printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Colombia (04/02)


Share

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Colombia

Geography
Area: 1.2 million sq. km. (440,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Texas, New Mexico, and Arkansas combined; fourth-largest country in South America.
Cities: Capital--Bogota (pop. about 6 million). Other major cities--Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena.
Terrain: Flat coastal areas, with extensive coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea three rugged parallel mountain chains, central highlands, and flat eastern grasslands.
Climate: Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Colombian(s).
Population: 42 million.
Annual population growth: 1.8%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 90%.
Language: Spanish.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--80% of children enter school. Only 5 years of primary school are offered in many rural areas. Literacy--93% in urban areas, 67% in rural areas.
Health: Infant mortality rate--25/1,000. Life expectancy--men 65 yrs., women 76 yrs.

Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: July 20, 1810.
Constitution: July 1991.
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state and head of government). Legislative--bicameral Congress.
Judicial--Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Superior Judicial Council.
Administrative divisions: 32 departments; Bogota, capital district.
Major political parties: Conservative Party of Colombia, Liberal Party, and a score of small political movements (most of them allied with one or the other major party).
Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over.

Flag: Colombia flag

Economy
GDP: $88.2 billion.(2001 projected)
Annual growth rate: 1.8%. (2001 projected)
Per capita GDP: $2,087. (2001 projected)
Government: 20.1% of GDP.
Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds.
Manufacturing (13.8 of GDP): Types--textiles and garments, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages.
Agriculture (14.5% of GDP): Products--coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum. Cultivated land: 8.2% of total area.
Other sectors (by percentage of GDP): Financial services--3.7%; commerce--11.2%; transportation and communications services--8.2%; mining and quarrying--4.3%; construction and public works--4.3%; electricity, gas, and water--3.2%.
Trade: Exports--$14.5 billion (2001 projected): petroleum, coffee, coal, ferronickel, bananas, flowers, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles and garments, gold, sugar, cardboard containers, printed matter, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds. Major markets--U.S., Germany, Netherlands, Japan. Imports--$12.7 billion (2001 projected): machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, metals/metal products, plastic/rubber, paper products, aircraft, oil and gas industry equipment, and supplies. Major suppliers--U.S., Venezuela, Germany, Japan, Panama.

PEOPLE
Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Movement from rural to urban areas has been heavy. The urban population increased from 57% of the total population in 1951 to about 74% by 1994. Thirty cities have a population of 100,000 or more. The nine eastern lowlands departments, constituting about 54% of Colombia's area, have less than 3% of the population and a density of less than one person per square kilometer (two persons per sq. mi.). Ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous Indians, Spanish colonists, and Africans. Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully Indian on the basis of language and customs.

HISTORY AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS  
During the pre-Colombian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were primitive hunters or nomadic farmers. The Chibchas, who lived in the Bogota region, dominated the various Indian groups.

The Spanish sailed along the north coast of Colombia as early as 1500, but their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not made until 1525. In 1549, the area was established as a Spanish colony with the capital at Santa Fe de Bogota. In 1717, Bogota became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what is now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. The city became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City.

In August 2000 the capital's name was officially changed from "Santa Fe de Bogota" to the more usual "Bogota." On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogota created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed.

The Republic and La Violencia (The Violence)
The new Republic of Greater Colombia included all the territory of the former Viceroyalty. Simon Bolivar was elected its first president and Francisco de Paula Santander, vice president. Two political parties grew out of conflicts between the followers of Bolivar and Santander and their political visions--the Conservatives and the Liberals--and have since dominated Colombian politics.

Bolivar'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 and early 20th centuries, 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, when Ecuador and Venezuela withdrew from the republic (Panama became independent in 1903); again in 1854, and 1953-57. Civilian rule was restored within one year in the first two instances.

Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia's history also has been characterized by widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties. The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) cost an estimated 100,000 lives, and up to 300,000 people died during La Violencia of the late 1940s and 1950s.

A military coup in 1953 brought Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla to power. Initially, Rojas enjoyed considerable popular support, due largely to his success in reducing "La Violencia." When he did not restore democratic rule, however, he was overthrown by the military in 1957 with the backing of both political parties, and a provisional government was installed.

