La republica de Colombia esta en la parte arriba de Suramerica, entre Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador y Panama
NOMBRE OFICIAL: República de Colombia
CAPITAL: Bogotá D.C.
EXTENCIÓN: 1.141.748 Km2
LÍMITES: Al norte con el Mar Caribe, al sur con Perú y Ecuador, al oriente con Venezuela y Brasil, al occidente con el Océano
Pacífico y al noroccidente con Panamá.
HORA OFICIAL: GMT -5 horas (normal/verano)
FIESTA NACIONAL: 20 de Julio (Fiesta de Independencia)
MONEDA OFICIAL: El peso colombiano. Circulan monedas de 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 y billetes de 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000 y
MIEMBRO DE: La ONU, OEA, ALADI, Pacto Andino, G3
PRINCIPALES PRODUCTOS DE EXPORTACIÓN: Café, banano, flores, algodón, caña de azucar, cacao, carbón, derivados del petroleo
y piedras preciosas.
AEROPUERTOS: Hay 74 aeropuertos, de los cuales cinco son internacionales: Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla y Cartagena.
INDICATIVO TELEFÓNICO: Colombia: 57
Bogotá Distrito capital: 1 (57 - 1).
Libertad y orden
Colombia is a country located in the northwestern region of South America. Colombia is bordered to the east by Venezuela
and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru to the North by the Atlantic Ocean, through the Caribbean Sea; to the north-west
by Panama; and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. Besides the countries in South America, the Republic of Colombia is recognized
to share maritime borders with the Caribbean countries of Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Central American
countries of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
Colombia is the 26th largest nation in the world and the fourth-largest country in South America (after Brazil, Argentina,
and Peru), with an area more than twice that of France. In Latin America, it is also the country with the third largest population
after Brazil and Mexico.
Colombia is a standing middle power with the second largest Spanish speaking population of the world after Mexico. It is largely
recognized for its culture and is also one of the largest manufacturers in South America. Colombia is also one of the most
ethnically diverse nations in the Southern Cone, the product of large-scale migrations during the 20th century which has caused
a dramatic population growth since then.
The country currently suffers from a low-intensity conflict involving rebel guerrilla groups, paramilitary militias, drug
trafficking and corruption inside minor towns and some cities. The conflict originated around 1964-1966, when the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) were founded and began their guerrilla insurgency campaigns
against successive Colombian government administrations.
The census data in Colombia does not take into account ethnicity, so percentages are basically estimates from other sources
and can vary from one another. Statistics reveal that Colombians are predominantly Roman Catholic and overwhelmingly speakers
of Spanish, and that a majority of them are the result of the a mixture of Europeans, Africans, Amerindians.
58% of the population is mestizo, or of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry, while 20% is of European ancestry. Another
14% is mulatto, or of mixed black African and European ancestry, while 4% is of black African ancestry and 3% are zambos,
of mixed black African and Amerindian ancestry. Pure indigenous Amerindians comprise 1 percent of the population. There are
101 languages listed for Colombia in the Ethnologue database, of which 80 are spoken today as living languages. There are
about 500,000 speakers of indigenous languages in Colombia today.
More than two-thirds of all Colombians live in urban areas—a figure significantly higher than the world average. The
literacy rate (94 percent) in Colombia is also well above the world average, and the rate of population growth is slightly
higher than the world average. Also, a large proportion of Colombians are young, largely because of recent decreases in the
infant mortality rate. While 33 percent of the people are 14 years of age or younger, just 4 percent are aged 65 or older.
Little is known about the various Indian tribes who inhabited Colombia before the Spanish arrived. In 1510 Spaniards founded
Darien, the first permanent European settlement on the American mainland. In 1538 they established the colony of New Granada,
the area's name until 1861.
After a 14-year struggle, during which time Simón Bolívar's Venezuelan troops won the battle of Boyacá in Colombia on Aug.
7, 1819, independence was attained in 1824. Bolívar united Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador in the Republic of Greater
Colombia (1819–1830), but he lost Venezuela and Ecuador to separatists.
Two political parties dominated the region: the Conservatives believed in a strong central government and a powerful church;
the Liberals believed in a decentralized government, strong regional power, and a less influential role for the church. Bolívar
was himself a Conservative, while his vice president, Francisco de Paula Santander, was the founder of the Liberal Party.
Santander served as president between 1832 and 1836, a period of relative stability, but by 1840 civil war erupted. Other
periods of Liberal dominance (1849–1857 and 1861–1880), which sought to disestablish the Roman Catholic Church,
were marked by insurrection.
