Colombia

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Posted by sonny 03/24/2009 @ 00:09

Tags : colombia, south america, americas, world

News headlines
Colombia's Mortgage-Securitization Co Sells COP442.6B Bonds - Wall Street Journal
BOGOTA (Dow Jones)--The Colombian mortgage-securitization company, Titularizadora Colombiana, Wednesday sold 442.6 billion Colombian pesos ($197 million) in mortgage-backed bonds, it said in a statement. The bonds will mature in 10 years and will pay a...
Yields On Colombia TES Auction Down Expecting Further Rate Cuts - Wall Street Journal
BOGOTA (Dow Jones)--Yields on Colombian government peso-denominated treasury bonds, or TES, fell in an auction Wednesday as investors expect the central bank will further slash its key rate. The Colombian Treasury sold 210 billion pesos ($93.3 million)...
Colombia's Uribe faces tougher odds for a 3rd term - The Associated Press
Uribe's unwillingness to clarify the question has preoccupied Colombia for months. He's leaving it up to voters instead. On Wednesday, Colombia's congress is expected to schedule a referendum on whether Uribe can run again....
Colombia Apr Crude Output Rises To Average 651000 Barrels/Day - Wall Street Journal
BOGOTA (Dow Jones)--Colombia's April crude oil output rose to an average 651000 barrels a day from 568000 a year earlier, the government oil-licensing agency reported on its Web site. Oil production in April was higher than in March,...
Colombia's Ecopetrol To Borrow $3.7 Billion In 2009 - CEO - Wall Street Journal
BOGOTA (Dow Jones)--Colombian state-controlled oil company Ecopetrol SA (ECOPETROL.BO) plans to borrow $3.7 billion this year to finance its expansion, the company's chief executive said Tuesday. Ecopetrol will get the financing partly by selling bonds...
Colombia Commits "Crimes Against Humanity" As Free Trade Pacts Are ... - Huffington Post
Despite the claims of the Colombian government and those in the US, Canada and the EU eager to consummate "free trade" pacts with that regime, the human rights situation in that country is deteriorating fast. Indeed, by key measures -- the killing of...
IMF Approves $10.5 Billion Credit Line for Colombia - Bloomberg
By Timothy R. Homan and Helen Murphy May 11 (Bloomberg) -- The International Monetary Fund, which has orchestrated rescue packages from Iceland to Pakistan, extended a $10.5 billion short-term line of credit to Colombia, the third country to...
7 Soldiers Killed in Rebel Ambush in Colombia - FOXNews
BOGOTA — Colombian authorities say rebels killed seven soldiers and wounded three others in an ambush in the country's remote coca-growing southwest. The top security official for Narino state, Fabio Trujillo, tells The Associated Press that a patrol...
Colombia reports two more confirmed H1N1 flu cases - Reuters
BOGOTA, May 10 (Reuters) - Colombia has confirmed two more cases of the H1N1 flu virus after receiving positive tests results but both patients are in good condition, the government said on Sunday. Colombia now has three confirmed patients with the...
Colombia Banks' 1Q Combined Net Profit Up 21% At COP1.6Tln - Wall Street Journal
BOGOTA (Dow Jones)--Colombia's financial institutions posted a combined net profit of 1.6 trillion Colombian pesos ($727.3 million) for the first quarter, up 21% from the same period in 2008, the country's banking regulator said Monday....

Colombia

Flag of Colombia

Colombia (IPA: /kəˈlʌmbɪə/), officially the Republic of Colombia (Spanish: República de Colombia?·i, Spanish pronunciation: ), is a country in north-western South America. Colombia is bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the north west by Panama; and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. Colombia also shares maritime borders with Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Colombia is the 26th largest nation in the world and the fourth largest in South America (after Brazil, Argentina, and Peru). It has the 29th largest population in the world and the second largest in South America, after Brazil. Colombia has the third largest Spanish-speaking population in the world after Mexico and Spain.

The territory of what is now Colombia was originally inhabited by indigenous tribes including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. The Spanish arrived in 1499 and initiated a period of conquest and colonisation which ultimately led to the creation of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (comprising modern-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama) with its capital at Bogotá. Independence from Spain was won in 1819, but by 1830 "Gran Colombia" had collapsed with the secession of Venezuela and Ecuador. What is now Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada. The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858), and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia was finally declared in 1886.Panama seceded in 1903.

Colombia has a long tradition of constitutional government, and the Liberal and Conservative parties, founded in 1848 and 1849 respectively, are two of the oldest surviving political parties in the Americas. However, tensions between the two have frequently erupted into violence, most notably in the Thousand Days War (1899-1902) and La Violencia, beginning in 1948. Since the 1960s, government forces, left-wing insurgents and right-wing paramilitaries have been engaged in the continent's longest-running armed conflict. Fuelled by the cocaine trade, this escalated dramatically in the 1990s. However, the insurgents lack the military or popular support necessary to overthrow the government, and in recent years the violence has been decreasing. Many paramilitary groups have demobilised as part of a controversial peace process with the government, and the guerrillas have lost control in many areas where they once dominated. Meanwhile Colombia's homicide rate, for many years the highest in the world, has almost halved since 2002.

Colombia is a standing middle power with the fourth largest economy in South America. It is very ethnically diverse, and the interaction between descendants of the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, African slaves and twentieth-century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East has produced a rich cultural heritage. This has also been influenced by Colombia's varied geography. The majority of the urban centres are located in the highlands of the Andes mountains, but Colombian territory also encompasses Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Ecologically, Colombia is one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

The word "Colombia" comes from the name of Christopher Columbus (Italian: Cristoforo Colombo, Spanish: Cristóbal Colón). It was conceived by the revolutionary Francisco de Miranda as a reference to all the New World, but especially to those territories and colonies under Spanish and Portuguese rule. The name was later adopted by the Republic of Colombia of 1819, formed out of the territories of the old Viceroyalty of New Granada (modern day Colombia, Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador).

In 1830, when Venezuela and Ecuador broke away, the Cundinamarca region that remained became a new country — the Republic of New Granada. In 1858 New Granada officially changed its name to the Granadine Confederation, then in 1863 the United States of Colombia, before finally adopting its present name — the Republic of Colombia — in 1886.

Colombia is the 26th largest nation in the world and the fourth largest in South America. It is bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by Panama and the Caribbean Sea; and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. Colombia is the only country in South America to touch both Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region of the world subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Colombia is dominated by the Andes mountains. Beyond the Colombian Massif (in the south-western departments of Cauca and Nariño) these are divided into three branches known as cordilleras (from the Spanish for "rope"): the Cordillera Occidental, running adjacent to the Pacific coast and including the city of Cali; the Cordillera Central, running between the Cauca and Magdalena river valleys (to the west and east respectively) and including the cities of Medellín, Manizales and Pereira; and the Cordillera Oriental, extending north east to the Guajira Peninsula and including Bogotá, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta. Peaks in the Cordillera Occidental exceed 13,000 ft (4,000 m), and in the Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental they reach 18,000 ft (5,500 m). At 8,500 ft (2,600 m), Bogotá is the highest city of its size in the world.

East of the Andes lies the savanna of the Llanos, part of the Orinoco River basin, and, in the far south east, the jungle of the Amazon rainforest. Together these lowlands comprise over half Colombia's territory, but they contain less than 3% of the population. To the north the Caribbean coast, home to 20% of the population and the location of the major port cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena, generally consists of low-lying plains, but it also contains the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, which includes the country's tallest peaks (Pico Cristóbal Colón and Pico Simón Bolívar), and the Guajira Desert. By contrast the narrow and discontinuous Pacific coastal lowlands, backed by the Serranía de Baudó mountains, are covered in dense vegetation and sparsely populated. The principal Pacific port is Buenaventura.

Colombian territory also includes a number of Caribbean and Pacific islands.

The climate of Colombia is primarily determined by its proximity to the equator, with tropical and isothermal climate predominating. Other influences are the trade winds and the effect of the Intertropical Convergence Zone on precipitation. Colombia is also affected by the El Niño and La Niña phenomena.

Temperatures generally decrease about 3.5°F (2°C) for every 1,000-ft (300-m) increase in altitude above sea level, presenting perpetual snowy peaks to hot river valleys and basins. Rainfall is concentrated in two wet seasons (roughly corresponding to the spring and autumn of temperate latitudes) but varies considerably by location. Colombia's Pacific coast has one of the highest levels of rainfall in the world, with the south east often drenched by more than 200 in (500 cm) of rain per year. On the other hand rainfall in parts of the Guajira Peninsula seldom exceeds 30 in (75 cm) per year. Rainfall in the rest of the country runs between these two extremes.

Altitude not only affects temperature but is also one of the most important influences on vegetation patterns. The mountainous parts of the country can be divided into several vegetation zones according to altitude, although the altitude limits of each zone may vary somewhat depending on the latitude. Below 3,300 ft (1,000 m) are the tropical crops of the tierra caliente (hot land). The most productive land and the majority of the population can be found in the tierra templada (temperate land, 3,300-6,600 ft or 1,000-2,000 m), which provide the best conditions for the country's coffee growers, and the tierra fría (cold land, 6,600-10,500 ft, 2,000-3,200 m), where wheat and potatoes dominate. Beyond this lie the alpine conditions of the zona forestada (forested zone, 10,500-12,800 ft, 3,200-3,900 m) and then the treeless grasslands of the páramos (12,800-15,100 ft, 3,900-4,600 m). Above 15,100 ft (4,600 m), where temperatures are below freezing, is the tierra helada, a zone of permanent snow and ice.