The National Front
In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gomez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) proclaimed 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 regular elections every 4 years; the two parties would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices.

The National Front ended La Violencia, and National Front administrations instituted social and economic reforms in cooperation with the Alliance for Progress. Although the system established by the Sitges agreement was phased out by 1978, the 1886 Colombian constitution--in effect until 1991--required that the losing political party be given adequate and equitable participation in the government. The 1991 constitution does not have that requirement, but subsequent administrations have included members of opposition parties.

Post-National Front Years
Between 1978 and 1982, the government focused on ending the limited, but persistent, Cuban-backed insurgencies that sought to undermine Colombia's traditional democratic system. The success of the government's efforts enabled it to lift the state-of-siege decree that had been in effect for most of the previous 30 years.

In 1984, President Belisario Betancur, a Conservative who won 47% of the popular vote, negotiated a cease-fire that included the release of many guerrillas imprisoned during the effort to overpower the insurgents. The cease-fire ended when Democratic Alliance/M-19 AD/M-19) guerrillas resumed fighting in 1985.

An attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogota by the AD/M-19 on November 6-7, 1985, and its violent suppression by the army, shocked Colombians. Of the 115 people killed, 11 were Supreme Court justices. Although the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) renewed their truce in March 1986, peace with other revolutionary movements, in particular the AD/M-19--then the largest insurgent group--and the National Liberation Army (ELN) was remote as Betancur left office.

The AD/M-19 and several smaller guerilla groups were successfully incorporated into a peace process during the late 1980s, which culminated in a national assembly to write a new constitution, which took effect in 1991. The FARC had declared a unilateral cease-fire under Betancur, which led to the establishment of the Union Patriotica (UP), a legal and nonclandestine political organization. After growing violence against its UP members, when an estimated 1,000-3,000 were killed, the truce with the FARC ended in 1990.

Following administrations had to contend with the guerrillas, paramilitaries, and narcotics traffickers. Narcoterrorists assassinated three presidential candidates before Cesar Gaviria Trujillo was elected in 1990. Since the death of Medellin 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.

President Ernesto Samper assumed office in August 1994. However, a political crisis relating to largescale 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 Pastrana Administration and Peace Process
On August 7, 1998, Andres Pastrana was sworn in as the President of Colombia. A member of the Conservative Party, Pastrana defeated Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa in a run-off election marked by high voter turn-out and little political unrest. The new president's program was based on a commitment to bring about a peaceful resolution of Colombia's longstanding civil conflicts 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 some 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 rose to over 20% and by 2001 had only been reduced to 17%. Additionally, the growing severity of countrywide guerilla attacks by the FARC and ELN, and smaller movements, as well as the growth of drug production and the spread of paramilitary groups has made it difficult to solve the country's problems.

Although the FARC accepted participation in the peace process, it did not make explicit commitments to end the conflict. On January 20, 2002, the Colombian Government and the FARC reached the latest in a series of agreements made over the previous 3 years, this one establishing a timetable for peace talks. As happened before, FARC compliance was minimal.

During the following month, the FARC increased its terrorist activities. In addition to numerous attacks on military and police installations, the FARC killed at least 20 innocent civilians, including women and children; was responsible for four car bombings, and attacked Colombia's infrastructure, including water supply, energy pylons, an oil pipeline, and bridges. The FARC also hijacked a Colombian airliner carrying 35 passengers and kidnapped Colombian Sen. Jorge Edurdo Gechen.

After more than 3 years of talks, President Pastrana suspended the peace process with the FARC on February 21, 2002, and ordered the military and police forces to retake the former safehaven which the government had granted the FARC. The Colombian Government and ELN, after suspending talks in 2001 have resumed 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, a comprehensive strategy to deal with these longstanding, mutually reinforcing problems. The main objectives of Plan Colombia are 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.

GOVERNMENT

Constitutional Reforms
Colombia's present constitution, enacted in July 1991, strengthened the administration of justice with the provision for introduction of an accusatorial system which ultimately is to replace entirely the existing Napoleonic Code. Other significant reforms under the new constitution provide for civil divorce, dual nationality, the election of a vice president, and the election of departmental governors. The constitution expanded citizens' basic rights, including that of "tutela," under which an immediate court action can be requested by an individual if he or she feels that their constitutional rights are being violated and if there is no other legal recourse.