Nine different governments followed, each rewriting the constitution. In 1861 the country was called the United States of
New Granada; in 1863 it became the United States of Colombia; and in 1885, it was named the Republic of Colombia.
In 1899 a brutal civil war broke out, the War of a Thousand Days, that lasted until 1902. The following year, Colombia lost
its claims to Panama because it refused to ratify the lease to the U.S. of the Canal Zone. Panama declared its independence
The Conservatives held power until 1930, when revolutionary pressure put the Liberals back in power. The Liberal administrations
of Enrique Olaya Herrera and Alfonso López (1930–1938) were marked by social reforms that failed to solve the country's
problems, and in 1946, a period of insurrection and banditry broke out, referred to as La Violencia, which claimed hundreds
of thousands of lives by 1958.
Laureano Gómez (1950–1953); the army chief of staff, Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (1953–1956); and a military junta
(1956–1957) sought to curb disorder by repression.
Marxist guerrilla groups organized in the 1960s and 1970s, most notably the May 19th Movement (M-19), the National Liberation
Army (ELN), and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), plunging the country into violence and instability.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Colombia became one of the international centers for illegal drug production and trafficking, and
at times the drug cartels (the Medillin and Cali cartels were the most notorious) virtually controlled the country. Colombia
provides 75% of the world's illegal cocaine. In the 1990s, numerous right-wing paramilitary groups also formed, made up of
drug traffickers and landowners. The umbrella group for these paramilitaries is the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
Belisario Betancur Cuartas, a Conservative who assumed the presidency in 1982, unsuccessfully attempted to stem the guerrilla
violence. In an official war against drug trafficking, Colombia became a public battleground with bombs, killings, and kidnappings.
By 1989, homicide had become the leading cause of death in the nation. Elected president in 1990, César Gaviria Trujillo proposed
lenient punishment in exchange for surrender by the leading drug dealers. Ernesto Samper of the Liberal Party became president
in 1994. In 1996 he was accused of accepting campaign contributions from drug traffickers, but the House of Representatives
absolved him of the charges.
Andrés Pastrana Arango was elected president in 1998, pledging to clean up corruption. In Dec. 1999 the Colombian military
announced that 2,787 people were kidnapped that year—the largest number in the world—and blamed rebels.
The murder rate soared in 1999, with some 23,000 people reported killed by leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries,
drug traffickers, and common criminals. The violence has created more than 100,000 refugees, while 2 million Colombians have
fled the country in recent years.
In Aug. 2000, the U.S. government approved “Plan Colombia,” pledging $1.3 billion to fight drug trafficking. Pastrana
used the plan to undercut drug production and prevent guerrilla groups from benefiting from drug sales. In Aug. 2001, Pastrana
signed “war legislation,” which expanded the rights of the military in dealing with rebels.
Alvaro Uribe of the Liberal Party easily won the presidential election in May 2002. He took office in August, pledging to
get tough on the rebels and drug traffickers by increasing military spending and seeking U.S. military cooperation. An upsurge
in violence accompanied his inauguration, and Uribe declared a state of emergency within a week.
In his first year, Uribe beefed up Colombia's security forces with the help of U.S. special forces, launched an aggressive
campaign against the drug trade, and passed several economic reform bills.
In May 2004, the UN announced that Colombia's 39-year-long drug war had created the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western
Hemisphere. More than 2 million people have been forced to leave their homes and several Indian tribes are close to extinction.
Colombia now houses the third-largest displaced population in the world, with only Sudan and the Congo having more.
Uribe has produced some impressive results in fixing his country's ills, however. According to his defense minister, during
2003 more than 16,000 suspected leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary vigilantes either surrendered, were apprehended,
or were killed.
Since 2003, the right-wing paramilitary group AUC has been involved in peace talks with the government, but despite demobilizing
4,000 troops, the vigilante group seemed as vigorous as ever in 2005. Although the two other major armed groups, left-wing
FARC and ELN, continue to finance themselves through kidnapping and drug trafficking, governmental efforts have been successful
in significantly reducing the kidnapping rate.
By 2006, the United States had invested $4 billion into Plan Colombia, the joint U.S.-Colombia coca antinarcotics plan begun
in 2000. While officials say the program has eradicated more than a million acres of coca plants, Colombian drug traffickers
are still managing to supply 90% of the cocaine used in the U.S. and 50% of the heroin—the same percentages supplied
five years ago, when the program began. In 2006, a U.S. government survey acknowledged that coca production in the country
had in fact increased by 26%, and that aerial spraying of the illegal crops—the primary strategy of Plan Colombia—was
On May 28, 2006, President Uribe was reelected with 62% of the vote. Economic growth and a reduction in paramilitary violence
were believed to be responsible for his landslide reelection. A controversy surrounding suspected ties between members of
Uribe's government and paramilitary leaders dogged Uribe in late 2006 and into 2007.
In November 2007, the Colombian army captured FARC rebels who were carrying videos, photographs, and letters of about 15 hostages,
some who have been held in jungle camps by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for nearly ten years.
The Marxist-inspired FARC—the largest rebel group in Latin America—has been waging guerilla wars against the Colombian
government for 40 years. Hostages included three American military contractors and Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian presidential
Also in November, Uribe withdrew his support of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s attempts to negotiate with the FARC,
escalating tension between the two countries. Chavez subsequently withdrew the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia.
Months of negotiations between Chavez and FARC rebels over the release of three hostages came to an end on December 31, 2007,
when the FARC refused to hand them over, saying the promised security conditions had not been met.
The failed mission is Chavez's second defeat in the last month after the loss of his referendum. On January 10, 2008, however,
FARC rebels freed two hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonz�lez de Perdomo, in Guaviare, in southern Colombia.
Rojas, a Colombian politician captured in 2002, and Perdomo, a Colombian law-maker captured in 2001, were escorted out of
the jungle by several guerillas. The release of the hostages was a triumph for Chavez, who coordinated the operation.
Alvaro Uribe came to power in May 2002 in a first-round election victory and secured a second, four-year term in May 2006.
President Uribe, secured a second term with a comfortable victory
Described as hard-line and right-leaning, he has taken a tough stance against left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries
Under his presidency, the murder rate and the incidence of kidnapping have fallen.
Although this has won him high approval ratings, guerrilla attacks on civilians have continued. Mr Uribe said he needs another
term to implement his tough policies.
He has boosted spending on the military and police and has set about arming peasants in vulnerable areas.
Major offensives have been launched against the guerrillas. Anti-terrorism laws have expanded the military's power to arrest
and detain suspects.
In a bid to disarm the paramilitaries, his government has held formal peace talks with far-right warlords.
Mr Uribe is keen for international mediation to end the violence.
But an initiative for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to get involved in negotiations ran into trouble in late 2007 following
a series of diplomatic incidents and lapses of protocol.
Relations between the two presidents became decidedly frosty, and Mr Chavez's call - in the wake of the Farc's release of
two high-profile hostages in January 2008 - for Colombia's left-wing rebels to be treated as insurgents instead of terrorists
was rejected out of hand by Mr Uribe.
The Colombian president is Washington's chief ally in a left-leaning region where the Bush administration is not popular.
Born in Medellin in July 1952, Alvaro Uribe is a Harvard and Oxford University-educated lawyer. He is described as a workaholic
and a disciplined scholar. He was elected mayor of Medellin in 1982 and was Antioquia governor between 1995 and 1997.
Mr Uribe is a staunch Roman Catholic and is interested in horses and yoga. He is married with two children.
His father, a wealthy landowner, was killed when Farc rebels tried to kidnap him. But Mr Uribe - who has himself survived
a handful of assassination attempts - says his anger does not influence his policies.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to operate. Media workers face intimidation by drug
traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitary groups. More than 120 Colombian journalists were killed in the 1990s, many for reporting
on drug trafficking and corruption.
The media-freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders has denounced armed groups, corrupt politicians and drug barons as
"enemies of press freedom".
Rebels have used radio to spread their propaganda. One of the main clandestine stations is the Farc-operated La Voz de la
Resistencia, which the rebel group has described as another battlefront.
Colombia's main commercial media outlets are owned by a handful of large groups. Television is the medium of choice for most
The Colombian armed conflict or Colombian Civil War are terms that are employed to refer to the current asymmetric low-intensity
armed conflict in Colombia that has existed since approximately 1964 or 1966, which was when the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC) and later the National Liberation Army (ELN) were founded and subsequently started their guerrilla insurgency
campaigns against successive Colombian government administrations.
It originally began as a backlash produced by a previous conflict known as La Violencia, which had been triggered by the 1948
assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán.
The subsequent targeting of civilians and public infrastructure by the different armed factions contributed both to the creation
of the guerrillas and that of paramilitary groups organized to fight against them.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the spread of both the illegal drug trade, the drug cartels and the U.S.-backed War on
Drugs increased the intensity of the conflict and involved all of its participants.
Some historians and analysts consider both La Violencia and the current conflict to be different phases of the same violence
which has been ongoing since Gaitán's assassination, while others view them as two separate conflicts
The left-wing group was formed in 1965 by intellectuals inspired by the Cuban revolution.
The ELN is behind many kidnappings in Colombia, and snatches hundreds of people each year to finance its operations.
The group has focused on hitting infrastructure targets such as the oil industry, because it has been unable to take on the
security forces directly like the Farc.
Members have split their efforts between military ACTION and social work. They justify kidnapping as a legitimate way of fundraising
in what they say is their campaign for improved social justice and human rights.
The group did not become involved in the drug trade in the same way as the Farc, partly because of the moral objections of
an influential former leader.
The ELN reached the height of its power in the late 1990s, but in recent years has been hit hard by the paramilitaries and
Colombian armed forces.
There have been several rounds of exploratory peace talks with the government in recent years, held in the Cuban capital,
Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista is top commander of the group, which is thought to have between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters.
The group is on US and European lists of terrorist organisations.
Rios was a member of the Farc's seven-man secretariat
Colombia has been ravaged by decades of civil war and has long been synonymous with drug-trafficking.
President Alvaro Uribe, who came to power in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006, has pursued a hardline stance against left-wing
guerrillas while making tentative peace overtures.
Under a separate peace deal, some 31,000 right-wing paramilitaries have disarmed but moves to complete the demobilisation
process remain controversial and fraught with difficulties.
Security has improved in the main urban areas but Colombia, the centre of the world cocaine trade, remains beset by violence
Why is Colombia so violent?
Colombia, in common with many Latin American nations, evolved as a highly segregated society, split between the traditionally
rich families of Spanish descent and the vast majority of poor Colombians, many of whom are of mixed race.
This group provided a natural constituency for left-wing insurgents - who nowadays fall into two groups, the bigger Farc (Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia), and the ELN (National Liberation Army).
A Colombian woman grieves by the coffin of her son, in Antioquia in February 2005
Many Colombians are traumatised and exhausted by the violence
At the other end of the political spectrum are right-wing paramilitaries, with roots in vigilante groups set up decades ago
by landowners for protection against rebels. The main group was the AUC - the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia.
Elements of all the armed groups have been involved in drug-trafficking.
In a country where the presence of the state has always been weak, the result has been a grinding war on multiple fronts,
with the civilian population caught in the crossfire and often deliberately targeted for "collaborating".
Human rights advocates blame paramilitaries for massacres, "disappearances", and cases of torture and forced displacement.
Rebel groups are behind assassinations, kidnapping and extortion.
It is difficult to find reliable statistics on the toll from the violence in Colombia. What is clear is that the scale of
the suffering is huge. In 2004, the UN humanitarian affairs chief named Colombia as the worst humanitarian crisis in the western
hemisphere. Security is the country's biggest source of employment.
At least 3,000 civilians are believed to die every year as a result of the conflict, though estimates vary dramatically. Thousands
more are killed in mainly urban criminal violence.
Also at risk are those with high-profile roles in the community - including social leaders, political activists, human rights
campaigners and trade unionists. Many indigenous communities have also suffered attacks.
Violent crime and kidnapping have decreased in recent years - for example 2004 saw some 1,500 kidnaps, down to 751 in 2005
- but the fate of those taken hostage by rebels or seized by common criminals continues to resonate in Colombian society.
Over the decades, some three million people have been internally displaced by the fighting. The UN says that many displaced
people often end up living in shanty towns around the cities, where they have little access to health or educational services.
What are the prospects for peace?
President Alvaro Uribe has pursued a tough security policy, a move that has won appreciation from many Colombians worn out
by conflict. In some areas rebels seem to be in retreat - though analysts warn they have not been defeated.
Peace moves with the guerrillas appear to be crystallised around the issues of hostages.
In August 2007, Mr Uribe offered to create a temporary safe haven for peace talks with the Farc, if they freed hundreds of
hostages, a condition the rebels rejected.
Paramilitaries from the AUC declared a ceasefire and thousands have handed in their weapons. But the process is beset by many
hurdles, and the extent of the paramilitaries' influence over and involvement in local, regional and national politics came
to the fore in 2007.
In a scandal dubbed the "para-politica", a dozen members of congress were jailed and dozens more politicians investigated
for links to the AUC.
Under a controversial justice and peace law passed in 2005, paramilitary fighters are eligible for reduced jail terms - of
no more than eight years - if they give details of their involvement in torture, killings and other crimes.
