 1994 and was re-elected in 1999. Colombia has participated in all five Summits of the Americas, most recently in November 2005, and followed up on initiatives developed at the first two summits by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level meetings on trade and science and technology. In March 2006, Bogota hosted the Sixth Regular Session of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism.

U.S.-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS

In 1822, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and to establish a resident diplomatic mission. Today, about 25,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. Embassy as living in Colombia, most of them dual nationals.

Currently, there are about 250 American businesses conducting operations in Colombia. In 1995-96, the United States and Colombia signed important agreements on environmental protection and civil aviation. The two countries have signed agreements on asset sharing and chemical control. In 1997, the United States and Colombia signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels.

During the Pastrana administration, relations with the United States improved significantly. The United States responded to the Colombian Government's request for international support for Plan Colombia by providing substantial assistance designed to increase Colombia's counter-narcotics capabilities and support human rights, humanitarian assistance, alternative development and economic and judicial reforms.

The U.S. has continued close cooperation with Colombia under the Uribe administration. Recognizing that terrorism and the illicit narcotics trade in Colombia are inextricably linked, the U.S. Congress granted new expanded statutory authorities in 2002 making U.S. assistance to Colombia more flexible in order to better support President Uribe's unified campaign against narcotics and terrorism.

The results thus far have been impressive, but much remains to be done. U.S. policy toward Colombia supports the Colombian Government's efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, intensify counter-narcotics efforts, foster socioeconomic development, address immediate humanitarian needs, and end the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Promoting security, stability, and prosperity in Colombia will continue as long-term American interests in the region.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

BOGOTA (E) Cra. 45 No. 22D-45, APO/FPO APO AA 34038, (571) 315-0811, Fax (571) 315-2197, INMAR-SAT Tel 683131545/46, Workweek: 0800-1700, Website: http://bogota.usembassy.gov.

AMB OMS:Suzanne Lemandri
DHS/ICE:Juan Dania
ECO:Lawrence Gumbiner
FCS:Margaret Hanson-Muse
FM:William Knight
HRO:Stephanie Brown
MGT:Greg Stanford
OMS:Jackie Valenzuela
AMB:William Brownfield
CG:William Martin
CON:Eric Cohan
DCM:Brian A. Nichols
PAO:Mark Wentworth
GSO:Lee Hess
RSO:Micheal Poehlitz
AGR:Todd Drennan
AID:Liliana Ayalde
APHIS:Darya Chehrezad
ATF:Orlando Blanco
CLO:Lauretta Sorianello And Carmelita Allcott
DAO:Col. Mark Wilkins
DEA:Jay Bergman
FMO:Francisco Lloret
ICASS:Chair Lizette Yrizarry
IMO:Doyle Lee
IPO:Shannon Lankford
IRS:Olga Acevedo
ISO:William Velazquez
LEGATT:Joseph Jeziorski
MLO:Col. Kevin Saderup
NAS:Perry Holloway
POL:John Creamer

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520 Main Switchboard: 202-647-4000
(http://www.state.gov)

U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center, International Trade Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue
Washington, DC 20230
(tel: 800-USA-TRADE, I
nternet: http://trade.gov)

Colombian-American Chamber
of Commerce

Calle 98, @2264, Oficina 1209
Apartado Aereo 8008
Bogota, Colombia
(tel: (571) 621-5042/7925/6838,
fax: (571) 612-6838,
Internet: www.colombiachamber.com
Chapters in Cali, Cartagena,
Medellin

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

June 21, 2007

Country Description: Colombia, the second most populous country in South America, is a medium-income nation with a diverse economy. Its geography is also diverse, ranging from tropical coastal areas and rain-forests to rugged mountainous terrain. Tourist facilities in Colombia vary in quality and safety, according to price and location. Security is a significant concern for travelers.

Entry Requirements: All U.S. citizens who are not also Colombian citizens must present a valid U.S. passport to enter and depart Colombia, and to return to the United States. Dual U.S-Colombian citizens must present a Colombian passport to enter and exit Colombia, and must have a U.S. passport to return to the United States. Be aware that any person born in Colombia may be considered a Colombian citizen, even if never documented as such. If you are an American citizen who was born in Colombia or who otherwise has Colombian citizenship, you will need both a Colombian passport and a U.S. passport for your trip.

U.S. passports issued in Colombia generally take at least eight days for processing and in some cases considerably longer. To avoid delays in your return to the United States, it is recommended that you obtain your U.S. passport before departing the United States. Instructions for obtaining a passport in the United States can be found at www.travel.state.gov.

U.S. citizens do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist stay of 60 days or less. Tourists entering Colombia may be asked for evidence of return or onward travel, usually in the form of a round-trip ticket. Americans traveling overland must enter Colombia at an official border crossing. Travelers arriving by bus should ensure, prior to boarding, that their bus will cross the border at an official entry point. Entering Colombia at unauthorized crossings may result in fines or incarceration.

The length of stay granted to travelers will be determined by the Colombian immigration officer at the point of entry and will be stamped in your passport. Extensions may be requested by visiting an office of the Colombian immigration authority, known as DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad) Extranjeria, after arrival in Colombia. Fines are levied if a traveler remains in Colombia longer than authorized. Any foreigner who possesses a Colombian visa with more than three months’ validity must register the visa at an office of DAS Extranjeria within 15 days of arrival in Colombia, or face fines. There is no arrival tax collected upon entry into Colombia, but travelers leaving by plane must pay an exit tax of approximately $56 at the airport. Some airlines include a portion of this tax in the cost of your airline ticket; check with your airline to find out how much of the tax you will have to pay at the airport.

U.S. citizens whose U.S. passports are lost or stolen in Colombia must obtain a new U.S. passport before departing. They must then present the passport, along with a police report describing the loss or theft, to an office of DAS Extranjeria. Information about obtaining a replacement U.S. passport in Colombia is available on the U.S. Embassy's website at http://Bogota.usembassy.gov. Contact information for DAS Extranjeria is available in Spanish at www.das.gov.co. The Embassy in Bogotá or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla can provide you with additional guidance when you apply for your replacement passport.

For further information regarding entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Colombian Embassy at 2118 Leroy Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 387-8338; Internet website http://www.colombiaemb.org; or a Colombian consulate. Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco and San Juan.

Additional Requirements for Minors: In an effort to prevent international child abduction, Colombia has implemented additional exit procedures for Colombian or dualnational children under 18 who are departing the country without both parents or a legal guardian. Upon exiting the country, the person traveling with the child (or the child him/ herself) must present a copy of the child's birth certificate, along with written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. The authorization must explicitly grant permission for the child to travel alone, with one parent, or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of a death certificate is required in lieu of written authorization. When one parent has sole custody of the child, that parent may present a custody decree instead of the other parent's written authorization. If the decree was issued by a Colombian court, it must grant the custodial parent a form of custody known as patria potestad.

If the documents to be presented were prepared in the United States, they must first be translated into Spanish and then authenticated by a Colombian consul at a Colombian consulate. Then, upon arrival in Colombia, the documents must be presented to the Ministry of External Affairs for certification of the consul's signature. Alternatively, the documents can be notarized by a notary public in the United States and then authenticated by requesting an apostille from the competent authority in the state where the documents were prepared.

If documents are prepared in Colombia, only notarization by a Colombian notary is required. For documents prepared in countries other than the United States or Colombia, please inquire with the Colombian embassy serving that country.

In cases where the absent parent refuses or is otherwise unable to provide consent, the other parent can request assistance from the Colombian child protection agency, Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF). In appropriate cases, ICBF will investigate and may issue a document that will allow the child to travel without both parents’ consent.

Safety and Security: Travel to Colombia can expose visitors to considerable risk. The Secretary of State has designated three Colombian groups—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)—as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. These groups have carried out bombings and other attacks in and around major urban areas, including against civilian targets. Terrorist groups have also targeted critical infrastructure (e.g., water, oil, gas, and electricity), police and military facilities, public recreational areas, foreign-owned factories, and modes of transportation.

During the past four years, kidnapping and other violent crimes have decreased markedly in most urban areas, including Bogotá, Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena. The level of violence in Cali, Buenaventura, and the surrounding areas remains high, largely as a result of the illicit drug trade. Colombia continues to have a high rate of kidnapping for ransom. The FARC continues to hold hostage three U.S. government contractors—all U.S. citizens—who were captured in February 2003 when their small plane went down in a remote area of Colombia.

Kidnap or murder victims in Colombia have included journalists, missionaries, scientists, human rights workers and businesspeople, as well as tourists and even small children. No one can be considered immune. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of American hostages, and the Colombian government has had some success with hostage-recovery teams, rescue capabilities are limited. Colombian law requires that private individuals coordinate efforts to free kidnap victims with the Colombian Office of Anti-Kidnapping (Ministerio de Defensa/Programa Para la Defensa de la Libertad Personal).

Official and personal travel by U.S. Embassy employees outside of most urban areas is subject to strict limitations and reviewed case by case. U.S. Embassy employees are allowed to travel by air, but inter-and intra-city bus transportation is off-limits to them.

The U.S. Embassy must approve in advance the official travel to Colombia of all U.S. government personnel. Such travel is approved only for essential business. Personal travel by U.S. military personnel to Colombia requires advance approval by the U.S. Embassy. Military personnel requesting permission for personal travel should contact the office of the Embassy's Defense Attaché through the Embassy switchboard at 011-57-1-315-0811. Non-military employees of the U.S. Government do not need Embassy approval for private travel.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Armed robbery and other violent crimes are common in major Colombian cities. Several recent robberies of American citizens have occurred after using automatic teller machines (ATMs) on the street. In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and later flee the scene. American citizens are urged to use ATMs only during daylight hours and only inside shopping malls or other protected locations. Driving to and from the location—rather than walking—provides added protection. When using an ATM, you should be on the lookout for anyone who may be watching or following you. Generally speaking, if you are the victim of a robbery and not in fear of losing your life or of serious bodily harm, you should not resist. Robbery victims have sometimes been shot and killed while resisting.

Robbery of people hailing taxis on the street is a particularly serious problem in Bogotá. Typically, the driver—who is one of the conspirators—will pick up the passenger, and then stop to pick up two or more armed cohorts, who enter the cab, overpower the passenger, and take his/her belongings. If the passenger has an ATM card, the perpetrators will often force the passenger to withdraw money from various ATM locations. Such ordeals can last for hours.

In almost every case of taxi-related crime, the victims have been riding alone and have hailed their taxis off the street. Rather than hailing a taxi, you should take advantage of the telephone dispatch service most taxi companies offer. Many hotels, restaurants, and stores will call a taxi for you, and the taxis usually arrive within minutes. When a taxi is dispatched by telephone, the dispatcher creates a record of the call and the responding taxi. Additionally, the passenger receives a code from the dispatcher, which helps ensure that the correct taxi has arrived.

The Embassy continues to receive reports of criminals using disabling drugs to temporarily incapacitate tourists and others. At bars, restaurants, and other public areas, perpetrators may offer tainted drinks, cigarettes, or gum. Typically, victims become disoriented or unconscious, and are thus vulnerable to robbery, sexual assault, and other crimes. Avoid leaving food or drinks unattended at a bar or restaurant, and be suspicious if a stranger offers you something to eat or drink.

U.S. citizens in Bogotá routinely fall victim to a scam in which purported undercover police officers approach them on the street and request to examine their money or jewelry. The “officers,” who are in fact criminals, then flee with the person's belongings. Legitimate Colombian police officers do not ask to examine money or jewelry. American citizens should be aware of the danger of traveling on inter-city and rural roads in Colombia, including on buses, due to the risk of kidnapping and other activity by criminal gangs. Buses within cities also present a risk of robbery and other crime. U.S. Government employees in Colombia are prohibited from taking buses anywhere in the country. They are also forbidden from driving outside most urban areas, and they cannot drive on roads outside of urban areas at night.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies greatly in quality elsewhere. Many private health care providers in Colombia require that patients pay for care at the time of treatment, even in an emergency. Some providers in major cities may accept credit cards. Uninsured travelers with limited resources may be relegated to seeking treatment in hospitals that are far below U.S. standards of care.

The Embassy occasionally receives reports of U.S. citizens who have died or suffered serious complications while undergoing liposuction and other cosmetic surgery. Before undergoing such a procedure in Colombia, the Department of State recommends that you consult with your physician in the United States, research the credentials of the provider in Colombia, and carefully consider your ability to access emergency medical facilities if complications arise. It is important to be aware of whether your medical insurance provides coverage in Colombia, and if so, whether coverage includes expenses that may result from any complications from elective procedures.

Travelers to the capital city of Bogotá may need time to adjust to the altitude of 8,600 feet, which can affect blood pressure, digestion and energy level, and cause headaches, sleeplessness, dehydration, and other discomfort. Travelers with circulatory or respiratory problems should consult a physician before traveling to Bogotá or other high-altitude locations.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Colombia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic laws in Colombia, including speed limits, are sporadically obeyed and rarely enforced; creating dangerous conditions for drivers and pedestrians in major cities. Under Colombian law, seat belts are mandatory for front-passengers in a private vehicle. Car seats are not mandatory for children, but a child under ten is not permitted to ride in a front seat. It is against the law to talk on a cellular phone while driving in Colombia, and violators may be fined. While driving outside of major cities, it is mandatory to drive with your lights on. If an accident occurs, the involved parties must remain at the scene and not move their vehicles at all until the authorities arrive; this rule is strictly enforced, and moving a vehicle or leaving the scene of an accident may constitute an admission of guilt under Colombian law.

Although road security has improved in some areas, including in and around Bogotá, the Embassy strongly recommends against most road travel outside of major urban areas, whether by bus or car. The Government of Colombia has instituted extra security to promote road travel during holidays, but outside of these periods, the possible presence of guerrilla and paramilitary groups and common criminals in rural areas makes travel on these roads dangerous. In regions where the government has not established full authority, guerrilla groups have been known to set up roadblocks to rob or kidnap travelers. Government or guerrilla control in a given area is subject to change, sometimes quickly and without notice. Travel between major cities should be done by airplane. For additional information about road travel in Colombia, see the U.S. Embassy home page at http://usembassy.state.gov/Bogotá.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Colombia's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Colombia's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's website at http://www.faa.gov.

Customs Regulations: Colombian law prohibits tourists and business travelers from bringing firearms into Colombia. Illegal importation or possession of firearms may result in incarceration. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available; buying or selling such products is illegal in Colombia, and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and fines.

Colombian law also forbids the export of pre-Columbian objects and other artifacts protected by cultural patrimony statutes. Under a recent agreement between the United States and Colombia, U.S. customs officials are obligated to seize pre-Columbian objects and certain colonial religious artwork when they are brought into the United States.

Travelers departing Colombia must declare to Colombian officials if they are carrying cash or other financial instruments worth 10,000 U.S. dollars or more. You should also contact the Embassy of Colombia in Washington or one of Colombia's consulates in the United States for detailed customs guidance from the Colombian government.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Colombian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. If you are arrested, consular officers cannot request your release.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Colombia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and long jail sentences in harsh conditions, with significant expense and great hardship themselves and their families. Colombian police make many arrests for drug trafficking at airports and elsewhere, and have sophisticated means for detecting illegal drugs. There are more than 35 American citizens incarcerated in Colombia for attempting to smuggle drugs out of the country. Some of them ingested capsules containing drugs and were captured after being subjected to x-ray exams.

The hardships resulting from imprisonment do not end even after release from prison: Colombian law requires that serious offenders serve a lengthy period of parole, during which the offender cannot leave the country, is given no housing, and may lack permission to work. As a result, family members must often support the offender, sometimes for more than a year, until the parole period expires.

Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

State of Emergency: On occasion, the Colombian government has declared a state of emergency in portions of the country. During such times, American citizens may find their movements or civil liberties restricted due to curfews, registration requirements, or other security-related measures. American citizens are advised to stay alert to any announcements declaring emergency status.

Disaster Preparedness: Colombia is an earthquake-prone country. Flooding and mudslides also sometimes occur in parts of the country. U.S. citizens in Colombia can find information on coping with natural disasters on the U.S. Embassy's web site at http://Bogota.usembassy.gov. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Colombia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá through the State Department's travel registration website. Registrants can also sign up to receive emailed updates on travel and security within Colombia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of a family emergency or other problem.

The Embassy's American Citizens Services office is open for routine services, including registration and application for passports, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon Monday through Thursday, excluding U.S. and Colombian holidays. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida El Dorado and Carrera 50; telephone (011-57-1) 315-0811 during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or 315-2109/2110 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (011-57-1) 315-2196/2197; Internet website http://Bogota.usembassy.gov.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which accepts passport applications and performs notarial services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (011-57-5) 353-2001; fax (011-57-5) 353-5216; e-mail: [email protected]

International Adoption

February 2006

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Colombian law does not allow for private adoptions. Children may be adopted only through the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and approved adoption agencies. This means that both the U.S. agency that is contracted by the prospective adoptive parents and the Colombian agency facilitating the Colombian part of the process must be approved by the Colombian government.

Every adopted child must have a final adoption decree in order to leave Colombia. Colombian law also requires that both adopting parents be physically present when the adoption is presented to a “family judge.” No exceptions are made to this requirement, and the process takes two to four weeks, sometimes more. After both prospective adoptive parents have appeared before the court, one of them may return to the United States, but the other parent must remain in Colombia until the adoption/immigrant visa process is completed.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Colombia is the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF).

BIENESTAR FAMILIAR (ICBF)
Grupo Nacional de Adopciones
Avenida 68 # 64-01
Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: 011-57-1-437 7630
Ext. 3158—3157
Internet: www.icbf.gov.co (Spanish)
http://www.icbf.gov.co/ingles/home.asp (English version)

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Colombian law allows for adoptions by a married man and woman and common law spouses of more than three years. Single men and women are eligible to adopt children over the age of seven years only and on a case-by-case basis. In practice, newborns are assigned to younger couples, and older children are assigned to older couples. Both parents are required to be 25 years of age and capable physically, emotionally to adopt. The economic requirement can be met by only one of the parents. Both parents are required to appear before the judge in Colombia. Only one parent is required to appear before a consular officer.

Time Frame: It is hard to predict how long an adopting family should expect for the adoption to be completed. There are many factors that determine how long the adoption and visa process takes, including how long it takes to have paperwork approved in the United States and in Colombia. In addition, factors including the desired sex and age of a child play a role, as well as the age of the prospective parents. Couples receiving visas for their newly adopted children typically report that the entire process took from 18 to 30 months.

Adoption Agencies: The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) licenses the following adoption agencies to process international adoptions. Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family for a list of agencies.

Adoption Attorneys: Please contact ICBF and licensed adoption agencies for their list of recommended attorneys who work with intercountry adoptions. Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services and ensure that it is an agency accredited by Bienestar Familiar (ICBF). Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services.

Adoption Fees: It is difficult to predict how much the entire adoption process will cost as each case has unique circumstances. Parents receiving visas for their adopted children have reported spending between $12,000 and $20,000 from start to finish.

Adoption Procedures: Once an adoptive couple has decided that Colombia is the country from which they wish to adopt, they must first contact the ICBF or an accredited adoption agency in Colombia (listed above) in order to obtain a list of adoption agencies in the United States, nearest to the couple's place of residence, that are accredited by the Colombian Government. One of these adoption agencies in the United States will perform the home study and will assist prospective parents in preparing the Form I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition), if not completed previously, and its supporting documents for approval by the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) division.

Once the I-600A has been approved by DHS, parents must compile the list of documents, below, for submission to the ICBF. Once the ICBF approves the package of documents, it will be in a position to inform prospective adoptive parents (through their agencies) about the availability of children in need of a family placement and the amount of time it is likely to take to complete the adoption. This timeline will depend on several factors, including the parent's age, the desired sex of the child, age of the desired child, and how many children are available at the time. ICBF will inform the parents (again, through the agencies) once a child has officially been assigned to them. Medical, social, psychological, and nutritional assessments are provided to the parents, as well as photographs of the child. Prospective parents are then given two months to make a decision as to whether to adopt that particular child.

After the parents are informed that they have been assigned a child, they then travel to Colombia to begin the legal process with Colombian authorities. The ICBF or the Colombian adoption agency will assist the family with obtaining the documents needed to complete the Colombian legal procedures, including (but not limited to) the adoption decree, a new Colombian birth certificate, and a new Colombian passport. The passport fee is 67,000 pesos (approx. US $30). All other fees vary.

Once all the Colombian legal proceedings are complete, the family is ready to visit the U.S. Embassy to apply for the immigrant visa used to travel to the United States.

Letter Required by Colombian Judges: In order for the U.S. Embassy to issue the letter required by the Colombian family judges that commits the U.S. Embassy to issuing an immigrant visa under the condition that all adoption and U.S. immigration requirements are met, the Embassy needs to have received an Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (Form I-600A) approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The adopting parents file this petition in the United States at the USCIS service center responsible for the district in which they reside.

Documents Required: The following is a list of documents that U.S. prospective adoptive parents are required to submit to the ICBF while the parents are still in the U.S. and before they travel to Colombia to adopt a child:

  1. Application Form for adoption can be provided by the ICBF or found on the ICBF Website: www.icbf.gov.co.
  2. Birth certificates of adoptive parents.
  3. Marriage certificate or proof of common law relationship of adoptive parents.
  4. Medical examinations by Board-certified physicians clearly stating that prospective adoptive parents are mentally and physically capable of caring for a child (or children)
  5. National law enforcement clearance issued by a competent police authority. For U.S. citizens, this consists of a set of fingerprints, and their results, issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These cards may be requested from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The FBI may take as long as two to three months to return the completed results.
  6. Birth certificates of any children previously adopted by adoptive parents.
  7. Certificate of financial ability; employment letters explaining time of service and monthly salary received in US dollars.
  8. If self-employed, a certified document regarding the parent's financial resources or last income tax return with supporting documents is required.
  9. Social and psychological study of the adopting family that establishes physical, mental, moral and social capacity. The home study required by USCIS can fulfill both the U.S. and the Colombian requirements.
  10. If there were previous marriages or partners of adopting parents, proof of divorce and reasons for such dissolutions should be presented.
  11. Notarized statement clarifying any changes in name or indicating, “also known as.” Generally, Colombian women do not change their names to that of their husbands. As a result, Colombian courts are accustomed to birth certificates, marriage certificates, and passports with no variation in name.

Embassy and Consulates in the United States:
Colombian Embassy
2118 Leroy Place NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 387-5858,
(202) 332-7476

Consulate in Atlanta
5901 C Peachtree Dunwoody Road
Suite 375
Atlanta, GA 30328
Phone: 770-668-0451/0512/0552
EXT: 21-22-23-24
Fax: 770-668-0763

Consulate in Boston
535 Boylston Street
11th Floor
Boston, MA 02116
Phone: 617-536-6222
Fax: 617-536-9372

Consulate in Chicago
500 North Michigan Avenue
Suite 2040
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 312-923-1196 or
312-923-9034/5
Fax: 312-923-1197

Consulate in Houston
5851 San Felipe, Suite 300
Houston, TX 77057
Phone: 713-527-8919 or
713-527-9093
Fax: 713-529-3395

Consulate in Los Angeles
8383 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 420
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Phone: 323-653-9863 or
323-653-4299
Fax: 323-653-2964

Consulate in Miami
280 Aragon Ave.
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Phone: 305-448-5558; 305-441-1235;
or 305-448-4179
Fax: 305-441-9537

Consulate in New York
10 East 46th Street
New York City, NY 10017
Phone: 212-949-9898 or
212-370-0004
Fax: 212-972-1725

Consulate in San Francisco
595 Market Street
Suite 2130
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: 415-495-7195/96
Fax: 415-777-3731

Consulate in San Juan
Edificio Mercantil
P1 814
Avenida Ponce de Leon
Hato Rey, PR 00918
Phone: 787-754-6899 or 787-754-6885
Fax: 787-754-1675

Consulate in Washington DC
1101 17th Street NW
Suite 1007 Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-332-7476
Fax: 202-332-7180

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy: The United States Embassy is located at Calle 22 D Bis # 47-51, Bogotá, Colombia.