The national government has executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as an independent Attorney General (Fiscal) elected for a 4-year term by the Congress. The president is elected for a 4-year term and cannot be re-elected. The 1991 constitution reestablished the position of vice president, who is elected on the same ticket as the president. By law, the vice president will succeed in the event of the president's resignation, illness, or death.

Colombia's bicameral Congress consists of a 102-member Senate and a 161-member House of Representatives. Senators are elected on the basis of a nationwide ballot, while representatives are elected in multimember districts co-located within the 32 national departments.

The country's capital is a separate district and elects its own representatives. Members may be re-elected indefinitely, and, in contrast to the previous system, there are no alternate congressmen. Congress meets twice a year, and the president has the power to call it into special session when needed.

Guidelines and the general structure for Colombia's administration of justice are set out in Law 270 of March 7, 1996. Colombia's legal system has recently begun to incorporate some elements of an oral, accusatorial system. The judicial branch's general structure is composed of four distinct jurisdictions (civilian, administrative, constitutional, and special). Colombia's highest judicial organs include the co-equal Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Constitutional Court, and the Superior Judicial Council. This sometimes leads to conflicting opinions since there is no one court which clearly has authority over the decisions of the other three, as for example, the Supreme Court in the United States.

Principal Government Officials
President--Andres PASTRANA Arango
Vice President--Gustavo BELL Lemus
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Guillermo FERNANDEZ de Soto
Ambassador to the United States--Luis Alberto MORENO
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Luis Alfredo RAMOS
Ambassador to the United Nations--Alfonso VALDIVIESO

Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington.

DEFENSE
Colombia's Ministry of Defense, charged with the country's internal and external defense and security, has an army, navy--which includes both marines and coast guard--air force, and national police under the leadership of a civilian Minister of Defense. In 2000, Colombia assigned 3.2% of its GDP to defense, according to the National Planning Department. The security forces number about 250,000 uniformed personnel: 145,000 military and 105,000 police.

Many Colombian military personnel have received training in the United States or in Colombia. The United States has provided equipment to the Colombian military and police through the military assistance program, foreign military sales, and the international narcotics control program.

Narcotics decertification in 1996 forced a temporary halt to U.S. military assistance programs, except for those related to counternarcotics. On August 1, 1997, the U.S. and Colombia signed an End Use Monitoring (EUM) memorandum of understanding which stipulated that U.S. counternarcotics assistance to the Colombian military be conditioned on human rights screening of proposed recipient units. Once equipment is provided, it continues to be subject to end-use monitoring to ensure it is being used for counternarcotics purposes.

U.S. assistance to Colombian military and police forces is provided in accordance with Section 556 (Leahy Amendment) of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (Public Law 107-115) and with Section 8098 of Department of Defense Appropriations Act Public Law 106-79) which requires that no assistance be provided to any unit of the security forces for which the U.S. Government has credible evidence of commission of gross violations of human rights, unless the Secretary of State is able to certify that the Government of Colombia has taken effective measures to bring those responsible to justice. End-use monitoring also is required in these cases.

ECONOMY
Colombia is a free market economy with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. Transition from a highly regulated economy has been underway for more than a decade. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization or "apertura," and this has continued since then, with tariff reductions, financial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and adoption of a more liberal foreign exchange rate. Almost all sectors became open to foreign investment although agricultural products remained protected.

Until 1997, Colombia had enjoyed a fairly stable economy. The first 5 years of liberalization were characterized by high economic growth rates of between 4% and 5%. The Samper administration (1994-98) emphasized social welfare policies which targeted Colombia's lower income population. However, these reforms led to higher government spending which increased the fiscal deficit and public sector debt, the financing of which required higher interest rates. An over-valued peso inherited from the previous administration was maintained.

The economy slowed, and by 1998 GDP growth was only 0.6%. In 1999, the country fell into its first recession since the Great Depression. The economy shrank by 4.5% with unemployment at more than 20%. While unemployment remained at 20% in 2000, GDP growth recovered to 2.8%.

