U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: Colombia, October 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: 38 million. 
Annual growth rate: 1.8%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 90%.
Language: Spanish. 
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--80% of children enter 
school. Only 5 years of primary school are offered in rural areas. 
Literacy--93% in urban areas, 67% in rural areas. 
Health: Infant mortality rate--25/1,000. Life expectancy--men 70 yrs., 
women 76 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: Conservative Party of Colombia, Liberal Party, 
and a score of small political movements (most of them allied with one 
or the other major party).
Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over. 

Economy (1997) 

GDP: $96 billion. 
Annual growth rate: 3.2%. 
Per capita GDP: $2,446.
Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, 
silver, copper, platinum, emeralds. 
Manufacturing (19% of GDP): Types--textiles and garments, chemicals, 
metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and 
manufactures, beverages. 
Agriculture (18% of GDP): Products--coffee, bananas, cut flowers, 
cotton, sugar cane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, 
sorghum. Cultivated land--5% of total land area. 
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 (Government of Colombia figures)--$11.5 billion: 
petroleum, coffee, coal, ferro-nickel, bananas, flowers, chemicals and 
pharmaceuticals, textiles and garments, gold, sugar, cardboard 
containers, printed matter, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, 
emeralds. Major markets--U.S. (38%), Germany, Netherlands, Japan. 
Imports--$15.3 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. (41.5%), 
Venezuela, Japan, Germany, Panama.
Exchange rate: 1,580 Colombian pesos = U.S.$1 (October 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 less 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, unlike 
several other South American countries. 

HISTORY 

During the pre-Columbian period, the area now known as Colombia was 
inhabited by indigenous people who were 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 their 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 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 1 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 govern jointly. 
Through regular elections, the presidency would alternate between the 
two parties every 4 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 cooperation with 
the Alliance for Progress, an inter-American program of economic 
assistance which began in 1961 with major financial backing by the 
United States. The National Front government made efforts to resolve 
problems of inflation, unemployment, and inequitable income distribution 
while cutting government expenses.

Although the parity system established by the Sitges agreement was 
terminated in 1978, the 1886 Colombian constitution (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 administrations 
have included opposition parties in the government. 

Post-National Front Years 

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 ended 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, and its violent suppression by the Army, 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 both with the guerrillas and 
with the narcotics traffickers, who operated with relative impunity 
within Colombia. Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential 
candidates before Cesar Gaviria Trujillo was elected in 1990. Since the 
death of Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar in a shoot-out in December 
1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with that organization 
have abated. 

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, a political crisis relating 
to contributions from drug traffickers to Samperās 1994 presidential 
campaign diverted attention from these social programs, thus slowing, 
and in some cases, halting progress. 

GOVERNMENT

On August 7, 1998, Andres Pastrana was sworn in as the President of 
Colombia. A member of the Conservative Party, Pastrana defeated Liberal 
Party candidate Horacio Serpa in a run-off election marked by high voter 
turn-out and little political unrest. In an August visit with President 
Clinton, then President-elect Pastrana expressed his hopes for bringing 
about a peaceful resolution of Colombiaās long-standing civil conflict, 
and conveyed his commitment to cooperate fully with the United States to 
combat the traffic in illegal drugs.

While this commitment and early initiatives in the Colombian peace 
process give reason for optimism, the Pastrana Administration will 
simultaneously have to deal with combating high unemployment and other 
economic problems, such as the fiscal deficit and the impact of global 
financial instability on Colombia. Additionally, the severity of the 
countrywide guerrilla attacks on August 3-5 by the FARC and ELN--which 
left at least 135 dead and more than 180 soldiers and police taken 
prisoner--highlighted the difficulties that President Pastrana will face 
in the future.

The new constitution, enacted on July 4, 1991, strengthened the 
administration of justice with the provision for introduction of an 
accusatorial system which ultimately is to replace entirely 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 or she feels that his or her 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 4-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.

Colombia's bicameral Congress consists of a 102-member Senate and a 161-
member House of Representatives. Senators are elected on the basis of a 
nationwide ballot, while representatives are elected in multi-member 
districts co-located within the 32 national departments. The country's 
capital is a separate capital district and elects its own 
representatives. Members may be re-elected indefinitely, and, in 
contrast to the previous system, there are no 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--Andres PASTRANA Arango
Vice President--Gustavo BELL Lemus
Minister of Foreign Relations--Guillermo FERNANDEZ de Soto 
Ambassador to the U.S.--Luis Alberto MORENO
Interim Representative to the OAS--Marta Ardila 
Ambassador to the UN--Alfonso Valdivieso

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, Houston, 
Los Angeles, Miami (Coral Gables), New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, 
San Juan, and Washington. 