Colombian flora and fauna also interact with climate zone patterns. Scrub woodland of scattered trees and bushes dominates the semi-arid north-eastern steppe and tropical desert. To the south, savanna (tropical grassland) vegetation covers the eastern plains, the Colombian portion of the Llanos. The rainy areas in the south east are blanketed by tropical rainforest. In the mountains, the spotty patterns of precipitation in alpine areas complicate vegetation patterns. The rainy side of a mountain may be lush and green, while the other side, in the rain shadow, may be parched. As a result Colombia is one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

The environmental challenges faced by Colombia are caused by both natural hazards and human agency. Many natural hazards result from Colombia's position along the Pacific Ring of Fire and the consequent geological instability. Colombia has 15 major volcanoes, the eruptions of which have on occasion resulted in substantial loss of life, such as at Armero in 1985, and geological faults that have caused numerous devastating earthquakes, such as the 1999 Armenia earthquake. Heavy floods both in mountainous areas and in low-lying watersheds and coastal regions regularly cause deaths and considerable damage to property during the rainy seasons. Rainfall intensities vary with the El Niño Southern Oscillation which occurs in unpredictable cycles, at times causing especially severe flooding.

Human induced deforestation has substantially changed the Andean landscape and is creeping into the rainforests of Amazonia and the Pacific coast. Deforestation is also linked to the conversion of lowland tropical forests to oil palm plantations. However, compared to neighbouring countries rates of deforestation in Colombia are still relatively low. In urban areas industry, the use of fossil fuels, and other human produced waste have contaminated the local environment, and demand from rapidly expanding cities has placed increasing stress on the water supply as watersheds are affected and ground water tables fall. Participants in the country's armed conflict have also contributed to the pollution of the environment. Illegal armed groups have deforested large areas of land to plant illegal crops, with an estimated 99,000 hectares used for the cultivation of coca in 2007, while in response the government have fumigated these crops using hazardous chemicals. Insurgents have also destroyed oil pipelines creating major ecological disasters.

Approximately 10,000 BC, hunter-gatherer societies existed near present-day Bogotá (at "El Abra" and "Tequendama") which traded with one another and with cultures living in the Magdalena River Valley. Beginning in the first millennium BC, groups of Amerindians developed the political system of "cacicazgos" with a pyramidal structure of power headed by caciques. Within Colombia, the two cultures with the most complex cacicazgo systems were the Tayronas in the Caribbean Region, and the Muiscas in the highlands around Bogotá, both of which were of the Chibcha language family. The Muisca people are considered to have had one of the most developed political systems in South America, after the Incas.

Spanish explorers made the first exploration of the Caribbean littoral in 1499 led by Rodrigo de Bastidas. Christopher Columbus navigated near the Caribbean in 1502. In 1508, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa started the conquest of the territory through the region of Urabá. In 1513, he was the first European to discover the Pacific Ocean which he called Mar del Sur (or "Sea of the South") and which in fact would bring the Spaniards to Peru and Chile. The territory's main population was made up of hundreds of tribes of the Chibchan and Carib, currently known as the Caribbean people, whom the Spaniards conquered through warfare and alliances, while resulting disease such as smallpox, and the conquest and ethnic cleansing itself caused a demographic reduction among the indigenous. In the sixteenth century, Europeans began to bring slaves from Africa.

Since the beginning of the periods of Conquest and Colonization, there were several rebel movements under Spanish rule, most of them either being crushed or remaining too weak to change the overall situation. The last one which sought outright independence from Spain sprang up around 1810, following the independence of St. Domingue in 1804 (present day Haiti), who provided a non-negligible degree of support to the eventual leaders of this rebellion: Simón Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander. Simón Bolívar had become the first President of Colombia, and Francisco de Paula Santander was Vice President; when Simón Bolívar stepped down, Santander became the second President of Colombia. The rebellion finally succeeded in 1819 when the territory of the Viceroyalty of New Granada became the Republic of Colombia organized as a union of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela (Panama was then an integral part of Colombia).

Internal political and territorial divisions led to the secession of Venezuela and Quito (today's Ecuador) in 1830. The so-called "Department of Cundinamarca" adopted the name "Nueva Granada", which it kept until 1856 when it became the "Confederación Granadina" (Grenadine Confederation). After a two year civil war in 1863, the "United States of Colombia" was created, lasting until 1886, when the country finally became known as the Republic of Colombia. Internal divisions remained between the bipartisan political forces, occasionally igniting very bloody civil wars, the most significant being the Thousand Days civil war (1899 - 1902) which together with the United States of America's intentions to influence in the area (especially the Panama Canal construction and control) led to the separation of the Department of Panama in 1903 and the establishment of it as a nation. Colombia engulfed in a year long war with Peru over a territorial dispute involving the Amazonas Department and its capital Leticia.

Soon after, Colombia achieved a relative degree of political stability, which was interrupted by a bloody conflict that took place between the late 1940s and the early 1950s, a period known as La Violencia ("The Violence"). Its cause was mainly mounting tensions between the two leading political parties, which subsequently ignited after the assassination of the Liberal presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on April 9, 1948. This assassination caused riots in Bogotá and became known as El Bogotazo. The violence from these riots spread through out the country and claimed the lives of at least 180,000 Colombians. From 1953 to 1964 the violence between the two political parties decreased first when Gustavo Rojas deposed the President of Colombia in a coup d'etat and negotiated with the guerrillas, and then under the military junta of General Gabriel París Gordillo.

After Rojas' deposition the two political parties Colombian Conservative Party and Colombian Liberal Party agreed to the creation of a "National Front", whereby the Liberal and Conservative parties would govern jointly. The presidency would be determined by an alternating conservative and liberal president every 4 years for 16 years; the two parties would have parity in all other elective offices. The National Front ended "La Violencia", and National Front administrations attempted to institute far-reaching social and economic reforms in cooperation with the Alliance for Progress. In the end, the contradictions between each successive Liberal and Conservative administration made the results decidedly mixed. Despite the progress in certain sectors, many social and political problems continued, and guerrilla groups were formally created such as the FARC, ELN and M-19 to fight the government and political apparatus. These guerrilla groups were dominated by Marxist doctrines.

Emerging in the late 1970s, powerful and violent drug cartels further developed during the 1980s and 1990s. The Medellín Cartel under Pablo Escobar and the Cali Cartel, in particular, exerted political, economic and social influence in Colombia during this period. These cartels also financed and influenced different illegal armed groups throughout the political spectrum. Some enemies of these allied with the guerrillas and created or influenced paramilitary groups.

The new Colombian Constitution of 1991 was ratified after being drafted by the Constituent Assembly of Colombia. The constitution included key provisions on political, ethnic, human and gender rights. The new constitution initially prohibited the extradition of Colombian nationals. There were accusations of lobbying by drug cartels in favor of this prohibition. The cartels had previously promoted a violent campaign against extradition, leading to many terrorist attack and mafia style executions. They also tried to influence the government and political structure of Colombia by means of corruption, as in the case of the 8000 Process scandal.

In recent years, the country has continued to be plagued by the effects of the drug trade, guerrilla insurgencies like FARC and paramilitary groups such as the AUC (later demobilized, though paramilitarism remains active), which along with other minor factions have engaged in a bloody internal armed conflict. President Andrés Pastrana and the FARC attempted to negotiate a solution to the conflict between 1998 and 2002 in which the government, more or less like Pakistan negotiations with the Taliban , believed the state could not fight forever and agreed to handle huge quantity of land in return for peace.Pastrana began to implement the Plan Colombia initiative, with the dual goal of ending the armed conflict and promoting a strong anti-narcotic strategy. This strategy had huge quantity of land to be officially set as "demilitarize" zones were no soldiers from neither side could reside, but as more and more attacks from the drug cartels persisted on the demilitarize zones the government soon realized the negotiations were a waste of time.

During the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, who was elected on the promise of applying military pressure on the FARC and other outlawed groups, with the promise that after nearly half a century of negotiation with no results was a sign that some entities "just cannot be negotiated with". Mostly through military pressure and increased military hardware from the US most security indicators improved, showing a steep decrease in reported kidnappings (from 3,700 in the year 2000 to 800 in 2005) and a decrease of more than 48% in homicides between July 2002 and May 2005. Guerillas have been reduced from 16,900 insurgents to 8,900 insurgents.

While some in the UN argue Colombia is violating human rights to achieve peace, most do not argue that increase military pressure has had considerable improvements that have favored economic growth and tourism. The 2006–2007 Colombian parapolitics scandal emerged from the revelations and judicial implications of past and present links between paramilitary groups, mainly the AUC, and some government officials and many politicians, most of them allied to the governing administration.

The government of Colombia takes place within the framework of a presidential representative democratic republic as established in the Constitution of 1991. In accordance with the principle of separation of powers, government is divided into three branches: the executive; the legislative; and the judicial. These operate alongside special control institutions (the offices of the Inspector General of Colombia and the Comptroller General of Colombia) and electoral institutions.