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Colombia may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

International Parental Child Abduction

February 2008

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information below relating to the legal requirements of Colombia is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General Information: Colombia is in the process of transforming its criminal justice system into an accusatorial one, with oral trials, in a way that resembles the U.S. justice system. For non-criminal matters, however, including divorce and custody cases, Colombia remains a civil law country.

Judicial proceedings in a civil law country generally differ from those in the United States, a common law country, in several significant ways. For example, juries are not used. Legal cases are heard and decided by a judge or panel of judges. Evidence can be presented and arguments can be made in oral hearings, but such hearings tend to play a secondary role, supplementing extensive written submissions to the judge. The judge normally can play a more active role in proceedings than is common in U.S. courts. A judge in a civil law country is free to seek evidence independently of what either side presents.

In Colombia, family court judges handle divorce and custody cases. In cases involving the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, recent legislation by the Colombian Congress has placed jurisdiction with family courts as well. In more remote areas of the country where there are no family courts, Hague cases are to be heard by civil court circuit judges. While Colombian courts can recognize or enforce U.S. custody orders, they generally refuse to do so. In a Colombian court, Colombian law takes precedence over U.S. law. A Colombian court order granting custody to one parent will prevail over an order issued by a U.S. court.

Custody and Rights of Visitation: In Colombia, married parents share equal rights of custody to their minor children. Under Colombian law, if a father acknowledges on a child's birth certificate that he is the father, then he shares equal custody rights with the mother, even if the child was born out of wedlock. A father who has acknowledged paternity may seek assistance from administrative or judicial authorities for a remedy if the mother interferes with his rights to custody or visitation. Custody cases are first assigned to family protection officers within the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare and then custody and/or visitation are determined before a family court judge. Family courts have heavy caseloads and cases involving a U.S. parent disputing custody with a Colombian parent take a long time to resolve. The U.S. Embassy in Bogota notes that Colombian courts favor parents of Colombian nationality and that it is very rare for a court in Colombia to grant custody to a parent residing in the U.S. when there is a parent residing in Colombia.

Criminal Aspects: The crime of international parental abduction is covered in the Colombian Penal Code as simple kidnapping, with circumstances that can increase or reduce the punishment. Colombia does not consider international parental kidnapping as an extraditable offense.

Colombian Citizenship: The Colombian Constitution provides that a child born abroad to a Colombian mother or father acquires Colombian citizenship once the birth is registered in a consular office or the child later becomes domiciled in Colombia. If a child is born in Colombia, he/she will obtain Colombian citizenship automatically as long as one parent is a Colombian national or one of the child's parents has legal resident status in Colombia.

Colombian Passports: In contrast to U.S. requirements, a Colombian passport for a minor child can be obtained with only one parent's consent. However, Colombian authorities have rules that restrict the departure of Colombian children from the country when they are not in the company of both parents.

Preventing Issuance of a Colombian Passport: If a parent wishes to prevent the issuance of a passport to their minor child, he or she must submit a request to the Ministerio de la Proteccion Social, Instituto Colombiano de Bienstar Familiar (ICBF). If ICBF concurs with the parent's request, it will notify the Colombian passport office to place a hold on issuance of a passport to the minor child. The Colombian passport agency will then notify Colombian Embassies and Consulates of the hold. Parents may only submit a request through ICBF, not through a Colombian Embassy or Consulate. Further information can be found at www.bienestarfamiliar.gov.co.

The Hague Convention: The United States is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Convention is an international treaty. Its purpose is to discourage international parental abduction and to ensure that children who are abducted or wrongfully retained are returned to their country of habitual residence. The Hague Convention does not govern who should get custody of a child, but only the jurisdiction where custody should be adjudicated.

The Hague Convention took effect between the United States and Colombia on June 1, 1996. Therefore, Hague Convention provisions for return apply only to children abducted or retained after that date. Parents and legal guardians of children taken to Colombia prior to June 1, 1996 may still submit applications for access to the child under the Hague Convention. All countries party to the Hague Convention have a Central Authority that is responsible for processing Hague applications.

The Colombian Central Authority performs an administrative role in processing Hague applications. The Central Authority is the Instituto Colombiano de Bienstar Familiar (ICBF), which is located within the Ministry of Social Protection. The address is Sede Nacional Avenida 68 No 64-01, PBX 4377630, Bogota, DC, Colombia. The international telephone number is 011-57-1-437-7630. The Central Authority's email address is [email protected]

More Information: The State Department has general information about hiring a foreign attorney, service of process, and enforcement of child support and the international enforcement of judgments, which supplement the country-specific information provided in this flyer. When situations in a country are sufficiently serious, the State Department issues Travel Alerts or Travel Warnings that may recommend U.S. citizens defer travel to that country. These documents are available on the Internet at: http://travel.state.gov or by the toll-free number, 1-888-407-4747, between 8:00 a.m.—8:00 p.m. eastern time, Monday thru Friday (except U.S. holidays). Callers who are unable to use the toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Travel Warning

June 4, 2007

This Travel Warning updates ongoing security concerns in Colombia and reminds American citizens of those concerns. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued January 18, 2006.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Colombia. Violence by narcoterrorist groups and other criminals continues to affect all parts of the country, urban and rural.

Violence has continued to decrease markedly in most urban areas, including Bogotá, Medellin, Barran-quilla, and Cartagena. The level of violence in Cali, Buenaventura, and the surrounding areas remains high, largely as a result of the illicit drug trade. Many rural areas of Colombia remain extremely dangerous due to the presence of narcoterrorists and Colombian government operations against them.

Terrorist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), and other criminal organizations, continue to kidnap civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips. No one can be considered immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. The FARC have held three American official contractors hostage since February 2003. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped Americans, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to or strike deals with kidnappers. Consequently, the U.S. government's ability to assist kidnapping victims is limited.

U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia are permitted to travel to major cities in the country, but only by air. They are not allowed to use inter-or intra-city bus transportation. They also are not permitted to travel by road outside of urban areas at night. All Americans in Colombia are urged to follow these precautions.

As the Department develops information on potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threats through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. U.S. citizens should consult warden messages for Colombia at http://bogota.usembassy.gov/wwwsc093.shtml, as well as the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Colombia and Worldwide Caution Travel Alert at http://travel.state.gov. U.S. travelers can also get up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 in the U.S. or Canada or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

views updated

Colombia

Compiled from the October 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Colombia

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

DEFENSE

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 1.14 million sq. km. (440,000 sq. mi.); about three times the size of Montana; fourth-largest country in South America.

Cities: Capital—Bogota (pop. 2005 projected: 7.1 million). Other major cities include Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Cartagena.

Terrain: Flat coastal areas, with extensive coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, three rugged parallel mountain chains, central highlands and flat eastern grasslands.

Climate: Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Colombian(s).

Population: (2005 projected) 46 million.

Annual population growth: 1.8%.

Religion: Roman Catholic 90%.

Language: Spanish.

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—80% of children enter school. Only 5 years of primary school are offered in many rural areas. Literacy—93% in urban areas, 67% in rural areas.

Health: Infant mortality rate—25/1,000. Life expectancy (2000-05 period)—men 69 yrs., women 75 yrs.

Ethnic groups: Mestizo (58%), white (20%), mulatto (14%), black (4%), mixed black-Amerindian (3%) and Amerindian (1%).

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: July 20, 1810.

Constitution: July 1991.

Government branches: Executive—President (chief of state and head of government). Legislative—Bicameral Congress. Judicial—Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Superior Judicial Council.

Political subdivisions: 32 departments; Bogota, capital district.

Political parties: Conservative Party of Colombia, Liberal, National Unity, Radical Change, Alternative Democratic Pole, and numerous small political movements.

Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over.

Economy

GDP: (2005) $123.7 billion; base year 1994: $105.9 billion.

Annual growth rate: (2005) 5.1%.

Per capita GDP: (2005) $2,688.81 Government expenditures: (2005) 22.7% of GDP.

Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds.

Manufacturing: (14.4% of GDP) Types—textiles and garments, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, wood products, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electrical equipment.

Agriculture: (13.1% of GDP) Products—coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum. Cultivated land—8.2% of total area.

Other sectors: (by percentage of GDP) Financial services—17.1%; commerce—11.2%; transportation and communications services—7.9%; mining and quarrying—4.5%; construction and public works—5.4%; government, personal and other services—18.6; electricity, gas, and water—2.9%.

Trade: Exports (2005)—$21.1 billion: petroleum, coal, coffee, flowers, textiles and garments, ferronickel, bananas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, gold, sugar, cardboard containers, printed material, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds. Major markets—U.S., Venezuela, Germany, Netherlands, Japan. Imports (2005)—$21.2 billion: machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, metals/metal products, plastic/rubber, paper products, aircraft, oil and gas industry equipment, supplies. Major suppliers—U.S., Germany, Japan, Panama, Venezuela.

PEOPLE

Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Thirty cities have a population of 100,000 or more. The nine eastern lowlands departments, constituting about 54% of Colombia’s area, have less than 3% of the population and a density of less than one person per square kilometer (two persons per sq. mi.). Ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous peoples, Europeans and Africans. Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully indigenous on the basis of language and customs.

HISTORY AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

During the pre-Columbian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous societies situated at different stages of socio-economic development, ranging from hunters and nomadic farmers to the highly structured Chibchas, who are considered to be one of the most developed indigenous groups in South America. The first permanent settlement in Colombia was at Santa Marta, founded by the Spanish in 1525. Santa Fe de Bogota was founded in 1538 and, in 1717, became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. Bogotawas one of three principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World.

On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogota created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed. The new republic included all the territory of the former Viceroyalty (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama). Simon Bolivar was elected its first president with Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president. Conflicts between followers of Bolivar and Santander led to the formation of two political parties that have since dominated Colombian politics. Bolivar’s supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, sought strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church and a limited franchise. Santander’s followers, forerunners of the Liberals, wanted a decentralized government, state rather than church control over education and other civil matters and a broadened suffrage.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time. Colombia maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free, elections. Notwithstanding the country’s commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia’s history also has been characterized by widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties: The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1903) claimed an estimated 100,000 lives, and La Violencia (the Violence) (1946-1957) claimed about 300,000 lives.

La Violencia (The Violence) and the National Front

The assassination of Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in 1948 sparked the bloody conflict known as La Violencia. Conservative Party leader Laureano Gomez came to power in 1950, but was ousted by a military coup led by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla in 1953. When Rojas failed to restore democratic rule and became implicated in corrupt schemes, he was overthrown by the military with the support of the Liberal and Conservative Parties.

It was out of this alliance between the two parties that the National Front emerged, which ended “La Violencia.”

In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gomez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) reached an agreement that led to the creation of the National Front, under which their parties would govern jointly. The presidency would be determined by regular elections every 4 years and the two parties would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices. This system was phased out by 1978.

Post-National Front Years

During the post-National Front years, the Colombian Government made efforts to negotiate a peace with the persistent guerrilla organizations that flourished in Colombia’s remote and undeveloped rural areas. In 1984, President Belisario Betancur, a Conservative, negotiated a ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Democratic Alliance/M-19 (M-19) that included the release of many imprisoned guerrillas. The National Liberation Army (ELN) rejected the government’s cease fire proposal at that time. The M-19 pulled out of the ceasefire when it resumed fighting in 1985. The army suppressed an M-19 attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogota in November 1985, during which 115 people were killed, including 11 Supreme Court justices. The government and the M-19 renewed their truce in March 1989, which led to a peace agreement and the M-19’s reintegration into society and political life. The M-19 was one of the parties that participated in the process to enact a new constitution, which took effect in 1991. The peace process with the FARC did not enjoy similar success; the FARC ended the truce in 1990 after some 2,000-3,000 of its members who had demobilized had been murdered.

The enactment of a new Constitution in 1991 brought about major reforms to Colombia’s political institutions. While the new Constitution preserved

a presidential, three-branch system of government, it created new institutions such as the Inspector General, a Human Rights Ombudsman, a Constitutional Court and a Superior Judicial Council. The new Constitution also reestablished the position of Vice President. Other significant constitutional reforms provide for civil divorce, dual nationality and the establishment of a legal mechanism (“tutela”) that allows individuals to appeal government decisions affecting their constitutional rights. The Constitution also authorized the introduction of an accusatory system of criminal justice that is gradually being instituted throughout the country, replacing the previous written inquisitorial system. A Constitutional amendment approved in 2005 allows the president to hold office for two consecutive 4-year terms.

Colombian governments have had to contend with the combined terrorist activities of left-wing guerrillas, the rise of paramilitary self-defense forces in the 1990s and the drug cartels. Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential candidates during the election campaign of 1990. After Colombian security forces killed Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar in December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with his organization abated as the “cartels” were broken into multiple, smaller and often-competing trafficking organizations. Guerrillas and paramilitary groups also entered into drug trafficking as a way to finance their military operations.

Pastrana Administration

The administration of Andres Pastrana (1998-2002), a Conservative, faced increased countrywide attacks by the FARC and ELN, widespread drug production and the expansion of paramilitary groups. The Pastrana administration unveiled its “Plan Colombia” in 1999 as a strategy to deal with these longstanding problems, and sought support from the international community. Plan Colombia is a comprehensive program to combat narco-terrorism; spur economic recovery; strengthen democratic institutions and respect for human rights; and provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons.

In November 1998, Pastrana ceded a sparsely populated area the size of Switzerland in south-central Colombia to the FARC’s control to serve as a neutral zone where peace negotiations could take place. The FARC negotiated with the government only fitfully while continuing to mount attacks and expand coca production, seriously undermining the government’s efforts to reach an agreement. Negotiations with the rebels in 2000 and 2001 were marred by rebel attacks, kidnappings and fighting between rebels and paramilitaries for control of coca-growing areas in Colombia. In February 2002, after the FARC hijacked a commercial aircraft and kidnapped a senator, Pastrana ordered the military to attack rebel positions and reassert control over the neutral zone. FARC withdrew into the jungle and increased attacks against Colombia’s infrastructure, while avoiding large-scale direct conflicts with the military.

Uribe Administration

Alvaro Uribe, an independent, was elected president in May 2002 on a platform to restore security to the country. Among his promises was to continue to pursue the broad goals of Plan Colombia within the framework of a long-term security strategy. In the fall of 2002, Uribe released a national security strategy that employed political, economic and military means to weaken all illegal narco-terrorist groups. The Uribe government offered to negotiate a peace agreement with these groups with the condition that they agree to a unilateral cease fire and to end drug trafficking and kidnapping.

In December 2003, the Colombian Self-Defense Forces (AUC) paramilitary group entered into a peace agreement with the government that has led to the bloc by bloc demobilization of over 30,000 AUC members. In addition, over 9,000 members of the AUC and other illegal armed groups have individually decided to surrender their arms. In July 2005, President Uribe signed the Justice and Peace Law, which established a legal framework for these demobilizations. Under this law, participants have to renounce violence and return illegal assets in exchange for reduced punishments; the assets are to be used to provide reparations to victims.

The ELN and the government began a round of talks with the Colombian Government mediated by the Mexican Government in mid–2004. The ELN withdrew from the talks after the Mexican Government voted to condemn Cuba’s human rights record at the United Nations in April 2005. In December 2005, the ELN began a new round of talks with the Colombian Government in Cuba that led to two more meetings, the last one held in April 2006. The dialogue is expected to continue.

As a result of the government’s military and police operations, the strength of the FARC has been reduced in major areas, drastically in some areas. Since 2000, the FARC has not carried out large scale multi-front attacks, although it has more recently mounted some operations that indicate it has not yet been broken. The FARC has rejected several government proposals aimed at bringing about an exchange of some 63 hostages being held for political reasons. Three American citizens, who were working on counternarcotics programs, were captured by the FARC in February 2003. Their safe return is a priority goal of the United States and Colombia.

Colombia maintains an excellent extradition relationship with the United States. The Uribe administration has extradited more than 400 fugitives to the United States. Among those extradited in 2005 were Cali Cartel leaders Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel and FARC leaders Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda (aka “Simon Trinidad”) and Omaira Rojas Cabrera (aka “Sonia”).

The Uribe government established, for the first time in recent Colombian history, a government presence in all of the country’s 1,098 municipalities (county seats). Attacks conducted by illegally armed groups against rural towns decreased by 91% from 2002 to 2005. Between 2002 and 2005, Colombia saw a decrease in homicides by 37%, victims of massacres by 63% and kidnappings by 72%. Aerial spraying of coca crops and cocaine and heroin interdictions are setting records.

Although much attention has been focused on the security and military aspects of Colombia’s situation, the Uribe government also is making significant efforts on issues such as expanding international trade, supporting alternate means of development and reforming Colombia’s judicial system.

In Congressional elections on March 12, 2006, the three leading pro-Uribe parties (National Unity, Conservative Party and Radical Change) won clear majorities in both houses of Congress. President Uribe was reelected by 62 percent of the vote on May 28, 2006, and sworn into office for a second term on August 7.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/18/2007

President: Alvaro URIBE Velez

Vice President: Francisco SANTOSb Calderon

Min. of Agriculture & Rural Development: Andres Felipe ARIAS Leiva

Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Tourism: Luis Guillermo PLATA

Min. of Communication: Maria del Rosario GUERRA de La Espriella

Min. of Culture: Elvira CUERVO de Jaramillo

Min. of Energy & Mines: Hernan MARTINEZ Torres

Min. of Environment, Housing, & Territorial Development: Juan LOZANO

Min. of Finance & Public Credit: Alberto CARRASQUILLA Barrera

Min. of Foreign Relations: Maria Consuelo ARAUJO Castro

Min. of Interior & Justice: Carlos HOLGUIN Sardi

Min. of National Defense: Juan Manuel SANTOS Calderon

Min. of National Education: Cecilia Maria VELEZ White

Min. of Social Protection: Diego PALACIO Betancourt

Min. of Transportation: Andres Uriel GALLEGO Henao

Dir., National Planning: Carolina RENTERIA

Prosecutor General: Mario German IGUARAN Arana

Pres., Bank of the Republic: Jose Dario URIBE Escobar

Ambassador to the US: Carolina BARCO Isakson

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Claudia BLUM

Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Juan and Washington DC.

DEFENSE

Colombia’s Ministry of Defense, charged with the country’s internal and external defense and security, exercises jurisdiction over an army, navy—including marines and coast guard—air force and national police under the leadership of a civilian Minister of Defense. Real spending on defense has increased every year since 2000, but especially so under President Uribe. Colombian spending on defense grew over 30% after inflation from 2001 to 2005, from $2.6 billion to more than 3.9 billion. Projected defense spending for 2006 is $4.48 billion. The security forces number about 350,000 uniformed personnel: 190,000 military and 160,000 police. President Uribe instituted a one-time wealth tax in 2002, which raised over $800 million, with 70% used to increase 2002-2003 defense spending. Actual Ministry of Defense spending in 2004 has increased to 16.3% of the overall national budget, up from 12.9% in 2002, and is the third largest expenditure after social protection programs and education.

Many Colombian military personnel receive training in the United States or in Colombia. The United States provides equipment to the Colombian military and police through the military assistance program, foreign military sales and the international narcotics control program.

Narcoterrorism

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that more than 80% of the worldwide powder cocaine supply and approximately 90% of the powder cocaine smuggled into the United States is produced in Colombia.

The Colombian Government is committed to the eradication of all illicit crops, interdiction of illegal drug shipments and financial controls to prevent money laundering. Between May 2002 and September 2004, Colombian security forces interdicted 558 metric tons of cocaine, coca base, and heroin. Coca and poppy cultivation has decreased by 33% since 2001.

Terrorism in Colombia both supports and draws resources from the narcotics industry. Colombia’s narcoterrorists have kidnapped over 50 American citizens since 1992, and killed at least 10.

ECONOMY

Colombia is a free market economy with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. Transition from a highly regulated economy has been underway for more than a decade. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization or “apertura,” and this has continued since then, with tariff reductions, financial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises and adoption of a more liberal foreign exchange rate. These policies eased import restrictions and opened most sectors to foreign investment, although agricultural products remained protected.

Unlike many of its neighboring countries, Colombia has not suffered any dramatic economic collapses. The Uribe administration seeks to maintain prudent fiscal policies and has pursued tough economic reforms including tax, pension and budget reforms. A recent U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) study shows that Colombian tax rates (both personal and corporate) are among the highest in Latin America. The unemployment rate in December 2005 was 10.4%, down from 15.1% in December 2002.

The sustained growth of the Colombian economy can be attributed to an increase in domestic security, the policies of keeping inflation low and maintaining a stable currency (the Colombian peso), petroleum price increases and an increase in exports to neighboring countries and the United States as a result of trade liberalization. The Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which will expire on December 31, 2006, also plays a pivotal role in Colombia’s economic growth. The conclusion of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement in February 2006 portends further opportunity for growth once it is approved by the legislatures of both countries and implemented.

Industry and Agriculture

The most industrially diverse member of the five-nation Andean Community, Colombia has four major industrial centers—Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla—each located in a distinct geographical region. Colombia’s industries include textiles and clothing, leather products, processed foods and beverages, paper and paper products, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement, construction, iron and steel products and metal-working.

Colombia’s diverse climate and topography permit the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. In addition, all regions yield forest products, ranging from tropical hardwoods in the lowlands, to pine and eucalyptus in the colder areas. Cacao, sugarcane, coconuts, bananas, plantains, rice, cotton, tobacco, cassava and most of the nation’s beef cattle are produced in the hot regions from sea level to 1,000 meters elevation. The temperate regions—between 1,000 and 2,000 meters—are better suited for coffee, flowers, corn and other vegetables, and fruits such as citrus, pears, pineapples and tomatoes. The cooler elevations—between 2,000 and 3,000 meters—produce wheat, barley, potatoes, cold-climate vegetables, flowers, dairy cattle and poultry.

Trade

Colombia is the United States’ fifth-largest export market in the Western Hemisphere behind Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela and the largest agricultural export market in the hemisphere after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries. It is also the 27th largest export market for U.S. products worldwide. U.S. exports to Colombia in 2005 were $5.4 billion, up 20% from the previous year. Corresponding U.S. imports from Colombia were $9.4 billion, up 21%. Colombia’s major exports are petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel and nontraditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, gold, bananas, semiprecious stones, sugar and tropical fruits). The United States remained Colombia’s largest trading partner in 2005, representing 40% of Colombia’s exports and 29% of its imports. The EU, Japan and the Andean countries also are important trading partners.

Mining, manufacturing industries and oil continue to attract the greatest U.S. investment, which accounted for 13% of the total $10.2 billion in foreign direct investment in Colombia in 2005. Colombia has improved protection of intellectual property rights through the adoption of three Andean Pact decisions in 1993 and 1994 as well as an internal decree on data protection, but the United States remains concerned over deficiencies in licensing and copyright protection.

Mining and Energy

Colombia has considerable mineral and energy resources, especially coal and natural gas reserves. New security measures and increased drilling activity have slowed the drop in petroleum production, allowing Colombia to continue to export through 2010 or 2011, given current production estimates. In 2005, gas reserves totaled 6.711 billion cubic feet. Gas production totaled 649 million cubic feet per day. The country’s current refining capacity is 299,200 barrels per day. Losses from theft of fuel (gasoline) decreased from $59 million in 2004 to $46 million in 2005. Mining and energy related investments have grown because of higher oil prices, increased demand and improved output.

