Background Notes: Colombia

PA/PC Source: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs Date: Feb 15, 19902/15/90 Category: Country Data Region: South America Country: Colombia Subject: Travel, History, International Organizations, Trade/Economics [TEXT] Official Name: Republic of Colombia


Area: 1.14 million sq. km. (440,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Texas, New Mexico, and Arkansas combined. Cities: Capital-Bogota (pop. approx. 5 million). Other major cities-Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena. Terrain: Flat coastal areas, central highlands, mountains, and eastern plains. Climate: Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands. People Nationality: Noun and adjective-Colombian(s). Population (1988): 31.3 million. Annual growth rate: 1.8%. Ethnic groups: Mestizo 58%, white 20%, Mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Indian 3%, Indian 1%. Religion: Roman Catholic 95%. Language: Spanish. Education: Years compulsory-5 (primary school). Attendance-77% of children enter, but only one-half of the schools offer the full 5-year cycle. Only 28% finish primary school. Literacy-80%. Health: Infant mortality rate-56/1,000. Life expectancy (1987)-67 yrs. Work force (14 million): Agriculture-26%. Industry-21%. Services- 58%.
Type: Republic. Constitution: 1886 (amended). Independence: July 20, 1810. Branches: Executive-president (chief of state and head of government). Legislative-bicameral congress. Judicial-Supreme Court. Administrative divisions: 23 departments; 4 intendencias; 5 comisarias; Bogota special district. Major political parties: Liberal Party, Social Conservative Party and Patriotic Union Party (UP)-a political movement formed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the communist party (PCC). Suffrage: Universal age 18 and over. Central government budget: $4.5 billion. Defense: 14% of government budget and 1.9% of GDP. Flag: Top half yellow, bottom half blue and red stripes of equal width.
GDP (1988): $39 billion. Real GDP growth (1988): 3.7%. Per capita GDP (1988): $1,280. Avg. inflation rate (1988): 28%. Unemployment (Dec. 1988): 10.3%. Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, copper, emeralds. Agriculture (21% of GDP): Products-coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum. Cultivated land-5% of total land area. Industry (21% of GDP): Types-textiles and garments, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, tourism. Trade (1988 ): Exports-$5.3 billion: coffee, petroleum, gold, bananas, flowers, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, ferronickel, textiles and garments, coal and coke, sugar, cardboard containers, printed matter, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds. Major markets-U.S., F.R.G., Netherlands, Japan. Imports-$4.5 billion: machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, metals/metal products, plastic/rubber, paper products. Major suppliers-U.S., Venezuela, Japan, F.R.G., France. Official exchange rate: Crawling devaluation maintained to compensate for high inflation. 381 pesos=U.S.$1 (June 1989). Fiscal year: Calendar year.
Membership In International Organizations
UN and most of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); Organization of American States (OAS); the Group of Eight; Nonaligned Movement; Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); Andean Pact; International Coffee Organization (ICO); Latin American Integration Association (ALADI); Latin American Economic System (SELA); INTELSAT.


Located in the northwest corner of South America, Colombia is bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama. It is the continent's fourth largest country and has a coastline of more than 1,448 kilometers (900 mi.) on the Pacific Ocean and 1,760 kilometers (1,100 mi.) on the Caribbean Sea. The Andes Mountains enter Colombia in the southwest and fan out into three distinct ranges running through the country from southwest to north and northeast. Sprinkled throughout the ranges are some 30 volcanoes. In November 1985, Volcano Nevado del Ruiz, near the town of Manizales and about 50 miles west of Bogota, erupted and caused severe mud slides as the glacier atop the volcano melted. The town of Armero was completely inundated, and more than 20,000 persons were killed. Colombia has three main topographical regions: -- Flat coastal areas broken by the high Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range; -- Central highlands; and -- Sparsely settled eastern plains (llanos) drained by tributaries of the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers. The climate varies from tropical heat on the coast and the eastern plains to cool, springlike weather with frequent light rains in the highlands, which experience two dry seasons, from December to February and from June to August. Bogota is 2,630 meters (8,630 ft.) above sea level. The average daily high temperature is between 18 C and 20 C (64 F-67 F); lows range from 9 C to 11 C (48 F-51 F).


