U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: Colombia, March 1998  
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. 


OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Colombia 


PROFILE 

Geography

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 
America. 
Cities: Capital--Santa fe de Bogota (pop. about 6 million). Other major 
cities--Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena. 
Terrain: Flat coastal areas, three rugged parallel mountain chains, 
central highlands, and flat eastern grasslands with extensive coastlines 
on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. 
Climate: Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.

People 

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Colombian(s).
Population: 37 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--men 67 yrs., 
women 72 yrs.

Government 

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 
district. 
Major political parties: Liberal Party, Social Conservative Party, 
Democratic Alliance/M-19 (AD/M-19), Patriotic Union (UP). 
Suffrage: Universal age 18 and over. 

Economy ( 1996) 

GDP: $86 billion. 
Annual growth rate: 2.1%. 
Per capita GDP: $2,225.
Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, 
silver, copper, platinum, emeralds. 
Agriculture (20% 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 (19% 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%. 
Community, social, and personal services--14%. Retailing, restaurants 
and hotels--11.5%. Transportation, storage, and communications services-
-9%. Mining and quarrying--4%. Construction and public works--3.6%. 
Electricity, gas, and water--1%.
Trade: Exports--$10.6 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. ( 39%), Germany, 
Netherlands, Japan. Imports--$12.8 1 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. ( 40% %), Venezuela, Japan, Germany, Panama. 
Exchange rate: 1,335 Colombian Pesos=U.S.$1. ( March 1998) 

PEOPLE 

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 the Nevada del 
Ruiz Volcano 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. 

HISTORY 

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 
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 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 
formed.

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 late 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 
installed. 

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 in Bogota 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 abated. 

GOVERNMENT 

President Ernesto Samper assumed office in August 1994. Samper 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. However, Samper's political crisis 
relating to contributions from drug traffickers to his 1994 presidential 
campaign diverted attention away from these social programs, thus 
slowing, and in some cases, halting progress. 

The new constitution, enacted on July 4, 1991, strengthened the 
administration of justice with the introduction of an accusatorial 
system which replaced 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 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 recourse. 

The national government has separate executive, legislative, and 
judicial branches. The President is elected for a four-year term and 
cannot be reelected. 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. The first Vice President, Humberto De La 
Calle Lombana, took office on August 7, 1994. He subsequently resigned 
in September 1996 in protest of Samper's management of the government 
and narco-links, and was replaced by Carlos Lemos Simmonds. 

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 is considered a separate region and elects 
its own representatives. Members may be reelected 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--Carlos LEMOS Simmonds
Minister of Foreign Relations--Camilo REYES Rodriguez (interim)
Ambassador to the U.S.--Juan Carlos ESGUERRA Portacarrero
Ambassador to the OAS--Carlos Holmes TRUJILLO Garcia
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 
Washington. 

DEFENSE 

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 Panama. The United States has provided 
equipment to the Colombian military through the military assistance 
program and foreign military sales. Narcotics decertification in 1996 
forced a temporary halt to U.S. military assistance programs, except for 
those related to counter-narcotics. On August 1, 1997, the U.S. and 
Colombia signed an End Use Monitoring (EUM) memorandum of understanding 
which stipulates that U.S. counternarcotics assistance to the Colombian 
military is conditioned on human rights screening of proposed recipient 
units. 

ECONOMY 

Colombia, under the leadership of President Cesar Gaviria Trujillo, 
undertook a profound economic reform program in 1990-94 that opened up 
its economy to international trade and investment. The Gaviria 
Government pursued prudent fiscal, exchange rate, and monetary policies 
and implemented sweeping changes in the areas of finance, labor, 
exchange rates, and trade. These measures were largely responsible for 
the sustained economic growth enjoyed by Colombia during this period; 
3.8% average GDP growth during 1990-93, and a robust 5.3% in 1995. Upon 
taking office in August 1994, President Samper promised to continue many 
of the programs contained in Gaviria's "apertura," or economic 
liberalization program. While the Samper Administration has not 
undermined "apertura," it also has not pushed it forward. Privatization 
has slowed under the Samper Government.

Political stability questions stemming from allegations that Samper 
accepted drug money in his presidential campaign have affected the 
economy. Samper has made repeated concessions in labor disputes by 
acceding to workers' demands, including inflationary wage increases. 
This led the private sector in 1997 to abandon the "Social Pact for 
Productivity, Prices and Wages," a program instituted in 1995 in which 
the economy's major players (government, private sector, and labor) 
agreed to exercise discipline over wages and prices to keep inflation in 
check. Continued internal security problems stemming from Colombia's 
civil conflict also affect economic growth. 