The administration of President Andres Pastrana, when it took office on August 7, 1998, faced an economy in crisis, with the difficult internal security situation and global economic turbulence additionally inhibiting confidence. As evidence of a serious recession became clear in 1999, the government took a number of steps. It engaged in a series of controlled devaluations of the peso, followed by a decision to let it float. Colombia also entered into an agreement with the International Monetary Fund which provided a $2.7 billion guarantee (extended funds facility), while committing the government to budget discipline and structural reforms.

By early 2000 there had been the beginning of an economic recovery, with the export sector leading the way, as it enjoyed the benefit of the more competitive exchange rate, as well as strong prices for petroleum, Colombia's leading export product. Prices of coffee, the other principal export product, have been more variable.

Economic growth reached 2.8% during 2000, and inflation was 8.7%. The slight economic recovery lost strength in 2001, and growth was only 1.5% due to lower world prices for Colombian exports and domestic demand, which has not recovered in the face of continued high unemployment. Inflation was 7.7% in 2001, slightly lower than the official target of 8%. For 2002, the government has estimated that growth will be between 2.5% and 3.0%, with inflation projected to be 6.0%. Colombia's international reserves have remained stable at around $9.7 billion, and Colombia has successfully remained in international capital markets. Colombia's total foreign debt at the end of 2001 was $38.7 billion with $16.1 billion in private sector and $22.6 billion in public sector debt. Major international credit rating organizations have dropped Colombian sovereign debt below investment grade, primarily as a result of large fiscal deficits, which current policies are seeking to close.

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

The discovery of two billion barrels of high-quality oil at the Cusiana and Cupiagua fields, about 125 miles east of Bogota, has enabled Colombia to become a net oil exporter since 1986. Total crude oil production averages 620,000 b/d; about 184,000 b/d is exported. The Pastrana government has significantly liberalized its petroleum investment policies, leading to an increase in exploration activity. Refining capacity cannot satisfy domestic demand, so some refined products, especially gasoline, must be imported.

The country's oil pipelines are a frequent target of extortion and bombing campaigns by the ELN and, more recently, the FARC. The bombings have caused substantial environmental damage, often in fragile rainforests and jungles, as well as causing significant loss of life. During 2001 more than 70 attacks on the important Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline occurred, causing it to be shut down some 240 days, with revenue losses to Colombia of nearly $500 million.

Colombia has 6.6 billion tons of proven coal reserves, and its coal production totaled 21.7 million metric tons (mt) in 1995. Production from El Cerrejon--the world's largest open-pit coal mine--located on Colombia's Guajira Peninsula, accounted for 65% of that amount.

Colombia's exports of 18.4 million mt of steam coal in 1994 made it the world's fourth-largest exporter of this commodity. Private and public investments in Colombia's coal fields and related infrastructure projects are expected to enable the country's exports to grow to about 35 million mt.

While Colombia has vast hydroelectric potential, a prolonged drought in 1992 forced severe electricity rationing throughout the country until mid-1993. The consequences of the drought on electricity-generating capacity caused the government to commission the construction or upgrading of 10 thermoelectric power plants.

Half will be coal-fired, and half will be fired by natural gas. The government also has begun awarding bids for the construction of a natural gas pipeline system that will extend from the country's extensive gas fields to its major population centers.

Trade
Colombia's estimated balance of trade showed a surplus of $2.7 billion in 2000. Total 2000 imports were $11.5 billion, while exports were $13.0 billion. Estimated 2001 imports were $12.7 billion with $14.5 exports. Colombia's major exports continue to be petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, gold, and nontraditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, semiprecious stones, sugar, and tropical fruits). The United States remained Colombia's major trading partner. In 2001 it took 49.8% of exports and provided 40% of imports. The EU and Japan also are important trading partners, as are Andean Pact countries.

Foreign Investment
In 1991 and 1992, the government passed laws to stimulate foreign investment in nearly all sectors of the economy. The only activities closed to foreign direct investment are defense and national security, disposal of hazardous wastes, and real estate--the last of these restrictions is intended to hinder money laundering. Colombia established a special entity--CoInvertir--to assist foreigners in making investments in the country. Foreign investment flows for 2000 were $3.9 billion, up from $2.0 billion in 1999. As of September 2001, foreign investment flows had reached $4.3 billion. In spite of the difficulties which include the perception of Colombia as a high-risk country, and a fall in privatization receipts, foreign investment has increased in the last years mainly due to investments in the oil sector.