The President of Colombia serves as both head of state and head of government, followed by the Vice President and the Council of Ministers. The president is elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms and is currently limited to a maximum of two such terms (increased from one in 2005). At the provincial level executive power is vested in department governors, municipal mayors and local administrators for smaller administrative subdivisions, such as corregidores for corregimientos.

The legislative branch of government is represented nationally by the Congress, a bicameral institution comprising a 166-seat Chamber of Representatives (including four seats reserved for the representatives of minority communities and expatriates) and a 102-seat Senate (including two seats reserved for the representatives of indigenous communities). Members of both houses are elected two months before the president, also by popular vote and to serve four-year terms. At the provincial level the legislative branch is represented by department assemblies and municipal councils. All regional elections are held one year and five months after the presidential election.

The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court, consisting of 23 judges divided into three chambers (Penal, Civil and Agrarian, and Labour). The judicial branch also includes the Council of State, which has special responsibility for administrative law and also provides legal advice to the executive, the Constitutional Court, responsible for assuring the integrity of the Colombian constitution, and the Superior Council of Judicature, responsible for auditing the judicial branch. Colombia operates a system of civil law, which since 2005 has been applied through an adversarial system.

Colombia is divided into 32 departments and one capital district, which is treated as a department (Bogotá also serves as the capital of the department of Cundinamarca). Departments are subdivided into municipalities, each of which is assigned a municipal seat, and municipalities are in turn subdivided into corregimientos. Each department has a local government with a governor and assembly directly elected to four-year terms. Each municipality is headed by a mayor and council, and each corregimiento by an elected corregidor, or local leader.

In addition to the capital nine other cities have been designated districts (in effect special municipalities), on the basis of special distinguishing features. These are Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Cúcuta, Popayán, Tunja, Turbo, Buenaventura and Tumaco. Some departments have local administrative subdivisions, where towns have a large concentration of population and municipalities are near each other (for example in Antioquia and Cundinamarca). Where departments have a low population and there are security problems (for example Amazonas, Vaupés and Vichada), special administrative divisions are employed, such as "department corregimientos", which are a hybrid of a municipality and a corregimiento.

The foreign relations of Colombia are mostly concentrated on combating the illegal drug trade, the fight against terrorism, improving Colombia's image in the international community, expanding the international market for Colombian products, and environmental issues. Colombia receives special military and commercial co-operation and support in its fight against internal armed groups from the United States, mainly through Plan Colombia, as well as special financial preferences from the European Union in certain products.

Colombia is a member of the Andean Community of Nations and the Union of South American Nations.

The executive branch of government has responsibility for managing the defense of Colombia, with the President commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The Ministry of Defense exercises day-to-day control of the military and the Colombian National Police. According to UN Human Development Report criteria, Colombia has 209,000 military personnel, and in 2005 3.7% of the country's GDP went towards military expenditure, both figures placing it 21st in the world. Within Latin America, Colombia's armed forces are the third-largest, behind Brazil and Mexico, and it spends the second-highest proportion of GDP after Chile. Since 2000 the Colombian military has also received substantial support from the United States government through the provisions of Plan Colombia.

The Colombian military is divided into three branches: the National Army of Colombia; the Colombian Air Force; and the Colombian National Armada. The National Police functions as a gendarmerie, operating independently from the military as the law enforcement agency for the entire country. Each of these operates with their own intelligence apparatus separate from the national intelligence agency, the Administrative Department of Security. The National Army is formed by divisions, regiments and special units; the National Armada by the Colombian Naval Infantry, the Naval Force of the Caribbean, the Naval Force of the Pacific, the Naval Force of the South, Colombia Coast Guards, Naval Aviation and the Specific Command of San Andres y Providencia; and the Air Force by 13 air units. The National Police has a presence in all municipalities.

For over a century Colombian politics were monopolised by the Liberal Party (founded in 1848 on an anti-clerical, broadly economically liberal and federalist platform), and the Conservative Party (founded in 1849 espousing Catholicism, protectionism, and centralism). This culminated in the formation of the National Front (1958-1974), which formalised arrangements for an alternation of power between the two parties and excluded non-establishment alternatives (thereby fuelling the nascent armed conflict).

By the time of the dissolution of the National Front, traditional political alignments had begun to fragment. This process has continued since, and the consequences of this are exemplified by the results of the last presidential election, held on 28 May 2006, which was won with 62% of the vote by the incumbent, Álvaro Uribe. President Uribe is from a Liberal background but he campaigned as part of the Colombia First movement with the support of the Conservative Party, and his hard line on security issues and liberal economics place him on the right of the modern political spectrum. In second place with 22% was Carlos Gaviria of the Alternative Democratic Pole, a newly formed social democratic alliance which includes elements of the former M-19 guerrilla movement. Horacio Serpa of the Liberal Party achieved third place with 12%. Meanwhile in the congressional elections held earlier that year the two traditional parties secured only 93 out of 268 seats available.

Despite a number of controversies, most notably the ongoing parapolitics scandal, dramatic improvements in security and continued strong economic performance have ensured that President Uribe remains extremely popular among the Colombian people, with his approval rating peaking at 91% in July 2008. However, having served two terms, he will be constitutionally barred from seeking re-election in 2010.

In spite of the difficulties presented by serious internal armed conflict, Colombia's economy grew steadily in the latter part of the twentieth century, with gross domestic product (GDP) increasing at an average rate of over 4% per year between 1970 and 1998. The country suffered a recession in 1999 (the first full year of negative growth since the Great Depression), and the recovery from that recession was long and painful. However in recent years growth has been impressive, reaching 8.2% in 2007, one of the highest rates of growth in Latin America. Meanwhile the Colombian stock exchange climbed from 1,000 points at its creation in July 2001 to over 7,300 points by November 2008.

According to International Monetary Fund estimates, in 2007 Colombia's nominal GDP was US$202.6 billion (37th in the world and fourth in South America). Adjusted for purchasing power parity, GDP per capita stands at $7,968, placing Colombia 82nd in the world. However, in practice this is relatively unevenly distributed among the population, and, in common with much of Latin America, Colombia scores poorly according to the Gini coefficient, with UN figures placing it 119th out of 126 countries. In 2003 the richest 20% of the population had a 62.7% share of income/consumption and the poorest 20% just 2.5%, and 17.8% of Colombians live on less than $2 a day. Government spending is 37.9% of GDP. Almost a quarter of this goes towards servicing the country's relatively high government debt, estimated at 52.8% of GDP in 2007. Other problems facing the economy include weak domestic and foreign demand, the funding of the country's pension system, and unemployment (10.8% in November 2008). Inflation has remained relatively low in recent years, standing at 5.5% in 2007.

Historically an agrarian economy, Colombia urbanised rapidly in the twentieth century, by the end of which just 22.7% of the workforce were employed in agriculture, generating just 11.5% of GDP. 18.7% of the workforce are employed in industry and 58.5% in services, responsible for 36% and 52.5% of GDP respectively. Colombia is rich in natural resources, and its main exports include petroleum, coal, coffee and other agricultural produce, and gold. Unofficially, illegal drugs are also a major export, with over 80% of the world's cocaine produced in Colombia, estimated to account for between 1 and 3% of the country's GDP. Colombia is also known as the world's leading source of emeralds, while over 70% of cut flowers imported by the United States are Colombian. Principal trading partners are the United States (a controversial free trade agreement with the United States is currently awaiting approval by the United States Congress), Venezuela and China. All imports, exports, and the overall balance of trade are at record levels, and the inflow of export dollars has resulted in a substantial re-valuation of the Colombian peso.

Economic performance has been aided by liberal reforms introduced in the early 1990s and continued during the current presidency of Álvaro Uribe, whose policies include measures designed to bring the public sector deficit below 2.5% of GDP. In 2008, the Heritage Foundation assessed the Colombian economy to be 61.9% free, an increase of 2.3% since 2007, placing it 67th in the world and 15th out of 29 countries within the region. Meanwhile the improvements in security resulting from President Uribe's controversial "democratic security" strategy have engendered an increased sense of confidence in the economy. On 28 May 2007 the American magazine BusinessWeek published an article naming Colombia "the most extreme emerging market on Earth".

For many years serious internal armed conflict deterred tourists from visiting Colombia, with official travel advisories warning against travel to the country. However in recent years numbers have risen sharply, thanks to improvements in security resulting from President Álvaro Uribe's "democratic security" strategy, which has included significant increases in military strength and police presence throughout the country and pushed rebel groups further away from the major cities, highways and tourist sites likely to attract international visitors. Foreign tourist visits were predicted to have risen from 0.5 million in 2003 to 1.3 million in 2007, while Lonely Planet picked Colombia as one of their top ten world destinations for 2006. The improvements in the country's security were recognised in November 2008 with a revision of the travel advice on Colombia issued by the British Foreign Office.

Popular tourist attractions include the historic Candelaria district of central Bogotá, the walled city and beaches of Cartagena, the colonial towns of Santa Fe de Antioquia, Villa de Leyva and Santa Cruz de Mompox, and the Las Lajas Cathedral and the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. Tourists are also drawn to Colombia's numerous festivals, including Medellín's Festival of the Flowers, the Barranquilla Carnival, the Carnival of Blacks and Whites in Pasto and the Ibero-American Theater Festival in Bogotá. Meanwhile, because of the improved security, Caribbean cruise ships now stop at Cartagena and Santa Marta.