Colombia is the fourth most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina. Movement from rural to urban areas has been heavy. The urban population increased from 57% of the total population in 1951 to about 70% by 1987. The nine eastern departments and territories, constituting about 54% of Colombia's area, have less than 3% of the population and a density of fewer than 1 person per square kilometer (2 persons per sq. mi.). The country has 30 cities with 100,000 or more inhabitants. The diversity of ethnic origins results from the intermixture of indigenous Indians, Spanish colonists, and African slaves. Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully Indian on the basis of language and customs. Few foreigners have immigrated to Colombia. In 1988, an estimated 18,000 U.S. citizens were living there.


During the pre-Columbian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by Indians, mostly primitive hunters or nomadic farmers. The Chibchas, who lived in the Bogota region, attained the highest level of civilization among the various Indian groups. Spaniards first sailed along the north coast of Colombia as early as 1500, but the first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. In 1549, the area was established as a Spanish colony with the capital at Bogota. In 1717, Bogota became the capital of the viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what is now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. The city became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possession in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City. On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogota created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Total independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed. The Republic After the defeat of the Spanish Army, the republic included all the territory of the former viceroyalty. Simon Bolivar was elected first president and Francisco de Paula Santander vice president. In 1822, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and to establish a resident diplomatic mission. Ecuador and Venezuela withdrew from the republic in 1830 and became independent states. Panama remained part of Colombia until 1903. Since then, two political parties that grew out of conflicts between the followers of Bolivar and Santander-the Conservatives and the Liberals-have dominated Colombian politics. Bolivar's supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, advocated a strong centralized government, a close alliance between the government and 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. Those were the principal topics of political debate throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Conservatives established a highly centralized government. The Liberals eventually won universal adult suffrage and a large measure of separation of church and state, although the Catholic Church still retains some important powers, such as the right to give religious instruction in all public schools. Competitively elected Liberal administrations were in power from 1860 to 1884, from 1930 to 1946, and from 1974 to 1982, and from 1986 to the present. The Conservative Party held office from 1884 to 1930, from 1946 to 1953, and from 1982 to 1986. Colombia, unlike many Latin American countries, established early a solid tradition of civilian government and regular free elections. The military has seized power only three times in Colombian history - in 1830, 1854, and 1953. On the first two occasions, the military dictator was overthrown and civilian rule restored in less than a year. Colombia has had only one full-fledged civilian dictatorship (1884-94). Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia's history has been characterized by periods of widespread violent conflict. Two particularly tragic civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal Parties. The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) cost an estimated 100,000 lives. During La Violencia (the violence) of the 1940s and 1950s, 200,000-300,000 people were killed. A military coup in 1953 brought Gen. 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 in 1957 by the military with the backing of both political parties, and a provisional government took office. The National Front In July 1957, the most recently elected Conservative President, Laureano Gomez (1950-53), and the most recently elected Liberal President, Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945- 46), issued the "Declaration of Sitges" in which they proposed the formation of a "National Front," under which the Liberal and Conservative Parties would jointly govern. Through regular elections, the presidency would alternate between the parties every 4 years; the parties also would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices. Colombian voters approved a series of constitutional amendments necessary to effect these proposals and, in 1958, the provisional government relinquished power to Lleras Camargo, who had been elected the first president of the National Front government with 80% of the vote. As specified in the National Front agreement, a Conservative, Guillermo Leon Valencia, was nominated to succeed Lleras Camargo