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  HOME | Colombia Links

Colombia Overview

PROFILE

Geography
Area: 1.14 million sq. km. (440,000 sq. mi.); about the size of California and Texas combined; fourth-largest country in South America.
Cities: Capital--Bogota (pop. 2005: 6.7 million). Other major cities include Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, and 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 grasslands, cooler in highlands.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Colombian(s).
Population (May 2009): 44.91 million.
Annual population growth: 1.4%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 90%; other 10%.
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--18.9/1,000. Life expectancy--total population 72.81 yrs., men 68.98 yrs., women 76.76 yrs.
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (58%), white (20%), Mulatto (14%), black (4%), mixed black-Amerindian (3%), and Amerindian (1%).

Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: July 20, 1810 (from Spain).
Constitution: July 5, 1991.
Branches: Executive--president (head of state and 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: Colombian Conservative Party, Colombian Liberal Party, Social National Unity, Radical Change, Alternative Democratic Pole, Party of National Integration, and numerous smaller political movements.
Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over.

Economy
GDP (2008): $140.8 billion; base year 2000: $93.7 billion.
Annual growth rate (2009 est.): -0.1%.
Per capita GDP (purchasing power parity; IMF 2009): $8,205.
Government expenditures (2009): 27.6% of GDP.
Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds.
Industry (19% of GDP): Types--textiles, garments, footwear, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, wood products, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electrical equipment.
Agriculture (8% of GDP): Products--coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum, cocoa beans, oilseed. Cultivated land--8.2% of total area.
Services (64% of GDP): Government, personal and other services--17.5%; financial services--18.1%; commerce--13.4%; transportation and communications services--7%; construction and public works--5%; electricity, gas, water--2.7%.
Taxes (9% of GDP): Includes taxes on imports, products, and the value-added tax.
Trade: Exports (2008)--$37 billion: petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, emeralds, apparel, bananas, cut flowers. Major markets--U.S., Venezuela, Ecuador, Switzerland, Peru, Chile. Imports (2008)--$39 billion: machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, metals/metal products, plastic/rubber, paper products, aircraft, oil and gas industry equipment, supplies, chemicals, electricity. Major suppliers--U.S., China, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela.

PEOPLE
Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. 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 peoples, Europeans, and Africans. Today, only about 3% of the people identify themselves as indigenous.

HISTORY, GOVERNMENT, AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
During the pre-Columbian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous societies situated at different stages of socio-economic development, ranging from hunters and nomadic farmers to the highly structured Chibchas, who are considered to have been one of the most developed indigenous groups in South America.

Santa Marta was the first permanent Spanish settlement founded in 1525. Santa Fe de Bogota was founded in 1538 and, in 1717, became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. Bogota was one of three principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World.

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 to include all the territory of the former Viceroyalty (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama). Simon Bolivar was elected its first president with Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president. Conflicts between followers of Bolivar and Santander led to the formation of two political parties that 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 control over education and other civil matters, and a broader 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. 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 (1899-1903) claimed an estimated 100,000 lives and La Violencia (the Violence) (1946-1957) claimed about 300,000 lives.

La Violencia (The Violence) and the National Front
The assassination of Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in 1948 sparked the bloody conflict known as La Violencia. Conservative Party leader Laureano Gomez came to power in 1950, but was ousted by a military coup led by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla in 1953. When Rojas failed to restore democratic rule and became implicated in corrupt schemes, he was overthrown by the military with the support of the Liberal and Conservative Parties.

In July 1957, an alliance between former Conservative President Laureano Gomez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) led to the creation of the National Front. It established a power-sharing agreement between the two parties and brought an end to "La Violencia." The presidency would be determined by regular elections every 4 years and the two parties would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices. This system was phased out in 1978.

Post-National Front Years
During the post-National Front years, the Colombian Government made efforts to negotiate a peace with the persistent guerrilla organizations that flourished in Colombia's remote and undeveloped rural areas. In 1984, President Belisario Betancur, a Conservative, negotiated a cease-fire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Democratic Alliance (M-19) that included the release of many imprisoned guerrillas. The National Liberation Army (ELN) rejected the government's cease fire proposal at that time. The M-19 pulled out of the cease-fire when it resumed fighting in 1985. The army suppressed an M-19 attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogota in November 1985, during which 115 people were killed, including 11 Supreme Court justices. The government and the M-19 renewed their truce in March 1989, which led to a peace agreement and the M-19's reintegration into society and political life. The M-19 was one of the parties that participated in the process to enact a new constitution (see below), which took effect in 1991. The FARC ended the truce in 1990 after some 2,000-3,000 of its members who had demobilized had been murdered.

A new constitution in 1991 brought about major reforms to Colombia's political institutions. While the new constitution preserved a presidential, three-branch system of government, it created new institutions such as the Inspector General, a Human Rights Ombudsman, a Constitutional Court, and a Superior Judicial Council. The new constitution also reestablished the position of Vice President. Other significant constitutional reforms provide for civil divorce, dual nationality and the establishment of a legal mechanism ("Tutela") that allows individuals to appeal government decisions affecting their constitutional rights. The constitution also authorized the introduction of an accusatory system of criminal justice that is gradually being instituted throughout the country, replacing the previous written inquisitorial system. A constitutional amendment approved in 2005 allows the president to hold office for two consecutive 4-year terms.

Colombian governments have had to contend with the combined terrorist activities of left-wing guerrillas, the rise of paramilitary self-defense forces in the 1990s, and the drug cartels. Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential candidates during the election campaign of 1990. After Colombian security forces killed Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar in December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with his organization abated as the "cartels" were broken into multiple and smaller trafficking organizations that competed against each other in the drug trade. Guerrillas and paramilitary groups also entered into drug trafficking as a way to finance their military operations.

Pastrana Administration
The administration of Andres Pastrana (1998-2002), a Conservative, faced increased countrywide attacks by the FARC and ELN, widespread drug production and the expansion of paramilitary groups. The Pastrana administration unveiled its "Plan Colombia" in 1999 as a strategy to deal with these longstanding problems, and sought support from the international community. Plan Colombia was a comprehensive program to combat narco-terrorism; spur economic recovery; strengthen democratic institutions and respect for human rights; and provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons.

In November 1998, Pastrana ceded a sparsely populated area the size of Switzerland in south-central Colombia to the FARC's control to serve as a neutral zone where peace negotiations could take place. The FARC negotiated with the government only fitfully while continuing to mount attacks and expand coca production, seriously undermining the government's efforts to reach an agreement. Negotiations with the rebels in 2000 and 2001 were marred by rebel attacks, kidnappings and fighting between rebels and paramilitaries for control of coca-growing areas in Colombia. In February 2002, after the FARC hijacked a commercial aircraft and kidnapped a senator, Pastrana ordered the military to attack rebel positions and reassert control over the neutral zone. The FARC withdrew into the jungle and increased attacks against Colombia's infrastructure, while avoiding large-scale direct conflicts with the military.

Uribe Administration
Alvaro Uribe, an independent, was elected president in May 2002 on a platform to restore security to the country. Among his promises was to continue to pursue the broad goals of Plan Colombia within the framework of a long-term security strategy. In the fall of 2002, Uribe released a national security strategy that employed political, economic, and military means to weaken all illegal armed groups. The Uribe government offered to negotiate a peace agreement with these groups with the condition that they would agree to a unilateral cease fire and to end drug trafficking and kidnapping.

In December 2003, the Colombian United Self-Defense Forces (AUC) paramilitary group entered into a peace agreement with the government that has led to the collective demobilization of over 31,000 AUC members. In addition, more than 20,000 members of the FARC, AUC, ELN, and other illegal armed groups have individually surrendered their arms. In July 2005, President Uribe signed the Justice and Peace Law, which provides reduced punishments for the demobilized if they renounce violence and return illegal assets, which are to provide reparations to victims.

The ELN and the government began a round of talks with the Colombian Government mediated by the Mexican Government in mid-2004. The ELN withdrew from the talks after the Mexican Government voted to condemn Cuba's human rights record at the United Nations in April 2005. In December 2005, the ELN began a new round of talks with the Colombian Government in Cuba that led to multiple rounds of meetings, the latest one being held in late 2007 in Caracas, Venezuela. Recent attempts for talks with the Colombian Government have broken down.

As a result of the government's military and police operations, the strength of the FARC has been reduced to approximately 8,000 members in 2010--down from 16,000 in 2001. Since 2000, the FARC has not carried out large-scale multi-front attacks, although it has mounted some operations that indicate it has not yet been broken--including the December 2009 kidnapping and killing of the governor of the department of Caqueta. As its strength has been reduced, the FARC has increasingly turned to asymmetrical attacks. Peace efforts with the FARC in 2010 have stalled.

A Colombian military operation in September 2010 killed the top FARC military commander and member Victor Julio Suarez, aka “Mono Jojoy.” The Colombian Government did not capture or kill any senior FARC leaders in 2009, but it did achieve notable successes against a number of mid-level FARC commanders in 2009. The FARC is attempting to recover from the serious blows delivered by the Colombian Government against the senior FARC leadership in 2008--most notably the July 2008 rescue of 15 hostages, including three American contractors and a former Colombian presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt. Also in 2008, senior FARC commander Luis Edgar Devia-Silva, aka “Raul Reyes,” was killed during a Colombian Government operation; FARC Commander Manuel Munoz-Ortiz, aka “Ivan Rios,” was killed at the hands of his own chief of security; and FARC founding member Manuel Marulanda-Velez, aka “Tirofijo,” died from an alleged heart attack.

As of May 2009, more than 60 hostages were being held by the FARC. They included 22 soldiers and police whom the guerrillas wanted to swap for government concessions. FARC demobilizations were lower in 2009 (2,128) compared to 2008 (3,027).

Colombia maintains an excellent extradition relationship with the United States. The Uribe administration extradited over 1,000 fugitives to the United States. Among those extradited were Cali Cartel leaders Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel; FARC leaders Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda (aka "Simon Trinidad") and Omaira Rojas Cabrera (aka "Sonia"); and former AUC leaders Salvatore Mancuso and Diego Murillo. In 2009, 186 were extradited to the U.S., including former AUC leader Hebert Veloza-Garcia (aka “HH”) and FARC member Gerardo Antonio Aguilar Ramirez (aka “Cesar”).

In 2004, the Uribe government established, for the first time in recent Colombian history, a government presence in all of the country's 1,099 municipalities (county seats). Attacks conducted by illegally armed groups against rural towns decreased by 91% from 2002 to 2005. Between 2002 and 2008, Colombia saw a decrease in homicides by 44%, kidnappings by 88%, terrorist attacks by 79%, and attacks on the country's infrastructure by 60%.

Although much attention has been focused on the security aspects of Colombia's situation, the Uribe government also made significant efforts on issues such as expanding international trade, supporting alternate means of development, strengthening rule of law, protecting human rights, promoting governance, and reducing poverty.

President Uribe was reelected with 62% of the vote in May 2006. In congressional elections in March 2006, the three leading pro-Uribe parties (National Unity, Conservative Party, and Radical Change) won clear majorities in both houses of Congress. In late 2006, the Supreme Court began investigations and ordered the arrest of some members of Congress for actions on behalf of paramilitary groups. Those investigations continued throughout 2009, with several dozen politicians at both the national and local level implicated.

In January 2007, Colombian leaders presented a new strategy to consolidate gains under Plan Colombia, which eventually became known as the National Consolidation Plan (Plan Nacional de Consolidacion, or PNC). The new strategy, a civilian-led whole-of-government approach, builds upon successful Plan Colombia programs to establish state presence in traditionally ungoverned spaces. By improving access to social services--including justice, education, housing, and health--strengthening democracy, and supporting economic development through sustainable growth and trade, the Colombian Government seeks to permanently recover Colombia's historically marginalized rural areas from illegal armed groups and break the cycle of violence.

Santos Administration
On August 7, 2010, Juan Manuel Santos was inaugurated as President of Colombia. He served as Minister of National Defense for Uribe’s second presidential term, as Minister of Finance under President Andres Pastrana, and as Minister of Trade under President Cesar Gaviria.

Principal Government Officials
President--Juan Manuel SANTOS Calderon
Vice President--Angelino GARZON
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Maria Angela HOLGUIN Cuellar
Minister of Defense--Rodrigo RIVERA Salazar
Ambassador to the United States--Gabriel SILVA Lujan
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Luis Alfonso HOYOS Aristazabal
Ambassador to the United Nations--Nestor OSORIO Londono

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 York, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington DC.

DEFENSE
Colombia's Ministry of Defense is charged with the country's internal and external defense and security, and exercises jurisdiction over an army, navy--including marines and coast guard--air force, and national police, under the leadership of a civilian Minister of Defense. Real spending on defense has increased every year since 2000, but especially so under President Uribe. Colombian spending on defense more than doubled to over $9 billion in 2009 from $2.6 billion in 2001. The security forces number about 435,000 uniformed personnel: 285,000 military and 150,000 police. President Uribe instituted a wealth tax in 2002, which raised over $800 million, with 70% used to increase 2002-2003 defense spending. A similar tax imposed from 2007-2011 and levied on the country's wealthiest individuals and enterprises is expected to raise up to $3.7 billion.

Colombian military personnel receive training in the United States or from U.S. instructors in Colombia. The United States provides equipment to the Colombian military and police through the military assistance program, foreign military sales, and the international narcotics control program.

Narcotics and Rule of Law
The United States and Colombia continue to enjoy a close counternarcotics partnership. Under Plan Colombia, significant U.S. funding, technical assistance, and material support has been provided to Colombian-led counternarcotics programs aimed at interdicting and eradicating drugs at the source as well as expanding the capacity of Colombian military, police, and judicial institutions. Although nearly 90% of the cocaine entering the United States is processed in Colombia, and the country remains the primary source for heroin used east of the Mississippi River, Colombia has made real progress with the help of U.S. support in weakening drug trafficking organizations, disrupting the supply of illicit drugs to the United States, and establishing a security presence in former conflict regions.

In 2009, Colombia seized over 200 metric tons of cocaine and coca base, nearly 200 metric tons of marijuana, and 740 kilos of heroin--up from 695 kilos in 2008. Colombia also destroyed over 3,000 drug laboratories in 2009, including nearly 300 cocaine processing laboratories and 2,800 smaller coca base labs. Progress is also being made in addressing the problem of reducing the area under coca cultivation. Over 165,000 hectares of Colombian coca was eradicated in 2009, with over 100,000 hectares aerially eradicated--nearly 5% over the 2009 aerial goal. This potentially eliminated hundreds of metric tons of cocaine from the world market and arguably contributed to the encouraging trends in price and purity of cocaine in the United States. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, from January 2007 through September 2009, the price per pure gram of cocaine increased 75.4%, from $99.24 to $174.03, while the purity decreased 31.5%, from 67% to 46%. Sustained aerial eradication and declining coca productivity also resulted in pure cocaine production potential in Colombia dropping by 58% from 700 metric tons in 2001 to 295 metric tons in 2008.

The involvement of Colombian terrorist groups, including the FARC, in narcotics production and trafficking increases the difficulty in addressing this problem. The United States remains committed to helping Colombia improve the rule of law and prevent drugs from reaching the United States through strong interdiction, eradication, and alternative development programs. U.S. assistance has helped create economic opportunities for Colombians and has also helped promote a lifestyle change and supported state presence. With U.S. assistance as of September 2009, U.S. and Government of Colombia alternative development programs had supported the cultivation of over 650,000 hectares of agricultural, forestry plantation, and/or natural forest management activities and had completed approximately 1,290 social and productive infrastructure projects over the last 7 years with communities that agree to remain illicit-crop free. More than 400,000 families in 18 departments have benefited from these programs. Additionally, these projects have leveraged over $759 million in private and public sector funding for alternative development initiatives.

ECONOMY
Colombia is a free market economy with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization or "apertura," with tariff reductions, financial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and adoption of a more liberal foreign exchange rate. These policies eased import restrictions and opened most sectors to foreign investment, although agricultural products remained protected.

The Uribe administration sought to maintain prudent fiscal policies and pursued tough economic reforms including tax, pension, and budget reforms. A U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) study shows, however, that Colombian tax rates (both personal and corporate) are among the highest in Latin America. The average unemployment rate for 2009 was 12%, down from 15.7% in 2002.

Colombia's average annual economic growth rate of over 5% from 2002 to 2007 can be attributed to an increase in security, resulting in greater foreign investment; economic reforms in the oil and gas sectors; prudent monetary policy; and export growth fueled mainly by the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). However, GDP growth in 2008 was 2.5%, and for 2009 it was expected to be around zero, due in large part to the global economic downturn.

ATPDEA, which was extended through December 2010, plays a pivotal role in Colombia's economic growth. The signing of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (U.S.-CTPA) in November 2006 provides greater opportunity for growth if approved by the U.S. Congress and implemented.

Industry and Agriculture
As the most industrially diverse member of the Andean Community, Colombia has five major industrial centers--Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, and Bucaramanga--each located in a distinct geographical region. Colombia's industries include mining, hydrocarbons, textiles and clothing, leather products, agribusiness (cut flowers and coffee), processed foods and beverages, plastic products, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement, construction, iron and steel products, and metalworking. There is also a burgeoning service economy comprised of tourism and information technology exports (call centers, software development, animation).

Colombia's 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 lowlands, 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, flowers, corn and other vegetables, 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.

Trade
Colombia is the United States' fourth-largest trading partner in Latin America behind Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela and the largest agricultural export market in the hemisphere after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries. U.S. exports to Colombia in 2009 were estimated at $9.45 billion, down 17% from the previous year. U.S. imports from Colombia are estimated to be $11.31 billion, down 19%. Colombia's major exports are petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, cut flowers, and bananas. The United States is Colombia's largest trading partner, representing about 37% of Colombia's exports and 28% of its imports.

Mining and Energy
Colombia has considerable mineral and energy resources, especially coal and natural gas reserves. In 2009, gas reserves totaled 3.7 trillion cubic feet. Gas production totaled 922 million cubic feet per day. The country's current refining capacity is 323,000 barrels per day (bbl/d), but renovations to its two main refineries will increase its refining capacity to over 400,000 bbl/d. Colombia had 1.36 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves in 2009, the fifth-largest in South America. The country produced over 700,000 bbl/d as of October 2009, up from 540,000 bbl/d in 2007. Mining and energy related investments have grown because of higher oil prices, increased demand, and improved output. Colombia has significantly liberalized its petroleum sector, leading to an increase in exploration and production contracts from both large and small hydrocarbon industries.

Colombia is presently the fifth-largest coal exporting country, accounting for about 1.1% of the world's total annual coal production, and the largest producer in Latin America (73.5 million tons in 2008). Colombia has proven recoverable coal reserves of about 7.4 billion short tons, the majority of which are located in the north of the country. Colombia historically has been the world's leading producer of emeralds, although production has fallen in recent years. Emerald production fell from 5.73 million carats in 2006 to 2.12 million carats in 2008. Colombia is also a significant producer of gold, silver, and platinum.

Foreign Investment
The United States is the largest source of new foreign direct investment (FDI) in Colombia, particularly in mining and hydrocarbon projects. In 2008, FDI totaled $10.6 billion, more than quadruple the amount in 2002. FDI for 2009 was estimated to be over $9 billion. The bulk of the new investment is in the manufacturing, mining, and energy sectors. The only activities closed to foreign direct investment are defense, national security, and disposal of hazardous wastes.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
In 1969, Colombia, along with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, formed what is now the Andean Community. (Venezuela joined in 1973 and announced its departure in 2006; 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, Canada, Mexico, Central America's Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras), Mercosur, and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (U.S.-CTPA) was signed in November 2006, and was passed by the Colombian Congress in 2007. It is awaiting U.S. congressional approval.

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 Organization of American States (OAS) in September 1994 and was re-elected in 1999. Colombia hosted the 38th OAS General Assembly in Medellin in early June 2008. Colombia has participated in all five Summits of the Americas, most recently in April 2009, and followed up on initiatives developed at the first two summits by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level meetings on trade and science and technology. Colombia was selected to host the Sixth Summit of the Americas. In March 2006, Bogota hosted the Sixth Regular Session of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism.

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. The U.S. Government estimates that there are 61,000 U.S. citizens living in Colombia and 15,000-40,000 U.S. citizens visiting Colombia in any given month. Currently, there are approximately 250 American businesses conducting operations in Colombia.

During 1995-96, the United States and Colombia signed important agreements on environmental protection and civil aviation. The two countries have also signed agreements on asset sharing and chemical control. In 1997, the United States and Colombia signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels. In September 2008, both countries signed a memorandum of understanding on renewable and clean energy.

During the Pastrana administration, relations with the United States improved significantly. The United States responded to the Colombian Government's request for international support for Plan Colombia by providing substantial assistance designed to increase Colombia's counternarcotics capabilities, to expand and consolidate government presence, and to improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable Colombians by providing sustainable social and economic opportunities, protecting human rights, strengthening rule of law, and making governance more transparent, participatory, and accountable.

Since 2007, nearly $570 million has been invested just in socio-economic and humanitarian assistance to Colombia. On November 17, 2009, Ambassador William R. Brownfield and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaime Bermudez signed a new multi-year country assistance agreement with the Government of Colombia, with first-year funding of nearly $212 million. The agreement brings continuity to the socio-economic and humanitarian assistance that the U.S. Government implements in the country.

The U.S. has continued close cooperation with Colombia under the Santos administration. Recognizing that terrorism and the illicit narcotics trade in Colombia are inextricably linked, the U.S. Congress granted new, expanded statutory authorities in 2002, making U.S. assistance to Colombia more flexible in order to better support President Uribe's unified campaign against narcotics and terrorism.

The results thus far have been impressive, but much remains to be done. U.S. policy toward Colombia supports the Colombian Government's efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, foster socio-economic development, address immediate humanitarian needs, and end the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Promoting security, stability, and prosperity in Colombia will continue as long-term American interests in the region.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--P. Michael McKinley
Deputy Chief of Mission--Perry Holloway
Political Counselor--Mark A. Wells
Economic Counselor--Timothy Stater
Consul General--Raymond Baca
Commercial Counselor--Margaret Hanson-Muse
Management Counselor--Theresa M. Leech
Military Group Commander--COL Michael Brown
Narcotics Affairs Section Director--Daniel L. Foote
Defense Attache--COL Paul Murray
Public Affairs Officer--Mark Wentworth
Regional Security Officer--Robert Myers
USAID Director--Susumo Ken Yamashita

U.S. Embassy
Carrera 45 # 24B - 27
Bogota, Colombia
(tel: (571) 315-0811; fax: (571) 315-2197)
The mailing address is APO AA 34038.

 

 

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