DEFENSE 

Colombia's Ministry of Defense, charged with the country's internal and 
external defense and security, has an army, navy (which includes both 
marines and a coast guard), air force, and national police under the 
leadership of a civilian Minister of Defense. Colombia has been plagued 
by a lengthy civil conflict which continues to take a heavy toll on the 
Colombian people. The conflict with the guerrilla groups continues to be 
the top priority for the military.
 
In 1998, Colombia assigned 3.4% of its GDP to defense. The armed forces 
number about 250,000 uniformed personnel: 145,000 military and 105,000 
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 
counternarcotics. 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 

Under the leadership of President Cesar Gaviria Trujillo, Colombia 
undertook a profound economic reform program in 1990-94 (the "apertura," 
an "opening" to economic liberalization and 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 have 
been largely responsible for the sustained economic growth enjoyed by 
Colombia. GDP growth has been more than 4% during 5 of the last 8 years. 
Starting in 1996, however, growth slowed significantly. While the Samper 
Administration did not undermine the "apertura," it also did not push it 
forward. Privatization slowed under the Samper Government. 

Allegations that Samper had accepted drug money in his presidential 
campaign weakened the administration and affected the economy through 
1997. Samper made repeated concessions in labor disputes, 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) had 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. 

Andres Pastrana, widely regarded as pro-business, took office on August 
7. The new president has expressed his commitment to carrying forward 
the peace process, reducing the fiscal deficit, and promoting 
investment, employment, and savings.

The Colombian economy in 1997 produced real official growth of 3.2%, up 
from the 2.1% recorded in 1996. Economic performance in 1997 owed its 
strength largely to the 5.1% growth in the transportation and 
communications sector and the 4.4% growth in the mining and hydrocarbons 
sector. Exports grew only slightly, from $10.6 billion in 1996 to $11.5 
billion in 1997. Unemployment rose to 14.8% by mid- 1998, its highest 
level in 20 years. The trade deficit of $3.8 billion was offset by 
capital flows in the form of foreign direct investment and private 
sector borrowing. 

Colombia's foreign exchange reserves at the end of 1997 were 
approximately $9.88 billion. With these strong net international 
reserves, Colombia successfully remained in the international capital 
markets in Europe, Japan, and the United States. The rate of inflation 
in 1997 was 17.7%, down from 21.6% in 1996. Colombia is the only major 
Latin American country which did not have to reschedule its external 
debt during the debt crises of the 1980s. The nation continued to pay 
both principal and interest to its foreign creditors. Today it is one of 
the very few countries in the region to hold an investment grade 
international credit rating. Colombia's total foreign debt at the end of 
1997 was $31.5 billion -- $16 billion in public sector debt, $15.5 
billion in the private sector -- totaling 33% of GDP.

The new Finance Minister Restrepo and his team are implementing fiscal 
and monetary policies designed to get Colombiaās finances in order, and 
in particular, attack the serious fiscal problem. On September 2, 1998, 
Colombiaās central bank effectively devalued the peso by 9%. The 
administration plans to reduce the budget deficit substantially via cuts 
in expenditures and expanding the tax base, reducing tax exemptions, and 
attacking smuggling and tax evasion.

Mining and Energy 

Colombia is well-endowed with minerals and energy resources. It has the 
largest coal reserves in Latin America and is second to Brazil in 
hydroelectric potential.  Estimates of oil reserves in 1995 were 3.1 
billion barrels. It also possesses significant amounts of ferronickel, 
gold, silver, platinum, and emeralds. 

The discovery of 2 billion barrels of high-quality oil at the Cusiana 
and Cupiagua fields, about 125 miles east of Bogota, has enabled 
Colombia to become a net oil exporter since 1986. Total crude oil 
production averages 620,000 b/d; about 184,000 b/d is exported, and 
production from those fields is projected to reach 1 million barrels per 
day (b/d) by the year 2000. The Government of Colombia has come under 
pressure for the stringent requirements of its association contracts for 
the exploration and production of Colombia's oil. 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.

The oil pipelines are a frequent target of extortion and bombing 
campaigns by both the ELN and FARC guerrillas. The bombings, which occur 
on average once every 5 days, have caused substantial environmental 
damage.

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 were 
expected to reach 25 million tons in 1996, and private and public 
investments 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 electricity rationing throughout the country until 
mid-1993. The consequences of the drought on electricity-generating 
capacity caused the government to commission the construction or 
upgrading of 10 thermoelectric power plants. Half will be coal-fired and 
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 extensive gas fields to its major 
population centers. Plans call for this project to 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 $3.8 billion in 1997, 
worse than the $2.2 billion deficit in 1996. Total imports reached $15.3 
billion, while exports were $11.5 billion. Colombia's major exports 
continue to be petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, gold, and non-
traditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, semi-precious stones, sugar, and 
tropical fruits). Colombia's major trading partner in 1997 continued to 
be the United States, which took 38% of Colombia's exports and provided 
41.5% 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 last of these 
restrictions is intended to hinder money laundering). Colombia 
established a special entity -- Coinvertir -- to assist foreigners in 
making investments in the country. Foreign direct investment continued 
to be strong in 1997, registering flows of $3.8 billion.