in 1962; he won 62% of the vote. Another Liberal, Lleras Camargo's distant cousin, Carlos Lleras Restrepo, was elected president in 1966 with 71% of the vote. The first three National Front presidents brought an end to La Violencia and the blind partisanship that 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 the international lending agencies, achieved major economic development. In December 1968, after 2 years of effort, President Lleras Restrepo won congressional ratification of important constitutional reforms, which abolished a requirement of a two-thirds majority of congress for passage of major legislation, increased the powers of the executive branch in economic and development matters, and provided for a carefully measured transition from the National Front to traditional two-party competition. The last president under the National Front's alternating system was Misael Pastrana, a Conservative elected in 1970, who won the presidency with 40.3% of the vote, defeating three other candidates. His closest contender was Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, the candidate of the National Popular Alliance (ANAPO), a populist opposition party. President Pastrana continued the Lleras administration's emphasis on social objectives and economic development, giving high priority to generating employment, primarily by stimulating urban construction. The parity arrangement for other offices has since been phased out. In departmental (state) legislatures and city councils, it ended in 1970, and in the congress, in 1974. Parity in the appointment of the cabinet, governors, and mayors continued until 1978. Although the parity system established by the Sitges agreement is no longer in effect, the Colombian Constitution requires that the losing major political party be given adequate and equitable participation in the government. This was done by both Liberal President Turbay, who took office in 1978, and Conservative President Belisaro Betancur, elected in 1982. In 1986, however, the Conservative Party declined Liberal President Virgilio Barco's offer of three cabinet positions. Barco's cabinet is the first one-party cabinet in almost three decades. Leftist parties, including the Communist Party of Colombia, rarely have obtained more than a few percentage points of total votes cast. In mid-1985, the Pro-Soviet Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) established a political party, the Patriotic Union (UP). In the 1986 congressional elections, the UP won six seats in the Senate and nine in the House; it received 4.3% of the votes in the presidential elections. The UP, which has tried to distance itself from direct identification with the FARC, won 16 of the 1,009 mayoral positions contested in Colombia's first popular election of mayors on March 13, 1988, according to Colombian Government statistics.


The 1886 constitution has been amended frequently and substantially. Major revisions were approved in December 1979, and a revision enacted in January 1986 provided for the direct election of mayors. The Barco administration has presented further major constitutional amendments to the 1988 session of congress. Freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, along with other basic rights, is guaranteed by the constitution. The national government has separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Elected for a 4-year term, the president may not serve consecutive terms. The president's extensive powers include appointing cabinet ministers and departmental and territorial governors without congressional confirmation. No vice president as such exists. Every 2 years, congress elects a "designate" from the president's party to become acting president in the event of the president's resignation, illness, or death. If the president is unable to serve, the acting president must call new elections within 3 months. The designate has no duties, receives no salary, and may hold other public or private positions while serving as designate. If congress fails to elect a designate and the president cannot serve, the foreign minister becomes acting president. Colombia's bicameral congress consists of a 114-member Senate and a 199-member Chamber of Representatives, all elected on the basis of proportional representation. Members and alternates are elected within a few months of or at the same time as the president but may be reelected indefinitely. If a member of congress is absent temporarily or permanently, the seat is taken by the alternate. Congress meets annually from July 20 to December 16, and the president may call it into special session at other times. Judicial power is exercised by the 24-member Supreme Court of Justice, subordinate courts, and the Council of State. New Supreme Court Justices are selected by justices already in office. Appointments are lifetime until mandatory retirement at age 65. The country is divided into 23 departments, the Federal District of Bogota, 4 intendencias, and 5 comisarias (territories of lesser rank not having local legislatures). Presidentially appointed governors are considered agents of the national government, although their powers are somewhat limited by elected departmental legislatures, which are elected to 2-year terms.