The Pastrana and the Uribe administrations have significantly liberalized Colombia’s petroleum sector, leading to an increase in exploration and production contracts from both large and small hydrocarbon industries. In 2002, royalties were linked to the size of the discovery as opposed to a flat rate. In 2003, a new oil policy created the National Agency for Hydrocarbons (ANH), which now administers all exploration and production contracts. Ecopetrol, the state-owned hydrocarbon company, must now compete alongside other hydrocarbon companies for exploration and production contracts, separating state roles as investor and resource administrator. State association contracts have dropped from 30% to 0%, allowing private companies 100% ownership upon exploration success. In July 2006, the Colombian Government announced plans to sell 20% of Ecopetrol to private investors.

The country’s oil industry has continuously been a target of extortion and bombing campaigns by the ELN and the FARC. Strong security policies and an offensive military posture had reduced attacks on pipelines. According to the Security and Democracy Foundation, this trend regressed in 2005 as attacks on infrastructure increased from 47 in 2004 to 117 in 2005. According to Ecopetrol, at the end of 2005, total oil reserves amounted to 1.4 billion barrels. Oil production amounted to 526 million barrels per day, and petroleum exports were 169 million barrels per day. The country’s efforts in exploration during 2005 produced 19 million barrels of new reserves. Output also dramatically improved, due to an additional 35 new exploratory wells, 11,896 kilometers of seismic exploration and a lower drop in production—from 528 thousand barrels per day in 2004 to 526 thousand barrels per day in 2005. According to this new outlook, Colombia will become a net oil importer one or two years later that originally thought (by 2010 or 2011). In 2005, 31 new exploration and production agreements and 28 technical evaluation contracts were signed between private investors and the Colombian ANH, representing $367 million in oil investments.

In 2005, Colombia was the largest producer in Latin America of coal (59 million tons) and ferronickel (39,696 tons). It historically has been the world’s leading producer of emeralds, although production has fallen in recent years. In 2005, it was 6.74 million carats, generating $72 million in revenue. Colombia is also a significant producer of gold, silver and platinum.

Foreign Investment

The United States is the largest source of new foreign direct investment (FDI) in Colombia by far, particularly in the areas of coal and petroleum. In 2005, new FDI totaled $10.2 billion, an increase of over 300% from 2004. The bulk of the new investment is in the manufacturing, mining and petroleum sectors. The only activities closed to foreign direct investment are defense and national security, disposal of hazardous wastes and real estate—the last of these restrictions is intended to hinder money laundering. Capital controls have been implemented to reduce currency speculation and to keep foreign investment in-country for at least a year. Likewise, in order to encourage investment in Colombia, Congress approved a law in 2005 to protect FDI and laws governing the investment for the productive life of the venture.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

In 1969, Colombia, along with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, formed what is now the Andean Community. (Venezuela joined in 1973 and announced its departure in 2005, and Chile left in 1976.) In the 1980s, Colombia broadened its bilateral and multilateral relations, joining the Contadora Group, the Group of Eight (now the Rio Group) and the Non-Aligned Movement, which it chaired from 1994 until September 1998. In addition, it has signed free trade agreements with Chile, Mexico and Venezuela.

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the United Nations and the Organization of American States and in their subsidiary agencies. Former President Gaviria became Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) in September 1994 and was re-elected in 1999. Colombia has participated in all five Summits of the Americas, most recently in November 2005, and followed up on initiatives developed at the first two summits by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level meetings on trade and science and technology. On March 22-24, 2006, Bogota hosted the Sixth Regular Session of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism.

U.S.-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS

In 1822, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and to establish a resident diplomatic mission. Today, about 25,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. Embassy as living in Colombia, most of them dual nationals.

Currently, there are about 250 American businesses conducting operations in Colombia. In 1995-96, the United States and Colombia signed important agreements on environmental protection and civil aviation. The two countries have signed agreements on asset sharing and chemical control. In 1997, the United States and Colombia signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels.

During the Pastrana administration, relations with the United States improved significantly. The United States responded to the Colombian Government’s request for international support for Plan Colombia by providing substantial assistance designed to increase Colombia’s counter-narcotics capabilities and support human rights, humanitarian assistance, alternative development and economic and judicial reforms.

The U.S. has continued close cooperation with Colombia under the Uribe administration. Recognizing that terrorism and the illicit narcotics trade in Colombia are inextricably linked, the U.S. Congress granted new expanded statutory authorities in 2002 making U.S. assistance to Colombia more flexible in order to better support President Uribe’s unified campaign against narcotics and terrorism. The results thus far have been impressive, but much remains to be done. U.S. policy toward Colombia supports the Colombian Government’s efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, intensify counter-narcotics efforts, foster socioeconomic development, address immediate humanitarian needs and end the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Promoting security, stability and prosperity in Colombia will continue as long-term American interests in the region.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BOGOTA (E) Address: Cra. 45 No. 22D-45; APO/FPO: APO AA 34038; Phone: (571) 315-0811; Fax: (571) 315-2197; INMARSAT Tel: 683131545/46; Workweek: 0800-1700; Website: http://bogota.state.gov.

AMB:William B. Wood
AMB OMS:Cherryl D. Busch
DCM:Milton K. Drucker
DCM OMS:Suzanne Lemandri
CG:Raymond G. McGrath
POL:John Creamer
CON:Eric Cohan
MGT:Kathleen V. Hodai
AGR:Todd Drennan
AID:Liliana Ayalde
APHIS:Darya Chehrezad
ATF:Orlando Blanco
CLO:Christine DeRienzo
CUS:Juan Dania
DAO:Rey Velez
DEA:Jay Bergman
ECO:Lawrence Gumbiner
FCS:Robert L. Farris
FMO:Sharon Yang
GSO:Richard Price
ICASS Chair:Lizette Yrizarry
IMO:Doyle Lee
IPO:Shannon Lankford
IRS:Olga Acevedo
ISO:Dongni D. Alcantara
ISSO:Henly Cheng
LEGATT:Osvaldo Alaniz
MLO:Kevin Saderup
NAS:Julie G. Connor
PAO:Ed Loo
RSO:Robert Hartung

Last Updated: 12/19/2006

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Main Switchboard: 202-647-4000
(http://www.state.gov)

U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center, International Trade Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue
Washington, DC 2023
(tel: 800-USA-TRADE, Internet:
http://www.ita.doc.gov)

Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce
Calle 98, @2264, Oficina 1209
Apartado Aereo 8008
Bogota, Colombia
(tel: (571) 621-5042/7925/6838
fax: (571) 612-6838
email: [email protected])

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : August 17, 2006

Country Description: Colombia, the second most populous country in South America, is a medium-income nation with a diverse economy. Its geography is also diverse, ranging from tropical coastal areas and rainforests to rugged mountainous terrain. Tourist facilities in Colombia vary in quality and safety, according to price and location. Security is a significant concern for travelers.

Entry/Exit Requirements: U.S. citizens who are not also Colombian citizens must present a valid U.S. passport to enter and depart Colombia. Dual-national U.S-Colombian citizens must present a Colombian passport to enter Colombia, and both a Colombian passport and U.S. passport to exit the country and return to the United States. Be aware that any person born in Colombia may be considered a Colombian citizen, even if never documented as such. If you are an American citizen who was born in Colombia or who otherwise has Colombian citizenship, you will need both a Colombian passport and a U.S. passport during your trip.

U.S. passports issued in Colombia generally take at least seven days for processing and in some cases considerably longer. To avoid delays in your return to the United States, it is recommended that you obtain your U.S. passport before departing the United States.

U.S. citizens do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist stay of 60 days or less. Tourists entering Colombia may be asked for evidence of return or onward travel, usually in the form of a round-trip ticket. Americans traveling overland must enter Colombia at an official border crossing. Travelers arriving by bus should ensure, prior to boarding, that their bus will cross the border at an official entry point. Fines or incarceration may result for travelers who enter Colombia at unauthorized crossings. The length of stay granted to travelers will be determined by the Colombian immigration officer at the point of entry and will be stamped in your passport. Extensions may be requested by visiting an office of the Colombian immigration authority, known as DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad) Extranjeria, after arrival in Colombia. Fines are levied if a traveler remains in Colombia longer than authorized. Any foreigner who possesses a Colombian visa with more than three months’ validity must register the visa at an office of DAS Extranjeria within 15 days of arrival in Colombia, or face fines. There is no arrival tax collected upon entry into Colombia, but travelers leaving by plane must pay an exit tax of up to $53 at the airport.

U.S. citizens whose U.S. passports are lost or stolen in Colombia must obtain a new U.S. passport before departing. They must then present the passport, along with a police report describing the loss or theft, to an office of DAS Extranjeria. Information about obtaining a replacement U.S. passport in Colombia is available on the U.S. Embassy’s website at http://Bogota.usembassy.gov. Contact information for DAS Extranjeria is available in Spanish at www.das.gov.co. The Embassy in Bogotá or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla can provide you with additional guidance when you apply for your replacement passport.

For further information regarding entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Colombian Embassy at 2118 Leroy Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 387-8338; Internet website—http://www.colombiaemb.org; or a Colombian consulate. Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco and San Juan.

Additional Requirements for Minors: In an effort to prevent international child abduction, Colombia has implemented exit procedures for any Colombian or dual-national child under 18 who is departing the country without both of his/her parents or a legal guardian. Upon exiting the country, the person traveling with the child (or the child him/herself) must present a copy of the child’s birth certificate, along with written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. The authorization must explicitly grant permission for the child to travel alone, with one parent, or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. When one parent has sole custody of the child, that parent may present a custody decree instead of the other parent’s written authorization. If the decree was issued by a Colombian court, it must grant the custodial parent a form of custody known as patria potestad.

If the documents to be presented were prepared in the United States, they must first be translated into Spanish and then authenticated by a Colombian consul at a Colombian consulate. Then, upon arrival in Colombia, the documents must be presented to the Ministry of External Affairs for certification of the consul’s signature. Alternatively, the documents can be notarized by a notary public in the United States and then authenticated by requesting an apostille from the competent authority in the state where the documents were prepared.

If documents are prepared in Colombia, notarization by a Colombian notary is required. For documents prepared in countries other than the United States or Colombia, please inquire with the Colombian embassy serving that country.

Safety and Security: Travel to Colombia can expose visitors to considerable risk. The Secretary of State has designated three Colombian groups—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)—as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. These groups have carried out bombings and other attacks in and around major urban areas, including against civilian targets. Terrorist groups have also targeted critical infrastructure (e.g., water, oil, gas, and electricity), public recreational areas, and modes of transportation.

During the past two years, kidnappings and other violent crime have decreased markedly in most urban areas, including Bogotá, Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena. Nevertheless, Colombia continues to have a high rate of kidnapping for ransom. Approximately 370 kidnappings committed by terrorist groups and for-profit kidnap gangs were reported to authorities in 2005. There was at least one kidnapping of an American citizen in 2005. The FARC continues to hold three U.S. government contractors as hostages—all U.S. citizens – who were captured in February 2003 when their small plane went down in a remote area of Colombia.

Kidnap or murder victims in Colombia have included journalists, missionaries, scientists, human rights workers and businesspeople, as well as tourists and even small children. No one can be considered immune. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of American hostages, and the Colombian government has had some success with hostage-recovery teams, rescue capabilities are limited. Colombian law requires that private persons coordinate efforts to free kidnap victims with the Colombian Office of Anti-Kidnapping (Ministerio de Defensa/Programa Para la Defensa de la Libertad Personal).

Official and personal travel by U.S. Embassy employees outside of most urban areas is subject to strict limitations and reviewed case by case. U.S. Embassy employees are allowed to travel by air, but inter- and intra-city bus transportation is off-limits to them. The U.S. Embassy must approve in advance the official travel to Colombia of all U.S. government personnel. Such travel is approved only for essential business. Personal travel by U.S. military personnel to Colombia also requires advance approval by the U.S. Embassy. Military personnel requesting permission for personal travel should contact the office of the Embassy’s Defense Attaché, through the Embassy switchboard at 011-57-1-315-0811. Non-military employees of the U.S. Government do not need Embassy approval for private travel.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should consult the Department’s Internet web site at, where current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747, toll free in the U.S. or Canada, or from outside the U.S. and Canada, by calling a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday except U.S. federal holidays.

Crime: Armed robbery and other violent crime are common in major cities. Several recent robberies of American citizens have occurred while victims were walking to their hotels or apartments after using automatic teller machines. In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and later flee the scene. American citizens are urged to use ATMs only during daylight hours and only inside shopping malls or other protected locations. Driving to and from the location – rather than walking – provides added protection. When using an ATM, you should be on the lookout for anyone who may be watching or following you. Generally speaking, if you are the victim of a robbery, you should not resist. Robbery victims have recently been shot and killed while resisting.

Robbery of people hailing taxis on the street is a particularly serious problem in large cities and especially in Bogotá. In one recent case in Bogotá, an American citizen was seriously wounded. Typically, the driver – who is one of the conspirators – will pick up the passenger, and then stop to pick up two or more armed cohorts, who enter the cab, overpower the passenger, and take his/her belongings.

If the passenger has an ATM card, the perpetrators will often force the passenger to withdraw money from various ATM locations. Such ordeals can last for hours.

In almost every case of taxi-related crime, the victims have been riding alone and have hailed their taxis off the street. Rather than hailing a taxi, you should take advantage of the telephone dispatch service that most taxi companies offer. Most hotels, restaurants, and stores will call a taxi company for you, and the taxis usually arrive within minutes. When a taxi is dispatched by telephone, the dispatcher creates a record of the call and the responding taxi. Additionally, the passenger receives a code from the dispatcher, which helps ensure that the correct taxi has arrived.

The Embassy continues to receive reports of criminals using the drug scopolamine to incapacitate tourists and others. At bars, restaurants, and other public areas, perpetrators offer drinks, cigarettes, or gum that they have treated with the drug. Perpetrators have also approached victims requesting directions and blown scopolamine powder toward the victim from a piece of paper. The drug renders the target disoriented or unconscious, and vulnerable to robbery, sexual assault, or other crimes. Avoid leaving food or drinks unattended at a bar or restaurant, and be suspicious if a stranger offers you something to eat or drink.

American citizens should be aware of the danger of traveling on inter-city and rural roads in Colombia, including on buses, due to the risk of kidnapping and other activity by criminal gangs. Buses within cities also present a risk of robbery and other crime. U.S. Government employees in Colombia are prohibited from taking buses anywhere in the country. They are also forbidden from driving outside many urban areas, and they cannot drive on roads outside of urban areas at night.

Like other airports in high crime cities in South America, passengers at Eldorado International Airport in Bogotá have reported having their luggage and passports stolen. Travelers should keep a careful eye on their belongings at all times.”

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies in quality elsewhere. The Embassy occasionally receives reports of U.S. citizens who have died or suffered serious medical complications while undergoing cosmetic surgery such as liposuction. Before electing to undergo such procedures in Colombia, the Department of State recommends that you consult with your physician in the United States, research the credentials of the provider in Colombia, and carefully consider the availability of emergency medical facilities in the event that complications should arise.

Most private health care providers in Colombia require that patients pay for care at the time of treatment. Some providers in major cities accept credit cards. Uninsured travelers without funds may be limited to seeking care in public hospitals, which are well below U.S. standards.

Travelers to the capital city of Bogotá may need time to adjust to the altitude of 8,600 feet, which can affect blood pressure, digestion and energy level, and can cause headaches, sleeplessness, dehydration, and other discomfort. Travelers with circulatory or respiratory problems should consult a physician before traveling to Bogotá or other high-altitude locations. Information on vaccinations and other health recommendations, including food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance companies prior to traveling abroad, to confirm that their policies apply overseas and that they have coverage for emergency expenses such as medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Colombia is provided for general reference only and may not be accurate in all locations or circumstances.

Major accidents involving inter-city buses are a regular occurrence in Colombia, resulting in deaths and serious injuries. In December 2005, a bus carrying an American citizen plunged from a road into a river outside Medellin, resulting in many fatalities.

Traffic laws in Colombia, including speed limits, are sporadically obeyed and rarely enforced, creating chaotic and dangerous conditions for both drivers and pedestrians in major cities. Seat belts are mandatory for front-seat passengers in a private vehicle. Car seats are not mandatory for children, but a child under ten is not permitted to ride in a front seat. If an accident occurs, the involved parties must remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the authorities arrive. Moving a vehicle or leaving the scene of an accident may constitute an admission of guilt under Colombian law.

Although road security has improved in some areas, including in and around Bogotá, the Embassy strongly recommends against most road travel outside of major urban areas, whether by bus or car. The Government of Colombia has instituted extra security to promote road travel during holidays, but outside of these periods, the possible presence of guerrilla and paramilitary groups and common criminals in rural areas makes travel on these roads dangerous. In regions where the government has not established full authority, guerrilla groups have been known to set up roadblocks to rob or kidnap travelers. Government or guerrilla control in a given area is subject to change, sometimes quickly and without notice. Travel between major cities should be done by airplane.

For additional information about road travel in Colombia, see the U.S. Embassy home page at http://usembassy.state.gov/Bogotá.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Colombia as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Colombia’s air carrier operations. For more information, visit web site at http://www.faa.gov/safetyprograms_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Customs Regulations: Colombian law prohibits tourists and business travelers from bringing firearms into Colombia. Illegal importation or possession of firearms may result in incarceration. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available; buying or selling such products is illegal in Colombia, and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and fines.

Colombian law also forbids the export of pre-Columbian objects and other artifacts protected by cultural patrimony statutes. Under a recent agreement between the United States and Colombia, U.S. customs officials are obligated to seize pre-Columbian objects and certain colonial religious artwork when they are brought into the United States.

Travelers departing Colombia must declare to Colombian officials if they are carrying cash or other financial instruments worth 10,000 U.S. dollars or more. You should also contact the Embassy of Colombia in Washington or one of Colombia’s consulates in the United States for detailed customs guidance from the Colombian government.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford protections available under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. American citizens who violate Colombian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. If you are arrested, consular officers cannot request your release.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Colombia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long prison sentences in harsh conditions, heavy fines, and great hardship for themselves and their families. Colombian police make many arrests for drug trafficking at international airports and elsewhere in Colombia. There are more than 35 American citizens incarcerated in Colombia for attempting to smuggle drugs out of the country. Many of them ingested capsules containing drugs and were captured after being subjected to X-ray exams.

Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime under U.S. law and is prosecutable in the United States.

State of Emergency: On occasion, the Government of Colombia has declared a state of emergency in portions of the country. During these times, American citizens may find their movements or civil liberties restricted due to curfews, registration requirements, or other security-related measures. American citizens are advised to stay alert to changes in emergency status.

Disaster Preparedness: Colombia is an earthquake-prone country. Flooding and mudslides also sometimes occur in parts of the country. U.S. citizens in Colombia can find information on coping with natural disasters on the U.S. Embassy’s web site at http://Bogota.usembassy.gov/. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Colombia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá through the State Department’s travel registration website. Registrants can also sign up to receive emailed updates on travel and security within Colombia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of a family emergency or other problem.

The Embassy’s American Citizens Services office is open for routine services, including registration and application for passports, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon Monday through Thursday, excluding U.S. and Colombian holidays. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida El Dorado and Carrera 50; telephone (011-57-1) 315-0811 during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or 315-2109/2110 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (011-57-1) 315-2196/2197; Internet website—http://Bogota.usembassy.gov/.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which accepts passport applications and performs notarial services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (011-57-5) 353-2001; fax (011-57-5) 353-5216; email: [email protected]

International Adoption : February 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/ family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Colombian law does not allow for private adoptions. Children may be adopted only through the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and approved adoption agencies. This means that both the U.S. agency that is contracted by the prospective adoptive parents and the Colombian agency facilitating the Colombian part of the process must be approved by the Colombian government.

Every adopted child must have a final adoption decree in order to leave Colombia. Colombian law also requires that both adopting parents be physically present when the adoption is presented to a “family judge.” No exceptions are made to this requirement, and the process takes two to four weeks, sometimes more. After both prospective adoptive parents have appeared before the court, one of them may return to the United States, but the other parent must remain in Colombia until the adoption/immigrant visa process is completed.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Colombia is the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF).

BIENESTAR FAMILIAR (ICBF)
Grupo Nacional de Adopciones
Avenida 68 # 64-01
Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: 011-57-1-437 7630—Ext.
3158–3157
Internet: www.icbf.gov.co (Spanish)
http://www.icbf.gov.co/ingles/home.asp (English version)

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Colombian law allows for adoptions by a married man and woman and common law spouses of more than three years. Single men and women are eligible to adopt children over the age of seven years only and on a case-by-case basis. In practice, newborns are assigned to younger couples, and older children are assigned to older couples. Both parents are required to be 25 years of age and capable physically, emotionally to adopt. The economic requirement can be met by only one of the parents. Both parents are required to appear before the judge in Colombia. Only one parent is required to appear before a consular officer.

Time Frame: It is hard to predict how long an adopting family should expect for the adoption to be completed. There are many factors that determine how long the adoption and visa process takes, including how long it takes to have paperwork approved in the United States and in Colombia. In addition, factors including the desired sex and age of a child play a role, as well as the age of the prospective parents. Couples receiving visas for their newly adopted children typically report that the entire process took from 18 to 30 months.

Adoption Agencies: The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) licenses the following adoption agencies to process international adoptions. Please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family for a list of agencies.

Adoption Attorneys: Please contact ICBF and licensed adoption agencies for their list of recommended attorneys who work with intercountry adoptions. Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services and ensure that it is an agency accredited by Bienestar Familiar (ICBF).

Adoption Fees: It is difficult to predict how much the entire adoption process will cost as each case has unique circumstances. Parents receiving visas for their adopted children have reported spending between $12,000 and $20,000 from start to finish.

Adoption Procedures: Once an adoptive couple has decided that Colombia is the country from which they wish to adopt, they must first contact the ICBF or an accredited adoption agency in Colombia in order to obtain a list of adoption agencies in the United States, nearest to the couple’s place of residence, that are accredited by the Colombian Government. One of these adoption agencies in the United States will perform the home study and will assist prospective parents in preparing the Form I-600A for approval by the Department of Hojmeland Security (DHS).

Once the I-600A has been approved by DHS, parents must compile the list of documents, below, for submission to the ICBF. Once the ICBF approves the package of documents, it will be in a position to inform prospective adoptive parents (through their agencies) about the availability of children in need of a family placement and the amount of time it is likely to take to complete the adoption.

After the parents are informed that they have been assigned a child, they then travel to Colombia to begin the legal process with Colombian authorities. The ICBF or the Colombian adoption agency will assist the family with obtaining the documents needed to complete the Colombian legal procedures, including (but not limited to) the adoption decree, a new Colombian birth certificate, and a new Colombian passport. The passport fee is 67,000 pesos (approx. U.S. $30). All other fees vary.

Letter Required By Colombian Judges: In order for the U.S. Embassy to issue the letter required by the Colombian family judges that commits the U.S. Embassy to issuing an immigrant visa under the condition that all adoption and U.S. immigration requirements are met, the Embassy needs to have received an Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (Form I-600A) approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The adopting parents file this petition in the United States at the USCIS service center responsible for the district in which they reside. (Information on USCIS office locations can be found at: http://uscis.gov/graphics/fieldoffices/index.htm). Anyone with questions may contact the Embassy any working day from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and ask for the person responsible for processing visas for adopted children. Tel. (57)(1) 383-2795.