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 37.8% of the total $11.2 billion stock of non-petroleum 
foreign direct investment in Colombia at the end of 1997. 

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).  The document is also available at the Department of Treasury 
web site www.ustreas.gov.

Industry and Agriculture 

The most industrially diverse member of the five-nation Andean 
Community, Colombia has four major industrial centers--Bogota, Medellin, 
Cali, and Barranquilla, each located in a distinct geographical region. 
Colombia's industries include textiles and clothing, leather products, 
processed foods and beverages, paper and paper products, chemicals and 
petrochemicals, cement, construction, iron and steel products, and 
metalworking. 

Agriculture accounted for 18% of Colombia's GDP in 1997. Its diverse 
climate and topography permit the cultivation of a wide variety of 
crops. In addition, all regions yield forest products, ranging from 
tropical hardwoods in the 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 
also has the 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 cultivation from 
expanding. The government has committed itself to the eradication of all 
illicit crops, interdiction of drug shipments, and financial controls to 
prevent money laundering. A new alternative development program is being 
planned for initiation in 1999.

Corruption and intimidation by traffickers complicate the drug-control 
efforts of many institutions of government. 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. Implementation, however, is still lagging. 
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 Colombian Government permits extradition of 
foreigners resident in Colombia). The amendment was under review until 
October 5, 1998, when the Constitutional Court ruled that a proposed 
constitutional amendment permitting extradition without retroactivity 
was valid. 

In 1996 and 1997, President Clinton made the decision not to certify 
Colombia as fully cooperating with the United States or taking adequate 
steps on its own to meet the objective of the 1988 UN convention on 
drugs. 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 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 and other drug producing and drug transit countries will be 
reviewed annually by March 1 for counternarcotics performance. 

FOREIGN RELATIONS 

Colombia seeks diplomatic and commercial relations with all countries, 
regardless of their ideologies or political or economic systems. In 
1969, it formed what is now the Andean Community along with Bolivia, 
Chile, Ecuador, and Peru (Venezuela joined in 1973 and Chile left in 
1976). In the 1980s, Colombia broadened its bilateral and multilateral 
relations, joining the Contadora Group, the Group of Eight (now the Rio 
Group), and the Non-Aligned Movement -- which it chaired from 1994 until 
September 1998. In addition, it has signed free trade agreements with 
Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela. 

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the UN, in the 
Organization of American States, and in their subsidiary agencies. 
Former President Gaviria became Secretary General of the OAS in 
September 1994. Colombia was a participant in the December 1994 and 
April 1998 Summits of the Americas and followed up on initiatives 
developed at the summit by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level 
meetings on trade and science and technology. 

Colombia regularly participates in international fora, including CICAD, 
the Organization of American States' body on money laundering, chemical 
controls, and drug abuse prevention. Although 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. Colombia 
subsequently withdrew some of their reservations, most notably its 
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 25,000 U.S. citizens live in Colombia, most of 
them dual nationals. From October 1997 to September 1998, more than 
158,000 Americans visited Colombia. Currently 250 private American 
businesses are registered in Colombia.

Despite the strain which decertification and related issues placed on 
bilateral relations during the Samper Administration, the U.S. and 
Colombian Governments continued to cooperate and consult. 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 ship-boarding agreement to allow for search 
of suspected drug-running vessels. During the period 1988-1996, the 
United States provided approximately $765 million in assistance to 
Colombia.  In 1998, U.S. assistance will exceed $100 million. This 
funding supports Colombia's counternarcotics 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' fifth-largest export market in Latin 
America (behind Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina) and the 26th-
largest market for U.S. products worldwide. In 1997, two-way merchandise 
trade between the United States and Colombia totaled $9.7 billion, 
according to United States Government data. 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 37.8% ($4.2 billion) of the total $11.2 billion 
in foreign direct investment at the end of 1997 (excluding petroleum and 
portfolio investment). 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--Barbara C. Moore
Political and Economic Counselor--Joseph N. McBride
Consul General--Danny B. Root 
Commercial Counselor--Dorothy L. Lutter
Administrative Counselor--Robert E. Davis 
Defense AttachŽ--Col. Leocadio Muniz, USA
Agricultural AttachŽ--David Rosenbloom
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--Chris Filostrat 
Regional Security Officer--Seymour C. DeWitt
USAID Director--Carl Cira 

The U.S. Embassy is located at Calle 22D Bis, No. 47-51, Bogota (tel: 
(571) 315-0811; fax: (571) 315-2196). The mailing address is APO AA 
34038. Internet: http://www.usia.gov/posts/bogota.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Baranquilla is located at Calle 77, No. 68-
15 (tel: (575) 353-0970 or 0974; fax: (575) 353-5216).

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: 
http://travel.state.gov 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). 
This may 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. 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