Principal Government Officials
President-Virgilio Barco Vargas Ministers Agriculture-Gabriel Rosas Vega Communications-Enrique Danies Economic Development-Maria Mercedes Cuellar de Martinez Finance and Public Credit-Luis Fernando Alarcon Mantilla Foreign Relations-Julio Londono Paredes Government-Carlos Lemos Simmonds Justice-Roberto Salazar Labor and Social Security-Maria Teresa Forero De Saade Mines and Energy- Margarita Mena de Quevedo National Defense-Gen. Oscar Botero Restrepo Education-Manuel Francisco Becerra Health-Eduardo Diaz Uribe Public Works and Transport-Priscila Ceballos Ordonez Ambassador to the United States-Victor Mosquera Chaux Ambassador to the Organization of American States-Leopoldo Villar Borda Ambassador to the United Nations- Enrique Penaloza Camargo Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place, NW., Washington, D.C. 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Colombian Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, East Lake, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Juan, St. Louis, Tampa, Washington, and Wheeling.


Liberal candidate Alfonso Lopez Michelsen won the 1974 election with 55% of the vote. His administration was noted for its efforts to resolve problems of inflation, unemployment, and inequitable income distribution while cutting government spending and making it more efficient. The Liberals also won the 1978 election behind Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala, with 49.5% of the vote to the Conservative Party's 46.6%. Several radical parties split the remainder of the vote. The Turbay administration attempted to end the limited but persistent Cuban-backed insurgency that sought to undermine Colombia's traditional democratic system. The success of the government's efforts enabled Turbay, before leaving office, to lift the state of siege that had been in effect for most of the previous 30 years. The Liberals failed in their attempt to win three consecutive presidencies when they lost the 1982 election behind Alfonso Lopez Michelsen. Conservative candidate Belisario Betancur won 47% of the popular vote to Lopez' 41%. Luis Carlos Galan, who had split from the Liberal Party and formed his own New Liberal Party, took 10% of the vote. The Liberals won a majority of House and Senate seats from the Conservatives, with leftist front and independent candidates winning only two seats in each chamber. In 1988, the New Liberals were reincorporated into the Liberal Party. President Betancur raised Colombia's international profile with his often outspoken opinions on events in Central America through his position as a member of the Contadora group. He also stressed combating Colombia's insurgency through a cease-fire arrangement that included the release of many guerrillas imprisoned during the Turbay years. The cease-fire was signed in 1984 but began to unravel when the M-19 guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985, by which time violence had reached levels prior to the cease-fire. Meanwhile, the growing wealth of Colombian narcotics chiefs in the early 1980s, from the sale of cocaine to the United States and other industrialized countries, was accompanied by a marked increase in the wealth of guerrilla groups, especially the FARC, through their participation in the illicit cocaine industry. This wealth has led to a marked growth in the power of these two illegal entities to operate with impunity in Colombia. A vicious attack on the Supreme Court by the M-19 on November 6-7, 1985, shocked Colombia. Of the 115 people killed, 11 were Supreme Court Justices. Although the government and the FARC, the largest guerrilla group, renewed their truce indefinitely in March 1986, peace with the M-19, the EPL, and dissident factions of other guerrilla groups seemed remote as Betancur left office. In September 1988, President Barco unveiled a new peace plan requiring insurgents to cease antigovernment violence as a condition to negotiations. As of June 1989, the only group to accept this requirement was the M-19, which currently is negotiating with the government. Voters elected Liberal Virgilio Barco to the presidency in 1986 by the largest margin of victory ever. The Barco administration has found that its greatest challenge is from narcotics producers/processors and guerrillas. Violence emanating from both groups has increased sharply. Like the Betancur administration from 1984 to 1986, the Barco government places a high priority on combating the production and trafficking of illegal narcotics. Statistics for drug and chemical seizures and cocaine labs destroyed have steadily risen over time. In 1986, 4.3 metric tons of cocaine were seized; in 1988, that figure had reached 15.5 metric tons; as of April 1989, 23 metric tons had been seized. Between 1981 and September 1988, 