The great variety in geography, flora and fauna across Colombia has also resulted in the development of an ecotourist industry, concentrated in the country's national parks. Popular ecotourist destinations include: along the Caribbean coast, the Tayrona National Natural Park in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range and Cabo de la Vela on the tip of the Guajira Peninsula; the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, the Cocora valley and the Tatacoa Desert in the central Andean region; Amacayacu National Park in the Amazon River basin; and the Pacific islands of Malpelo and Gorgona. Colombia is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Colombia has a network of national highways maintained by the Instituto Nacional de Vías or INVIAS (National Institute of Roadways) government agency under the Ministry of Transport. The Pan-American Highway travels through Colombia, connecting the country with Venezuela to the east and Ecuador to the south.

Colombia's principal airport is El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá. Several national airlines (Avianca, AeroRepública, AIRES , SATENA and EasyFly, ), and international airlines (such as Iberia, American Airlines, Varig, Copa, Continental, Delta, Air Canada, Air France, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aerogal, TAME, TACA) operate from El Dorado. Because of its central location in Colombia and America, it is preferred by national land transportation providers, as well as national and international air transportation providers.

Colombia is discussing current trends and challenges as well as recent international developments in the biofuels sector with the intention of contributing to the development of a sustainable and competitive biofuels strategy for Colombia and the region. Arturo Infante Villarreal is the National Biofuels Coordinator, which is within the Department of National Planning.

With an estimated 44.6 million people in 2008, Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. The population increased at a rate of 1.9% between 1975 and 2005, predicted to drop to 1.2% over the next decade. Colombia is projected to have a population of 50.7 million by 2015. These trends are reflected in the country's age profile. In 2005 over 30% of the population was under 15 years old, compared to just 5.1% aged 65 and over. Life expectancy at birth in 2005 was 72.3; 2.1% would not reach the age of 5, 9.2% would not reach the age of 40.

The population is concentrated in the Andean highlands and along the Caribbean coast. The nine eastern lowland departments, comprising 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 square mile). Traditionally a rural society, movement to urban areas was very heavy in the mid-twentieth century, and Colombia is now one of the most urbanized countries in Latin America. The urban population increased from 31% of the total in 1938 to 60% in 1975, and by 2005 the figure stood at 72.7%. The population of Bogotá alone has increased from just over 300,000 in 1938 to approximately 7 million today. In total thirty cities now have populations of 100,000 or more.

Colombia is ranked second in the world in the Happy Planet Index.

The census data in Colombia does not record ethnicity, other than that of those identifying themselves as members of particular minority ethnic groups, so overall percentages are essentially estimates from other sources and can vary from one to another.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the majority of the population (58%) is mestizo, or of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry. 20% is of European ancestry only, 14% mulatto (of mixed European and black African ancestry), 4% of black African ancestry only, and 3% zambo (of mixed Amerindian and black African ancestry). Pure indigenous Amerindians comprise only 1% of the population. The overwhelming majority of Colombians speak Spanish (see also Colombian Spanish), but in total 101 languages are listed for Colombia in the Ethnologue database, of which 80 are spoken today as living languages. Most of these belong to the Chibchan, Arawak and Cariban linguistic families. The Quechua language, spoken by descendants of the Inca empire, has also extended northwards into Colombia, mainly in urban centers of the southern highlands. There are currently about 500,000 speakers of indigenous languages.

Before the Spanish colonization of what is now Colombia, the territory was home to a significant number of indigenous peoples. Many of these were absorbed into the mestizo population, but the remainder currently represents over eighty-five distinct cultures. 567 reserves (resguardos) established for indigenous peoples occupy 365,004 square kilometres (over 30% of the country's total) and are inhabited by more than 800,000 people in over 67,000 families. The 1991 constitution established their native languages as official in their territories, and most of them have bilingual education (native and Spanish).

Some of the largest indigenous groups are the Wayuu, the Arhuacos, the Muisca, the Kuna, the Paez, the Tucano and the Guahibo. Cauca, La Guajira and Guainia have the largest indigenous populations.

The first and most substantial wave of modern immigration to Colombia consisted of Spanish colonists, following the arrival of Europeans in 1499. However a range of other Europeans (Dutch, Germans, Italians, French, Swiss, Belgians and Basques, also many North Americans) migrated to the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and, in smaller numbers, Poles, Lithuanians, English, Irish and Croats during and after the Second World War. For example, former Mayor of Bogotá Antanas Mockus is the son of Lithuanian immigrants.

Many immigrant communities have settled on the Caribbean coast, in particular recent immigrants from the Middle East. Barranquilla (the largest city of the Colombian Caribbean) and other Caribbean cities have the largest populations of Lebanese and Arabs, Sephardi Jews, Roma, and people of Italian, German, and French descent. For example, the singer Shakira, a native of Barranquilla, has both Lebanese and Italian ancestry. There are also important communities of Chinese and Japanese.

Black Africans were brought as slaves, mostly to the coastal lowlands, beginning early in the sixteenth century and continuing into the nineteenth century. Large Afro-Colombian communities are found today on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The population of the department of Chocó, running along the northern portion of Colombia's Pacific coast, is over 80% black.

The educational experience of many Colombian children begins with attendance at a preschool academy until age 6. Primary education is then free and compulsory. Secondary education (educación media) begins at age 11 and lasts up to six years, in some cases seven (mostly in private schools, where it is usually vocational training). Secondary school graduates are awarded the diploma (high-school diploma). However in many rural areas, teachers are poorly qualified, and only the five years of primary schooling are offered. The school year can extend from February to November or from August to June, and in many public schools attendance is split into morning and afternoon "shifts", in order to accommodate the large numbers of children.

Public spending on education as a proportion of gross domestic product in 2006 was 4.7% — one of the highest rates in Latin America — as compared with 2.4% in 1991. This represented 14.2% of total government expenditure. In 2006, the primary and secondary net enrolment rates stood at 88% and 65% respectively, slightly below the regional average. School life expectancy was 12.4 years. A total of 92.3% of the population aged 15 and older were recorded as literate, including 97.9% of those aged 15-24, both figures slightly higher than the regional average. However, literacy levels are considerably lower in rural areas.

Colombia has 24 public and numerous private universities. These are concentrated in Bogotá, which has become known as "the Athens of South America".

The National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) does not collect religious statistics, and accurate reports are difficult to obtain. However, based on various studies, more than 95% of the population adheres to Christianity, the vast majority of which (between 81% and 90%) are Roman Catholic. About 1% of Colombians adhere to indigenous religions and under 1% to Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. However, despite high numbers of adherents, around 60% of respondents to a poll by El Tiempo reported that they did not practice their faith actively.

While Colombia remains an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, the Colombian constitution guarantees freedom and equality of religion. Religious groups are readily able to obtain recognition as organized associations, although some smaller ones have faced difficulty in obtaining the additional recognition required to offer chaplaincy services in public facilities and to perform legally recognised marriages.

Colombia lies at the crossroads of Latin America and the broader American continent, and as such has been marked by a wide range of cultural influences. Native American, Spanish and other European, African, American, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern influences, as well as other Latin American cultural influences, are all present in Colombia's modern culture. Urban migration, industrialization, globalization, and other political, social and economic changes have also left an impression.

Historically, the country's imposing landscape left its various regions largely isolated from one another, resulting in the development of very strong regional identities, in many cases stronger than the national. Modern transport links and means of communication have mitigated this and done much to foster a sense of nationhood, but social and political instability, and in particular fears of armed groups and bandits on intercity highways, have contributed to the maintenance of very clear regional differences. Accent, dress, music, food, politics and general attitude vary greatly between the Bogotanos and other residents of the central highlands, the paisas of Antioquia and the coffee region, the costeños of the Caribbean coast, the llaneros of the eastern plains, and the inhabitants of the Pacific coast and the vast Amazon region to the south east.

The mixing of various different ethnic traditions is reflected in Colombia's music and dance. The most well-known Colombian genres are cumbia and vallenato, the latter now strongly influenced by global pop culture. A powerful and unifying cultural medium in Colombia is television. Most famously, the telenovela Betty La Fea has gained international success through localized versions in the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere. Television has also played a role in the development of the local film industry.

As in many Latin American countries, Colombians have a passion for football (soccer). The Colombian national football team is seen as a symbol of unity and national pride, though local clubs also inspire fierce loyalty and sometimes-violent rivalries. Colombia has "exported" many famous players, such as Freddy Rincon, Carlos Valderrama, Iván Ramiro Córdoba, and Faustino Asprilla. Other Colombian athletes have also achieved success, including NASCAR's Juan Pablo Montoya, Major League Baseball's Edgar Rentería and Orlando Cabrera, and the PGA Tour's Camilo Villegas.

Other famous Colombians include the Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the artist Fernando Botero, the writers Fernando Vallejo, Laura Restrepo, Álvaro Mutis and James Cañón, the musicians Shakira, Juanes, Carlos Vives and Juan Garcia-Herreros, and the actors Catalina Sandino Moreno, John Leguizamo, Catherine Siachoque and Sofia Vergara.

The cuisine of Colombia developed mainly from the food traditions of European countries. Spanish, Italian and French culinary influences can all be seen in Colombian cooking. The cuisine of neighboring Latin American countries, Mexico, the United States and the Caribbean, as well as the cooking traditions of the country's indigenous inhabitants, have all influenced Colombian food.

