Official Name: 
Republic of Colombia


Area:  1.2 million sq. km. (440,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Texas, 
New Mexico, and Arkansas combined; fourth-largest country in South 
Cities:  Capital--Santa Fe de Bogota (pop. about 6 million).  Other 
major cities--Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena.  
Terrain:  Flat coastal areas, central highlands, volcanic mountains, and 
eastern plains with extensive coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and 
Caribbean Sea.  
Climate:  Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands. 

Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Colombian(s). 
Population:  36 million.  
Annual growth rate:  1.7%.  
Religion:  Roman Catholic 95%.
Language:  Spanish.  
Education:  Years compulsory--9.  Attendance--80% of children enter 
school.  Only five years of primary school are offered in rural areas.  
Literacy--93% in urban areas, 67% in rural areas.  
Health:  Infant mortality rate--37/1,000.  Life expectancy--67 yrs. men, 
72 yrs. women.

Type:  Republic.
Independence:  July 20, 1810.  
Constitution:  1991.
Branches:  Executive--president (chief of state and head of government).  
Legislative--bicameral congress.  Judicial--Supreme Court, 
Constitutional Court, Council of State. 
Administrative divisions:  32 departments; Santa Fe de Bogota, capital 
Major political parties:  Liberal Party, Social Conservative Party, 
Democratic Alliance/M-19 (AD/M-19), Patriotic Union (UP).  
Suffrage:  Universal age 18 and over. 

GDP (1993):  $50 billion.  
Annual growth rate (1993):  5.3%. 
Per capita GDP (1993):  $1,390.  
Natural resources:  Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, 
gold, silver, copper, emeralds.  
Agriculture (21% of GDP):  Products--coffee, bananas, cut flowers, 
cotton, sugar cane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, 
sorghum.  Cultivated land--5% of total land area.  
Manufacturing (21% of GDP):  Types--textiles and garments,  chemicals, 
metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and 
manufactures, beverages.
Other sectors (by percentage of GDP):  Financial services--15%; social 
and miscellaneous services--14%;  commerce--11%; transportation, 
warehousing, and communications services--9%; construction--3%; 
Trade (1993):  Exports--$7.4 billion:  petroleum, coffee, coal, 
ferronickel, bananas, flowers, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles 
and garments, gold, sugar, cardboard containers, printed matter, cement, 
plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds.  Major markets--U.S., 
Germany, Netherlands, Japan.  Imports--$9 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., Venezuela, Japan, Germany, Panama.  
Exchange rate:  817 Colombian pesos = U.S. $1.  


Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America, after 
Brazil and Mexico.  Movement from rural to urban areas has been heavy.  
The urban population increased from 57% of the total population in 1951 
to about 74% by 1994.  The nine eastern departments, constituting about 
54% of Colombia's area, have less than 3% of the population and a 
density of fewer than one person per square kilometer (two persons per 
sq. mi.).  Thirty cities have 100,000 or more inhabitants.  Residents of 
the high Andes Mountains must cope with sometimes deadly volcanic 
activity--more than 20,000 died in the 1985 eruption of Volcan Nevada 
del Ruiz near the town of Armero in Tolima Department.  The Galeras 
Volcano near Pasto (Narino Department) is active and under observation 
by the Colombian Government.

The ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling 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, 
compared to several other South American countries.


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, dominated the various Indian 

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 Santa Fe de 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 possessions 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 

The Republic

After the defeat of the Spanish army, the republic 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 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, 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, unlike many 
Latin American countries, maintained a tradition of civilian government 
and regular, free elections.  The military has seized power only three 
times in Colombia's history:  in 1830, when Ecuador and Venezuela 
withdrew from the republic (Panama did not become independent until 
1903); in 1854; and in 1953-57.  In the first two instances, civilian 
rule was restored within a year.

Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, 
Colombia's history has been characterized by periods of widespread, 
violent conflict.  Two 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, and up to 300,000 people perished 
during La Violencia ("The Violence") of the 1940s and 1950s.

A military coup in 1953 brought Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla to power.  
Initially, Rojas enjoyed considerable popular support, due largely to 
his success in reducing La Violencia. When he did not restore democratic 
rule, however, he was overthrown by the military in 1957 with the 
backing of both political parties, and a provisional government was 

The National Front

In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gomez (1950-53) and 
former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) issued the 
"Declaration of Sitges," in which they proposed a "National Front" 
whereby the Liberal and Conservative parties would jointly govern.  
Through regular elections, the presidency would alternate between the 
two parties every four years; the parties also would have parity in all 
other elective and appointive offices.

The National Front ended La Violencia.  National Front administrations 
instituted far-reaching social and economic reforms in keeping with the 
Alliance for Progress, an inter-American program of economic assistance 
which began in 1961 with major financial backing by the United States.  

Although the parity system established by the Sitges agreement was 
terminated in 1978, the 1886 Colombian constitution, which was in effect 
until 1991, required that the losing political party be given adequate 
and equitable participation in the government.  Although the 1991 
constitution does not have that requirement, subsequent governments have 
included opposition parties in the government.

Post-National Front Years

The National Front ended in 1974, having made efforts to resolve 
problems of inflation, unemployment, and inequitable income distribution 
while cutting government expenses.  Between 1978 and 1982, the 
government focused on ending the limited, but persistent, Cuban-backed 
insurgency that sought to undermine Colombia's traditional democratic 
system.  The success of the government's efforts enabled it to lift the 
state-of-siege decree that had been in effect for most of the previous 
30 years.

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 began to unravel when Democratic Alliance/M-19 (AD/M-19) 
guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985.

A vicious attack on the Palace of Justice by the AD/M-19 on November 6-
7, 1985, shocked Colombia and the entire world.  Of the 115 people 
killed, 11 were Supreme Court justices.  Although the government and the 
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest guerrilla 
group, renewed their truce in March 1986, peace with the AD/M-19 and 
dissident factions of other guerrilla groups seemed remote as Betancur 
left office.

The next administrations had to contend with both the guerrillas and the 
narcotics traffickers, who operated with relative impunity within 
Colombia.  Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential candidates 
before Cesar Gaviria Trujillo was elected in 1990.  With the death of 
Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar in December 1993, indiscriminate 
acts of violence associated with that organization have somewhat abated.


President Ernesto Samper assumed office in August 1994.  Samper has 
vowed to continue many of the economic and foreign policy goals of the 
Gaviria administration, while also placing greater emphasis on 
addressing social inequities and eliminating poverty.

The new constitution, enacted on July 4, 1991, strengthens the 
administration of justice with the introduction of an accusatorial 
system which replaces the previous Napoleonic Code system.  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 has expanded 
citizens' basic rights, including that of tutela, under which an 
immediate court action can be requested by an individual if he feels his 
constitutional rights are being violated and if there is no other legal 

The national government has separate executive, legislative, and 
judicial branches.  The president is elected for a four-year term and 
cannot be re-elected.  The 1991 constitution re-established 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.  The first Vice President, Humberto De 
La Calle Lombana, took office on August 7, 1994.

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 on a regional 
basis.  The country's capital, Santa Fe de Bogota, is considered a 
separate region and elects its own representatives.  Members may be re-
elected indefinitely, and, unlike the previous system, there are no 
longer alternate congressmen.  Congress meets twice a year, and the 
president has the power to call it into special session when needed. 

Principal Government Officials

President--Ernesto Samper Pizano
Vice President--Humberto de la Calle Lombana
Minister of Foreign Relations--Rodrigo Pardo Garcia-Pena
Minister of Foreign Trade--Daniel Mazuera Gomez
Ambassador to the U.S.--Carlos Lleras de la Fuente
Ambassador to the OAS--Fabio Villegas Ramirez
Ambassador to the UN--Julio Londono Paredes

Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place, 
NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338).  Colombian consulates are 
located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, 
Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan, Tampa, and 


Colombia's Ministry of Defense, charged with the country's internal and 
external defense and security, has an army, navy (which includes a coast 
guard), air force, and national police under the leadership of a 
civilian minister of defense.  The armed forces number about 235,000 
uniformed personnel:  145,000 military and 90,000 police.  Many 
Colombian military personnel have received training in the United States 
or in U.S. military schools in the former Panama Canal Zone.  The United 
States has provided equipment to the Colombian military through the 
military assistance program and foreign military sales.