Documentary Requirements: The following is a list of documents that U.S. prospective adoptive parents are required to submit to the ICBF while the parents are still in the U.S., and before they travel to Colombia to adopt a child:

  • Application Form for adoption can be provided by the ICBF or found on the ICBF Website: www.icbf.gov.co;
  • Birth certificates of adoptive parents;
  • Marriage certificate or proof of common law relationship of adoptive parents;
  • Medical examinations by Board-certified physicians clearly stating that prospective adoptive parents are mentally and physically capable of caring for a child (or children).
  • National law enforcement clearance issued by a competent police authority. For U.S. citizens, this consists of a set of fingerprints, and their results, issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These cards may be requested from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). When completed, the cards for the U.S. records check as well as the U.S. $85.00 fee and a letter of intent (for adoption purposes) should be sent to the address below. The FBI may take as long as two to three months to return the completed results.
  • Birth certificates of any children previously adopted by adoptive parents;
  • Certificate of financial ability; employment letters explaining time of service and monthly salary received in U.S. dollars;
  • If self-employed, a certified document regarding the parent’s financial resources or last income tax return with supporting documents is required;
  • Social and psychological study of the adopting family that establishes physical, mental, moral and social capacity. The home-study required by USCIS can fulfill both the U.S. and the Colombian requirements.
  • If there were previous marriages or partners of adopting parents, proof of divorce and reasons for such dissolutions should be presented; and
  • Notarized statement clarifying any changes in name or indicating, “also known as.” Generally, Colombian women do not change their names to that of their husbands. As a result, Colombian courts are accustomed to birth certificates, marriage certificates, and passports with no variation in name. If you have documents in both maiden and marriage names, you must submit a notarized statement indicating the reasons for the discrepancies in your documents.

Embassy and Consulates in the United States:
2118 Leroy Place NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 387-5858,
(202) 332-7476

Consulate in Atlanta
5901—C Peachtree Dunwoody Road
Suite 375
Atlanta, GA 30328
Phone: 770-668-0451/0512/0552
EXT: 21—22—23—24
Fax: 770-668-0763

Consulate in Boston
535 Boylston Street
11th Floor
Boston, MA 02116
Phone: 617-536-6222
Fax: 617-536-9372

Consulate in Chicago
500 North Michigan Avenue
Suite 2040
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 312-923-1196
or 312-923-9034/5
Fax: 312-923-1197

Consulate in Houston
5851 San Felipe, Suite 300
Houston, TX 77057
Phone: 713-527-8919 or 713-527-9093
Fax: 713-529-3395

Consulate in Los Angeles
8383 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 420
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Phone: 323-653-9863 or 323-653-4299
Fax: 323-653-2964

Consulate in Miami
280 Aragon Ave.
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Phone: 305-448-5558; 305-441-1235;
or 305-448-4179
Fax: 305-441-9537

Consulate in New York
10 East 46th Street
New York City, NY 10017
Phone: 212-949-9898 or 212-370-0004
Fax: 212-972-1725

Consulate in San Francisco
595 Market Street
Suite 2130
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: 415-495-7195/96
Fax: 415-777-3731

Consulate in San Juan
Edificio Mercantil
Pl 814 Avenida Ponce de Leon
Hato Rey, PR 00918
Phone: 787-754-6899 or 787-754-6885
Fax: 787-754-1675

Consulate in Washington DC
1101 17th Street NW
Suite 1007
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-332-7476
Fax: 202-332-7180

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopting Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy in Colombia:
Calle 22 D Bis # 47-51
Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone calls from 2:00 to 3:30 P.M.
(East Coast time) at the following
number: 011-571-383-2795.

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Colombia may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

International Parental Child Abduction : February 2007

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov.

Disclaimer: The information below relating to the legal requirements of Colombia is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General Information: Colombia is in the process of transforming its criminal justice system into an accusatorial one, with oral trials, in a way that resembles the U.S. justice system. For non-criminal matters, however, including divorce and custody cases, Colombia remains a civil law country. Judicial proceedings in a civil law country generally differ from those in the United States, a common law country, in several significant ways. For example, juries are not used. Legal cases are heard and decided by a judge or panel of judges. Evidence can be presented and arguments can be made in oral hearings, but such hearings tend to play a secondary role, supplementing extensive written submissions to the judge. The judge normally can play a more active role in proceedings than is common in U.S. courts. A judge in a civil law country is free to seek evidence independently of what either side presents.

In Colombia, family court judges handle divorce and custody cases. In cases involving the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, recent legislation by the Colombian Congress has placed jurisdiction with family courts as well.

In more remote areas of the country where there are no family courts, Hague cases are to be heard by civil court circuit judges. While Colombian courts can recognize or enforce U.S. custody orders, they generally refuse to do so. In a Colombian court, Colombian law takes precedence over U.S. law. A Colombian court order granting custody to one parent will prevail over an order issued by a U.S. court.

Custody/Rights of Visitation: In Colombia, married parents share equal rights of custody to their minor children. Under Colombian law, if a father acknowledges on a child’s birth certificate that he is the father, then he shares equal custody rights with the mother, even if the child was born out of wedlock.

A father who has acknowledged paternity may seek assistance from administrative or judicial authorities for a remedy if the mother interferes with his rights to custody or visitation. Custody cases are first assigned to family protection officers within the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare and then custody and/or visitation are determined before a family court judge.

Family courts have heavy caseloads and cases involving a U.S. parent disputing custody with a Colombian parent take a long time to resolve. The U.S. Embassy in Bogota notes that Colombian courts favor parents of Colombian nationality and that it is very rare for a court in Colombia to grant custody to a parent residing in the U.S. when there is a parent residing in Colombia.

Criminal Aspects: The crime of international parental abduction is covered in the Colombian Penal Code as simple kidnapping, with circumstances that can increase or reduce the punishment. Colombia does not consider international parental kidnapping as an extraditable offense.

Colombian Citizenship: The Colombian Constitution provides that a child born abroad to a Colombian mother or father acquires Colombian citizenship once the birth is registered in a consular office or the child later becomes domiciled in Colombia. If a child is born in Colombia, he/she will obtain Colombian citizenship automatically as long as one parent is a Colombian national or one of the child’s parents has legal resident status in Colombia.

Colombian Passports: In contrast to U.S. requirements, a Colombian passport for a minor child can be obtained with only one parent’s consent. However, Colombian authorities have rules that restrict the departure of Colombian children from the country when they are not in the company of both parents.

Preventing Issuance of a Colombian Passport: If a parent wishes to prevent the issuance of a passport to their minor child, he or she must submit a request to the Ministerio de la Proteccion Social, Instituto Colombiano de Bienstar Familiar (ICBF). If ICBF concurs with the parent’s request, it will notify the Colombian passport office to place a hold on issuance of a passport to the minor child. The Colombian passport agency will then notify Colombian Embassies and Consulates of the hold. Parents may only submit a request through ICBF, not through a Colombian Embassy or Consulate. Further information can be found at www.bienestarfamiliar.gov.co.

The Hague Convention: The Hague Convention took effect between the United States and Colombia on March 19, 1996. Therefore, Hague Convention provisions for return apply only to children abducted or retained after that date. Parents and legal guardians of children taken to Colombia prior to March 19, 1996, may still submit applications for access to the child under the Hague Convention. The Colombian Central Authority performs an administrative role in processing Hague applications. The Central Authority is the Instituto Colombiano de Bienstar Familiar (ICBF), which is located within the Ministry of Social Protection. The address is Sede Nacional Avenida 68 No 64-01, PBX 4377630, Bogota, DC, Colombia. The international telephone number is 011-57-1-437-7630. The Central Authority’s email address is [email protected] icbf.gov.co. For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov.

More Information: The State Department has general information about hiring a foreign attorney, service of process, and enforcement of child support and the international enforcement of judgments, which supplement the country-specific information provided in this flyer. These documents are available on the Internet at: http://travel.state.gov or by the toll-free number, 1-888-407-4747, between 8:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. eastern time, Monday thru Friday (except U.S. holidays). Callers who are unable to use the toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Travel Warning : January 18, 2006

This Travel Warning updates ongoing security concerns in Colombia and reminds American citizens of those concerns. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued May 4, 2005.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Colombia. Violence by narcoterrorist groups and other criminal elements continues to affect all parts of the country, urban and rural, including border areas. Citizens of the United States and other countries continue to be victims of threats, kidnappings, and other criminal acts. Violence in recent years has decreased markedly in most urban areas, including Bogotá, Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena. The level of violence in Cali and its surrounding areas remains high, largely as a result of the illicit drug trade. Many rural portions of Colombia also remain extremely dangerous due to the presence of narcoterrorists and Colombian government operations against them. At least five Americans were kidnapped in 2004, and at least one in 2005. No one can be considered immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. Terrorist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), and other criminal organizations, continue to kidnap civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips. The FARC have held three American official contractors hostage since February 2003. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped Americans, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to or strike deals with kidnappers. Consequently, the U.S. government’s ability to assist kidnapping victims is limited. Official Americans and their families are permitted to travel to major cities, but only by air, and may not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation. They also are not permitted to travel by road outside of urban areas at night. All Americans in Colombia are urged to follow these precautions. As the Department develops information on potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threats through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. U.S. citizens should consult warden messages for Colombia at http://bogota.usembassy.gov/wwwsc093.shtml, as well as the Department of State’s Consular Information Sheet for Colombia and Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at http://travel.state.gov. U.S. travelers can also get up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 in the U.S. or Canada or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

views updated

COLOMBIA

Compiled from the February 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Colombia


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 1.14 million sq. km. (440,000 sq. mi.); about three times the size of Montana; fourth-largest country in South America.

Cities: Capital—Bogotá (pop. 2004 projected: 7 million). Other major cities include Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, and Cartagena.

Terrain: Flat coastal areas, with extensive coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, three rugged parallel mountain chains, central highlands, and flat eastern grasslands.

Climate: Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Colombian(s).

Population: (2004 projected) 45 million

Annual population growth: 1.8%

Religions: Roman Catholic 90%.

Language: Spanish.

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—80% of children enter school. Only 5 years of primary school are offered in many rural areas. Literacy—93% in urban areas, 67% in rural areas.

Health: Infant mortality rate—25/1,000. Life expectancy—men 65 yrs., women 76 yrs.

Ethnic groups: Mestizo (58%), white (20%), mulatto (14%), black (4%), mixed black-Amerindian (3%), and Amerindian (1%)

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: July 20, 1810.

Constitution: July 1991.

Branches: Executive—President (chief of state and head of government). Legislative—Bicameral Congress. Judicial—Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Superior Judicial Council.

Administrative subdivisions: 32 departments; Bogotá, capital district.

Political parties: Conservative Party of Colombia, Liberal Party, and numerous small political movements (most of them allied with one or the other major party).

Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over.

Economy

GDP: (2004 projected) $83.01 billion

Annual growth rate: (2004 projected) 4%.

Per capita GDP: (2003 projected) $1,844.

Government Expenditures: (2005 projected) 22.2% of GDP.

Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds.

Manufacturing: (14.3 of GDP) Types—textiles and garments, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, wood products, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electrical equipment.

Agriculture: (13.8% of GDP) Products—coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum. Cultivated land: 8.2% of total area.

Other sectors: (by percentage of GDP) Financial services—17.6%; commerce—10.8%; transportation and communications services—8.2%; mining and quarrying—4.6%; construction and public works—4.8%; electricity, gas, and water—3.1%

Trade: Exports (2004 projected)$15.1 billion: petroleum, coal, coffee, flowers, textiles and garments, ferronickel, bananas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, gold, sugar, cardboard containers, printed material, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds. Major markets—U.S., Venezuela, Germany, Netherlands, Japan,. Imports (2004 projected)$14.8 billion: machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, metals/metal products, plastic/rubber, paper products, aircraft, oil and gas industry equipment, and supplies. Major suppliers U.S., Germany, Japan, Panama, Venezuela.


PEOPLE

Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Migration from rural to urban areas has been prevalent. The urban population increased from 57% of the total population in 1951 to approximately 74% by 1994 (when the last census was held). Thirty cities have a population of 100,000 or more. The nine eastern lowlands departments, constituting about 54% of Colombia's area, have less than 3% of the population and a density of less than one person per square kilometer (two persons per sq. mi.). Ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous peoples, European immigrants, and Africans. Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully indigenous on the basis of language and customs.


HISTORY, GOVERNMENT, AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

During the pre-Columbian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were hunters or nomadic farmers. The Chibchas, as they were called, were divided into two major groups: The Muisca of the Bogotá region and the Tairona of the northern Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region. Social organization of both groups revolved around the cultivation of corn and potatoes, and had a matrilineal hereditary tradition.

The Spanish sailed along the north coast of Colombia as early as 1500, but their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. In 1549, the area was a Spanish colony with the capital at Santa Fe de Bogotá. In 1717, Bogotá became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. The city became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City. On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogotá created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed.

The new Republic of Greater Colombia included all the territory of the former Viceroyalty. Simon Bolivar was elected its first president with Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president. Conflicts between the followers of Bolivar and Santander led to the formation of two political parties that have since dominated Colombian politics. Bolivar's supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, sought strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church, and a limited franchise. Santander's followers, forerunners of the Liberals, wanted a decentralized government, state rather than church control over education and other civil matters, and a broadened suffrage.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time, during which three notable statesmen stand out: Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera, Rafael Nuñez, and Rafael Reyes. Colombia maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free elections. Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia's history also has been characterized by widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties: The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) claimed an estimated 100,000 lives, and La Violencia (1946-1957) cost another 300,000 Colombian lives.

La Violencia (The Violence)

The assassination of Liberal leader, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, in 1948 intensified the period of bloody conflict between liberals and conservatives known as La Violencia (The Violence). An archconservative dictator, Laureano Gomez, came to power in 1950, when the disjointed Liberal Party failed to put forward a presidential candidate. Most historians label Gomez as the belligerent driving force behind La Violencia in his quest against the spreading "basilisk" of Communism in Colombia. It was also during this period in Colombian history that the two major present day insurgent groups were born.

In 1953, Gomez fled into exile when ousted by a military coup led by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. The new president was a lead actor in reducing the conflict during La Violencia. When he failed to restore democratic rule after four years and became implicated in corrupt schemes, however, he was overthrown by the military with the backing of the Liberal and Conservative Parties. It was out of this alliance between the two parties that the National Front emerged.

The National Front

In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gomez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) proclaimed the "Declaration of Sitges," in which they proposed a "National Front" whereby the Liberal and Conservative parties would govern jointly. The presidency would be determined by regular elections every 4 years; the two parties would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices.

The National Front ended "La Violencia," and National Front administrations instituted social and economic reforms in cooperation with the United States' Alliance for Progress. Although the system established by the Sitges agreement was phased out by 1978, the 1886 Colombian Constitution—in effect until 1991—required

that the losing political party be given adequate and equitable participation in the government. The 1991 Constitution does not have that requirement, but subsequent administrations have included members of opposition parties.

Post-National Front Years

Between 1978 and 1982, the government focused on ending the limited, but persistent, Cuban-backed insurgencies that sought to undermine Colombia's traditional democratic system. In 1984, President Belisario Betancur, a Conservative who won 47% of the popular vote, negotiated a cease-fire that included the release of many guerrillas imprisoned during the effort to overpower the insurgents. The cease-fire ended when Democratic Alliance/M-19 (AD/M-19) guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985.

An attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogotá by the AD/M-19 on November 6-7, 1985, and its violent suppression by the army, shocked Colombians. Of the 115 people killed, 11 were Supreme Court justices. Although the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) renewed their truce in March 1986, peace with other revolutionary movements, in particular the AD/M-19—then the largest insurgent group—and the National Liberation Army (ELN) was remote as Betancur left office.

The AD/M-19 and several smaller guerilla groups were successfully incorporated into a peace process during the late 1980s, which culminated in a national assembly to write a new constitution, which took effect in 1991. The FARC had declared a unilateral cease-fire under Betancur, which led to the establishment of the Union Patriotica (UP), a legal and non-clandestine political organization. After growing violence against its UP members, when an estimated 1,000-3,000 members were killed, the truce with the FARC again ended in 1990. Following administrations had to contend with the guerrillas, paramilitaries, and narcotics traffickers. Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential candidates before Cesar Gaviria Trujillo was elected in 1990. Since the death of Medellín cartel leader Pablo Escobar in a police shootout in December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with his organization have abated as the "cartels" now are broken up into multiple, smaller and often-competing trafficking organizations. Nevertheless, violence continues as these drug organizations resort to violence as part of their operations, as well as to protest against government policies, especially extradition.

President Ernesto Samper assumed office in August 1994. However, a political crisis relating to large-scale contributions from drug traffickers to Samper's presidential campaign diverted attention from governance programs, thus slowing, and in many cases, halting progress on the nation's domestic reform agenda.

The Pastrana Administration and Peace Process

On August 7, 1998, Andres Pastrana became President of Colombia. A member of the Conservative Party, Pastrana defeated Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa in a run-off election marked by high voter turnout and little political unrest. During his administration, high unemployment, increased countrywide guerrilla attacks by the FARC and ELN, widespread drug production and the expansion of paramilitary groups all hindered the Pastrana administration's ability to solve the country's problems.

No single explanation fully addresses the deep roots of Colombia's present-day troubles, but they include limited government presence in large areas of the interior, the expansion of illicit drug cultivation, endemic violence, and social inequities. In order to confront these challenges, the Pastrana administration unveiled its "Plan Colombia" in late 1999, a comprehensive strategy to deal with these longstanding, mutually reinforcing problems. The main objectives of Plan Colombia are to promote peace, combat the narcotics industry, revive the Colombian economy, improve respect for human rights, and strengthen the democratic and social institutions of the country.

In November 1998, Pastrana ceded an area the size of Switzerland in south-central Colombia to the FARC's control as a goodwill gesture, but the rebels negotiated with the government only fitfully while continuing to mount attacks and expand their coca production, essentially establishing a parallel government in the region under their control. Negotiations with the rebels in 2000 and 2001 were marred by rebel attacks, kidnappings, and fighting between rebels and paramilitaries for control of coca-growing areas in Colombia. As a result, popular disenchantment with Pastrana increased.

In February 2002, after the FARC hijacked an airplane and kidnapped a senator, Pastrana ordered the military to attack rebel positions and reassert control over the rebel zone. FARC withdrew into the jungle and began attacks against the power grid, telecommunications facilities, and other aspects of Colombia's infrastructure in an attempt to disrupt the lives of the largely urban population while avoiding a direct conflict with the military.

The Uribe Administration

President Alvaro Uribe, a Harvard and Oxford-educated lawyer, was elected President of Colombia in May 2002 on a line platform to restore security to the country. An independent, he was elected with more than 50% of the vote, giving him a strong mandate. Among his promises was to continue to pursue the broad goals of the Pastrana administration's Plan Colombia, but within the framework of a long-term security strategy.

His inauguration on August 7, 2002 brought about violent attacks. Though Uribe was spared, the rockets launched at the presidential palace by FARC terrorists killed 19 people and injured many more. Uribe declared a state of limited emergency as a first step toward strengthening the country's law enforcement and military capabilities.

In the fall of 2002, the administration released the much-awaited Colombian national security strategy, entitled Democratic Security and Defense Policy. The Plan fit within the broader social, economic, and political goals of Plan Colombia. Though much attention has been focused on the security and military aspects of Colombia's situation, the administration also is spending significant time on issues such as expanding international trade, supporting alternate means of development, and reforming Colombia's judicial system.

Halfway through his four-year term, President Uribe enjoys record high popularity ratings around 70% as a result of improvements in public security. Between May 2002 and September 2004 Colombia saw a decrease in homicide by 17.6%, massacres by 55.4%, kidnappings by 35.1%, and acts of terrorism by 18.4%. The economy is projected to grow by over 4% in 2004, compared to 3% in 2003. Coca and poppy cultivation has decreased by 33% since 2001.

Constitutional Reforms

Colombia's Constitution, enacted in July 1991, strengthened the administration of justice with the provision for introduction of an accusatory system that will ultimately replace the existing Napoleonic Code. Other significant reforms under the new Constitution provide for civil divorce, dual nationality, the election of a vice president, and the election of departmental governors. The Constitution expanded citizens' basic rights, including that of "tutela," under which an immediate court action can be requested by an individual, if he/she feels that his/her constitutional rights are being violated, and there is no other legal recourse. The national government has executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as an independent Attorney General (fiscal) elected for a 4-year term by the Congress. The president is elected for a 4-year term and cannot be re-elected. The 1991 Constitution reestablished the position of vice president, who is elected on the same ticket as the president. By law, the vice president will succeed in the event of the president's resignation, illness, or death.

Colombia's bicameral Congress consists of a 102-member Senate and a 161-member House of Representatives. Senators are elected on the basis of a nationwide ballot, while representatives are elected in multi-member districts co-located within the 32 national departments.

The country's capital is a separate district and elects its own representatives. Members may be re-elected indefinitely. Congress meets twice a year, and the president has the power to call it into special session, if required. Colombia's legal system has recently begun to incorporate some elements of an oral, adversarial system. The judicial branch's general structure is composed of four distinct jurisdictions (civilian, administrative, constitutional, and special). Colombia's highest judicial bodies include the co-equal Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Constitutional Court, and the Superior Judicial Council. This sometimes leads to conflicting opinions since there is no court that has clear authority over the decisions of the other three.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/7/05

President: Alvaro URIBE Velez
Vice President: Francisco SANTOS Calderon
Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Andres Felipe ARIAS Leiva
Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Tourism: Jorge Humberto BOTERO
Min. of Communication: Martha PINTO de De Hart
Min. of Culture: Maria ARAUJO
Min. of Energy & Mines: Luis Ernesto MEJIA
Min. of Environment, Housing, & Territorial Development: Sandra SUAREZ Perez
Min. of Finance & Public Credit: Alberto CARRASQUILLA Barrera
Min. of Foreign Relations: Carolina BARCO
Min. of Interior & Justice: Sabas PRETELT de la Vega
Min. of National Defense: Jorge Alberto URIBE Echavarria
Min. of National Education: Cecilia Maria VELEZ White
Min. of Social Protection: Diego PALACIO Betancourt
Min. of Transportation: Andres Uriel GALLEGO Henao
Dir., National Planning: Santiago MONTENEGRO
Pres., Bank of the Republic: Jose Dario URIBE Escobar
Prosecutor General: Luis Camilo OSORIO Isaza
Ambassador to the US: Luis Alberto MORENO Mejia
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Maria Angela HOLGUIN Cuellar

Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington.


DEFENSE

Colombia's Ministry of Defense, charged with the country's internal and external defense and security, has an army, navy—including marines and coast guard—air force, and national police under the leadership of a civilian Minister of Defense. In 2000, Colombia assigned 3.2% of its GDP to defense, according to the National Planning Department. Real spending on defense has increased every year since 2000, but specifically so under Uribe. According to the most recent Ministry of Finance figures, Colombian spending on defense has grown over 30% from 6 trillion pesos in 2001 to more than 8 trillion in 2004. The security forces number about 350,000 uniformed personnel: 190,000 military and 160,000 police. President Uribe instituted a one-time wealth tax in 2002, which raised over USD 800 million (1.8 trillion pesos), with 70% used to increase 2002-2003 defense spending. Actual Ministry of Defense spending in 2004 has increased to 16.3% of the overall national budget, up from 12.9% in 2002, and is the third largest expenditure after social protection programs and education.

Many Colombian military personnel have received training in the United States or in Colombia. The United States has provided equipment to the Colombian military and police through the military assistance program, foreign military sales, and the international narcotics control program.

Narcoterrorism

The US Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that more than 80% of the worldwide powder cocaine supply and approximately 90% of the powder cocaine smuggled into the United States is produced in Colombia. It is also a significant source of over 70% of the heroin consumed east of the Mississippi.

Terrorism in Colombia both supports and draws resources from the narcotics industry, kidnapping, and extortion, threatening U.S. citizens and economic interests. Colombia's terrorists have kidnapped over 50 American citizens since 1992, and killed at least 10. Three American citizens, who had been working on counternarcotics programs, are still being held hostage in Colombia, captured by the FARC in February 2003.

The Colombian government, with United States Government's support, is making progress to guarantee the rule of law throughout the country. Its citizens are safer than ever before, and the country enjoys effective guarantees for the exercise of political pluralism. Between May 2002 and September 2004 Colombia has seen a decrease in homicide by 17.6%, massacres by 55.4%, kidnappings by 35.1%, and acts of terrorism by 18.4%.