Major foreign investment projects underway include the $6 billion development of the Cusiana and Cupiagua oil fields, development of coal fields in the north of the country, and the recently concluded licensing for establishment of cellular telephone service. The United States accounted for 26.3% of the total $23.0 billion stock of nonpetroleum foreign direct investment in Colombia as of September 2001. The petroleum and natural gas coalmining, chemical, and manufacturing industries attract the greatest U.S. investment interest.

On October 21, 1995, under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), President Clinton signed an Executive Order barring U.S. entities from any commercial or financial transactions with four Colombian drug kingpins and with individuals and companies associated with the traffic in narcotics, as designated by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. The list of designated individuals and companies is amended periodically and is maintained by the Office of Foreign Asset Control at the Department of the Treasury, tel. (202) 622-0077 (Document #1900). The document also is available at the Department of Treasury web site www.ustreas.gov.

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

A diverse climate and topography permit the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. In addition, all regions yield forest products, ranging from tropical hardwoods in the hot country to pine and eucalyptus in the colder areas.

Cacao, sugarcane, coconuts, bananas, plantains, rice, cotton, tobacco, cassava, and most of the nation's beef cattle are produced in the hot regions from sea level to 1,000 meters elevation. The temperate regions--between 1,000 and 2,000 meters--are better suited for coffee; certain flowers; corn and other vegetables; and fruits such as citrus, pears, pineapples, and tomatoes. The cooler elevations--between 2,000 and 3,000 meters--produce wheat, barley, potatoes, cold-climate vegetables, flowers, dairy cattle, and poultry.

Narcotics Cultivation and Control
Colombia is the world's leading supplier of refined cocaine and a growing source for heroin. More than 90% of the cocaine that enters the United States is produced, processed, or transshipped in Colombia. The cultivation of coca more than doubled in 1999 to 302,500 acres from 125,700 acres in 1995, primarily in areas where government control is weak.

Despite the death of Medellin cartel drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in 1993 and the arrests of major Cali cartel leaders in 1995 and 1996, Colombian drug cartels remain among the most sophisticated criminal organizations in the world, controlling cocaine processing, international wholesale distribution chains, and markets. In 1999 Colombian police arrested over 30 narcotraffickers, most of them extraditable, in "Operation Millennium" involving extensive international cooperation. More arrests were made in a following "Operation Millennium II."

Colombia is engaged in a broad range of narcotics control activities. Through aerial spraying of herbicide and manual eradication, Colombia has attempted to keep coca, opium poppy, and cannabis cultivation from expanding. The government has committed itself to the eradication of all illicit crops, interdiction of drug shipments, and financial controls to prevent money laundering.

Alternative development programs were introduced in 1999. Corruption and intimidation by traffickers complicate the drug-control efforts of the institutions of government. Control and exploitation of narcotics trafficking has become a major source of revenue for the FARC, ELN, and AUC. Colombia passed revised criminal procedures code in 1993 that permits traffickers to surrender and negotiate lenient sentences in return for cooperating with prosecutors. In December 1996 and February 1997, however, the Colombian Congress passed legislation to toughen sentencing, asset forfeiture, and money-laundering penalties.

In November 1997, the Colombian Congress amended the constitution to permit the extradition of Colombian nationals, albeit not retroactively. In late 1999, President Pastrana authorized the first extradition in almost 10 years of a Colombian trafficker to stand trial for U.S. crimes. Since July 1, 2001, 19 persons have been extradited to the United States, most for narcotics charges, with cases against others pending in Colombian courts.

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

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the United Nations and the Organization of American States and in their subsidiary agencies. Former President Gaviria became Secretary General of the OAS in September 1994 and was reelected in 1999. Colombia was a participant in the December 1994 and April 1998 Summits of the Americas and followed up on initiatives developed at the summit by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level meetings on trade and science and technology.

Colombia regularly participates in international fora, including CICAD, the Organization of American States' body on money-laundering, chemical controls, and drug abuse prevention. Although the Colombian Government ratified the 1988 UN Convention on Narcotics in 1994--the last of the Andean governments to do so--it took important reservations, notably to the anti-money-laundering measures, asset forfeiture and confiscation provisions, maritime interdiction, and extradition clauses. Colombia subsequently withdrew some of its reservations, most notably a reservation on extradition.

U.S.-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS
In 1822, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and to establish a resident diplomatic mission. Today, about 25,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. embassy living in Colombia, most of them dual nationals.

Currently there are about 250 American businesses. Despite the strain which decertification and related issues placed on bilateral relations during the Samper administration, the U.S. and Colombian Governments continued to cooperate and consult. In 1995-96, the U.S. and Colombia signed important agreements on environmental protection and civil aviation. The two countries have signed agreements on asset sharing and chemical control. In 1997, the U.S. and Colombia signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels.

During the period 1988-96, the United States provided about $765 million in assistance to Colombia. In 1999, U.S. assistance exceeded $200 million. This funding supported Colombia's counternarcotics efforts, such as arresting drug traffickers, seizing drugs and illegal processing facilities, and eradicating coca and opium poppy.

Under the Pastrana administration, relations with the United States have improved significantly. The United States responded to the Colombian Government's request for international support to Plan Colombia by approving a $1.3 billion aid package in July 2000, in addition to previously programmed assistance of nearly $300 million for FY 2000. U.S. programs are a combination of military and police assistance to increase counternarcotics capabilities and also includes a package of nearly $230 million for human rights, humanitarian assistance, alternative development, and economic and judicial reforms. These programs are an integral component of U.S. support for Plan Colombia's overall goals.

Close cooperation continues with passage by the United States of legislation providing approximately $400 million in additional funding for these programs. Moreover, since the end of the FARC safehaven, the United States has responded to the Colombian Government's request for increased intelligence support, expedited delivery of spare parts paid for by Colombia, and support for counternarcotics operations in the former demilitarized zone.

Trade Development
Colombia is one of the United States' largest export markets in Latin America--behind Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela. The United States is Colombia's principal trading partner, with two-way trade from November 2000 through November 2001 exceeding $11.8 billion--$4.3 billion U.S. exports and $7.5 billion U.S. imports. Colombia benefited from duty-free entry--for a 10-year period, through 2001--for certain of its exports to the United States under the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) which has now expired, but the U.S. Congress is considering its renewal. Colombia improved protection of intellectual property rights through the adoption of three Andean Pact decisions in 1993 and 1994, but the U.S. remains concerned over deficiencies in licensing, patent regulations, and copyright protection.

The petroleum and natural gas coal mining, chemical, and manufacturing industries attract the greatest U.S. investment interest. U.S. investment accounted for 37.8% ($4.2 billion) of the total $11.2 billion in foreign direct investment at the end of 1997, excluding petroleum and portfolio investment. Worker rights and benefits in the U.S.-dominated sectors are more favorable than general working conditions. Examples include shorter-than-average working hours, higher wages, and compliance with health and safety standards above the national average.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Anne W. Patterson
Deputy Chief of Mission--Barbara C. Moore
Political and Economic Counselor--Christopher McMullen
Consul General--Patricia Butenis
Commercial Counselor--Karla King
Administrative Counselor--Phylliss M Powers
Defense Attache--Col. William Graves
Public Affairs Officer--James H. Williams
Regional Security Office--Charles Sparks
USAID Director--Kenneth Ellis

The U.S. Embassy is located at Calle 22D Bis, No. 47-51, Bogota(tel: (571) 315-0811; fax: (571) 315-2197). The mailing address is APO AA 34038. Internet: http://www.usembassy.state.gov/posts/co1(note: co number ONE and not co letter L).

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

Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center, International Trade Administration,14th and Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20230 (tel: 800-USA-TRADE, Internet: http://www.ita.doc.gov)

Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce Calle 98, @2264, Oficina 1209 Apartado Aereo 8008 Bogota, Colombia (tel: (571) 621-5042/7925/6838, fax: (571) 612-6838, email: 73050.3127@compuserve.com) Chapters in Cali, Cartagena, Medellin.



Back to Top
Sign-in

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.