Colombia undertook a profound economic reform program in 1990-94 that 
opened up its economy to international trade and investment.  The 
government has pursued prudent fiscal, exchange rate, and monetary 
policies and, since 1990, has implemented sweeping changes in the areas 
of finance, labor, exchange rates, and trade.  These measures have been 
largely responsible for the sustained economic growth enjoyed by 
Colombia; 3.8% average GDP growth during the 1990-93 period, and a 
robust 5.3% in 1993.

In 1993, economic growth was accompanied by a decline in inflation (from 
25.1% in 1992 to 22.6% in 1993) and a drop in unemployment (from 10.3% 
in 1992 to 7.9% in 1993) due in large part to tight fiscal and monetary 
policies.  Economic growth in Colombia in 1993 was led by public and 
private investment and domestic aggregate demand, compensating for a 
less dynamic external sector.  Private investment showed a healthy 
increase, 37% in real terms, while public investment was up 15%.  
Private and public consumption rose by 8.8% and 17.8%, respectively.  
Public spending was a major stimulus to growth.  Government spending 
grew by 43%, thanks to higher revenues from sales taxes and import 
duties.  Colombia's GDP is expected to grow by 5% for 1994.

Colombia is the only major Latin American country which did not have to 
reschedule its external debt during the debt crisis of the 1980s.  The 
nation paid both principal and interest to its foreign creditors.  Today 
it enjoys one of the highest credit ratings in the region.  Colombia's 
total foreign debt was  $17.7 billion at the end of 1993, low relative 
to GDP, while its debt service ratio was 32%.  With a strong net 
international reserves position ($7.9 billion at the end of 1993), 
Colombia has successfully re-entered the international capital markets 
in Europe, Japan, and the United States.

Mining and Energy

Colombia is well-endowed with minerals and energy resources.  It has the 
largest coal reserves in Latin America, is second to Brazil in 
hydroelectric potential, and possesses Latin America's fourth-largest 
oil and gas reserves.  It also possesses significant amounts of 
ferronickel, gold, silver, platinum, and emeralds.

The recent discovery of 2 billion barrels of high-quality oil at the 
Cusiana and Cupiagua fields, about 125 miles east of Bogota, assures 
Colombia's crude oil self-sufficiency until well into the next decade.  
Production from those fields is expected to reach 150,000 barrels per 
day (b/d) by mid-1995, and rise to 500,000 b/d early in 1998.  However, 
refining capacity cannot satisfy domestic demand, so some refined 
products, especially gasoline, must be imported.  Plans for the 
construction of a new refinery are under development.  Total crude oil 
production in 1993 was 453,000 b/d; about 184,000 b/d were exported.

Coal production totaled 21.7 million metric tons (mt) in 1993.  
Production from El Cerrejon--the world's largest open pit coal mine, 
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 this commodity.  Private 
and public investment in Colombia's coal fields and related 
infrastructure projects are expected to enable the country to export 
about 35 million mt at the beginning of the next decade.

While Colombia has vast hydroelectric potential, a prolonged drought in 
1992 forced severe electrical rationing throughout the country until 
mid-1993.  The consequences of the drought on electricity-generating 
capacity has caused the government to commission the construction or 
upgrading of 10 thermoelectric power plants.  Half will be coal-fired; 
half will be fired by natural gas.  The government has also begun 
awarding bids for the construction of a natural gas pipeline system that 
will extend from the country's large gas fields to its major population 
centers.  Plans call for the completion of this project, which will make 
natural gas available to millions of Colombian households, by the middle 
of the next decade.