60 metric tons of cocaine, 17,760 metric tons of marijuana, and more than 4,000 cocaine labs were destroyed. Lab seizures on the Magdalena River in April and May 1988 and January and February 1989 rivaled the Tranquilandia raids of 1984. Police and military units have destroyed numerous other significant labs. Their antinarcotics activity has grown in scope and effectiveness over time, spearheaded by a special National Police Anti-Narcotics Unit. Colombian importance as a marijuana supplier has been reduced through a vigorous herbicidal eradication program. More than 38,000 hectares of marijuana have been eradicated. No safe and effective herbicide for coca has yet been identified. Narcotics activity is responsible for most of the violence in Colombia. Narcotraffickers are at war with the police and the military, with guerrilla groups (some of which also are involved in narcotics), and with other drug lords. Narcotics-related violence includes the murders of Attorney General Carlos Mauro Hoyos- Jimenez and UP President Jaime Pardo Leal. Narcotraffickers also have subverted and intimidated the Colombian judicial system, and they remain a pervasive influence in much of Colombian society. To address the problems of guerrilla violence and political and economic underdevelopment, the Barco administration has pursued long-range policies designed to deliver resources to the poorest areas of the country while bringing them into the political mainstream of the nation. The first popular election of mayors in Colombia's more than 1,000 municipalities took place on March 13, 1988. This political reform is expected to extend real power and decisionmaking to the local level in order to spread the country's democratic institutions to all areas of the country. By the early 1980s, it had become obvious to Colombia's political elite that many democratic institutions were atrophying; that for democracy to work it had to be infused with new life through real political competition at the local level in order to make national level parties more responsive. The mayoral elections were carried out peacefully with the Liberals winning 445 mayoralties, the Conservatives 413, the UP 16, and other candidates 135.


During the 1970s, Colombia's industrial development policy shifted from an emphasis on import substitution toward export expansion and diversification. The export share of nontraditional goods such as clothing, yarns, cut flowers, cardboard, cement, emeralds, sugar, rice, and cotton has continued to grow. The economy experienced a real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 6.1% between 1970 and 1978. After 1979, GDP growth declined due to a combination of external and internal factors that included world economic recession, low prices for many export goods, depressed domestic demand, increasingly uncompetitive domestic industry, and high domestic interest rates. Real GDP growth bottomed out in 1982 at 1%. In 1984-85, the government initiated a wideranging structural adjustment program, including trade liberalization, a sharp currency devaluation, and budget and fiscal reforms. The economy responded vigorously, with GDP growth jumping from 2.4% in 1985 to 5.1% in 1986 and 5.4% in 1987. The decrease of the GDP growth rate for 1988 to 3.7% reflects a reduced coffee harvest, guerrilla disruption of petroleum production, and the government's tight money policy to control inflation. The government is projecting a return to 5% growth for 1989. Inflation continues to be one of the chief economic problems with annual rates in the 25%-30% range. Although Colombia's net international reserves grew to $5.6 billion in 1981, a sharp decline in coffee earnings and a continued rise in energy import costs caused reserves to drop to roughly $1.8 billion by the end of 1984. A sharp improvement in the trade balance-aided by improved coffee prices and commencement of oil exports-helped bring the reserve level back up to $3.8 billion by the end of 1988. The total foreign debt of $16 billion ($13 billion public) is low by regional standards. The debt service ratio is estimated at 42% of exports. In 1985, the government sought new external financing of $4.1 billion from multilateral institutions and commercial banks for 1985-86. In December 1985, Colombia signed a $1 billion syndicated loan with foreign commercial banks, followed by a similar loan in 1987, and a final syndication of $1.7 billion to round out requirement for 1989-90. The purpose of these loans was to refinance a bulge in principle repayments occurring during 1987-90. Long-range prospects for settlement of the country's current external financing problems appear good, given the promise of major earnings from energy exports, rapid growth in other exports, and the country's reputation for conservative financial management.
Mining and Energy
Colombia has substantial mineral and energy resources, including petroleum, coal, nickel, gold, emeralds, natural gas, and hydroelectric power. Colombia became a petroleum exporter in mid-1986. Total production has since grown rapidly to more than 430,000 barrels per day (b/d) in early 1989 (when not disrupted by guerrilla attacks), leaving about 200,000 b/d for export after domestic consumption. Coal also is becoming an important energy source and export commodity. Excellent thermic quality, low sulphur and ash content, and geographic location make Colombian coal an attractive energy source for world consumers. From 1 million tons in 1984, exports have increased to 11 million in 1988. Exports are expected to continue rising to 20 million tons a year by 1993. At the same time, coal is expected to play an increasingly important role in meeting domestic energy needs. Colombia has an estimated 4% of world nickel production and 15% of world ferronickel production. Earnings from exports of ferronickel totaled $180 million in 1988, due to a sharp price increase but may drop again as prices decline. Colombia produces 90% of the world's supply of emeralds and is an important producer of gold and platinum. Other mineral resources include iron ore, phosphate rock, limestone, gypsum, and salt.
Coffee remains the single most important item in Colombia's export sector, although its share in total export earnings has dropped sharply in recent years, from more than half to 30% in 1988. The world's second largest coffee producer, Colombia produces 11-13 million bags (60 kilograms each) a year, or 12%- 15% of the world's coffee. Coffee normally earns Colombia about $1.5 billion a year; due to drought in Brazil, such earnings in 1986 exceeded $2.7 billion. Colombian exports (f.o.b.) in 1988 were $5.3 billion, only slightly higher than $5.25 billion in 1984, due to lower oil export volume and prices. The United States receives the largest share of Colombia's exports, followed by West Germany, Venezuela, Netherlands, Japan, and Sweden. Colombian imports (f.o.b.), consisting primarily of wheat, aircraft, transportation equipment, electric generators, iron, steel, and aluminum, were $4.5 billion in 1988, up from $3.8 billion in 1987. More than one-third of Colombian imports come from the United States. Other major suppliers (none with more than 10% share) are Japan, West Germany, Venezuela, Brazil, and France. Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Industry Agriculture employs 26% of Colombia's labor force while contributing 22% of total GDP. Because of Colombia's diverse climate and topography, various crops can be grown. Cacao, sugarcane, coconuts, bananas, plantains, rice, cotton, tobacco, cassava, and most of the nation's cattle are produced in the hot regions-from sea level to 1,000 meters (3,300 ft.). The temperate regions-1,000-2,000 meters (3,300-6,600 ft.)-are better suited for coffee, flowers, corn and other vegetables, and fruits such as citrus, pears, pineapples, and tomatoes. The cold regions-2,000-3,000 meters (6,600-9,900 ft.)- produce wheat, barley, potatoes, cold-climate vegetables, dairy cattle, and poultry. All of these regions yield various forest products, ranging from tropical hardwoods in the hot country to pine and eucalyptus in the colder areas. The most industrialized member of the five-nation Andean Pact, Colombia has four major industrial centers-Barranquilla, Cali, Medellin, and Bogota-located in distinct geographical regions. The most important manufacturing industries are textiles and clothing, food processing (including beverages), paper and paper products, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement and construction, iron and steel products, and metalworking.
Foreign Investment
The government actively promotes foreign investment. As of December 1988, total registered direct foreign investment was $3 billion, excluding petroleum activities, of which the U.S. share was $2.5 billion.