Critics argued that paramilitaries guilty of serious human rights violations could end up serving only token jail terms.
The government points to figures which it says show a decreasing level of violence as evidence that its strategy is working.
It rejects accusations that it has been soft on the paramilitaries, and says the door is open to rebels wishing to engage
in peace talks.
Why is the US involved in Colombia?
Up to 90% of all cocaine on American streets comes from Colombia, so the US administration is keen to tackle the supply at
Colombian anti-narcotics police carry out an operation in September 2004
The fight against drug-trafficking has been long and expensive
Since 2000, the US has spent more than $4bn on Plan Colombia, under which Colombian forces receive training, equipment and
intelligence to root out drug-traffickers and eliminate coca crops.
Initially, the US Congress stipulated that this money should only be used against drug lords and not for any other campaigns,
such as the government's fight with left-wing rebels. However, since 2002 the Bush administration has indicated that some
aid is now being spent on counter-terrorism.
Human rights groups say the line between the war on drugs and the war on rebels is increasingly blurred. They say Colombia's
rebels have been disproportionately targeted in Plan Colombia, though it is the paramilitaries who have been most involved
Critics point out that in 2006 the price of cocaine in the US fell while the purity increased, suggesting Plan Colombia has
had little effect on supply.
In November 2007, officials at the US Drug Enforcement Administration painted a different picture, saying cocaine prices were
increasing and purity decreasing, indicating the drug was less available on US streets.
Colombian brings news of hostages
A Colombian woman freed after more than six years in guerrilla captivity has returned home, bringing proof of life of eight
other fellow kidnap victims.
Consuelo Gonzalez was released last week together with another hostage, Clara Rojas, after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
secured a deal with rebels.
But in a sign of Colombia's continuing kidnapping problem, six tourists were seized on Sunday, officials said.
Farc rebels are believed to be holding some 750 people.
Ms Gonzalez, a former congresswoman who was taken hostage in 2001 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), returned
to the Colombian capital, Bogota, on Monday.
She and Ms Rojas had been flown out of the Colombian jungle and on to Venezuela last Thursday.
Lucy de Gechen reads a letter from her husband
For some families it was the first news for several years
"I am intensely happy to return to my country free," Ms Gonzalez said on her arrival.
"I bring a message of love from my friends who remain captive in the jungle. A message of hope, faith and confidence. A message
that will help us gather all the country's forces to reach a common strategy for the release of the hostages."
She immediately went to meet relatives of eight hostages, handing over letters, notes and photographs.
Some families did not wish to reveal the contents, preferring to read the letters in private.
But others spoke of both their relief and concern at receiving news of their loved ones.
"He talks about his health, which is not good, which worries us, but there are also words of encouragement," said Claudia
Rugeles of her husband, former state governor Alan Jara, who was kidnapped in July 2001.
Claudia Rugeles and Alan Jara, wife and son of ex-state governor Alan Jara hold up photos
Families are determined to keep attention on the hostages' plight
Lucy Gechem, daughter of former congressman Luis Eduardo Gechem, said her father begged in his letter not to be left to die
in the jungle.
Some of the notes recounted how the rebels allowed the hostages to listen to football matches on the radio but relatives said
some of the photos showed the hostages in chains.
Amid the good news of the release of Ms Gonzalez and Ms Rojas, Colombian officials said on Monday that a group of six tourists
had been kidnapped.
The six, five Colombians and a man with dual Colombian-Norwegian nationality, were seized on Sunday when suspected Farc rebels
intercepted their boat in Choco province, a jungle region on the Pacific coast, navy officials said.
The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia says the Farc has been put onto the defensive by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe,
who has pursued a tough line against the guerrillas.
He adds that the Farc are keen to show that they are anything but a spent force and that this kidnapping may be a sign of
things to come.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) fighters (file photo)
The Farc has said 2008 will see an upsurge in guerrilla operations
President Hugo Chavez, who helped broker the release, has called on the Farc to stop taking hostages as part of their opposition
to the Colombian government.
But he has also called for Colombia's rebel groups not to be classified as terrorists.
The Farc and the smaller guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) are both listed as terrorist organisations by
the US and the European Union.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Uribe said rebels were terrorists because they "kidnap, recruit and mistreat minors, attack pregnant
women, old people ... bomb civilians, traffic drugs".
At the moment when the Farc showed their good faith and readiness to negotiate peace, "the Colombian government will be the
first to stop calling them terrorists and the first to call on the world to do so," he said.