Colombia had a $1.6-billion trade deficit in 1993.  Imports in 1993 
reached $9 billion--51% above the 1992 level.  Imports of capital goods 
rose by 86%, intermediate goods imports were up 16%, and imports of 
consumption goods (most of them durables) jumped by 101%.  The sharp 
rise in imports resulted principally from the trade liberalization 
program begun in 1991.  Exports totaled $7.4 billion in 1993; an 
increase of only 2%.  The relatively small increase was due to 
Colombia's strong peso and to the drop in international prices for major 
exports such as crude oil, coffee, coal, and ferronickel.  Colombia's 
non-traditional exports compensated for the weak performance of 
traditional exports.  The value of non-traditional exports rose 11%, 
with strong showings coming from exports of emeralds, sugar, cut 
flowers, fruit, textiles, and leather products.  Non-traditional goods 
accounted for 56% of total exports in 1993.

The United States is Colombia's principal trading partner, purchasing 
37% of Colombia's exports in 1993.  Other important trading partners for 
Colombia are Venezuela, Japan, Germany, and Panama.  Diplomatic 
relations with a number of Pacific nations were established during the 
Gaviria administration.  Regular diplomatic exchanges with Japan, China, 
South Korea, and other Asian nations are designed to open these markets 
to Colombian products.

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 latter restriction to 
control money laundering).  Colombia established a special entity, 
Coinvertir, to assist foreigners in making investments in the country.  
Colombia received $436 million in non-petroleum related foreign 
investment in 1993.  Major foreign investment projects underway include 
the $6-billion development of the Cusiana and Cupiagua oil fields, 
development of coal fields in the north of the country, and the recently 
concluded licensing for establishment of cellular telephone service.  
The United States accounted for 63% of the $4.4-billion stock of non-
petroleum foreign direct investment in Colombia at the end of 1993.

Industry and Agriculture

The most industrially diverse member of the five-nation Andean Pact, 
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 

Agriculture accounted for 21% of Colombia's GDP in 1993.  Its diverse 
climate and topography permits the cultivation of a wide variety of 
crops.  In addition, all regions yield forest products, ranging from 
tropical hardwoods in the hot country to pine and eucalyptus in the 
colder areas.

Cacao, sugar cane, 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, 
certain 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 cocaine and is the source of 
tons of refined cocaine, heroin, and marijuana shipped to the United 
States and Europe each year.  Although the yield of Colombian opium 
poppies is low, Colombia now has more illicit poppy cultivation than 
Mexico.  In 1993, Colombia closed a bloody chapter in its continuing war 
against narcotics trafficking with the death of drug lord Pablo Escobar 
and the crippling of his notorious Medellin drug cartel.  The remaining 
Cali and other Colombian drug cartels, among the most sophisticated 
criminal organizations in the world, virtually control cocaine 
processing as well as international wholesale distribution chains and 

Colombia is engaged in a broad range of narcotics control activities.  
In Colombia's traditional cannabis growing zones, where intensive 
eradication in previous years had virtually destroyed the crop, there 
was a resurgence of cultivation in 1993 to an estimated 5,000 hectares.  
Through aerial spraying and manual eradication, Colombia has attempted 
to keep opium poppy cultivation from expanding.  The government has 
committed itself to pursuing eradication of all illicit crops, including 
coca and marijuana, during 1995.  Authorities aggressively fumigate 
using a safe agricultural herbicide.

Corruption and intimidation by traffickers complicate the drug-control 
efforts of many Colombian institutions.  A major overhaul of the 
Colombian judicial system shows promise, although changes have yet to 
produce successful prosecution of narcotics traffickers.  Colombia 
passed a revised criminal procedures code in 1993 which permits 
traffickers to surrender and negotiate more lenient sentences in return 
for cooperating with prosecutors.  The Colombian constitution now 
prohibits the extradition of Colombian nationals, but the government 
does extradite citizens of other countries. 


Colombia seeks diplomatic and commercial relations with all countries, 
regardless of their ideologies or political or economic systems.  In the 
1980s, it broadened its bilateral and multilateral relations, joining 
the Non-Aligned Movement (which it will chair 1994-97), the Contadora 
Group, and the Group of Eight (now the Rio Group).  In addition, 
Colombia has signed a free trade agreement with Chile and has negotiated 
such an accord with Mexico and Venezuela. 