Colombia traditionally has sought friendly diplomatic and commercial relations with all countries, regardless of their ideologies or political or economic systems. In 1983, Colombia joined Venezuela, Mexico, and Panama in the Contadora group, which has attempted to find a comprehensive peace settlement in Central America, and assumed a role as mediator between creditor countries and Latin American debtor nations. In 1982, Colombia joined the Nonaligned Movement. President Barco's has pursued a less dramatic role in foreign affairs than his predecessor. He has stressed the continued pursuit of peaceful relations with all countries, increased cooperation and consultation with other Latin American countries, especially regarding increased international cooperation in the fight against illicit narcotics trafficking through membership in the Group of Eight. Colombia was elected by consensus of the Latin American group to a 2-year term on the UN Security Council. Through Foreign Minister Julio Londono, President Barco also is pursuing reforms in the structure of the Foreign Ministry designed to improve the implementation of foreign policy. Colombia has played an active role in the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) and their subsidiary agencies. It was the only Latin American country to contribute troops to the UN force in the Korean war. Former President Alberto Lleras Camargo was the first Secretary General of the OAS (1948- 54). President Betancur also played a role in improving international trade conditions for developing countries through the International Coffee Organization (which he helped found), the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), the Inter-American Economic and Social Council, and other international economic forums. Colombia led negotiations that resulted in the signing at Bogota, on May 26, 1969, of an agreement for the gradual development of the Andean Common Market, a subregional grouping within ALADI, whose goal is to reduce trade barriers among the Andean countries and coordinate economic policies. Other members are Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela.


Colombia's Ministry of Defense is charged with the country's internal and external defense and security. The army, navy, air force, and national police are under the leadership of the Minister of National Defense (normally an army general). A small marine corps is part of the navy. Jointly they serve as the country's armed forces and number about 220,000 uniformed personnel-135,000 military; 85,000 police. Many Colombian military personnel have received training in the United States or in U.S. military schools in the former Panama Canal Zone. Over the years, the United States has provided equipment to the Colombian military through the military assistance program or through foreign military sales.


Under President Barco, Colombia and the United States have maintained good relations in general and have increased bilateral cooperation in the area of illicit narcotics. Generally, the record of U.S.-Colombian relations has been one of constructive cooperation. Between 1961 and 1974, the United States provided Colombia $1.4 billion in development assistance- much of it through the Alliance for Progress-for land reform, education, health, housing, transportation, and electrification. More recently, the two governments have closely cooperated in narcotics control efforts. A longstanding problem between the United States and Colombia was the status of three small, uninhabited islands in the Caribbean. It was finally resolved in 1981 with the ratification of the Quita Sueno treaty, in which the United States renounced all claims to the islands without prejudicing the claims of third parties.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador-Thomas E. McNamara Deputy Chief of Mission-J. Phillip McLean Political Counselor-David L. Hobbs Economic Counselor-Robert Bruce McMullen Commercial Attache-Arthur Trezise Administrative Counselor-George Lowe Defense Attache-Col. Eugene E. Bouley, Jr. Agricultural Attache-Larry M. Senger Public Affairs Officer (USIS)-Howard A. Lane Consul, Barranquilla-Ross E. Benson The U.S. Embassy in Colombia is located at Calle 37, No. 3-40, Bogota (tel. 285-1300). The U.S. Consulate in Barranquilla is located at the Centro Comercial Mayorista, Calle 77 Carrera 68 (tel. 545-7088). The mailing address for the embassy and the consulate is APO Miami 34038.


Travel Advisory: Because of sporadic guerrilla activity, travel in certain areas may be hazardous. Before traveling to Colombia, it is recommended that persons check with the nearest U.S. Consulate or with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, in Washington, D.C., for the latest information. Climate and clothing: Climatic variations depend on altitude. Knits and lightweight woolens are suitable in Bogota. Customs: A passport is required for travel to Colombia. Tourists may enter and stay in Colombia for 30 days on a tourist card provided by the airlines serving Colombia, providing the tourist has a booked round trip passage. For a stay beyond 30 days, tourists must obtain a visa from the nearest Colombian Embassy or Consulate. Health: Medical facilities are satisfactory; many doctors have been trained in the United States and speak English. Common medicines are available. Tapwater is not always safe in large cities; food should be prepared carefully. Telecommunications: Long-distance telephone and telegraph service is available. Colombia is in the eastern standard time zone but does not use daylight saving time during the summer. Transportation: Flights to Bogota, Barranquilla, Cali, Medellin, and Cartagena are easy to arrange from the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Local air service is also available. Buses provide service throughout the country. Taxis provide the most reliable public transportation in cities. Tourist attractions: The Bogota Gold Museum and the Caribbean resort of Cartagena, with its 17th century fortifications. National holidays: Establishments, including the U.S. Embassy, may be closed on the following holidays: New Year's Day January 1 Epiphany January 11* St. Joseph's Day March 21* Holy Thursday March 31* Good Friday April 1* Labor Day May 1 Ascension Day May 16* Corpus Christi June 6* Feast of the Sacred Heart June 13* Saints Peter and Paul July 4* Independence Day July 20 Battle of Boyaca August 7 Assumption Day August 15* Columbus Day October 17* All Saints' Day November 7* Independence of Cartagena November 14* Feast of the Immaculate Conception December 8 Christmas Day December 25 *exact day varies each year.