In 1996, the Colombian economy produced real growth of 2.1%, down from 
the 5.3% recorded in 1995. Economic performance in 1996 owed its 
strength largely to the 7.7% growth in the mining and hydrocarbons 
sector and a 9.9% growth in the services sector. Exports grew only 
slightly, from $10.2 billion 1995 to $10.6 billion in 1996. Unemployment 
rose to 11.5% by the end of 1996, its highest level in almost 10 years. 
The trade deficit of $2.2 billion was compensated for by capital flows 
in the form of foreign direct investment and private sector borrowing. 

Colombia's 1996 foreign exchange reserves were approximately $9.9 
billion. The Government of Colombia failed to bring inflation in at the 
17.6% % target for 1996, with a year-end inflation rate of 21.6%, up 
from 1995's figure of 19.5%. 

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 approximately $28 billion in 1996. 
With a strong net international reserves position ($9.9 billion at the 
end of 1996), Colombia has successfully reentered 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 and is second to Brazil in 
hydroelectric potential. Estimates of oil reserves in 1995 were 3.1 
billion barrels, equal to about 3.5% of the world total. It also 
possesses significant amounts of ferronickel, gold, silver, platinum, 
and emeralds. 

The 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 1 million barrels per day (b/d) 
by the year 2000. 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 averages 620,000 b/d; about 184,000 b/d were 
exported. The Government of Colombia has come under pressure for the 
stringency of its association contracts for the exploration and 
production of Colombia's oil. 

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 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. Coal exports are 
expected to reach 25 million tons in 1996, and 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. 

Trade

Colombia's balance of trade showed a deficit of $2.2 billion in 1996, 
slightly better than the $2.5 billion deficit in 1995. Total imports 
reached $12.8 billion, while exports were $10.6 billion. Colombia's 
major exports continue to be coffee, petroleum, coal, nickel, gold, and 
non-traditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, semi-precious stones, sugar, 
and tropical fruits). Colombia's major trading partner in 1996 continued 
to be the United States, which took 39% of Colombia's exports and 
provided 40% of its imports. The EU and Japan remain important trading 
partners, as do Andean Pact partners, especially Venezuela. 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 $756 million in non-petroleum related foreign 
investment in 1995. 

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 51.2% of the $6.5 billion stock of non-petroleum foreign 
direct investment in Colombia at the end of 1995. 

On October 21, 1995, under the International Emergency Economic Powers 
Act (IEEPA), President Clinton signed an Executive Order barring U.S. 
entities from any commercial or financial transactions with four 
Colombian drug kingpins and with individuals and companies associated 
with the traffic in narcotics, as designated by the Secretary of the 
Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney 
General. The list of designated individuals and companies is amended 
periodically and is maintained by the Office of Foreign Asset Control at 
the Department of the Treasury, tel. (202) 622-0077 (ask for Document 
#1900). 

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 
metalworking. 

Agriculture accounted for 20% of Colombia's GDP in 1996. 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 refined cocaine and a 
growing supplier of heroin, especially to the United States. Colombia's 
territory is also the second-largest area under coca cultivation. 
Despite the death of Medellin cartel drug lord Pablo Escobar in 1993 and 
the arrests of major Cali cartel kingpins in 1995 and 1996, the 
Colombian drug cartels remain among the most sophisticated criminal 
organizations in the world. They control cocaine processing, 
international wholesale distribution chains, and markets. 

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 cultivations 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. 

Corruption and intimidation by traffickers complicate the drug-control 
efforts of many institutions of government. Despite a major overhaul of 
the Colombian judicial system as a result of the 1991 Constitution, 
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 lenient sentences 
in return for cooperating with prosecutors. In December 1996 and 
February 1997, however, the Colombian Congress passed legislation to 
toughen sentencing, 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--which 
could have the effect of shielding major traffickers from justice in the 
United States and other countries where they committed their crimes. The 
legislation is currently being reviewed by the Constitutional Court. The 
Colombian Government permits extradition of foreigners resident in 
Colombia.

On March 1, 1996 and again on February 28, 1997, President Clinton made 
the decision not to certify Colombia as fully cooperating with the U.S. 
or taking adequate steps on its own to meet the objectives of the 1988 
UN Convention on drugs. The U.S. concluded that there was a lack of 
effort at the top levels of Colombia's government to push for 
legislative and judicial reforms to strengthen Colombian government 
institutions' ability to fight narco-trafficking. Under the 
certification legislation, the U.S. Government was required to halt non-
humanitarian and non-counter-narcotics aid to Colombia and to vote 
against loans to Colombia by certain multilateral development banks. 
U.S. law provides for the discretionary imposition of economic 
sanctions, which were not imposed. 