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the UN, the 
Organization of American States, and their subsidiary agencies.  Former 
President Gaviria became Secretary General of the OAS in September 1994.  
Colombia hosted the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 
meeting in February 1992 and led negotiations for the establishment of 
the Andean Common Market, or Andean Pact, designed to reduce trade 
barriers and coordinate economic policies among the Andean countries of 
Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela.

Colombia regularly participates in international forums on money 
laundering, chemical controls, and drug abuse prevention.  Colombia 
participated actively in the Organization of American States' drug body 
(CICAD) and in the CICAD-sponsored Caribbean Task Force meeting on money 
laundering, but few measures have been adopted.  

Colombia continues to be one of the primary money-laundering concerns in 
the Western Hemisphere.  While the Colombian Government ratified the 
1988 UN convention on narcotics in 1993--the last of the Andean 
governments to do so--it took important reservations, notably to the 
money-laundering measures, asset forfeiture and confiscation provisions, 
and extradition clauses.  The convention will be formally ratified in 
Colombia only after favorable review by the constitutional court. 


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 17,500 U.S. citizens live in Colombia, most of 
them dual nationals.  The U.S. and Colombian Governments closely 
cooperate and consult on bilateral issues, especially in efforts to curb 
narcotics trafficking and trade.

Recent U.S. bilateral assistance has focused on mutual efforts against 
narcotics trafficking and the modernization of Colombia's judicial 
system.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) commits 
significant resources to judicial reform, focusing on the criminal 
justice sector, including the five regional courts and prosecutorial 
units charged with handling narcotics and terrorism cases; it assists 
the prosecutor general's office as well.  In 1993, USAID sponsored 
training for more than 640 judges and prosecutors and 920 investigators, 
forensic technicians, and others.  Colombia also uses USAID-generated 
funds to help finance local projects encouraging the voluntary 
eradication of opium poppy.  The U.S. and Colombian Governments worked 
closely on methodology used in Colombia's 1993 national drug abuse 
survey--the country's first--which indicated that Colombians 
increasingly abuse drugs. 

Trade Development

The United States is Colombia's principal trading partner, with about 
38% of annual imports.  Colombia now benefits from duty-free entry (for 
a 10-year period) for the majority of its exports to the United States 
under the Andean Trade Preference Act.  The two countries have signed 
agreements on asset sharing, chemical control, and money laundering.  
Colombia improved protection of U.S. intellectual property rights 
through the adoption of the Andean Pact but remains on the U.S. Special 
301 watch list due to continuing concerns over deficiencies in 
licensing, patent regulations, and copyright protection. 

The petroleum and natural gas, coal mining, chemical, and manufacturing 
industries attract the greatest U.S. investment interest.  U.S. 
investment accounted for 63% ($2.7 billion) of the total $4.3 billion in 
foreign direct investment registered between 1967 and mid-1993.  Worker 
rights and conditions in the U.S.-dominated sectors are superior to 
prevailing ones.  Examples include shorter-than-average working hours, 
high wages, and compliance with health and safety standards above the 
national average. 

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--Myles R.R. Frechette
Deputy Chief of Mission--John B. Craig
Political Counselor--Thomas P. Hamilton
Economic Counselor--John L. Pitts
Consul General--Thomas L. Randall, Jr.
Commercial Counselor--Kathryn Haughton
Administrative Counselor--Thomas Tighe
Defense Attache--Col. Stephen W. Justus
Agricultural Attache--Clyde Gumbmann
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--L.W. Koengeter
Regional Security Officer--Bob Brittain
USAID Director--Lars Klaussen

Consular Officer--Marvin Brown

The U.S. embassy in Colombia is located at Calle 38, No. 8-61, Bogota  
(tel. 320-1300).  The U.S. consulate in Barranquilla is located at the 
Centro Commercial Mayorista, Calle 77 Carrera 68 (tel. 45-7088).  The 
mailing address for the embassy and the consulate is APO AA 34038.  


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