These titles are provided as a general indication of material published on this country. Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications. Bagley, Bruce M. "Colombia: National Front and Economic Development," Robert Wesson, ed., Politics,Policies and Economic Development in Latin America. Stanford: Hoover Press, 1984. Berquist, Charles W. Coffee and Conflict in Colombia 1886-1910. Durham: Duke University Press 1978. Berry, R.A. et al (eds.). Politics of Compromise: Coalition Government in Colombia. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1980. Braun, Herbert. The Assassination of Gaitan: Public Life and Urban Violence in Colombia. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. Corr, Edwin G. The Political Process in Colombia. Denver: University of Denver Press, 1972. Craig, Richard B. "Colombian Narcotics and United States- Colombian Relations." Journal of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs 23. No. 3 (Aug. 1981): 243-270. Dix, Robert H. The Politics of Colombia. New York: Praeger publishers, 1987. Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Avon publishers, 1972. Hartlyn, Jonathan. "Military Governments and the Transition to Civilian Rule: The Colombian Experience of 1957-58." Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 26. No. 2 (May 1984): 245- 81. "Colombia: Old Problems, New Opportunities." Current History. vol. 82 (Feb. 1983), pp. 62-55, 83-83. Henderson, James D. When Colombia Bled: A History of the Violence in Tolima. Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1985. Hirschman, A.O. "Land Use and Land Reform in Colombia." Journeys Toward Progress. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1973, Chap. 2, pp. 95-158. Kline, Harvey F. Colombia: Portrait of Unity and Diversity. Boulder: Westview Press, 1983. "New Directions in Colombia." Current History 84. No. 499 (Feb. 1985): pp. 65-68. Levine, Daniel H. Religion and Politics in Latin America: The Catholic Church in Venezuela and Colombia. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981. Medhurst, Kenneth N. The Church and Labour in Colombia. Manchester: University of Manchester, 1984. Oquist, Paul. Violence, Conflict and Politics in Colombia. New York: Academic Press, 1980. Palacios, Marco. Coffee in Colombia, 1850-1970. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Premo, Daniel. "Colombia: Cool Friendship." Robert Wesson, ed. U.S. Influence in Latin America in the 1980s. Chap. 6. New York: Praeger, 1982. Urrutia, Miguel. The Development of the Colombian Labor Movement. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969. U.S. Department of State. Colombia Post Report. Oct. 1987. World Bank. Colombia: Economic Development and Policy Under Changing Conditions. Washington: World Bank, 984. Available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S.Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402: American University. Area Handbook for Colombia. 1977. U.S. Department of Commerce. Foreign Economic Trends -Colombia. International Marketing Information Pamphlets on Colombia, including a monthly newsletter, "Colombia Today," are available without charge from the Colombia Information Service, 140 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022 (tel. 212-421-8270). Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- Washington, D.C. -- February 1990 -- Editor: Juanita Adams -- Department of State Publication 7767 -- Background Notes Series -- This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission; citation of this source is appreciated. For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. (###)