The Republic of Colombia is a country in northwestern South America. To the north is found the Caribbean Sea, while it borders Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, Peru and Ecuador to the south, and Panama and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
| National motto: Libertad y Orden |
(Spanish; "Liberty and Order")
|President||Álvaro Uribe Vélez|
- % water
|Ranked 25th |
- Total (2002)
July 20, 1810
August 7, 1819
|Time zone||UTC -5|
|National anthem||Oh Gloria Inmarcesible![?]|
Spanish explorers arrived in the area around 1500 and soon established settlements that eventually grew into the colony of New Granada, which included all of Spanish northwestern South America, and became a viceroyalty in 1717. An independence movement sprang up around 1810 that finally succeeded in 1819 when New Granada became the Republic of Greater Colombia[?] (Gran Colombia).
Internal political and territorial divisions led to the seccesion of Venezuela and Ecuador in 1830 and the country was renamed New Granada until 1886 when it became Colombia. Internal divisions remained, occasionally igniting civil war and contributing to the US-sponsored secession of Panama in 1903. The country continues to be plagued by guerilla insurgents such as FARC and the effects of the influential drug trade, which are hampering political and economic reforms and leading to disruptions of public life and international concern.
Colombia is a republic where the executive branch dominates government structure. The president, elected together with the vice-president by popular vote for a single four-year term, functions as both head of state and head of government.
Colombia's bicameral parliament is the Congress or Congreso, which consists of the Senate or Senado of 102 seats and the House of Representatives or Camara de Representantes of 166 seats. Members of both houses are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The Colombian judicial system has undergone significant reforms in the 1990s.
Colombia is divided into 32 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 1 capital district (distrito capital), marked by a *:
The western half of Colombia is dominated by the Andes, which split into three great mountain ranges, the Western[?], Central[?] and Eastern Cordillera[?]. In between the ranges the Cauca[?] and Magdalena[?] rivers flow into the low-lying plains along the Caribbean coast. The highlands are home to some occasionally active volcanoes and the highest point is the Pico Cristobal Colon[?] at 5,775 m.
The eastern half is characterised by lowland plains, often densily forested, which contain many rivers such as the Putumayo, the Yapura, the Meta[?], or the Guaviare[?] that either flow to the Orinoco or the Amazon River. Colombia also holds several small islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean.
The local climate is tropical along both coasts and in the eastern plains, whereas the mountain ranges and highlands can be considerably cooler. Colombia's largest city is its captital Bogota, other major cities include Medellín[?], Cali[?], Cartagena, Barranquilla[?], Ibagué[?], Manizales[?], Pasto[?], Cúcuta[?] and Bucaramanga[?].
Colombia's economy suffered from weak domestic demand, austere government budgets, and a difficult security situation. The current government faces economic challenges ranging from pension reform to reduction of unemployment. Two of Colombia's leading exports, oil and coffee, face an uncertain future; new exploration is needed to offset declining oil production, while coffee harvests and prices are depressed.
Problems in public security are a concern for Colombian business leaders, who are calling for progress in the government's peace negotiations with insurgent groups. Colombia is looking for continued support from the international community to boost economic and peace prospects.
Ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous Amerindians, Spanish colonists, and African slaves, producing a mixture of mestizos (58%), whites (20%), mulattos (14%), blacks (4%), and mixed black-Amerindians (3%). Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully Amerindian on the basis of language and customs. The predominant religion in Colombia is Roman Catholicism.
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. Thirty cities have a population of 100,000 or more. The nine eastern lowlands 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 kilometre.