On February 26, 1998, the President determined that the vital national 
interests of the United States require that U.S. assistance to Colombia 
be provided to meet the increasing challenges posed to counternarcotics 
efforts in Colombia. The President thus granted Colombia a national 
interests certification, which waives the restrictions of 
decertification and allows for broader U.S. engagement with Colombia in 
the fight against illegal narcotics.

Colombia, along with other drug producing and drug transit countries, 
will be reviewed for counter-narcotics performance again at by March 1, 
1999 and each successive year. 

FOREIGN RELATIONS 

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 chairs 1994-1998, the Contadora 
Group, and the Group of Eight (now the Rio Group). In addition, Colombia 
has signed free trade agreements with Chile, 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 was a participant in the December 1994 Summit 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. 

Colombia regularly participates in international fora, including the 
Organization of American States' drug body (CICAD), on money laundering, 
chemical controls, and drug abuse prevention. While the Colombian 
Government ratified the 1988 UN convention on narcotics in 1994--the 
last of the Andean governments to do so--it took important reservations, 
notably to the anti-money-laundering measures, asset forfeiture and 
confiscation provisions, maritime interdiction, and extradition clauses. 
Some of these reservations have subsequently been withdrawn, most 
notably the reservation on extradition.

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 22,000 U.S. citizens live in Colombia, most of 
them dual nationals. In 1995, over 102,000 American tourists visited 
Colombia. 

The decertification announcement on March 1, 1996 occurred during the 
midst of a major political scandal in Colombia, linking President Samper 
to contributions by drug traffickers to his 1994 presidential campaign. 
The United States concluded that President Samper had undermined 
Colombian counter-narcotics efforts, and revoked Samper's U.S. tourist 
visa on July 11, 1996, in accordance with U.S. Immigration and 
Nationality Act (INA) provisions on narcotics trafficking. President 
Samper retains his diplomatic visa, which is not subject to the same INA 
regulations. 

Despite the strain the visa revocation and decertification decisions 
placed on political relations, the U.S. and Colombian Governments have 
continued to cooperate and consult on bilateral issues. In 1995 and 
1996, the U.S. 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 U.S. and Colombia 
signed an important maritime shipboarding agreement to allow for search 
of suspected drug-running vessels. During the period 1988-1995, the 
United States provided approximately $691 million in assistance to 
Colombia. In 1996, U.S. assistance totaled $73.9 million. This funding 
supports Colombia's counter-narcotics efforts, such as arresting drug 
traffickers, seizing drugs and illegal processing facilities, and 
eradicating coca and opium poppy. 

Trade Development

Colombia is the United States' fourth-largest export market in Latin 
America (behind Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela) and the twenty-fifth-
largest market for U.S. products worldwide. In 1995, two-way merchandise 
trade between the United States and Colombia totaled $9 billion. The 
United States is Colombia's principal trading partner. Colombia benefits 
from duty-free entry (for a 10-year period, through 2001) for certain of 
its exports to the United States under the Andean Trade Preferences Act. 
Colombia improved protection of intellectual property rights through the 
adoption of three Andean Pact decisions in 1993 and 1994, but the U.S. 
remains concerned 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 51.2% ($3.3 billion) of the total $6.4 billion 
in foreign direct investment registered between 1967 and 1995. Worker 
rights and conditions in the U.S.-dominated sectors are superior to 
general working conditions. Examples include shorter-than-average 
working hours, higher wages, and compliance with health and safety 
standards above the national average. 

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials 

Ambassador--Curtis W. Kamman 
Deputy Chief of Mission--Oliver P. Garza
Political and Economic Counselor--Joseph McBride
Consul General--Jean A. Louis
Commercial Counselor--Dorothy L. Lutter
Administrative Counselor--Roland W. Bullen 
Defense Attache--Col. William C. Spracher
Agricultural Attache--Vacant
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--Chris Filostat 
Regional Security Officer--Seymour DeWitt
USAID Director--Carl Cira 

The U.S. Embassy in Colombia is located at 22D Bis, No. 47-51, Bogota 
(tel: (571) 315-0811; fax: (571) 315-2196). The mailing address is APO 
AA 34038. 

OTHER CONTACT INFORMATION:

U.S. Department of Commerce
Trade Information Center
International Trade Administration
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
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
Bogota, Colombia
Tel: (571) 621-5042/7925/6838
Fax: (571) 612-6838
Email: 73050.3127@compuserve.com
(Chapters in Cali, Cartagena, Medellin)

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION 

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country.

Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information 
quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term 
conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:  
and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the 
modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set 
terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop 
bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the 
password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries 
international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory 
Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs 
Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on 
obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased 
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 
202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
4000. 

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is 
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas 
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country 
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). 
Registering with the embassy may help you to replace lost identity 
documents or help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information: 

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 
http://www.state.gov.

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by 
the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250. 

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information.

(###)

Return to Western Hemisphere Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage