U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Colombia, October 1998
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.
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, 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.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Colombian(s).
Population: 38 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.8%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 90%.
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.
Independence: July 20, 1810.
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: 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.
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
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).
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 Attach--Col. Leocadio Muniz, USA
Agricultural Attach--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
Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce
Calle 98, @2264, Oficina 1209
Apartado Aereo 8008
Tel: (571) 621-5042/7925/6838
Fax: (571) 612-6838
(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-
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
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.
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