The government has also committed itself to the eradication of all illicit crops, interdiction of drug shipments, and financial controls to prevent money laundering. Also between May 2002 and September 2004, Colombian security forces have interdicted 558 metric tons of cocaine, coca base, and heroin. Coca and poppy cultivation has decreased by 33% since 2001.

There has been some progress towards peace negotiations with illegal armed groups. Formal peace talks between the government and the Colombian Self-Defense Forces (AUC) paramilitary group began in July of 2004 in Santa Fe de Ralito, in the northern department of Cordoba. The government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group (FARC) have also been negotiating a humanitarian agreement that would include the release of American hostages.


ECONOMY

Colombia is a free market economy with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. Transition from a highly regulated economy has been underway for more than a decade. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization or "apertura," and this has continued since then, with tariff reductions, financial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and adoption of a more liberal foreign exchange rate. Almost all sectors became open to foreign investment although agricultural products remained protected. Colombia, with its Andean neighbors Peru and Ecuador, is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States.

Unlike many of its neighboring countries, Colombia has not suffered any dramatic economic collapses. The Uribe administration seeks to maintain prudent fiscal policies, and has pursued tough economic reforms include tax, pension and budget reforms. The administration has chosen to finance much of its increased spending on security through a onetime tax on the nation's wealthiest citizens. The administration also has pledged to invest heavily in the country's infrastructure. GDP growth for 2004 is projected to be 4% and as of July 2004, unemployment has declined to 12.9%.

In addition to the domestic goals of keeping inflation low and maintaining a stable currency (the Colombian peso), the administration has put a heavy emphasis on increasing trade liberalization. The administration's strong fiscal management helped it to be ranked by the World Bank in 2004 as having made the largest strides in Latin America in simplifying the requirements to start a business. The Colombia economy, which has stagnated since 1999, has started to rebound, as indicated by a 2004 second quarter GDP growth of 4.5%. Much of this impressive growth can be attributed to the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which will expire in 2006. The ATPDEA-benefited exports to the U.S. fueled industrial production during the first quarter ($700 million in exports in the first quarter of 2003 vs. $700 million annually since the late 1990s). The GOC along with other Andean Nations and the US are currently engaged in Free Trade Negotiations, which are expected to be finished in 2005.

Trade

Colombia's balance of trade between January and July of 2004 showed a $333.4 million surplus. Total projected 2004 imports were $14.8 billion, while exports were $15.1 billion. Colombia's major exports continue to be petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, gold, and nontraditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, semiprecious stones, sugar, and tropical fruits). The United States remained Colombia's major trading partner, with 42% of exports heading there. Exports to the U.S. have increased over 1.5 billion dollars since the inception of ATPDEA benefits. US exports to Colombia have also increased over 25% since that time. The EU, Japan, and the Andean Pact countries also are important trading partners.

Mining, manufacturing industries and oil have attracted the greatest U.S. investment interest in 2004. U.S. investment accounted 14.5% of the total $1.7 billion in foreign direct investment at the end of 2003.

Colombia has improved protection of intellectual property rights through the adoption of three Andean Pact decisions in 1993 and 1994, but the United States remains concerned over deficiencies in licensing, patent regulations, and copyright protection.

Mining and Energy

Colombia continues to have vast amounts of mineral resources and sufficient amounts of energy resources, specifically natural gas reserves. Although Colombia maintains its position as a net exporter of petroleum, Colombia's oil reserves have diminished dramatically, from 3.1 billion barrels in 1995 to less than 1.4 billion by the end of 2004. Total crude oil production has fallen to 541,000 b/d in 2003 from a high of 816,000 b/d in 1999. If a major oil discovery is not found in the next couple of years, Colombia will become a net oil importer by 2009.

The Pastrana and the Uribe administration have significantly liberalized Colombia's petroleum sector, leading to an increase in exploration and production contracts from both large and small hydrocarbon industries. In 2002, royalties were linked to the size of the discovery as opposed to a flat rate. In 2003, a new oil policy created the National Agency for Hydrocarbons, which as of 2004 administers all exploration and production contracts instead of Ecopetrol, the state owned hydrocarbon company. Ecopetrol must now compete along side other hydrocarbon companies for exploration and production contracts, separating state roles as investor and resource administrator. State association contracts have dropped from 30% to 0%, allowing private companies 100% ownership upon exploration success.

Refining capacity can satisfy domestic demand for gasoline, but as of October 2004, Colombia's domestic demand for diesel outpaced its refining capacity. Colombia is in the process of renovating and expanding their Cartagena refinery in order to meet its domestic demands and eventually export more refined products.

The country's oil industry has continuously been a target of extortion and bombing campaigns by the ELN and the FARC; however, strong security polices and an offensive military posture have recently reduced attacks on pipelines. In the first eight months of 2004, there have been 66 attacks on oil pipelines, which is a decrease of 16% from 2003. Comparing the first eight months of 2003 and 2004, attacks against the Caño Limón-Coveñas pipeline significantly dropped from 24 to 15 attacks due to increased military presence and quicker military reaction to pipeline attacks.

Colombia has the largest coal reserves in Latin America. It also possesses significant amounts of ferronickel, gold, silver, platinum, and emeralds. For 2003, Colombia's production levels increased for carbon, gold, platinum, silver, emeralds, and nickel. Carbon production reached 49.4 million tons, a 25% increase from 2002. Gold production also experienced a major increase of 124% from 2002 to 2003, primarily due to the increase in the price of gold.

Foreign Investment

Foreign Direct Investment in the first semester of 2004 was USD 1.4 billion, a 73% increase over 2003. The bulk of the new investment, 77%, is in the mining and petroleum sectors. In 1991 and 1992, the government passed laws to stimulate foreign investment in nearly all sectors of the economy. The only activities closed to foreign direct investment are defense and national security, disposal of hazardous wastes, and real estate—the last of these restrictions is intended to hinder money laundering. Colombia established a special entity-CoInvertir—to assist foreigners in making investments in the country.

Industry and Agriculture

The most industrially diverse member of the five-nation Andean Community, Colombia has four major industrial centers—Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla—each located in a distinct geographical region. Colombia's industries include textiles and clothing, leather products, processed foods and beverages, paper and paper products, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement, construction, iron and steel products, and metalworking.

Colombia's diverse climate and topography permit the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. In addition, all regions yield forest products, ranging from tropical hardwoods in the lowlands to pine and eucalyptus in the colder areas. Cacao, sugarcane, coconuts, bananas, plantains, rice, cotton, tobacco, cassava, and most of the nation's beef cattle are produced in the hot regions from sea level to 1,000 meters elevation. The temperate regions—between 1,000 and 2,000 meters—are better suited for coffee; flowers; corn and other vegetables; and fruits such as citrus, pears, pineapples, and tomatoes. The cooler elevations—between 2,000 and 3,000 meters—produce wheat, barley, potatoes, cold-climate vegetables, flowers, dairy cattle, and poultry.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

In 1969, Colombia, along with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, formed what is now the Andean Community. (Venezuela joined in 1973 and Chile left in 1976.) In the 1980s, Colombia broadened its bilateral and multilateral relations, joining the Contadora Group, the Group of Eight (now the Rio Group), and the Non-Aligned Movement, which it chaired from 1994 until September 1998. In addition, it has signed free trade agreements with Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the United Nations and the Organization of American States and in their subsidiary agencies. Former President Gaviria became Secretary General of the OAS in September 1994 and was re-elected in 1999. Colombia was a participant in the December 1994 and April 1998 Summits of the Americas and followed up on initiatives developed at the summit by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level meetings on trade and science and technology.


U.S.-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS

In 1822, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and to establish a resident diplomatic mission. Today, about 25,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. embassy as living in Colombia, most of them dual nationals.

Currently, there are about 250 American businesses conducting operations in Colombia. In 1995-96, the United States and Colombia signed important agreements on environmental protection and civil aviation. The two countries have signed agreements on asset sharing and chemical control. In 1997, the United States and Colombia signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels.

During the period 1988-96, the United States provided about $765 million in assistance to Colombia. In 1999, U.S. assistance exceeded $200 million. This funding supported Colombia's counter-narcotics efforts, such as arresting drug traffickers, seizing drugs and illegal processing facilities, and eradicating coca and opium poppy.

During the Pastrana administration, relations with the United States improved significantly. The United States responded to the Colombian Government's request for international support for Plan Colombia by approving a $1.3 billion aid package in July 2000, in addition to previously programmed assistance of nearly $300 million for FY 2000. U.S. programs consisted of a combination of military and police assistance designed to increase counter-narcotics capabilities and included a package of nearly $230 million for human rights, humanitarian assistance, alternative development, and economic and judicial reforms. These programs were an integral component of U.S. support for Plan Colombia's overall goals.

U.S. support for Colombia continues to evolve under the Uribe administration. Recognizing that terrorism and the illicit narcotics trade in Colombia are inextricably linked, the U.S. Congress granted new expanded statutory authorities in 2002 making U.S. assistance to Colombia more flexible in order to better support President Uribe's unified campaign against narcotics and terrorism.

Close cooperation continues with passage by the United States of legislation providing about $560 million in additional funding for these programs. Moreover, since the end of the FARC safe haven, the United States has responded to the Colombian Government's request for increased intelligence support, expedited delivery of spare parts paid for by Colombia, and support for counter-narcotics operations in the former demilitarized zone.

The results thus far have been impressive, but there is still a lot of work remaining. U.S. policy toward Colombia supports the Colombian Government's efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, intensify counter-narcotics efforts, foster socioeconomic development, address immediate humanitarian needs, and end the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Promoting security, stability, and prosperity in Colombia will continue as long-term American interests in the region.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BOGOTA (E) Address: Cra. 45 No. 22D-45; APO/FPO: APO AA 34038; Phone: (571) 315-0811; Fax: (571) 315-2197; INMARSAT Tel: 683131545/46; Workweek: 0800-1700; Website: http://bogota.state.gov

AMB:William B. Wood
AMB OMS:Cherryl D. Busch
DCM:Milton K. Drucker
CG:Raymond G. McGrath
POL:Jeffrey Delaurentis
COM:Robert L. Farris
CON:Clarence Hudson
MGT:Paul E. Rowe
AFSA:Craig Conway
AGR:David Mergen
AID:Michael J. Deal
APHIS:John L. Shaw
ATF:Kenneth G. Engstrom
CLO:Jacqueline U. Keenan
CUS:Stephen Hayward
DAO:William Graves
DEA:David Gaddis
ECO:Francisco Fernandez
EEO:Elizabeth Mihm
FMO:Thomas Doherty
GSO:Mason S. Green
ICASS Chair:Phyllis M. Powers
IMO:Byron Leo Hudkins
IPO:Gregory S. Lee
IRS:Vacant
ISO:Timothy J. McNamara
LEGATT:Wilfrid W. Meyer
MLO:Simeon Trombitas
NAS:Phyllis M. Powers
PAO:Anne T. Callaghan
RSO:Mark J. Hunter
Last Updated: 2/9/2005

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Main Switchboard: 202-647-4000
(http://www.state.gov)

U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center, International Trade Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue
Washington, DC 20230
(tel: 800-USA-TRADE, Internet:http://www.ita.doc.gov)

Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce
Calle 98, @2264, Oficina 1209
Apartado Aereo 8008
Bogotá, Colombia
(tel: (571) 621-5042/7925/6838, fax: (571) 612-6838, email: [email protected]) Chapters in Cali, Cartagena, Medellín.


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

October 13, 2004

Country Description: Colombia is a medium-income country with a diverse economy. Travelers to the capital city of Bogota may require some time to adjust to the altitude (8,600 feet), which can affect blood pressure, digestion, and energy level. Persons with medical conditions related to the circulatory or respiratory system should ask their physician if travel to Bogota or other high-altitude locations is advisable. Tourist facilities vary in quality, according to price and location.

Entry/Exit Requirements: U.S. Citizens (who are not also Colombian citizens) must show a valid U.S. passport to enter and depart Colombia. Tourists must also provide evidence of return or onward travel. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a tourist stay of 60 days or less. Stiff fines are imposed if passports are not stamped on arrival or if the traveler remains in Colombia for more than 60 days without the authorization of the Colombian Immigration Agency (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, Jefatura de Extranjeria, "DAS Extranjeria"). U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Colombia must obtain a new passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the main immigration office in Bogota to obtain permission to depart. An exit tax must be paid at the airport when departing Colombia.

According to Colombian law, any person born in Colombia must use their Colombian passport to enter and leave Colombia, even if also a citizen of another country. Therefore, if you are a Colombian-American citizen, you should be prepared to carry your Colombian passport as well as your U.S. passport on your trip.

For further information regarding entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Colombian Embassy at 2118 Leroy Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 387-8338; Internet website—http://www.colombiaemb.org; or the Colombian consulate in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco or San Juan.

Additional Requirements for Minors: In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments, including Colombia's, have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Colombia requires that minors (under 18), regardless of nationality, who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish and notarized. An "apostille" must then be affixed to the document by the designated state government authority. A list of designated state authorities may be found on the Internet at: http://travel.state.gov/family/hague_foreign_docs.html. Finally, the Colombian Embassy or a Colombian consulate in the United States must authenticate the authorization and birth certificate. If documents are prepared in Colombia, only notarization by a Colombian notary is required. A permission letter prepared outside of Colombia is valid for 90 days. A permission letter prepared in Colombia is valid for 60 days.

Safety and Security: Although rates of common crime and violence by narcotics traffickers and terrorist groups have decreased, travel to Colombia still can involve considerable risk.

The Secretary of State has designated three Colombian groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. These groups have carried out bombings and other attacks in and around major urban areas, including against civilian targets. A bombing at an exclusive social club in Bogotá on February 7, 2003, left 36 dead and 160 injured. On November 15, 2003, the FARC conducted grenade attacks against restaurants in an upscale entertainment area in Bogotá; the attack left one person dead and injured 73, including four U.S. citizens. Terrorist groups have also targeted critical infrastructure (water, oil, gas, electricity), public recreational areas, and modes of transportation.

Due to considerable effort on the part of the Colombian government to improve security throughout the country, homicide numbers declined by 20 percent from 2002 to 2003, to a countrywide figure of about 23,000. However, in comparison, this figure still exceeded U.S. homicide levels by 40 percent, in a country with one-seventh our population. While narcotics and guerrilla-related violence account for part of this violence, common criminals are responsible for an estimated 75 percent of the reported murders. Additionally, the Government of Colombia reports a 50 percent decline in the number of kidnappings in the past four years. However, Colombia continues to have one of the highest rates of kidnapping for ransom in the world, with 1827 kidnappings in the 12 months prior to April 2004.

These crimes affect all parts of the country. American kidnap or murder victims have included journalists, missionaries, scientists, human rights workers and businesspeople, as well as persons on tourism or family visits, and even small children. No one can be considered immune. In 1999, the FARC murdered three U.S. citizens whom it had kidnapped. On February 13, 2003, a plane carrying five crewmembers (four U.S. citizen-U.S. Government defense contractors and one Colombian citizen) crashed in a remote of section of Colombia. Two crewmembers (the Colombian and one of the U.S. citizens) were killed by the FARC and the remaining crewmembers were taken hostage. The FARC continues to hold captive the three missing U.S. citizens. In the past four years, 30 more American citizens were reported kidnapped. Although the U.S. Government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of American hostages, and the Colombian Government has had some success with its hostage-recovery teams, rescue capabilities are nevertheless limited. Colombian law requires that private persons coordinate efforts to free kidnapped individuals with the Director of the Colombian Office of Anti-Kidnapping (Ministerio de Defensa/Programa Para la Defensa de la Libertad Personal).

In-country travel by U.S. Embassy employees, both official and private, to high-threat areas, is subject to strict limitations and reviewed case by case. U.S. Embassy employees are allowed to travel by air. Bus transportation is off-limits to U.S. Embassy personnel. On occasion U.S. Embassy personnel have been prohibited from frequenting the Zona Rosa or Parque 93, Bogotá's principal entertainment districts, due to the possibility that they could become the targets of crime and/or violence.

The U.S. Embassy must approve in advance the official travel to Colombia of all U.S. Government personnel. Such travel is approved only for essential business. Private travel by U.S. military personnel to Colombia requires advance approval by the U.S. Embassy. Non-military employees of the U.S. Government do not need Embassy approval for private travel, but such employees are urged to avoid non-essential travel to Colombia.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside of the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Petty crime is prevalent in cities, especially in the vicinity of hotels and airports. Theft of hand luggage and travel documents at airports is common, particularly at El Dorado International Airport in Bogota. Violence occurs frequently in bars and nightclubs. Taking illegal taxis, which are sometimes characterized by a driver and a companion and irregular markings, is dangerous. Travelers should not get into a taxi that already has one or more passengers. Travel by bus is risky. Attempts at extortion and kidnappings on rural buses are not unusual. In general, and with limited exceptions, travel by road outside the major cities is dangerous because of the kidnapping threat and activity by organized criminal groups. In no case should Americans travel by rural road at night.

Criminals sometimes use the drug "scopolamine" to incapacitate tourists in order to rob them. The drug is administered in drinks (in bars), through cigarettes and gum (in taxis), and in powder form (tourists are approached by someone asking directions, with the drug concealed in a piece of paper, and the perpetrator blows the powder into the victim's face). The drug renders the person disoriented and can cause prolonged unconsciousness and serious medical problems.

Another common scam is an approach to an obvious tourist by an alleged "policeman," who says he wants to "check" the foreigner's money for counterfeit U.S. dollars. The person gives the criminal money, receives a receipt, and the "policeman" disappears.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. This publication is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402; via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov; or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies in quality elsewhere. American citizen deaths resulting from elective, aesthetic surgery (e.g., liposuction) has been reported to the U.S. Embassy.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas health care provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

Other Health Information: Travelers to the capital city of Bogota may require some time to adjust to the altitude (8,600 feet), which can affect blood pressure, digestion, and energy level. Persons with medical conditions related to the circulatory or respiratory system should ask their physician if travel to Bogota or other high-altitude locations is advisable.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, please consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Colombia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Poor

Traffic laws are sporadically followed and rarely enforced, a chaotic and dangerous reality for travelers in the major cities. Colombian authorities estimate that a traffic accident occurs every ten minutes; urban pedestrians constitute the largest category of traffic-related casualties. Public transportation is not a safe alternative; buses and, to a lesser extent, taxis are frequent targets for criminals.

Although limited laws exist in Colombia to protect the safety of travelers on the roads, they are rarely enforced. Seat belts are mandatory for the two front-seat passengers in a vehicle. Car seats are not mandatory for children, but a child under ten years old may not be seated in the front seat. Urban speed limits range from 28 to 37 mph (45 to 60 kph); rural speed limits are usually 50 mph (80 kph), unless otherwise indicated. If an accident occurs, the involved parties must remain at the scene until the authorities arrive; leaving the scene of the accident constitutes an admission of guilt.

Although road security has improved in some areas, such as around the capital, Bogotá, for security reasons the Embassy strongly recommends against most rural road travel by American citizens in Colombia. The Government of Colombia has instituted special programs to promote road travel during holidays, but outside of these periods, the strong presence of guerrilla and paramilitary groups and common criminals in rural areas makes travel on these roads dangerous. In regions where the government has not established full authority, guerrilla groups frequently establish roadblocks in order to rob and/or kidnap travelers. The geographic scope of government or guerrilla control is subject to change, sometimes without notice. Any inter-city travel by American citizens should be done by airplane. For additional information about road travel in Colombia, see the U.S. Embassy home page at http://usembassy.state.gov/bogota.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html. For specific information concerning Colombian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Colombian Vice-Ministry of Tourism at the following address and/or phone numbers: Viceministerio de Turismo, Calle 28 No. 13a-15, Piso 17, Santa Fe de Bogota, COLOMBIA; 011-57-1-283-9927 or 011-57-1-283-9558.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Colombia's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1—in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Colombia's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Customs Regulations: Colombian law prohibits tourists and business travelers from bringing firearms into Colombia. The penalty for illegal importation and/or possession of firearms is three to ten years in prison. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Colombia in Washington or one of Colombia's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found here.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Colombian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Colombia are strict, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. U.S. citizens arrested in Colombia for drug-related offenses may experience several months' detention in jail before their cases are processed. Prison conditions are sub-standard. Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

State of Emergency: On occasion, the Government of Colombia has declared a modified state of emergency. During these times, American citizens may find their movements or civil liberties restricted due to curfews, registration requirements, or other security-related measures. American citizens are advised to be alert to changes in the emergency status.

Disaster Preparedness: Colombia is an earthquake-prone country. U.S. citizens in Colombia may refer to information on dealing with natural disasters on the U.S. Embassy's web site at http://usembassy.state.gov/bogota/wwwhacsc.html. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/index.html, or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and abductions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Colombia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bogota through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Colombia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The Consular Section is open for American Citizens Services, including registration, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday through Thursday, excluding U.S. and Colombian holidays. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida El Dorado and Carrera 50; telephone (011-57-1) 315-0811 during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or 315-2109/2110 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (011-57-1) 315-2196/2197; Internet website—http://usembassy.state.gov/bogota. The Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which provides some limited consular services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (011-57-5) 353-2001; fax (011-57-5) 353-5216; e-mail: [email protected]

International Adoption

January 2005

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General: Colombian law allows children to be adopted ONLY through the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and approved adoption agencies. Every adopted child MUST must have a final adoption decree in order to leave Colombia with a final adoption decree. The law requires that both adopting parents be physically present when the adoption is presented to a "family judge." There are no exceptions to this requirement, and the process usually takes one to two weeks. After both parents have appeared before the court, one of the parents may return to the United States while the other parent must remains in Colombia until the adoption/immigrant visa process is completed. At least one parent should plan to be in Colombia for two to six weeks.

Availability of Children for Adoption: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

FY-1996: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Colombian orphans adopted abroad—252

IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Colombian orphans adopted in the U.S.—0

FY-1997: IR-3 visas—232,
IR-4 visas – 0
FY-1998: IR-3 visas—231,
IR-4 visas – 0
FY-1999: IR-3 visas—231,
IR-4 visas – 0
FY-2000: IR-3 visas—197,
IR-4 visas—0

Colombian Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Colombia is The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (IBCF).

Colombian Adoption Procedures: Colombian law has a system in which children may be placed for adoption only through the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and approved adoption agencies. Every child cannot Colombia without a final adoption decree. The law requires that both adopting parents be physically present when the adoption is presented to a "family judge." There are no exceptions to this requirement and the process usually takes one to two weeks. After both parents have appeared before the court, one of the parents may return to the United States while the other remains in Colombia until the adoption/immigrant visa process is completed. At least one parent should expect to be in Colombia for two to six weeks.

Colombian authorities require that a home study be conducted by a licensed agency in the state of residence in the U.S. In order for U.S. civil documents submitted for the adoption to be accepted by the Colombian Adoption Court, they must be authenticated by a Colombian consulate in the U.S. prior to the departure of the adoptive parents from the U.S. If either of the parents has changed his or her name, or if one of the parents uses a nickname, they should give special attention to ensure that the same name appears on each and every document."

Age and Civil Status Requirements: The Colombian adoption laws require that at least one of the adopting parents be over twenty-five years of age and be physically, emotionally, and economically capable of supporting the adopted child. In practice, newborns are assigned to younger couples, and older children are assigned to older couples.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) licenses several adoption agencies to process international adoptions. The American Embassy assumes no responsibility for the professional competency or integrity of the agencies. For listings and more details, please review current reports online at travel.state. gov/family.

Doctors: The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Colombia.

Medical Examination: All adopted children must have a medical examination performed by one of the Embassy's panel physicians before an immigrant visa can be issued. The cost of this medical examination is approximately US $40.00 and must be paid by the parents.