Many national symbols, both objects and themes, have arisen from Colombia's diverse cultural traditions and aim to represent what Colombia, and the Colombian people, have in common. Cultural expressions in Colombia are promoted by the government through the Ministry of Culture.

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Colombia national football team

World Map FIFA.svg

The Colombia National Team represents Colombia in international football competitions and is controlled by the Federación Colombiana de Fútbol. It is also a member of CONMEBOL.

They went on to win the Central American Cup in 1946, a cup they would win again in 1970. Colombia would first enter World Cup qualifying in the 1958 qualifiers but were unsuccessful. Colombia tied with Uruguay in Bogotá 1-1 but lost in Montevideo 1-0. Later, Colombia narrowly lost against Paraguay 3-2 in Bogotá and later in Asunción 3-0 leaving Colombia at the bottom of CONMEBOL Group 3 with 1 point.

In the 1962 qualifiers, they faced Peru in a two-game series and qualified for their first World Cup.

Colombia qualified.

At Chile 1962, Colombia lost 2-1 to South American champions Uruguay in their opening match. They then drew 4-4 with the reigning European champions Soviet Union in one of biggest shocks at Chile 1962. It should be noted that in this game, Colombia scored 4 goals against Soviet Union's goalie, Lev Yashin, considered the best goalie in soccer history. And also, Marcos Coll scoring the first Olympic goal in World Cup History. Unfortunately their campaign ended with a 5-0 defeat to Euro 1960 runners up Yugoslavia.

Colombia entered the 1966 qualifiers and finished bottom of their group behind Chile and Ecuador. The 1970 qualifiers proved to be little better. In the 1974 qualifiers, Colombia finished behind Uruguay only on goal difference. In the 1975 Copa America, Colombia finished runners-up losing to Peru 2-0.

For the 1990, South America was allocated three and a half berths at the 1990 finals, one of which went to Argentina as defending champions from Mexico 1986. The continent's nine remaining sides were split into three groups with the two automatic qualifying berths going to the two best group winners, in this instance Uruguay and Brazil. The group winner with the worst record would advance to the CONMEBOL / OFC Intercontinental Play-off. Thus Colombia had to take on the winners of the Oceania Zone. Curiously, this turned out to be Israel, after they finished ahead of Australia and New Zealand in the final qualifying group. Colombia qualified for their first FIFA World Cup since Chile 1962 after winning in Barranquilla 1-0, and tying in Israel 0-0.

At Italia '90, Colombia defeated United Arab Emirates 6-1, lost to Yugoslavia 1-0 and earned their place in the Round Of Sixteen after a dramatic 1-1 draw with West Germany, which would later win the cup. Colombia would be the only team Germany did not beat on their road to the cup.

During their Round Of Sixteen match against Cameroon, the game went into Extra Time after a 0-0 draw. In an unfortunate moment, goalkeeper Rene Higuita failed to protect the ball 35 yards (32 m) from the goal line, enabling Cameroon striker Roger Milla to snatch it from him, and score Cameroon's decisive second goal. Milla struck twice, giving Cameroon a 2-0 lead in Extra Time. Colombia would score in the 115th minute, but were unable to get an equalizer.

Colombia entered 1994 FIFA World Cup with high expectations. An impressive qualifying campaign included a historic 5-0 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires.

Colombia qualified. Argentina advanced to the CONMEBOL / CONCACAF / OFC Intercontinental Play-off.

The match between Colombia and Romania was the first game for either side in the group phase. Romania took the lead in the 16th minute with their first attack of the match when Raducioiu took on three defenders before firing home a low shot. On the half hour mark, Hagi made it 2-0 when he noticed Cordoba out of position and dipped a cross over his head into the net. Valencia pulled a goal back for the Colombians in the 43rd minute when he headed in a corner from Perez. In the second half, Raducioiu put the result beyond doubt with his second goal in the final few minutes.

During the team's next game against the United States on June 22, Andrés Escobar was stretching to cut out a cross but he deflected the ball into his own net. The U.S. went on to get a second goal in the 56th minute thanks to Earnie Stewart.

Colombia scored a 2-0 win over Switzerland.

In 1994, defender Andrés Escobar scored an own goal in a World Cup match against the United States; shortly after the team returned to Colombia, Escobar was murdered in the city of Medellín, Colombia.

Colombia began their qualification rounds in South America well and ended in third place with 28 points, 2 points below Argentina who was in 1st place with 30 points. They ended in Group G with Tunisia, England, and Romania.

Qualification For France 98: A total of 10 CONMEBOL teams entered the competition. The South American zone was allocated 5 places (out of 32) in the final tournament. Brazil, the defending champions, qualified automatically, leaving 4 spots open for competition between 9 teams.

Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia and Chile qualified.

In their opening match 24-year-old Adrian Ilie of Valencia gave Romania a 1-0 victory over Colombia after he placed a magnificent chip shot in the 44th minute from some 15 yards (14 m) that sailed over goalkeeper Farid Mondragon into the net.

Colombia's second match was against Tunisia. Colombia's Leider Preciado's strike seven minutes from the end gave Colombia a 1-0 win over Tunisia.

Although England needed only a draw to guarantee a place in the final 16, Anderton drove home a fiercely-struck angled drive in the 20th minute. Beckham curled in a 30-yard (27 m) free kick nine minutes later leaving the game 2-0 with England winning. This meant Colombia was out for good.

Colombia's exit at France 98' marked the end of an era, as many expected, but one last moment of glory came at Copa América 2001.

A goal in each half was enough to secure Copa America hosts Colombia a victory over Venezuela. Freddy Grisales scored Colombia's first in the 15th minute, and Victor Hugo Aristizabal made it 2-0 on the hour from the penalty spot.

Two goals left Colombia as group leader with 9 points.

The hosts beat Peru with a double from Victor Hugo Aristazabal and one from Giovanni Hernandez.

The hosts took the lead after five minutes with a strike from Bedoya. The host nation eventually doubled their lead after 62 minutes, with Aristizabal scoring.

Hosts Colombia won their first Copa America title by beating Mexico in Bogotá. Their captain Ivan Cordoba scored the decisive goal early in the second half with a header from a free kick. It was a fairytale success for Colombia after the decision to go ahead with the tournament after it had initially been cancelled. Even the fact that Argentina, regarded by most observers as the strongest side in the region, elected not to take part and that most countries fielded weakened teams failed to dampen the celebrations in Bogotá.

For Korea/Japan 2002, hopes were high for Colombia, but a weak attack and internal turnmoil crushed their hopes. Colombia only managed a 6th place in the qualification round. Uruguay and Colombia both had 27 points but due to goal differences, Uruguay advanced to the Play-Offs with Australia.

Colombia's opening match was against Panama where they lost 1-0. Tejada, who plays for Colombian club Envigado, netted the game's lone score in the 70th minute.

The next match was against Honduras where they lost again 2-1. Two late goals gave Honduras the advantage as the catrachos defeated Colombia 2-1 in Group A action of the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup The win is the first for Honduras in the tournament since 2000, when they also defeated Colombia.

The third match was against Trinidad and Tobago where they won a 2-0 victory.

Colombia reached the quarterfinals to face Mexico. Colombia beat Mexico 2-1 as an unexpected goal from Abel Aguilar helped the South American squad advance to the semifinals.

Colombia reached the semifinals only to be defeated by Panama, the underdogs of the tournament. Panama clipped Colombia 3-2 in front of more than 40,000 people at Giants Stadium.

2006 FIFA World Cup -Germany was an important moment for Colombia, having failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Head coach Francisco "Pacho" Maturana led the team through 4 FIFA qualifiers and was fired after losing to Brazil 2-1 in Barranquila, getting thrashed 4-0 by a weak Bolivia and suffering a shocking 1-0 defeat at home to Venezuela. Following a 1-1 tie with Argentina he was fired and Reinaldo Rueda was placed as the new coach. Colombia seemed to have improved and defeated Peru and Uruguay 5-0 during qualifying, managed a 3-0 victory over arch-rivals Ecuador, and tied with Brazil 0-0 in São Paulo. Towards the end Colombia (21 pts), Chile (21pts), and Uruguay (22 pts) had a chance to target the playoffs with Australia. Colombia (21 pts) traveled to Asuncion hoping for three points against Paraguay (28), who sealed their place in Germany while Chile battled against Ecuador and Uruguay against Argentina. As in the 2002 qualifiers, the last match of Argentina was against Uruguay, and in both occasions Uruguay needed a favourable result to reach 5th place in order to make the playoffs to earn a place in the World Cup. Even though Colombia won its match against Paraguay, Uruguay also won the match against Argentina, again reaching the position to play the playoff for the last ticket to Germany. Both Argentina and Paraguay had already qualified. Colombia ended with 24 pts, once again behind an Uruguay with 25 pts.

After Copa America 2007, the Colombian national football team boomed with recent success in the South American 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. After embarrassing losses against Paraguay, and Argentina in the Copa America, many Colombians nonetheless anticipated a successful run for 2010 FIFA World Cup classification. In the first match of the qualifying round, Colombia, defying expectations that they would lose to Brazil, drew 0-0 with Brazil at home. Not long after that, Colombia surprisingly tied 0-0 again with Bolivia national football team, but many argue that this was largely due to the fact that the altitude of La Paz contributes to usual losses or ties for non-Bolivian teams. However, Colombia would find their very first win after defeating a weak Venezuela national football team 1-0, with a stupendous free kick courtesy of Ruben Dario Bustos. In their next game, Colombia would defy expectations again by beating Argentina, at the time ranked first in the world. On November 17, 2007, In Bogotá against Argentina, Lionel Messi beat the defense before scoring past goalkeeper Agustín Julio. Colombia turned the game around in the second half, however, when Ruben Dario Bustos got his second free kick goal of the qualifying campaign, and not long after that, Dayro Moreno scored his first international goal for Colombia. Colombia won the match 2-1, obtaining 4th place in the world cup qualifiers. On June 14, 2008 Colmbia tied Peru 1-1 moving Colombia up to 3rd place in the world cup qualifiers after a Brazilian loss to Paraguay. Another 0-0 between Ecuador and Colombia in Quito was on June 18, 2008 and Colombia remain at 3rd place and as the only undefeated country in the qualification after Bolivia won Paraguay 4-2.

Colombia is currently participating in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

The following players named for their 2010 World Cup Qualifiers against Bolivia  and Venezuela  on March 28, 2009 and March 31, 2009.

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History of Colombia

Coat of Arms of Colombia

The History of Colombia has been characterized by the interaction of rival civilian elites. The political elite, which overlaps with social and economic elites, has shown a marked ability to retain the reins of power, effectively excluding other groups and social institutions, such as the masses and the military, from significant participation in or control over the political process. Members of the lower classes have found it difficult, although not impossible, to challenge or join the established elite in the political and economic spheres. Their subordination dates to the rigid colonial social hierarchy that placed the Spanish-born above the nativeborn . Elite control of the military is the result of the "civilian mystique" that developed along with Colombian independence. That mystique has successfully restricted the military to nonpolitical functions, with three exceptions--1830, 1854, and 1953. Thus Colombia has a history rare for Latin America in that the country has been dominated more by civilian than by military rule. Because military forces have been denied political power, the civilian elites have had only themselves, divided into rival groups, to contend with in the political arena.

Some analysts have divided the political elite along economic lines between the landed and the nonlanded. The agricultural export sector, the backbone of the Colombian economy, has supplied the two main economic groups that also have been the most powerful in the political sphere: the landed aristocracy, who are devoted to the large-scale production of agricultural crops, and the merchants, who are engaged in the trade of these export goods and imported consumer goods. Lesser economic groups, such as the emerging manufacturing sector, have allied themselves with one of the two dominant groups, most often the merchants. Differences within the allied groups on issues such as trade created factions within the alliances even before they officially became established political parties. In addition, the nation's economic development opened up new economic opportunities, and new forces increasingly expressed their views through the political factions.

Elite members of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party alternately competed and cooperated with each other throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Often the nature of relations between the two parties depended on whether moderates or extremists dominated the ruling party. During the periods when moderate factions of both parties were in power, the parties were able to work together in coalitions; when extremist factions prevailed, however, conflict often resulted. During the competitive periods, one party usually sought to limit or eliminate the rival party's participation in the political process, attempts that often resulted in political violence. The most notorious of these periods were the War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) and la violencia (1948-53). At the end of these civil wars, the elite inaugurated the cooperative governments of the Period of Reconciliation (1903- 30) and the National Front (1958-74), respectively, the former catalyzed by the Rafael Reyes presidency (1904-09) and the latter by the Gustavo Rojas Pinilla dictatorship (1953-57). The replacement of the discredited extremist factions by the more conciliatory moderate factions in each case made it possible for the two parties to share power and to achieve a consensus on what policies were appropriate for Colombian society at the time.

Although the elite dominated the masses, the different classes were bound to each other through personalistic patron-client relationships, especially in rural areas where peasants relied on the propertied upper class for access to the land they farmed. These patron-client relationships also tied the masses into the political system as the numerical votes or bodies mobilized and controlled by local political bosses. The affiliation adopted by the members of the lower classes was determined largely by the affiliation of their patrons and their families; these affiliations, as much for a party as against the opposing party, became what Robert H. Dix termed "inherited hatreds," elements of one's identity handed down from generation to generation. The emotional bond to the party carried individual members not only to the polls but also into violent conflict with adherents of the opposing party during those times when political conflict could not be controlled. In this way, the peasants and urban masses were recruited by the party elite to participate in the civil wars that riddled the nation's history.

Colombia's economic life has been based consistently on exports of primary goods, especially coffee. In the sixteenth century, the conquistadors and early colonialists, who often exploited Indian and slave labor, mined precious metals and gems for export to Spain under a mercantile system that inhibited the development of domestic industries. Throughout the preindependence and postindependence periods, agriculture on large landholdings, known as latifundios, became the predominant mode of production for export crops such as sugar and tobacco. By the 1860s, coffee had emerged as the key export crop. At the turn of the century, tariffs on coffee exports were the main source of government revenues, and profits from the coffee trade were the major source of investment in the newly emerging industrial sector that was beginning to produce basic consumer goods. Although the industrial sector grew sufficiently to induce urbanization and economic modernization in the first half of the twentieth century, industrial exports remained relatively minor compared with coffee, which in the late 1980s still accounted for almost 60 percent of all export earnings.

Economic modernization, supported by the coffee industry, became significant at the turn of the century. Modernization brought social changes and growing demands that produced various challenges to the dominant position of the traditional elite: the populist movements of the 1940s and 1970s, the military dictatorship of the 1950s, the rise of guerrilla activity in the 1960s through the 1980s, and the emergence of drug traffickers as a major economic and social element in the 1970s and 1980s. The increase in industrialization and the migration of peasants to the cities accelerated the rate of urbanization and the formation of urban working and lower classes. The heightened need for infrastructure, both within a given city and among urban areas, spurred the growing involvement of the state in the economy, especially during the reformist period in the 1930s and 1940s. By the 1980s, the state had become an important investor in and manager of strategic sectors of the economy, such as energy resources, transportation, and communications.

The emergence of the National Front marked a significant break in the traditional political and economic patterns in Colombian society. Interparty conflict receded and was replaced in the 1960s by leftist subversion, which continued through the 1980s. The illicit narcotics industry emerged in the 1970s as a dominant economic force, altering the structure of the national economy and disrupting existing social and political relations. The leadership in both parties proved unable to address inflation, unemployment, and a skewed distribution of income. The post-National Front Liberal tenure bequeathed a triple legacy to the incoming Conservative government in 1982: guerrilla activity, the corruptive drug trade, and an inequitable economy.

Approximately 10,000 years BC hunter-gatherer societies existed near present-day Bogotá (at El Abra and Tequendama), and they traded with one another and with cultures living in the Magdalena River valley. Beginning in the first millennium AD, groups of Amerindians developed a political system, the cacicazgo, a pyramidal power structure headed by a cacique. Within Colombia, the two cultures with the most complex cacicazgo systems were the Tayronas in the Caribbean region, and the Muiscas in the highlands near Bogotá, both of which belonged to the Chibcha language family. The Muisca people had one of the most developed political systems in South America, surpassed only by the Incas.

The Spanish settled along the north coast of today's Colombia as early as the 1500s, but their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. In 1549, the institution of the Audiencia in Santa Fe de Bogotá gave that city the status of capital of New Granada, comprised in large part of what is now territory of Colombia. In 1717 the Viceroyalty of New Granada was originally created, and then it was temporarily removed, to finally be reestablished in 1739. The Viceroyalty had Santa Fé de Bogotá as its capital. This Viceroyalty included some other provinces of northwestern South America which had previously been under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalties of New Spain or Peru and correspond mainly to today's Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. So, Bogotá became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City, though it remained somewhat backward compared to those two cities in several economic and logistical ways.

The period between 1810 and 1816 was marked by intense conflicts over the nature of the new government or governments. Constant fighting between federalists and centralists gave rise to a period of instability, which came to be known as la Patria Boba (the Foolish Fatherland). Each province, and even some cities, set up its own autonomous juntas, which declared themselves sovereign from each other.

With the arrival of news in May 1810 that southern Spain had been conquered by Napoleon's forces, that the Spanish Supreme Central Junta had dissolved itself, declarations of independence in Quito (1809), Gran Colombia (1810), Venezuela and Paraguay (1811) and other territories, established their own governments . Cartagena de Indias established a junta on May 22, 1810, followed others, including the viceregal capital, Bogotá, on July 20 (today Colombia's Independence Day). Although the Bogotá junta called itself a "Supreme Junta of the New Kingdom of Granada," it failed to provide political unity, and battles broke out between cities and towns as each tried to defend its sovereignty. There were two fruitless attempts at establishing a congress of provinces in the subsequent months.

By March 1811 the province of Bogotá had transformed itself into a state called Cundinamarca. Cundinamarca convened a "Congress of the United Provinces," which first met in Bogotá, but later moved to Tunja and Leyva to maintain independence from the capital city. It established a confederation called the United Provinces of New Granada on November 27, 1811, but Cundinamarca did not recognize the new federation. The dispute over the form of government erupted into civil war by the end of 1812, and once again in 1814. By mid-1815 a large Spanish expeditionary force under Pablo Morillo had arrived in New Granada. Cartagena fell in December, and by May 1816 the royalists had control of all of New Granada.

That year, the Congress of Angostura established the Republic of Gran Colombia, which included all territories under jurisdiction of the former Viceroyalty of New Granada. Bolívar was elected first, president of Gran Colombia and Santander, vice president.

As the Federation of Gran Colombia was dissolved in 1830, the Department of Cundinamarca (as established in Angostura) became a new country, the Republic of New Granada.

In 1863 the name of the Republic was changed officially to "United States of Colombia", and in 1886 the country adopted its present name: "Republic of Colombia".

Two political parties grew out of conflicts between the followers of Bolívar and Santander and their political visions -- the Conservatives and the Liberals -- and have since dominated Colombian politics. Bolívar's supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, sought 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 century and early 20th century, each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time. Colombia maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free elections. The military has seized power three times in Colombia's history: in 1830, after the dissolution of Great Colombia; again in 1854 (by General José María Melo); and from 1953 to 1957 (under General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla). Civilian rule was restored within one year in the first two instances.

Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia's history has also been characterized by widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties. Thousand Days War (1899-1902) cost an estimated 100,000 lives, and up to 300,000 people died during "La Violencia" (The Violence) of the late 1940s and 1950s, a bipartisan confrontation which erupted after the assassination of Liberal popular candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. United States activity to influence the area (especially the Panama Canal construction and control) led to a military uprising in the province of Panama in 1903, which resulted in the establishment of it as a nation.

A military coup in 1953 toppled the right-wing government of Conservative Laureano Gómez and brought General Gustavo Rojas to power. Initially, Rojas enjoyed considerable popular support, due largely to his success in reducing "La Violencia." When he did not restore democratic rule and occasionally engaged in open repression, however, he was overthrown by the military in 1957 with the backing of both political parties, and a provisional government was installed.

In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gómez (1950-1953) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras (1945-1946, 1958-1962) issued the "Declaration of Sitges," in which they proposed a "National Front," whereby the Liberal and Conservative parties would govern jointly. The presidency would be determined by an alternating conservative and liberal president every 4 years for 16 years; the two parties would have parity in all other elective offices.

The National Front ended "La Violencia", and National Front administrations attempted to institute far-reaching social and economic reforms in cooperation with the Alliance for Progress. In the end, the contradictions between each successive Liberal and Conservative administration made the results decidedly mixed. Despite the progress in certain sectors, many social and political injustices continued.

The National Front system itself eventually began to be seen as a form of political repression by dissidents and even many mainstream voters, especially after what was apparently later confirmed as the fraudulent election of Conservative candidate Misael Pastrana in 1970, which resulted in the defeat of the relatively populist candidate Gustavo Rojas. The M-19 guerrilla movement, "Movimiento 19 de Abril" (19th of April Movement), would eventually be founded in part as a response to this particular event.

Although the system established by the Sitges agreement was phased out by 1974, the 1886 Colombian constitution—in effect until 1991—required that the losing political party be given adequate and equitable participation in the government which, according to many observers and later analysis, eventually resulted in some increase in corruption and legal relaxation. The current 1991 constitution does not have that requirement, but subsequent administrations have tended to include members of opposition parties.

From 1974 until 1982, different presidential administrations chose to focus on ending the persistent insurgencies that sought to undermine Colombia's traditional political system. Both groups claimed to represent the poor and weak against the rich and powerful classes of the country, demanding the completion of true land and political reform, from an openly Communist perspective.

By 1974, another challenge to the state's authority and legitimacy had come from the 19th of April Movement (M-19), a mostly urban guerrilla group founded allegedly in response to an electoral fraud during the final National Front election of Misael Pastrana (1970 -1974) and the defeat of former dictator Gustavo Rojas. Initially, the M-19 attracted a degree of attention and sympathy from mainstream Colombians that the FARC and National Liberation Army (ELN) had found largely elusive earlier due to extravagant and daring operations, such as stealing a sword that had belonged to Colombia's Independence hero Simon Bolívar. At the same time, its larger profile soon made it the focus of the state's counterinsurgency efforts.

The ELN guerrilla had been seriously crippled by military operations in the region of Anorí by 1974, but it managed to reconstitute itself and escape destruction, in part due to the administration of Alfonso López Michelsen (1974-1978) allowing it to escape encirclement, hoping to initiate a peace process with the group.

By 1982, the perceived passivity of the FARC, together with the relative success of the government's efforts against the M-19 and ELN, enabled the administration of the Liberal Party's Julio César Turbay (1978-1982) to lift a state-of-siege decree that had been in effect, on and off, for most of the previous 30 years. Under the latest such decree, president Turbay had implemented security policies that, though of some military value against the M-19 in particular, were considered highly questionable both inside and outside Colombian circles due to numerous accusations of military human rights abuses against suspects and captured guerrillas.

Citizen exhaustion due to the conflict's newfound intensity led to the election of president Belisario Betancur (1982-1986), a Conservative who won 47% of the popular vote, directed peace feelers at all the insurgents, and negotiated a 1984 cease-fire with the FARC and M-19 after a 1982 release of many guerrillas imprisoned during the previous effort to overpower them. The ELN rejected entering any negotiation and continued to recover itself through the use of extortions and threats, in particular against foreign oil companies of European and U.S. origin.

As these events were developing, the growing illegal drug trade and its consequences were also increasingly becoming a matter of widespread importance to all participants in the Colombian conflict. Guerrillas and newly wealthy druglords had mutually uneven relations and thus numerous incidents occurred between them. Eventually the kidnapping of drug cartel family members by guerrillas led to the creation of the 1981 Muerte a Secuestradores (MAS) death squad ("Death to Kidnappers"). Pressure from the U.S. government and critical sectors of Colombian society was met with further violence, as the Medellín Cartel and its hitmen, bribed or murdered numerous public officials, politicians and others who stood in its way by supporting the implementation of extradition of Colombian nationals to the U.S. Victims of cartel violence included Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara, assassinated in 1984, an event which made the Betancur administration begin to directly oppose the druglords.

The first negotiated cease-fire with the M-19 ended when the guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985, claiming that the cease-fire had not been fully respected by official security forces, saying that several of its members had suffered threats and assaults, and also questioning the government's real willingness to implement any accords. The Betancur administration in turn questioned the M-19's actions and its commitment to the peace process, as it continued to advance high profile negotiations with the FARC, which led to the creation of the Patriotic Union (Colombia) (UP), a legal and non-clandestine political organization.

On November 6, 1985, the M-19 stormed the Colombian Palace of Justice and held the Supreme Court magistrates hostage, intending to put president Betancur on trial. In the ensuing crossfire that followed the military's reaction, scores of people lost their lives, as did most of the guerrillas, including several high-ranking operatives. Both sides blamed each other for the outcome.

Meanwhile, individual FARC members initially joined the UP leadership in representation of the guerrilla command, though most of the guerrilla's chiefs and militiamen did not demobilize nor disarm, as that was not a requirement of the process at that point in time. Tension soon significantly increased, as both sides began to accuse each other of not respecting the cease-fire. Political violence against FARC and UP members (including presidential candidate Jaime Pardo) was blamed on druglords and also on members of the security forces (to a much lesser degree on the argued inaction of Betancur administration). Members of the government and security authorities increasingly accused the FARC of continuing to recruit guerrillas, as well as kidnapping, extorting and politically intimidating voters even as the UP was already participating in politics.

The Virgilio Barco (1986-1990) administration, in addition to continuing to handle the difficulties of the complex negotiations with the guerrillas, also inherited a particularly chaotic confrontation against the druglords, who were engaged in a campaign of terrorism and murder in response to government moves in favor of their extradition overseas. The UP also suffered an increasing number of losses during this term (including the assassination of presidential candidate Bernardo Jaramilla), which stemmed both from private proto-paramilitary organizations, increasingly powerful druglords and a number of would-be paramilitary-sympathizers within the armed forces.

Following administrations had to contend with the guerrillas, paramilitaries, narcotics traffickers and the violence and corruption that they all perpetuated, both through force and negotiation. Narcoterrorists assassinated three presidential candidates before César Gaviria was elected in 1990. Since the death of Medellín cartel leader Pablo Escobar in a police shootout during December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with that organization have abated as the "cartels" have broken up into multiple, smaller and often-competing trafficking organizations. Nevertheless, violence continues as these drug organizations resort to violence as part of their operations but also to protest against government policies, including extradition.

The M-19 and several smaller guerrilla groups were successfully incorporated into a peace process as the 1980s ended and the 90s began, which culminated in the elections for a Constituent Assembly of Colombia that would write a new constitution, which took effect in 1991. The new Constitution, brought about a considerable number of institutional and legal reforms based on principles that the delegates considered as more modern, humanist, democratic and politically open than those existent under the previous 1886 constitution. Practical results were mixed and controversies emerged (such as the debate surrounding the constitutional prohibition of extradition, which later was reversed), but together with the reincorporation of some of the guerrilla groups to the legal political framework, the new Constitution inaugurated an era that was both a continuation and a gradual, but significant, departure from what had come before.

Contacts with the FARC, which had irregularly continued despite the generalized de facto interruptions of the ceasefire and the official 1987 break from negotiations, were temporarily cut off in 1990 under the presidency of César Gaviria (1990-1994). The Colombian Army's assault on the FARC's Casa Verde sanctuary at La Uribe, Meta, followed by a FARC offensive that sought to undermine the deliberations of the Constitutional Assembly, began to highlight a significant break in the uneven negotiations carried over from the previous decade.

President Ernesto Samper assumed office in August 1994. However, a political crisis relating to large-scale contributions from drug traffickers to Samper's presidential campaign diverted attention from governance programs, thus slowing, and in many cases, halting progress on the nation's domestic reform agenda. The military also suffered several setbacks in its fight against the guerrillas, when several of its rural bases began to be overrun and a record number of soldiers and officers were taken prisoner by the FARC (which since 1982 was attempting to implement a more "conventional" style of warfare, seeking to eventually defeat the military in the field).

On August 7, 1998, Andrés 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. The new president's program was based on a commitment to bring about a peaceful resolution of Colombia's longstanding civil conflict and to cooperate fully with the United States to combat the trafficking of illegal drugs.

While early initiatives in the Colombian peace process gave reason for optimism, the Pastrana administration also has had to combat high unemployment and other economic problems, such as the fiscal deficit and the impact of global financial instability on Colombia. During his administration, unemployment has risen to over 20%. Additionally, the growing severity of countrywide guerrilla attacks by the FARC and ELN, and smaller movements, as well as the growth of drug production, corruption and the spread of even more violent paramilitary groups such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) has made it difficult to solve the country's problems.

Although the FARC and ELN accepted participation in the peace process, they did not make explicit commitments to end the conflict. The FARC suspended talks in November 2000, to protest what it called "paramilitary terrorism" but returned to the negotiating table in February 2001, following 2 days of meetings between President Pastrana and FARC leader Manuel Marulanda. The Colombian Government and ELN in early 2001 continued discussions aimed at opening a formal peace process.

No single explanation fully addresses the deep roots of Colombia's present-day troubles, but they include limited government presence in large areas of the interior, the expansion of illicit drug cultivation, endemic violence, and social inequities. In order to confront these challenges, the Pastrana administration unveiled its Plan Colombia in late 1999, an integrated strategy to deal with these longstanding, mutually reinforcing problems.

The main stated objectives of the original Plan Colombia were to promote peace, combat the narcotics industry, revive the Colombian economy, improve respect for human rights, and strengthen the democratic and social institutions of the country. Colombia planned to finance US$4 billion of the estimated US$7.5 billion overall cost, most of which would go towards the social portion of the project, but was ultimately unable to do so due to the state's 1997-1998 economic crisis.

The United States approved a US$1.3 billion assistance package, mostly of military and counternarcotics nature, but also including a small amount of social aid. The Colombian Government sought additional support from the IFIs, the European Union, and other countries, with the intention of financing the social component of the original plan, but met with little cooperation as the would-be donors considered that the U.S. approved aid represented an undue military slant and additionally lacked the will to spend such amounts of money.

After the eventual breakup of the peace negotiations, which had been stalled numerous times and finally ended due to a guerrilla kidnapping of a congressman and other political figures, the Caguán demilitarized zone was terminated by the Pastrana administration.

Soon after that, in May 2002, the former liberal politician of conservative leanings Álvaro Uribe, whose father had been killed by left-wing guerrillas, was sworn in as Colombian president. He immediately began taking action to crush the FARC, ELN, and AUC, including the employment of citizen informants to help the police and armed forces track down suspected members in all three armed groups.

In the fall of 2002, the administration released the much-awaited Colombian national security strategy, entitled Democratic Security and Defense Policy. The Plan would fit within the broader social, economic, and political goals of Plan Colombia. Though much attention has been focused on the security and military aspects of Colombia's situation, the administration also is spending significant time on issues such as expanding international trade, supporting alternate means of development, and reforming Colombia's judicial system.

As of 2004, two years after its implementation began, the security situation of inside Colombia has shown some measure of an improvement and the economy, while still fragile, has also shown some positive signs according to observers, but relatively little has yet to have been accomplished in structurally solving most of the country's other grave problems, possibly in part due to legislative and political conflicts between the administration and the Colombian Congress (including those over the controversial project to eventually re-elect Uribe), and a relative lack of freely allocated funds and credits.

Some critical observers consider that Uribe's policies, while admittedly reducing crime and guerrilla activity, might be too slanted in favor of a military solution to Colombia's internal war, neglecting grave social and human rights concerns to a certain extent. They ask for Uribe's government to change this position and make serious efforts towards improving the human rights situation inside the country, protecting civilians and reducing any abuses committed by the armed forces.

Uribe's supporters in turn believe that increased military action is a necessary prelude to any serious negotiation attempt with the guerrillas and that the increased security situation will help to, in the long term, focus more actively on reducing most wide-scale abuses and human rights violations on the part of both the armed groups and any rogue security forces that might have links to the paramilitaries. In short, that the security situation must be stabilized in favor of the government before any other social concerns can take precedence.

With such conflicting perspectives, it can be argued that a certain polarization between both supporters and opponents of President Uribe seems to be forming both inside and outside the country. Uribe was reelected in 2006 after a change in the constitution allowed presidents to be reelected.

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Gran Colombia

Location of Gran Colombia

Gran Colombia (Spanish for Great Colombia) is a name used today for a nation that encompassed a great part of the territory of northern South America and a small part of southern Central America during the period 1819-1831.

This short-lived republic in South America encompassed the territories of present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama, as well as small slices of Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil, and Guyana. Its territory corresponded more or less to the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of New Granada.

The official name at the time was the Republic of Colombia, as it is today; historians have adopted the term "Gran Colombia" to distinguish the Republic before 1831 (with its more extensive land area) from that of the present-day Republic of Colombia.

The name "Colombia" comes from the name of Christopher Columbus (Cristòfol Colom in Catalan, Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, Cristoforo Colombo in Italian) and was conceived by the revolutionary Francisco de Miranda as a reference to the New World, especially to all American territories and colonies under Spanish and Portuguese rule.

The Republic of Gran Colombia comprised more or less the former territories of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which it claimed under the legal principle of uti possidetis.

Simón Bolívar, the Liberator of parts of Spanish South America, and other revolutionaries in the First Venezuelan Republic occasionally used the term Colombia as a reference to all of Spanish America, until the proclamation of a republic under that name in 1819 at the Congress of Angostura.

It was initially conceived at that Congress as a Federal republic, made up of three departments with capitals in the cities of Bogotá (Department of Cundinamarca), Caracas (Department of Venezuela), and Quito (Department of Quito). In that year, not all the provinces of the former viceroyalty were free yet.

The constitution of the new republic was drafted in 1821 at the Congress of Cúcuta, establishing its capital in Bogotá. A great degree of centralization was established there, since several convinced federalists now came to believe that it would be necessary in order to better manage a unified war effort, at least for the time being.

A new territorial division (Venezuela, Cundinamarca, and Quito were split into various smaller departments) was conceived. Simón Bolívar was elected the president and Francisco de Paula Santander the vice-president.

In the first years of existence, Gran Colombia helped other provinces still at war with Spain to become independent - Panama came to the federation in 1821 and so did the remaining provinces of Quito and Venezuela.

The independence of Peru was consolidated later in 1824 through Gran Colombia's aid. Bolívar and Santander were re-elected in 1826.

As the war against Spain came to an end, federalist and regionalist sentiments began to arise once again. Permanent calls for modifications of the political division (along with related economic and commercial disputes) during the existence of Gran Colombia, as a result of local confrontations between the regions, led to local changes and compromises.

These changes never fully pleased contemporaries and little permanent consolidation was achieved, showing the instability of the state's structure.

Bolívar dreamt of uniting Latin America but was unable to achieve this during the struggle for independence. The Republic of Gran Colombia was his initial attempt at creating a single Latin American state.

Other regional and South American politicians, however, objected to his idea, and Bolívar, disgruntled, resigned from the project in 1828 and from his presidency in early 1830.

Internal political strife between the different regions intensified after Bolívar's resignation and continued even as General Rafael Urdaneta temporarily took power in Bogotá, attempting to use his authority to ostensibly restore order and give the presidency back to Bolívar.

The federation finally dissolved during the rest of 1830 and was formally abolished in 1831, as Venezuela, Ecuador and New Granada came to exist as independent states.

The dissolution of Gran Colombia characterized the failure of Bolívar's dream. The Department of Cundinamarca (as established in Angostura) became a new country, the Republic of New Granada. In 1863, New Granada changed its name officially to United States of Colombia, and in 1886 adopted its present day name: Republic of Colombia. Panama remained as a province of this country until 1903, when – with backing from the United States of America in exchange for allowing the US to build the Panama Canal – it became independent.

See United Provinces of Central America, Nordic countries, and Arab nationalism for more examples of regions whose nations possess similar flags because of historical connections.

Under the Constitution of 1821, the President was the head of the executive power. and its time in office was the lifetime of the incumbent. The executive power had also Vice-presidents that assumed the presidency in case of death, demotion, or illness of the President. Before the approval of the Constitution of 1821 by the Congress of Villa del Rosario, the President de Facto was Simon Bolívar, and the Vice-president Francisco de Paula Santander, because the Congress of Angostura provisionally gave them that title until a new Constitution was written.

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Source : Wikipedia