Colombian Documentary Requirements: To know what documents are necessary and required by the prospective adoptive parents, you must contact the U.S. Embassy of Colombia in the U.S., the U.S. Embassy in Colombia for information or the Adoption Agencies.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: A Colombian child, even if adopted by an American citizen, must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Special Requirements: Parents adopting in Colombia must submit fingerprint cards along with their home study and other documents that are required by the Colombian courts. To obtain the fingerprint records, each parent should send a current set of fingerprints to the FBI. The cards may be requested from an Immigration and Naturalization Office (BCIS). When completed, the cards, a fingerprint fee of US $25.00 and a letter of intent (for example, indicating that the fingerprint reports are required for the Colombian adoption and immigrant visa process) should be sent to the address below. The FBI may take two to three months to return the completed reports.

Visa Questions: For questions about U.S. visa petition procedures, please contact the nearest office of the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security. (The telephone number can be found in the US. Federal Government Section of the telephone book). General recorded information about visa procedures is available from the Department of State's Visa Office at (202) 663-1225.

Colombian Embassies in the United States:
Colombian Embassy
2118 Leroy Place, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 387-5858, (202) 332-7476

Colombia also has consulates in Atlanta, Coral Gables, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Houston, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico.

U.S. Embassy in Colombia:
The U.S. Embassy
Consular Section-Adoptions, Calle 22 D
Bis # 47-51
Bogotá, Colombia
Fax: 001-571-315-4155

Mailing Address:
PO Box AA 3831
APO MIAMI 34038
Telephone calls from 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. (East Coast time) at the following number: 011-571-315-1566, Ext. 2795.

Baby Supplies: If you are adopting an infant, we recommend you bring some of these few hard-to-find items with you from the U.S.:

  • Milk bottles (plastic, glass, and disposable) (teteros, biberones)
  • Disposable plastic bags for milk bottles (available locally, but expensive)
  • New parents can rest assured that Colombia's cities have a sophisticated line of baby products and many items are available locally. The following can be found easily on the local economy:
  • Plastic or cloth baby carrier (porta bebe en plastico o en tela)
  • Bottle nipples (chupo, chupete)
  • Disposable paper diapers with plastic shell (pañales desechables)
  • Baby blankets (frazada para bebe)
  • Infant wear (ropa para niños)
  • Thermos bottle for hot water to prepare dry formula (termo)
  • Electric hair dryer to dry diapers and other wet things (secador de pelo)

Baby clothes in Colombia are well made and not expensive. Clothes are original in design and are often woven in nice quality wool. Shops specializing in baby clothes are listed in the yellow pages under "Ropa para Niños."

Hotels: If you are going to be staying in Colombia for several weeks when you pick up your baby, your choice of hotel or other lodging is important both for cost, (ranging: from $80.00 to $250.00 per day,) and convenience, especially when carrying for a baby–once you have your baby with you. A larger selection of accommodations is available, and the final choice may be easier to make after your arrival in Colombia. if you look around after you arrive. For lodging recommended by other adoptive parents, please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Our Request for Additional Information: If you find other good services, please let us know so we may keep our information complete, current, and helpful.

Fee: As of February 1, 1998, the total fee for an immigrant visa is US$325 (US$265 for the interview and US$65 for the visa) in addition to the cost of the medical exam. The Embassy cashier is not permitted to accept 100-dollar bills.

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Colombia may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, Telephone 202-736-7000 with specific questions.

views updated

COLOMBIA

Compiled from the February 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Colombia


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

1.14 million sq. km. (440,000 sq. mi.); about three times the size of Montana; fourth-largest country in South America.

Cities:

Capital—Bogotá (pop. 2005 projected: 7.1million). Other major cities include Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, and Cartagena.

Terrain:

Flat coastal areas, with extensive coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, three rugged parallel mountain chains, central highlands, and flat eastern grasslands.

Climate:

Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Colombian(s).

Population (2005 projected):

46 million

Annual population growth:

1.8%

Religion:

Roman Catholic 90%.

Language:

Spanish.

Education:

Years compulsory—9. Attendance—80% of children enter school. Only 5 years of primary school are offered in many rural areas. Literacy—93% in urban areas, 67% in rural areas.

Health:

Infant mortality rate—25/1,000. Life expectancy (2000-05 period) men 69 yrs., women 75 yrs.

Ethnic groups:

Mestizo (58%), white (20%), mulatto (14%), black (4%), mixed black-Amerindian (3%), and Amerindian (1%)

Government

Type:

Republic.

Independence:

July 20, 1810.

Constitution:

July 1991.

Branches:

Executive—President (chief of state and head of government). Legislative—Bicameral Congress. Judicial—Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Superior Judicial Council.

Administrative divisions:

32 departments; Bogotá, capital district.

Major political parties:

Conservative Party of Colombia, Liberal Party, and numerous small political movements (most of them allied with one or the other major party).

Suffrage:

Universal, age 18 and over.

Economy

GDP (2005 projected):

$118.1 billion; base year 1994: $104.6 billion.

Annual growth rate (2005 est.):

4.3%.

Per capita GDP (2003):

$2,574.30.

Government Expenditures (2005):

38.5% of GDP.

Natural resources:

Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds.

Manufacturing (14.2 of GDP):

Types—textiles and garments, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, wood products, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electrical equipment.

Agriculture (13.5% of GDP):

Products—coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum. Cultivated land: 8.2% of total area.

Other sectors (by percentage of GDP):

Financial services—17.2%; commerce—11.4%; transportation and communications services—8.2%; mining and quarrying—4.8%; construction and public works—5.3%; government, personal and other services—19.5%; electricity, gas, and water—3%

Trade:

Exports (2005)—$18.8 billion: petroleum, coal, coffee, flowers, textiles and garments, ferronickel, bananas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, gold, sugar, cardboard containers, printed material, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds. Major markets—U.S., Venezuela, Germany, Netherlands, Japan,. Imports (2005)—$18.6 billion: machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, metals/metal products, plastic/rubber, paper products, aircraft, oil and gas industry equipment, and supplies. Major suppliers—U.S., Germany, Japan, Panama, Venezuela.


PEOPLE

Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Thirty cities have a population of 100,000 or more. The nine eastern lowlands departments, constituting about 54% of Colombia's area, have less than 3% of the population and a density of less than one person per square kilometer (two persons per sq. mi.). Ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous peoples, Europeans, and Africans. Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully indigenous on the basis of language and customs.


HISTORY AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

During the pre-Columbian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous societies situated at different stages of socio-economic development, ranging from hunters and nomadic farmers to the highly structured Chibchas, who are considered to be one of the most developed indigenous groups in South America.

The first permanent settlement in Colombia was at Santa Marta, founded by the Spanish in 1525. Santa Fe de Bogotá was founded in 1538 and, in 1717, became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. Bogotá was one of three principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World.

On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogotá created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed. The new republic included all the territory of the former Viceroyalty (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama). Simon Bolívar was elected its first president with Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president. Conflicts between the followers of Bolívar and Santander led to the formation of two political parties that have since dominated Colombian politics. Bolivar's supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, sought strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church, and a limited franchise. Santander's followers, forerunners of the Liberals, wanted a decentralized government, state rather than church control over education and other civil matters, and a broadened suffrage.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time. Colombia maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free, elections. Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia's history also has been characterized by widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties: The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1903) claimed an estimated 100,000 lives and La Violencia (the Violence) (1946-1957) claimed about 300,000 lives.

La Violencia (The Violence) and The National Front

The assassination of Liberal leader, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, in 1948 sparked the bloody conflict known as La Violencia. Conservative Party leader Laureano Gómez came to power in 1950, but was ousted by a military coup led by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla in 1953. When Rojas failed to restore democratic rule and became implicated in corrupt schemes, he was overthrown by the military with the support of the Liberal and Conservative Parties. It was out of this alliance between the two parties that the National Front emerged, which ended "La Violencia."

In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gómez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) reached an agreement that led to the creation of the National Front, under which their parties would govern jointly. The presidency would be determined by regular elections every 4 years and the two parties would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices. This system was phased out by 1978.

Post-National Front Years

During the post-National Front years, the Colombian Government made efforts to negotiate a peace with the persistent guerrilla organizations that flourished in Colombia's remote and undeveloped remote rural areas. In 1984, President Belisario Betancur, a Conservative, negotiated a cease-fire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Democratic Alliance/M-19 (M-19) that included the release of many imprisoned guerrillas. The National Liberation Army (ELN) rejected the government's cease fire proposal at that time. The M-19 pulled out of the cease-fire when it resumed fighting in 1985. The army suppressed an M-19 attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogotá in November 1985, during which 115 people were killed, including 11 Supreme Court justices. The government and the M-19 renewed their truce in March 1989, which led to a peace agreement and the M-19's reintegration into society and political life. The M-19 was one of the parties that participated in the process to enact a new constitution (see below), which took effect in 1991. The peace process with the FARC did not enjoy similar success; the FARC ended the truce in 1990 after some 2,000-3,000 of its members who had demobilized had been murdered.

The enactment of a new Constitution in 1991 brought about major reforms to Colombia's political institutions.

While the new Constitution preserved a presidential, three-branch system of government, it created new institutions such as the Inspector General, a Human Rights Ombudsman, a Constitutional Court, and a Superior Judicial Council. The new Constitution also reestablished the position of Vice President. Other significant constitutional reforms provide for civil divorce, dual nationality, and the establishment of a legal mechanism ("tutela") that allows individuals to appeal government decisions affecting their constitutional rights. The Constitution also authorized the introduction of an accusatory system of criminal justice that is gradually being instituted throughout the country, replacing the previous written inquisitorial system. A Constitutional amendment approved in October 2005 allows the president to hold office for two consecutive 4-year terms.

Colombian governments have had to contend with the combined terrorist activities of left-wing guerrillas, the rise of paramilitary self-defense forces in the 1990s, and the drug cartels. Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential candidates during the election campaign of 1990. After Colombian security forces killed Medellín cartel leader Pablo Escobar in December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with his organization abated as the "cartels" were broken into multiple, smaller and often-competing trafficking organizations. Guerrillas and paramilitary groups also entered into drug trafficking as a way to finance their military operations.

Pastrana Administration

The administration of Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002), a Conservative, faced increased countrywide attacks by the FARC, the ELN, widespread drug production, and the expansion of paramilitary groups. The Pastrana administration unveiled its "Plan Colombia" in 1999 as a strategy to deal with these longstanding problems, and sought support from the international community. Plan Colombia is a comprehensive program to combat narco-terrorism; spur economic recovery; strengthen democratic institutions and respect for human rights; and provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons.

In November 1998, Pastrana ceded a sparsely populated area the size of Switzerland in south-central Colombia to the FARC's control to serve as a neutral zone where peace negotiations could take place. The FARC negotiated with the government only fitfully while continuing to mount attacks and expand coca production, seriously undermining the government's efforts to reach an agreement. Negotiations with the rebels in 2000 and 2001 were marred by rebel attacks, kidnappings, and fighting between rebels and paramilitaries for control of coca-growing areas in Colombia. In February 2002, after the FARC hijacked a commercial aircraft and kidnapped a senator, Pastrana ordered the military to attack rebel positions and reassert control over the neutral zone. FARC withdrew into the jungle and increased attacks against Colombia's infrastructure, while avoiding large-scale direct conflicts with the military.

Uribe Administration

Alvaro Uribe, an independent, was elected president in May 2002 on a platform to restore security to the country. Among his promises was to continue to pursue the broad goals of Plan Colombia within the framework of a long-term security strategy. In the fall of 2002, Uribe released a national security strategy that employed political, economic and military means to weaken all illegal narco-terrorist groups. The Uribe government offered to negotiate a peace agreement with these groups with the condition that they agree to a unilateral cease fire and to end drug trafficking and kidnapping.

In December 2003, the Colombian Self-Defense Forces (AUC) paramilitary group entered into a peace agreement with the government that, as of February 2006, has led to the bloc by bloc demobilization of over 20,000 AUC members. In addition, over 8,000 members of the AUC and other illegal armed groups have individually decided to surrender their arms. In July 2005, President Uribe signed the Justice and Peace Law, which established a legal framework for these demobilizations. Under this law, participants have to renounce violence and return illegal assets in exchange for reduced punishments; the assets are to be used to provide reparations to victims.

The ELN and the government began a round of talks with the Colombian Government mediated by the Mexican Government in mid-2004. The ELN withdrew from the talks after the Mexican Government voted to condemn Cuba's human rights record at the United Nations in April 2005. In December 2005, the ELN began a new round of talks with the Colombian Government in Cuba, which resulted in an agreement to meet again in early 2006.

As a result of the government's military and police operations, the strength of the FARC has been reduced in major areas, drastically in some areas. Since 2000, the FARC has not carried out large scale multi-front attacks, although it has more recently mounted some operations that indicate it has not yet been broken.

The FARC has rejected several government proposals aimed at bringing about an exchange of some 63 hostages being held for political reasons. Three American citizens, who were working on counternarcotics programs, were captured by the FARC in February 2003. Their safe return is a priority goal of the United States and Colombia.

Colombia maintains an excellent extradition relationship with the United States. The Uribe administration has extradited more than 300 fugitives to the United States. Among those extradited in 2005 were Cali Cartel leaders Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel and FARC leaders Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda (aka "Simón Trinidad") and Omaira Rojas Cabrera (aka "Sonia").

Nearing the end of his four-year term, President Uribe enjoys record high popularity ratings. For the first time in recent Colombian history, there is a government presence in all of the country's 1,098 municipalities (county seats). Attacks conducted by illegally armed groups against rural towns decreased by 91% from 2002 to 2005. Between 2002 and 2004, Colombia saw a decrease in homicides by 31%, massacres by 65%, kidnappings by 52%, and acts of terrorism by 55.9%. Aerial spraying of coca crops and cocaine and heroin interdictions are setting records.

Although much attention has been focused on the security and military aspects of Colombia's situation, the Uribe government also is spending significant efforts on issues such as expanding international trade, supporting alternate means of development, and reforming Colombia's judicial system. Congressional elections will take place in March 2006. President Uribe is seeking reelection in May 2006, with a second round (if needed) in June 2006.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/5/2005

President: Alvaro URIBE Velez
Vice President: Francisco SANTOS Calderon
Min. of Agriculture & Rural Development: Andres Felipe ARIAS Leiva
Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Tourism: Jorge Humberto BOTERO
Min. of Communication: Martha PINTO de De Hart
Min. of Culture: Maria ARAUJO
Min. of Energy & Mines: Luis Ernesto MEJIA
Min. of Environment, Housing, & Territorial Development: Sandra SUAREZ Perez
Min. of Finance & Public Credit: Alberto CARRASQUILLA Barrera
Min. of Foreign Relations: Carolina BARCO
Min. of Interior & Justice: Sabas PRETELT de la Vega
Min. of National Defense: Camilo OSPINA Bernal
Min. of National Education: Cecilia Maria VELEZ White
Min. of Social Protection: Diego PALACIO Betancourt
Min. of Transportation: Andres Uriel GALLEGO Henao
Dir., National Planning: Santiago MONTENEGRO
Pres., Bank of the Republic: Jose Dario URIBE Escobar
Prosecutor General: Mario German IGUARAN Arana
Ambassador to the US: Andres PASTRANA Arango
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Maria Angela HOLGUIN Cuellar

Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington.


DEFENSE

Colombia's Ministry of Defense, charged with the country's internal and external defense and security, exercises jurisdiction over an army, navy—including marines and coast guard—air force, and national police under the leadership of a civilian Minister of Defense. Real spending on defense has increased every year since 2000, but especially so under President Uribe. Colombian spending on defense grew over 30% after inflation, from $2.6 billion in 2001 to more than 3.9 billion in 2005. Projected defense spending for 2006 is $4.48 billion. The security forces number about 350,000 uniformed personnel: 190,000 military and 160,000 police. President Uribe instituted a one-time wealth tax in 2002, which raised over $800 million, with 70% used to increase 2002-2003 defense spending. Actual Ministry of Defense spending in 2004 has increased to 16.3% of the overall national budget, up from 12.9% in 2002, and is the third largest expenditure after social protection programs and education.

Many Colombian military personnel receive training in the United States or in Colombia. The United States provides equipment to the Colombian military and police through the military assistance program, foreign military sales, and the international narcotics control program.

Narcoterrorism

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that more than 80% of the worldwide powder cocaine supply and approximately 90% of the powder cocaine smuggled into the United States is produced in Colombia.

The Colombian Government is committed to the eradication of all illicit crops, interdiction of illegal drug shipments, and financial controls to prevent money laundering. Between May 2002 and September 2004, Colombian security forces interdicted 558 metric tons of cocaine, coca base, and heroin. Coca and poppy cultivation has decreased by 33% since 2001.

Terrorism in Colombia both supports and draws resources from the narcotics industry. Colombia's narcoterrorists have kidnapped over 50 American citizens since 1992, and killed at least 10.


ECONOMY

Colombia is a free market economy with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. Transition from a highly regulated economy has been underway for more than a decade. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization or "apertura," and this has continued since then, with tariff reductions, financial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and adoption of a more liberal foreign exchange rate. These policies eased import restrictions and opened most sectors to foreign investment although agricultural products remained protected.

Unlike many of its neighboring countries, Colombia has not suffered any dramatic economic collapses. The Uribe administration seeks to maintain prudent fiscal policies, and has pursued tough economic reforms including tax, pension and budget reforms. A recent U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) study shows that Colombian tax rates (both personal and corporate) are among the highest in Latin America. The unemployment rate for November 2005 was 10.2%, down from nearly twice that in 2002.

The sustained growth of the Colombian economy can be attributed to an increase in domestic security, the policies of keeping inflation low and maintaining a stable currency (the Colombian peso), petroleum price increases, and an increase in exports to neighboring countries and the United States as a result of trade liberalization. The Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which will expire in December 31, 2006, also plays a pivotal role in Colombia's economic growth. The closure in February 2006 of a Free Trade Agreement portends further opportunity for growth, once it is ratified and implemented.

Industry and Agriculture

The most industrially diverse member of the five-nation Andean Community, Colombia has four major industrial centers—Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla—each located in a distinct geographical region. Colombia's industries include textiles and clothing, leather products, processed foods and beverages, paper and paper products, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement, construction, iron and steel products, and metalworking.

Colombia's diverse climate and topography permit the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. In addition, all regions yield forest products, ranging from tropical hardwoods in the lowlands to pine and eucalyptus in the colder areas. Cacao, sugarcane, coconuts, bananas, plantains, rice, cotton, tobacco, cassava, and most of the nation's beef cattle are produced in the hot regions from sea level to 1,000 meters elevation. The temperate regions—between 1,000 and 2,000 meters—are better suited for coffee, flowers, corn and other vegetables, and fruits such as citrus, pears, pineapples, and tomatoes. The cooler elevations—between 2,000 and 3,000 meters—produce wheat, barley, potatoes, cold-climate vegetables, flowers, dairy cattle, and poultry.

Trade

Colombia is the United States' fifth-largest export market in the Western Hemisphere behind Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela and the largest agricultural export market in the hemisphere after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries. It is also the 27th largest export market for U.S. products worldwide. U.S. exports to Colombia from January to December 2005 were $5.4 billion, up 20% from the same period in the previous year. Corresponding U.S. imports from Colombia were $8.8 billion, up 22%. Colombia's major exports are petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, gold, bananas, and nontraditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, semiprecious stones, sugar, and tropical fruits). The United States remained Colombia's largest trading partner, representing 46% of Colombia's exports and 29% of its imports. The EU, Japan, and the Andean countries also are important trading partners.

Mining, manufacturing industries and oil continue to attract the greatest U.S. investment. U.S. investment accounted for 16% of the total $2.6 billion in foreign direct investment in Colombia at the end of 2004. Colombia has improved protection of intellectual property rights through the adoption of three Andean Pact decisions in 1993 and 1994 as well as an internal decree allowing fro data protection, but the United States remains concerned over deficiencies in licensing and copyright protection.

Mining and Energy

Colombia has considerable mineral and energy resources, especially coal and natural gas reserves. New security measures and increased drilling activity have slowed the drop in petroleum production, allowing Colombia to continue to export through 2010 given current production estimates. As of August 2005, gas reserves totaled 7,212 trillion cubic feet. Gas production totaled 640 million cubic feet per day. The country's current refining capacity is 310,000 barrels per day. Losses from theft of fuel (gasoline) decreased from $59 million in 2004 to $23 million as of August 2005. Mining and energy related investments have grown because of higher oil prices, increased demand and improved output.

The Pastrana and the Uribe administrations have significantly liberalized Colombia's petroleum sector, leading to an increase in exploration and production contracts from both large and small hydrocarbon industries. In 2002, royalties were linked to the size of the discovery as opposed to a flat rate. In 2003, a new oil policy created the National Agency for Hydrocarbons (ANH), which as of 2004 administers all exploration and production contracts, replacing Ecopetrol, the state owned hydrocarbon company. Ecopetrol must now compete alongside other hydrocarbon companies for exploration and production contracts, separating state roles as investor and resource administrator. State association contracts have dropped from 30% to 0%, allowing private companies 100% ownership upon exploration success.

The country's oil industry has continuously been a target of extortion and bombing campaigns by the ELN and the FARC; however, strong security policies and an offensive military posture have reduced attacks on pipelines. According to the National Agency for Hydrocarbons attacks on infrastructure in general decreased by 52% between January and August 2005, signaling a significant improvement in security and attack-prevention methods. According to Ecopetrol, as of August 2005 total oil reserves amounted to 1.4 billion barrels. Oil production amounted to 525 million barrels per day, and petroleum exports were 218 million barrels per day. The country's efforts in exploration during 2004 produced 32 million barrels of new reserves. Twenty-one new exploratory wells, 6,767 kilometers of seismic exploration, and a lower drop in production—from 528 million barrels per day in 2004 to 525 million barrels per day as of August 2005—have improved output. According to this new outlook, Colombia will become a net oil importer one or two years later that originally thought (by 2010/11). Between January and September 2005, a total 21 new exploration and production agreements have been signed and 16 technical evaluation contracts between private investors and the Colombian ANH. Thirty-one exploration and production agreements were signed in 2004, representing $350 million in oil investments.

Colombia is the largest producer of coal in Latin America, and also mines gold, silver, and ferronickel. Coal production increased 7% from 2003 to 2004, from 50 million to 53.5 million tons. Gold production was 20.7 tons in 2002, then up to 46.5 tons in 2003, and down to 37.6 tons in 2004. Gold exports increased from $94.4 million in 2002 to $585.2 million in 2003, falling to $556 million in 2004. Silver production increased 36% from 6,986 kg in 2002 to 9,511 kg in 2003, dropping to 8,189 kg in 2004. Exports of silver increased from approximately $377,700 in 2002 to $678,400 in 2003, dropping to $550,300 in 2004. Colombia's total ferronickel exports increased from $414.7 million in 2003 to $626.1 million in 2004. Its ferronickel production grew from, 47,868 tons in 2003, to 48,818 tons in 2004, because of increased capacity and strong nickel demand.

Emerald production climbed from 8.96 million carats in 2003 to 9.82 million carats in 2004. The value of emerald exports decreased from $77.9 million in 2003 to $72.7 million in 2004 because of declining world prices.

Foreign Investment

The United States is the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Colombia by far, particularly in the areas of coal and petroleum. In the period from January to August of 2005, FDI totaled $1.9 billion, an increase of 42% over the same period the previous year. The bulk of the new investment is in the mining and petroleum sectors. The only activities closed to foreign direct investment are defense and national security, disposal of hazardous wastes, and real estate—the last of these restrictions is intended to hinder money laundering. Capital controls have been implemented to reduce currency speculation and to keep foreign investment in-country for at least a year. Likewise, Congress approved a law in 2005 to protect FDI and laws governing the investment for the productive life of the venture to further encourage investment in Colombia.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

In 1969, Colombia, along with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Perú, formed what is now the Andean Community. (Venezuela joined in 1973 and Chile left in 1976.) In the 1980s, Colombia broadened its bilateral and multilateral relations, joining the Contadora Group, the Group of Eight (now the Rio Group), and the Non-Aligned Movement, which it chaired from 1994 until September 1998. In addition, it has signed free trade agreements with Chile, México, and Venezuela.

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the United Nations and the Organization of American States and in their subsidiary agencies. Former President Gaviria became Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) in September 1994 and was re-elected in 1999. Colombia has participated in all five Summits of the Americas, most recently in November 2005, and followed up on initiatives developed at the first two summits by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level meetings on trade and science and technology. On March 22-24, 2006, Bogotá will host the Sixth Regular Session of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism.


U.S.-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS

In 1822, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and to establish a resident diplomatic mission. Today, about 25,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. Embassy as living in Colombia, most of them dual nationals.

Currently, there are about 250 American businesses conducting operations in Colombia. In 1995-96, the United States and Colombia signed important agreements on environmental protection and civil aviation. The two countries have signed agreements on asset sharing and chemical control. In 1997, the United States and Colombia signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels.

During the Pastrana administration, relations with the United States improved significantly. The United States responded to the Colombian Government's request for international support for Plan Colombia by providing substantial assistance designed to increase Colombia's counter-narcotics capabilities and support human rights, humanitarian assistance, alternative development, and economic and judicial reforms. These programs were an integral component of U.S. support for Plan Colombia's overall goals.

The U.S. is continuing close cooperation with Colombia under the Uribe administration. Recognizing that terrorism and the illicit narcotics trade in Colombia are inextricably linked, the U.S. Congress granted new expanded statutory authorities in 2002 making U.S. assistance to Colombia more flexible in order to better support President Uribe's unified campaign against narcotics and terrorism.

The results thus far have been impressive, but much remains to be done. U.S. policy toward Colombia supports the Colombian Government's efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, intensify counter-narcotics efforts, foster socioeconomic development, address immediate humanitarian needs, and end the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Promoting security, stability, and prosperity in Colombia will continue as long-term American interests in the region.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BOGOTA (E) Address: Cra. 45 No. 22D-45; APO/FPO: APO AA 34038; Phone: (571) 315-0811; Fax: (571) 315-2197; INMARSAT Tel: 683131545/46; Workweek: 0800-1700; Website: http://bogota.state.gov

AMB:William B. Wood
AMB OMS:Cherryl D. Busch
DCM:Milton K. Drucker
DCM OMS:Mary Navarro
CG:Raymond G. McGrath
POL:Jeffrey Delaurentis
CON:Gregory Segas
MGT:Kathleen V. Hodai
AFSA:Joseph Runyon
AGR:David Mergen
AID:Liliana Ayalde
APHIS:VACANT
ATF:Orlando Blanco
CLO:Christine DeRienzo
CUS:George Guzman
DAO:Brian Butcher
DEA:David Gaddis
ECO:Francisco Fernandez
FCS:Robert L. Farris
FMO:Thomas Doherty
GSO:Richard Price
ICASS Chair:Lizette Yrizarry
IMO:Byron Leo Hudkins
IPO:Gregory S. Lee
IRS:Olga Acevedo
ISO:Dongni D. Alcantara
ISSO:Dongni D. Alcantara
LEGATT:Wilfrid W. Meyer
MLO:Kevin Saderup
NAS:Julie G. Connor
PAO:Anne T. Callaghan
RSO:Robert Hartung
Last Updated: 10/25/2005

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW Washington,
DC 20520
Main Switchboard: 202-647-4000
(http://www.state.gov)

U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center, International Trade Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue Washington,
DC 20230
(tel: 800-USA-TRADE,
Internet: http://www.ita.doc.gov)

Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce
Calle 98, @2264, Oficina 1209 Apartado Aereo 8008
Bogotá,Colombia
(tel: (571) 621-5042/7925/6838,
fax: (571) 612-6838,
email: [email protected])

Chapters in Cali, Cartagena, Medellín.


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

August 15, 2005

Country Description:

Colombia is a medium-income country with a diverse economy. Travelers to the capital city of Bogota may require some time to adjust to the altitude (8,600 feet), which can affect blood pressure, digestion, and energy level. Persons with medical conditions related to the circulatory or respiratory system should ask their physician if travel to Bogota or other high-altitude locations is advisable. Tourist facilities vary in quality, according to price and location.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

U.S. Citizens (who are not also Colombian citizens) must show a valid U.S. passport to enter and depart Colombia. Tourists must also provide evidence of return or onward travel. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a tourist stay of 60 days or less. Stiff fines are imposed if passports are not stamped on arrival or if the traveler remains in Colombia for more than 60 days without the authorization of the Colombian Immigration Agency (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, Jefatura de Extranjeria, "DAS Extranjeria"). The length of stay granted to persons entering Colombia as a tourist will be determined by the Immigration official at the Port of Entry. Normal limits vary between thirty and ninety days. Any foreigner who has entered Colombia with a visa with a validity of more than three months is required to register the visa at the Immigration office within fifteen days of arrival in Colombia. Fines will be imposed on visa holders who do not comply with this requirement. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Colombia must obtain a new passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the main immigration office in Bogota to obtain permission to depart. An exit tax must be paid at the airport when departing Colombia.

According to Colombian law, any person born in Colombia must use their Colombian passport to enter and leave Colombia, even if also a citizen of another country. Therefore, if you are a Colombian-American citizen, you should be prepared to carry your Colombian passport as well as your U.S. passport on your trip.

For further information regarding entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Colombian Embassy at 2118 Leroy Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 387-8338; Internet website http://www.colombiaemb.org; or the Colombian consulate in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco or San Juan.

Additional Requirements for Minors:

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments, including Colombia's, have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Colombia requires that minors (under 18), regardless of nationality, who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish and notarized. An "apostille" must then be affixed to the document by the designated state government authority. A list of designated state authorities may be found on the Internet at: http://travel.state.gov/family/family_issues/divorce/divorce_591.html. Finally, the Colombian Embassy or a Colombian consulate in the United States must authenticate the authorization and birth certificate. If documents are prepared in Colombia, only notarization by a Colombian notary is required. A permission letter prepared outside of Colombia is valid for 90 days. A permission letter prepared in Colombia is valid for 60 days.

Safety and Security:

Although rates of common crime and violence by narcotics traffickers and terrorist groups have decreased, travel to Colombia still can involve considerable risk.

The Secretary of State has designated three Colombian groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. These groups have carried out bombings and other attacks in and around major urban areas, including against civilian targets. Terrorist groups have also targeted critical infrastructure (water, oil, gas, electricity), public recreational areas, and modes of transportation.

During the past two years, incidence of kidnapping and other violent crime has decreased markedly in most urban centers, including Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena. Nevertheless, Colombia continues to have a high rate of kidnapping for ransom, with 185 kidnappings reported in the first four months of 2005.

American kidnap or murder victims have included journalists, missionaries, scientists, human rights workers and businesspeople, as well as persons on tourism or family visits, and even small children. No one can be considered immune. In 1999, the FARC murdered three U.S. citizens whom it had kidnapped. On February 13, 2003, a plane carrying five U.S. Government defense contractors crashed in a remote area of the country. Two crewmembers, a Colombian and a U.S. citizen, were killed by the FARC and the three other U.S.-citizen crewmembers were taken hostage. The FARC continues to hold all three captive. In the past five years, 30 more American citizens were reported kidnapped. Although the U.S. Government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of American hostages, and the Colombian Government has had some success with its hostage-recovery teams, rescue capabilities are nevertheless limited. Colombian law requires that private persons coordinate efforts to free kidnapped individuals with the Director of the Colombian Office of Anti-Kidnapping (Ministerio de Defensa/Programa Para la Defensa de la Libertad Personal).

In-country travel by U.S. Embassy employees, both official and private, to high-threat areas, is subject to strict limitations and reviewed case by case. U.S. Embassy employees are allowed to travel by air. Bus transportation is off-limits to U.S. Embassy personnel. On occasion U.S. Embassy personnel have been prohibited from frequenting the Zona Rosa or Parque 93, Bogotá's principal entertainment districts, due to the possibility that they could become the targets of crime and/or violence.

The U.S. Embassy must approve in advance the official travel to Colombia of all U.S. Government personnel. Such travel is approved only for essential business. Private travel by U.S. military personnel to Colombia requires advance approval by the U.S. Embassy. Non-military employees of the U.S. Government do not need Embassy approval for private travel.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Petty crime is prevalent in cities, especially in the vicinity of hotels and airports. Theft of hand luggage and travel documents at airports is common, particularly at El Dorado International Airport in Bogota. Violence occurs frequently in bars and nightclubs. Taking illegal taxis, which are sometimes characterized by a driver and a companion and irregular markings, is dangerous. Travelers should not get into a taxi that already has one or more passengers. Travel by bus is risky. Attempts at extortion and kidnappings on rural buses are not unusual. In general, travel by road in rural areas is dangerous because of the kidnapping threat and activity by organized criminal groups. In no case should Americans travel by rural road at night.

Criminals sometimes use the drug "scopolamine" to incapacitate tourists in order to rob them. The drug is administered in drinks (in bars), through cigarettes and gum (in taxis), and in powder form (tourists are approached by someone asking directions, with the drug concealed in a piece of paper, and the perpetrator blows the powder into the victim's face). The drug renders the person disoriented and can cause prolonged unconsciousness and serious medical problems.

Another common scam is an approach to an obvious tourist by an alleged "policeman," who says he wants to "check" the foreigner's money for counterfeit U.S. dollars. The person gives the criminal money, receives a receipt, and the "policeman" disappears.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies in quality elsewhere. Several incidents of U.S. citizen death and serious medical complications resulting from elective, aesthetic surgery (e.g., liposuction) have been reported to the U.S. Embassy. The frequency of such incidents appears to be on the rise. Should U.S. citizens elect to undergo plastic surgery in Colombia despite the risks, the Department of State recommends that travelers confirm their surgeon's credentials with the American Board of Plastic Surgery (www.abplsurg.org). The American Board of Plastic Surgery only oversees the credentials of surgeons trained and licensed to practice in the United States.

Travelers to the capital city of Bogota may require some time to adjust to the altitude (8,600 feet), which can affect blood pressure, digestion, and energy level. Persons with medical conditions related to the circulatory or respiratory system should ask their physician if travel to Bogota or other high-altitude locations is advisable.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Colombia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Poor

Traffic laws are sporadically followed and rarely enforced, a chaotic and dangerous reality for travelers in the major cities. Colombian authorities estimate that a traffic accident occurs every ten minutes; urban pedestrians constitute the largest category of traffic-related casualties. Public transportation is not a safe alternative; buses and, to a lesser extent, taxis are frequent targets for criminals.

Although limited laws exist in Colombia to protect the safety of travelers on the roads, they are rarely enforced. Seat belts are mandatory for the two front-seat passengers in a vehicle. Car seats are not mandatory for children, but a child under ten years old may not be seated in the front seat. Urban speed limits range from 28 to 37 mph (45 to 60 kph); rural speed limits are usually 50 mph (80 kph), unless otherwise indicated. If an accident occurs, the involved parties must remain at the scene until the authorities arrive; leaving the scene of the accident constitutes an admission of guilt.

Although road security has improved in some areas, such as around the capital, Bogotá, for security reasons the Embassy strongly recommends against most rural road travel by American citizens in Colombia. The Government of Colombia has instituted special programs to promote road travel during holidays, but out-side of these periods, the strong presence of guerrilla and paramilitary groups and common criminals in rural areas makes travel on these roads dangerous. In regions where the government has not established full authority, guerrilla groups frequently establish roadblocks in order to rob and/or kidnap travelers. The geographic scope of government or guerrilla control is subject to change, sometimes without notice. Any inter-city travel by American citizens should be done by airplane. For additional information about road travel in Colombia, see the U.S. Embassy home page at http://usembassy. state.gov/bogota.

Visit the website of Colombia's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.turismocolombia.com/home_E.htm. For specific information concerning Colombian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Colombian Vice-Ministry of Tourism at the following address and/or phone numbers: Viceministerio de Turismo, Calle 28 No. 13a-15, Piso 17, Santa Fe de Bogota, COLOMBIA; 011-57-1-283-9927 or 011-57-1-283-9558.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Colombia as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Colombia's air carrier operations.

Customs Regulations:

Colombian law prohibits tourists and business travelers from bringing firearms into Colombia. The penalty for illegal importation and/or possession of firearms is three to ten years in prison. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Colombia in Washington or one of Colombia's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Colombian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Colombia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

State of Emergency:

On occasion, the Government of Colombia has declared a modified state of emergency. During these times, American citizens may find their movements or civil liberties restricted due to curfews, registration requirements, or other security-related measures. American citizens are advised to be alert to changes in the emergency status.

Disaster Preparedness:

Colombia is an earthquake-prone country. U.S. citizens in Colombia may refer to information on dealing with natural disasters on the U.S. Embassy's web site at http://bogota.usembassy.gov/. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Colombia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Colombia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The Consular Section is open for American Citizens Services, including registration, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday through Thursday, excluding U.S. and Colombian holidays. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida El Dorado and Carrera 50; telephone (011-57-1) 315-0811 during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or 315-2109/2110 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (011-57-1) 315-2196/2197; Internet website http://bogota.usembassy.gov/. The Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which provides some limited consular services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (011-57-5) 353-2001; fax (011-57-5) 353-5216; e-mail: [email protected]

Travel Warning

May 04, 2005

This Travel Warning is being issued to remind American citizens of ongoing security concerns in Colombia. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued March 3, 2004.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Colombia. Violence by narcoterrorist groups and other criminal elements continues to affect all parts of the country, urban and rural, and border areas. Citizens of the United States and other countries continue to be the victims of threats, kidnappings, and other violence.

Violence has decreased markedly in most urban centers, including Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena. Nevertheless, since the year 2000, 32 Americans were reported kidnapped in various parts of the country, including four in 2004. No one can be considered immune on the basis of occupation, nationality or any other factor. A number of kidnappings are committed by terrorist groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). The FARC are suspected of being responsible for holding captive three Americans since February 2003. The U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped Americans. However, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to, or strike deals with terrorists, so the U.S. government's ability to assist kidnapped U.S. citizens is limited.

Violence in Cali and the surrounding areas remains high, much of it related to the illicit drug trade. Much of rural Colombia also remains extremely dangerous due to the presence of narcoterrorists and Colombian government operations against them. While family members are allowed to accompany U.S. government officials assigned to Colombia, in-country travel by U.S. officials and their families is subject to restrictions. Travel by air is allowed to all major cities, but urban and intra-city bus transportation is off-limits to official Americans. U.S. citizens should not travel by road outside of urban areas at night.

As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. U.S. travelers can also get up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 in the U.S. or Canada or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for Colombia and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at http://travel.state.gov.

International Adoption

January 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note:

Colombian law does not allow for private adoptions. Children may be adopted only through the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and approved adoption agencies. Every adopted child must have a final adoption decree in order to leave Colombia. Colombian law only allows for adoptions by a married man and woman. Colombian law also requires that both adopting parents be physically present when the adoption is presented to a "family judge". No exceptions are made for this requirement, and the process takes two to four weeks, sometimes more. After both parents have appeared before the court, one of the parents may return to the United States, but the other parent must remain in Colombia until the adoption/immigrant visa process is completed.

Patterns of Immigration of Adopted Orphans to the U.S.:

Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

Fiscal Year: Number of Immigrant Visas Issued

FY 2004: 287
FY 2003: 272
FY 2002: 334
FY 2001: 266
FY 2000: 246

Adoption Authority in Colombia:

The government office responsible for adoptions in Colombia is the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF).

BIENESTAR FAMILIAR (ICBF)
Grupo Nacional de Adopciones
Avenida 68 # 64-01
Bogotá, Colombia
Telephones: 011-57-1-437 7630
Ext. 3158 – 3157
Internet: www.icbf.gov.co (Spanish)
http://www.icbf.gov.co/ingles/home.asp (English version)

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents:

Colombian law only allows for adoptions by a married man and woman. The Colombian adoption laws require that at least one of the adopting parents be over twenty-five years of age and be physically, emotionally, and economically capable of supporting the adopted child. In practice, newborns are assigned to younger couples, and older children are assigned to older couples.

Time Frame:

It is hard to predict how long an adopting family should expect for the adoption to be completed. There are many factors that determine how long the adoption and visa process takes, including how long it takes to have paperwork approved in the United States and in Colombia. In addition, factors including the desired sex and age of a child play a role, as well as the age of the prospective parents. Couples receiving visas for their newly adopted children typically report that the entire process took from 18 to 30 months.

Colombian Adoption Agencies:

The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) licenses adoption agencies to process international adoptions. Please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family for a list of agencies.

Colombian Adoption Attorneys:

Please contact ICBF and licensed adoption agencies for their list of recommended attorneys who work with international adoptions.

Adoption Fees in Colombia:

Again, it is difficult to predict how much the entire adoption process will cost as each case has its own unique circumstances. Parents receiving visas for their adopted children have reported spending between $12,000 and $20,000 from start to finish.

Adoption Procedures:

Once an adoptive couple has decided that Colombia is the country from which they wish to adopt, they must first contact the ICBF or an accredited adoption agency in Colombia (listed above) in order to obtain a list of adoption agencies in the United States, nearest to the couple's place of residence, that are accredited by the Colombian Government. One of these adoption agencies in the United States will perform the home study and will assist prospective parents in preparing the Form I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) and its supporting documents for approval by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Please note that many of the documents required for the I-600A are the same that are required for ICBF, so it is wise to review both lists to avoid duplicating efforts.

Once the I-600A has been approved by DHS, parents must compile the list of documents, below, for submission to the ICBF. Once the ICBF approves the package of documents, it will be in a position to inform adoptive parents (through their agencies) about the availability of children in need of a family placement and the amount of time it is likely to take to complete the adoption. This timeline will depend on several factors, including the parent's age, the desired sex of the child, age of the desired child, and how many children are available at the time. ICBF will inform the parents (again, through the agencies) once a child has officially been assigned to them.

After the parents are informed that they have been assigned a child, they then travel to Colombia to begin the legal process with Colombian authorities. The ICBF or the Colombian adoption agency will assist the family with obtaining the documents needed to complete the Colombian legal procedures, including (but not limited to) the adoption decree, a new Colombian birth certificate, and a new Colombian passport.

Once all the Colombian legal proceedings are complete, the family is ready to visit the U.S. Embassy to obtain the immigrant visa used to travel to the United States. Please refer to the list below of specific documents required the day of the immigrant visa interview. The Embassy handles visas for adopted children Monday through Thursday, except Colombian or U.S. holidays, from 8:30am to 11:00am.

Letter Required By Colombian Judges:

In order for the Embassy to issue the letter required by the Colombian Family Judges, which commits the Embassy to issuing an immigrant visa if all adoption and U.S. immigration requirements are met, the Embassy needs to have received an Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (Form I-600A) approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The adopting parents file this petition in the United States at the USCIS service center responsible for the district in which they reside (information on USCIS office locations can be found at http://uscis.gov/graphics/fieldoffices/index.htm). Please note that if the adoptive parents reside in Colombia, they should contact the Embassy in Bogotá for instructions. Anyone with questions may contact the Embassy any working day from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and ask for the person responsible for processing visas for adopted children. Tel. (57)(1) 383-2795.

Documents Required by ICBF for Adoption in Colombia:

The following is a list of documents that U.S. adoptive parents are required to submit to the ICBF while the parents are still in the U.S. and before they travel to Colombia to adopt a child:

  • Application Form for adoption which can be provided by the ICBF, adoption agencies in Colombia or found on the ICBF Website: www.icbf.gov.co;
  • Birth certificates of adoptive parents with all notations;
  • Marriage certificate or proof of common law relationship of adoptive parents;
  • Medical examination certificates clearly explaining that adoptive parents are mentally and physically capable of caring for a child (or children), issued by a recognized medical institution;
  • National background clearance issued by a competent police authority. For U.S. Citizens, this means a set of fingerprint cards (with fingerprints), and the results of a national law enforcement records check obtained from the FBI. To obtain the U.S. national law enforcement records check, each parent should send a new set of fingerprint cards (separate from the set that will be sent to the ICBF) to the FBI. The cards may be requested from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). When completed, the cards for the U.S. records check as well as the US $85.00 fee and a letter of intent (for adoption purposes) should be sent to the address below. The FBI may take as long as two to three months to return the completed results.
  • Birth certificates of any children previously adopted by adoptive parents;
  • Certificate of financial ability; employment letters explaining time of service and monthly salary received in US dollars;
  • If self employed, a certified document regarding the parent's financial resources or last income tax return with supporting documents is required;
  • Social and psychological study of the adopting family that establishes physical, mental, moral and social capacity; and
  • If there were previous marriages or partners of adopting parents, proof of dissolutions and reasons for such dissolutions should be presented.

Authenticating U.S. Documents to be Used Abroad:

All U.S. documents submitted to the Colombian government/court must be authenticated. Please visit the U.S. Department of State Office of Authentications Web site for additional information about authentication procedures.

Colombian Embassy and Consulates in the United States:

Colombian Embassy; 2118 Leroy Place
NW; Washington, DC 20008;
Telephone: (202) 387-5858, (202) 332-7476.

Consulate in Atlanta; 5901 - C Peachtree Dunwoody Road;
Suite 375; Atlanta, GA 30328;
Phone: 770-668-0451/0512/0552;
EXT: 21-22-23-24;
Fax: 770-668-0763.

Consulate in Boston;
535 Boylston Street;
11th Floor; Boston, MA 02116;
Phone: 617-536-6222;
Fax: 617-536-9372.

Consulate in Chicago; 500 North Michigan Avenue;
Suite 2040; Chicago,
IL 60611;
Phone: 312-923-1196 or 312-923-9034/5;
Fax: 312-923-1197.

Consulate in Houston; 5851 San Felipe,
Suite 300; Houston,
TX 77057;
Phone: 713-527-8919 or 713-527-9093;
Fax: 713-529-3395.

Consulate in Los Angeles; 8383 Wilshire Blvd.;
Suite 420; Beverly Hills, CA 90211;
Phone: 323-653-9863 or 323-653-4299;
Fax: 323-653-2964.

Consulate in Miami; 280 Aragon Ave.; Coral Gables,
FL 33134;
Phone: 305-448-5558; 305-441-1235; or 305-448-4179;
Fax: 305-441-9537.

Consulate in New York; 10 East 46th Street; New York City,
NY 10017;
Phone: 212-949-9898 or 212-370-0004;
Fax: 212-972-1725.

Consulate in San Francisco; 595
Market Street; Suite 2130; San Francisco,
CA 94105;
Phone: 415-495-7195/96;
Fax: 415-777-3731.

Consulate in San Juan; Edificio Mercantil; Pl 814;
Avenida Ponce de Leon; Hato Rey,
PR 00918;
Phone: 787-754-6899 or 787-754-6885;
Fax: 787-754-1675.

Consulate in Washington DC; 1101 17th Street
NW; Suite 1007; Washington,
DC 20036;
Phone: 202-332-7476;
Fax: 202-332-7180.

U.S. Immigration Requirements:

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

U.S. Embassy in Colombia:

The United States Embassy is located at: Calle 22 D Bis # 47-51, Bogotá, Colombia.

Additional Information:

Specific questions about adoption in Colombia may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-404-4747.

views updated

COLOMBIA

Compiled from the November 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Colombia

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
GOVERNMENT
DEFENSE
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 1.14 million sq.km. (440,000 sq.mi.); about three times the size of Montana; fourth-largest country in South America.

Cities: Capital—Bogotá (pop. about 6 million). Other major cities—Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena.

Terrain: Flat coastal areas, with extensive coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, three rugged parallel mountain chains, central highlands, and flat eastern grasslands.

Climate: Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Colombian(s).

Population: 42 million.

Annual population growth: 1.56%.

Religion: Roman Catholic 90%. Language: Spanish.

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—80% of children enter school. Only 5 years of primary school are offered in many rural areas. Literacy—93% in urban areas, 67% in rural areas.

Health: Infant mortality rate—25/1,000. Life expectancy—men 65 yrs., women 76 yrs.


Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: July 20, 1810.

Constitution: July 1991.

Branches: Executive—President (chief of state and head of government). Legislative—Bicameral Congress. Judicial—Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Superior Judicial Council.

Administrative divisions: 32 departments; Bogotá, capital district.

Major political parties: Conservative Party of Colombia, Liberal Party, and numerous small political movements (most of them allied with one or the other major party).

Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over.


Economy

GDP: (2003 projected) $74.6 billion.

Annual growth rate: (2003 projected) 2.2%.

Per capita GDP: (2003 projected) $1,709.

Government: (2003 projected)30.2% of GDP.

Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds.

Manufacturing: (13.9 of GDP) Types—textiles and garments, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, wood products, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electrical equipment.

Agriculture: (12.7% of GDP) Products—coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum. Cultivated land: 8.2% of total area.

Other sectors: (by percentage of GDP) Financial services—17.1%; commerce—10.6%; transportation and communications services—8.2%; mining and quarrying—4.1%; construction and public works—4.6%; electricity, gas, and water—3.1%.

Trade: Exports (2003 projected)—$11.8 billion: petroleum, coal, coffee, flowers, textiles and garments, ferronickel, bananas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, gold, sugar, cardboard containers, printed material, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds. Major markets—U.S., Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Venezuela. Imports (2003 projected)—$12.6 billion: machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, metals/metal products, plastic/rubber, paper products, aircraft, oil and gas industry equipment, and supplies. Major suppliers—U.S., Germany, Japan, Panama, Venezuela.


PEOPLE

Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Migration from rural to urban areas has been prevalent. The urban population increased from 57% of the total population in 1951 to approximately 74% by 1994. Thirty cities have a population of 100,000 or more. The nine eastern lowlands departments, constituting about 54% of Colombia's area, have less than 3% of the population and a density of less than one person per square kilometer (two persons per sq. mi.). Ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous peoples, Spanish colonists, and Africans. Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully indigenous on the basis of language and customs.




HISTORY AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

During the pre-Colombian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were primitive hunters or nomadic farmers. The Chibchas, who lived in the Bogotá region, were the largest indigenous group.

The Spanish sailed along the north coast of Colombia as early as 1500; however, their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. In 1549, the area was a Spanish colony with the capital at Santa Fe de Bogot á. In 1717, Bogotá became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. The city became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City.

In August 2000 the capital's name was officially changed from "Santa Fe de Bogotá" to the more commonly used "Bogotá." On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogotá created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed.


The Republic and La Violencia (The Violence)

The new Republic of Greater Colombia included all the territory of the former Viceroyalty. Simon Bolivar was elected its first president and Francisco de Paula Santander, vice president. Two political parties grew out of conflicts between the followers of Bolivar and Santander and their political visions—the Conservatives and the Liberals—and have since dominated Colombian politics. Bolivar's supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, sought strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church, and a limited franchise. Santander's followers, forerunners of the Liberals, wanted a decentralized government, state rather than church control over education and other civil matters, and a broadened suffrage.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time. Colombia maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free elections. Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia's history also has been characterized by widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties. The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) claimed an estimated 100,000 lives, and La Violencia (1946-1957) cost another 300,000 Colombians.


The National Front

In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gomez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) proclaimed the "Declaration of Sitges," in which they proposed a "National Front" whereby the Liberal and Conservative parties would govern jointly. The presidency would be determined by regular elections every 4 years; the two parties would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices.

The National Front ended La Violencia, and National Front administrations instituted social and economic reforms in cooperation with the Alliance for Progress. Although the system established by the Sitges agreement was phased out by 1978, the 1886 Colombian Constitution—in effect until 1991—required that the losing political party be given adequate and equitable participation in the government. The 1991 Constitution does not have that requirement, but subsequent administrations have included members of opposition parties.


Post-National Front Years

Between 1978 and 1982, the government focused on ending the limited, but persistent, Cuban-backed insurgencies that sought to undermine Colombia's traditional democratic system. In 1984, President Belisario Betancur, a Conservative who won 47% of the popular vote, negotiated a cease-fire that included the release of many guerrillas imprisoned during the effort to overpower the insurgents. The cease-fire ended when Democratic Alliance/M-19 (AD/M-19) guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985.

An attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogotá by the AD/M-19 on November 6-7, 1985, and its violent suppression by the army, shocked Colombians. Of the 115 people killed, 11 were Supreme Court justices. Although the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) renewed their truce in March 1986, peace with other revolutionary movements, in particular the AD/M-19—then the largest insurgent group—and the National Liberation Army (ELN) was remote as Betancur left office.

The AD/M-19 and several smaller guerilla groups were successfully incorporated into a peace process during the late 1980s, which culminated in a national assembly to write a new constitution, which took effect in 1991. The FARC had declared a unilateral cease-fire under Betancur, which led to the establishment of the Union Patriotica (UP), a legal and non-clandestine political organization. After growing violence against its UP members, when an estimated 1,000-3,000 were killed, the truce with the FARC again ended in 1990.

Following administrations had to contend with the guerrillas, paramilitaries, and narcotics traffickers. Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential candidates before Cesar Gaviria Trujillo was elected in 1990. Since the death of Medellín cartel leader Pablo Escobar in a police shootout in December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with that organization have abated as the "cartels" now are broken up into multiple, smaller and often-competing trafficking organizations. Nevertheless, violence continues as these drug organizations resort to violence as part of their operations as well as to protest against government policies, especially extradition.

President Ernesto Samper assumed office in August 1994. However, a political crisis relating to large-scale contributions from drug traffickers to Samper's presidential campaign diverted attention from governance programs, thus slowing, and in many cases, halting progress on the nation's domestic reform agenda.


The Pastrana Administration and Peace Process

On August 7, 1998, Andres Pastrana became President of Colombia. A member of the Conservative Party, Pastrana defeated Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa in a run-off election marked by high voter turnout and little political unrest. During his administration, high unemployment, increased countrywide guerrilla attacks by the FARC and ELN, widespread drug production and the expansion of paramilitary groups all hindered the Pastrana administration's ability to solve the country's problems.

No single explanation fully addresses the deep roots of Colombia's present-day troubles, but they include limited government presence in large areas of the interior, the expansion of illicit drug cultivation, endemic violence, and social inequities. In order to confront these challenges, the Pastrana administration unveiled its "Plan Colombia" in late 1999, a comprehensive strategy to deal with these longstanding, mutually reinforcing problems. The main objectives of Plan Colombia are to promote peace, combat the narcotics industry, revive the Colombian economy, improve respect for human rights, and strengthen the democratic and social institutions of the country.


The Uribe Administration

President Alvaro Uribe, a Harvard and Oxford-educated lawyer, was elected President of Colombia in May 2002 on a line platform to restore security to the country. An independent, he was elected with 56% of the vote, giving him a strong mandate. Among his promises was to continue to pursue the broad goals of the Pastrana administration's Plan Colombia, but within the framework of a long-term security strategy.

His inauguration on August 7, 2002 brought about violent attacks. Though Uribe was spared, the rockets launched at the presidential palace by FARC terrorists killed 19 people and injured many more. Uribe declared a state of limited emergency as a first step toward strengthening the country's law enforcement and military capabilities.

In the fall of 2002, the administration released the much-awaited Colombian national security strategy, entitled Democratic Security and Defense Policy. The Plan fit within the broader social, economic, and political goals of Plan Colombia. Though much attention has been focused on the security and military aspects of Colombia's situation, the administration also is spending significant time on issues such as expanding international trade, supporting alternate means of development, and reforming Colombia's judicial system.




GOVERNMENT


Constitutional Reforms

Colombia's present Constitution, enacted in July 1991, strengthened the administration of justice with the provision for introduction of an accusatory system that will ultimately replace the existing Napoleonic Code. Other significant reforms under the new Constitution provide for civil divorce, dual nationality, the election of a vice president, and the election of departmental governors. The Constitution expanded citizens' basic rights, including that of "tutela," under which an immediate court action can be requested by an individual, if he/she feels that his/her constitutional rights are being violated, and there is no other legal recourse. The national government has executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as an independent Attorney General (fiscal) elected for a 4-year term by the Congress. The president is elected for a 4-year term and cannot be re-elected. The 1991 Constitution reestablished the position of vice president, who is elected on the same ticket as the president. By law, the vice president will succeed in the event of the president's resignation, illness, or death.

Colombia's bicameral Congress consists of a 102-member Senate and a 161-member House of Representatives. Senators are elected on the basis of a nationwide ballot, while representatives are elected in multimember districts co-located within the 32 national departments.

The country's capital is a separate district and elects its own representatives. Members may be re-elected indefinitely. Congress meets twice a year, and the president has the power to call it into special session, if required. Colombia's legal system has recently begun to incorporate some elements of an oral, adversarial system. The judicial branch's general structure is composed of four distinct jurisdictions (civilian, administrative, constitutional and special). Colombia's highest judicial bodies include the co-equal Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Constitutional Court, and the Superior Judicial Council. This sometimes leads to conflicting opinions since there is no court which has clear authority over the decisions of the other three.


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 11/13/03


President: Uribe, Alvaro

Vice President: Santos, Francisco

Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Cano Sanz, Carlos Gustavo

Min. of Commerce, Industry, & Tourism: Botero, Jorge Humberto

Min. of Communication: Pinto de De Hart, Martha

Min. of Culture: Araujo, Maria

Min. of Energy & Mines: Mejia, Luis Ernesto

Min. of Environment, Housing, & Territorial Development: Suarez Perez, Sandra

Min. of Finance & Public Credit: Carrasquilla, Alberto

Min. of Foreign Relations: Barco, Carolina

Min. of Interior & Justice: Pretelt de la Vega, Sabas

Min. of National Defense: Uribe Echavarria, Jorge Alberto

Min. of National Education: Velez White, Cecilia Maria

Min. of Social Protection: Palacio Betancourt, Diego

Min. of Transportation: Gallego Henao, Andres Uriel

Dir., National Planning: Montenegro, Santiago

Pres., Bank of the Republic: Urrutia Montoya, Miguel

Prosecutor General: Osorio, Luis Camilo

Ambassador to the US: Moreno Mejia, Luis Alberto

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Giraldo, Luis Guillermo



Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington.




DEFENSE

Colombia's Ministry of Defense, charged with the country's internal and external defense and security, has an army, navy—including marines and coast guard—air force, and national police under the leadership of a civilian Minister of Defense. In 2000, Colombia assigned 3.2% of its GDP to defense, according to the National Planning Department. The security forces number about 250,000 uniformed personnel: 145,000 military and 105,000 police. President Uribe is ushering in even higher levels of spending for the military, largely funded through a one-time tax.

Many Colombian military personnel have received training in the United States or in Colombia. The United States has provided equipment to the Colombian military and police through the military assistance program, foreign military sales, and the international narcotics control program.




ECONOMY

Colombia is a free market economy with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. Transition from a highly regulated economy has been underway for more than a decade. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization or "apertura," and this has continued since then, with tariff reductions, financial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and adoption of a more liberal foreign exchange rate. Almost all sectors became open to foreign investment although agricultural products remained protected.

Unlike many of its neighboring countries, Colombia has not suffered any dramatic economic collapses. The Uribe administration seeks to maintain prudent fiscal policies. The administration has chosen to finance much of its increased spending on security through a one-time tax on the nation's wealthiest citizens. The administration also has pledged to invest heavily in the country's infrastructure. GDP growth for 2003 was projected to be 2.2% and as of October 2003, unemployment has declined to 14%.

In addition to the domestic goals of keeping inflation low and maintaining a stable currency (the Colombian peso), the administration has put a heavy emphasis on increasing trade liberalization. The administration's strong fiscal management helped it to obtain new loans from the IDB and World Bank. Additionally, in June 2003 the IMF approved a standby loan program worth $2 billion over the next 2 years. This agreement replaces a previous agreement negotiated by the Pastrana administration.

The Colombia economy, which has stagnated since 1999, is starting to rebound, as indicated by 2003 first quarter GDP growth of 3.8%. Much of this impressive growth can be attributed to the newly signed Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). The ATPDEA- benefited exports to the U.S. fueled industrial production during the first quarter ($700 million in exports in the first quarter of 2003 vs. $700 million annually since the late 1990s). New investments in sectors that benefit from expanded ATPDEA benefits could generate more than 250,000 jobs by 2004.


Trade

Colombia's balance of trade showed a surplus of $2.7 billion in 2000. Total 2000 imports were $11.5 billion, while exports were $13.0 billion. Estimated 2001 imports were $12.7 billion with $14.5 exports. Colombia's major exports continue to be petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, gold, and nontraditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, semiprecious stones, sugar, and tropical fruits). The United States remained Colombia's major trading partner. In 2001, the U.S. received 49.8% of Colombia's exports and provided 40% of its imports. The EU, Japan, and the Andean Pact countries also are important trading partners.

The petroleum, natural gas and coal mining, chemical, and manufacturing industries attract the greatest U.S. investment interest. U.S. investment accounted for 37.8% ($4.2 billion) of the total $11.2 billion in foreign direct investment at the end of 1997, excluding petroleum and portfolio investment.

Colombia improved protection of intellectual property rights through the adoption of three Andean Pact decisions in 1993 and 1994, but the United States remains concerned over deficiencies in licensing, patent regulations, and copyright protection.


Mining and Energy

Colombia is well-endowed with minerals and energy resources. It has the largest coal reserves in Latin America and is second to Brazil in hydroelectric potential. Estimates of oil reserves in 1995 were 3.1 billion barrels. It also possesses significant amounts of ferronickel, gold, silver, platinum, and emeralds.

The discovery of two billion barrels of high-quality oil at the Cusiana and Cupiagua fields, about 125 miles east of Bogotá, has enabled Colombia to become a net oil exporter since 1986. Total crude oil production averages 620,000 b/d; about 184,000 b/d is exported. The Pastrana government significantly liberalized its petroleum investment policies, leading to an increase in exploration activity. Refining capacity cannot satisfy domestic demand, so some refined products, especially gasoline, must be imported.

The country's oil pipelines are a frequent target of extortion and bombing campaigns by the ELN and, more recently, the FARC. The bombings have caused substantial environmental damage, often in fragile rainforests and jungles, in addition to causing significant loss of life. During 2001, more than 70 attacks on the important Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline occurred, causing it to be shut down some 240 days, with revenue losses to Colombia of nearly $500 million.

Colombia has 6.6 billion tons of proven coal reserves, and its coal production totaled 21.7 million metric tons (mt) in 1995. Production from El Cerrejon—the world's largest, open-pit coalmine—located on Colombia's Guajira Peninsula, accounted for 65% of that amount. Colombia's exports of 18.4 million mt of steam coal in 1994 made it the world's fourth-largest exporter of the commodity. Private and public investments in Colombia's coal fields and related infrastructure projects are expected to enable the country's exports to grow to about 35 million mt nationally.

While Colombia has vast hydroelectric potential, a prolonged drought in 1992 forced severe electricity rationing throughout the country until mid- 1993. The consequences of the drought on electricity-generating capacity caused the government to commission the construction or upgrade of 10 thermoelectric power plants, half of which will be coal-fired and half fired by natural gas. Additionally, the government has awarded contracts to begin construction on a natural gas pipeline system that will extend from the country's extensive gas fields to its major urban centers. Other projects underway include the $6 billion development of the Cusiana and Cupiagua oil fields and the development of coal fields in the north of the country.


Foreign Investment

In 1991 and 1992, the government passed laws to stimulate foreign investment in nearly all sectors of the economy. The only activities closed to foreign direct investment are defense and national security, disposal of hazardous wastes, and real estate—the last of these restrictions is intended to hinder money laundering. Colombia established a special entity-CoIn-vertir—to assist foreigners in making investments in the country. Foreign investment flows for 2000 were $3.9 billion, up from $2.0 billion in 1999. As of September 2001, foreign investment flows had reached $4.3 billion. In spite of the difficulties, which include the perception of Colombia as a high-risk country, and a fall in privatization receipts, foreign investment has increased in the last years mainly due to investments in the oil sector.

The United States accounted for 26.3% of the total $23.0 billion stock of non-petroleum foreign direct investment in Colombia as of September 2001. The petroleum and natural gas coal mining, chemical and manufacturing industries attract the greatest U.S. investment interest.


Industry and Agriculture

The most industrially diverse member of the five-nation Andean Community, Colombia has four major industrial centers—Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla—each located in a distinct geographical region. Colombia's industries include textiles and clothing, leather products, processed foods and beverages, paper and paper products, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement, construction, iron and steel products, and metalworking.

Columbia's diverse climate and topography permit the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. In addition, all regions yield forest products, ranging from tropical hardwoods in the lowlands to pine and eucalyptus in the colder areas. Cacao, sugarcane, coconuts, bananas, plantains, rice, cotton, tobacco, cassava, and most of the nation's beef cattle are produced in the hot regions from sea level to 1,000 meters elevation. The temperate regions—between 1,000 and 2,000 meters—are better suited for coffee; flowers; corn and other vegetables; and fruits such as citrus, pears, pineapples, and tomatoes. The cooler elevations—between 2,000 and 3,000 meters—produce wheat, barley, potatoes, cold-climate vegetables, flowers, dairy cattle, and poultry.

Narcotics Cultivation and Control

Colombia is the world's leading supplier of refined cocaine and a growing source for heroin. More than 90% of the cocaine that enters the United States is produced, processed, or transshipped in Colombia. The cultivation of coca more than doubled in 1999 to 302,500 acres from 125,700 acres in 1995, primarily in areas where government control is weak.

Despite the death of Medellín cartel drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in 1993 and the arrests of major Cali cartel leaders in 1995 and 1996, Colombian drug cartels remain among the most sophisticated criminal organizations in the world, controlling cocaine processing, international wholesale distribution chains, and markets. In 1999, Colombian police arrested over 30 narco-traffickers, most of them extraditable, in "Operation Millennium" involving extensive international cooperation. More arrests were made in a following "Operation Millennium II."

Colombia is engaged in a broad range of narcotics control activities. Through aerial spraying of herbicide and manual eradication, Colombia has attempted to keep coca, opium poppy, and cannabis cultivation from expanding. The government has committed itself to the eradication of all illicit crops, interdiction of drug shipments, and financial controls to prevent money laundering.

In December 1996 and February 1997, the Colombian Congress passed legislation to toughen sentencing for those convicted of narco-trafficking offenses, including asset forfeiture and money-laundering penalties. In November 1997, the Colombian Congress amended the Constitution to permit the extradition of Colombian nationals, albeit not retroactively. In late 1999, former President Pastrana authorized the first extradition in almost 10 years of a Colombian trafficker to stand trial for U.S. crimes. From August 1998 to October 2003, 146 persons have been extradited to the United States, most for narcotics charges.

Alternative development programs were introduced in 1999. Corruption and intimidation by traffickers complicate the drug-control efforts of the institutions of government. Control and exploitation of narcotics trafficking has become a major source of revenue for the FARC, ELN, and AUC.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

In 1969, Colombia, along with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, formed what is now the Andean Community. (Venezuela joined in 1973 and Chile left in 1976.) In the 1980s, Colombia broadened its bilateral and multilateral relations, joining the Contadora Group, the Group of Eight (now the Rio Group), and the Non-Aligned Movement, which it chaired from 1994 until September 1998. In addition, it has signed free trade agreements with Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the United Nations and the Organization of American States and in their subsidiary agencies. Former President Gaviria became Secretary General of the OAS in September 1994 and was re-elected in 1999. Colombia was a participant in the December 1994 and April 1998 Summits of the Americas and followed up on initiatives developed at the summit by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level meetings on trade and science and technology.




U.S.-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS

In 1822, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and to establish a resident diplomatic mission. Today, about 25,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. embassy as living in Colombia, most of them dual nationals.

Currently, there are about 250 American businesses conducting operations in Colombia. In 1995-96, the United States and Colombia signed important agreements on environmental protection and civil aviation. The two countries have signed agreements on asset sharing and chemical control. In 1997, the United States and Colombia signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels.

During the period 1988-96, the United States provided about $765 million in assistance to Colombia. In 1999, U.S. assistance exceeded $200 million. This funding supported Colombia's counter-narcotics efforts, such as arresting drug traffickers, seizing drugs and illegal processing facilities, and eradicating coca and opium poppy.

Editor's Update
April 2004


A report on important events that have taken place since the last State Department revision of this Background Note.


In November 2003, the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) disarmed 800 of its fighters. The organization stated its 13,000 paramilitaries would disarm by the end of 2005. As of April 2004, Uribe's approval ratings were high (70-80%), in large measure due to his "tough on crime" policy. There have been calls to revise the constitution to allow for his reelection in 2006.

During the Pastrana administration, relations with the United States improved significantly. The United States responded to the Colombian Government's request for international support for Plan Colombia by approving a $1.3 billion aid package in July 2000, in addition to previously programmed assistance of nearly $300 million for FY 2000. U.S. programs consisted of a combination of military and police assistance designed to increase counter-narcotics capabilities and included a package of nearly $230 million for human rights, humanitarian assistance, alternative development, and economic and judicial reforms. These programs were an integral component of U.S. support for Plan Colombia's overall goals.


U.S. support for Colombia continues to evolve under the Uribe administration. Recognizing that terrorism and the illicit narcotics trade in Colombia are inextricably linked, the U.S. Congress granted new expanded statutory authorities in 2002 making U.S. assistance to Colombia more flexible in order to better support President Uribe's unified campaign against narcotics and terrorism.

Close cooperation continues with passage by the United States of legislation providing about $400 million in additional funding for these programs. Moreover, since the end of the FARC safe haven, the United States has responded to the Colombian Government's request for increased intelligence support, expedited delivery of spare parts paid for by Colombia, and support for counter-narcotics operations in the former demilitarized zone.

U.S. policy toward Colombia supports the Colombian Government's efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, intensify counter-narcotics efforts, foster socioeconomic development, address immediate humanitarian needs, and end the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Promoting security, stability, and prosperity in Colombia will continue as long-term American interests in the region.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Bogota (E), Calle 22D-BIS, No. 47-51, Apartado Aereo 3831, • APO AA 34038, Tel [57] (1) 315-0811, Fax 315-2197; CON Tel. 315-1566; FCS Fax 315-2171/2190; GSO Fax 315-2207.

AMB: William B. Wood
AMB OMS: Sheila M. Jones
DCM: J. Richard Baca
POL: Alex Lee
ECON: Francisco Fernandez
COM: Karla B. King
CON: Patricia A. Butenis
MGT: Paul E. Rowe
RSO: Mark J. Hunter
PAO: James Foster, Acting
IRM: Byron Hudkins
AID: J. Michael Deal
DAO: COL William G. Graves, USA
USMILGP: COL Simeon Trombitas
FAS: David J. Mergen
APHIS: John L. Shaw
FAA: Victor Tamariz (res. Miami)
NAS: Phyllis Powers
DEA: Leo Arreguin, Jr.
AOJ: Franklin Jones
ICITAP: Gary T. Sheridan
JUDATT: Carmen Colon
LEGATT: Manuel Aponte-Davila
OPDAT: Maria Dominguez
ATF: Kenneth G. Engstrom
IRS: Clyde Rhoades
OFAC: Michael D. Swanson
CUS: George Guzman, Acting
USSS: Edwin Lugo



Barranquilla (CA), Calle 77, No. 68-15; Tel. (95) 353-1130/2001; Fax 353-5216.