Colombia

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Template:Colombia infobox

Template:Portal The Republic of Colombia is a country in northwestern South America. It is bordered to the north and north-west by the Caribbean Sea, to the east by Venezuela and Brazil, to the south by Ecuador and Peru, and to the west by Panama and the Pacific Ocean.

Contents

History

Main article: History of Colombia

Around 1450 BC there was cultural activity near Bogotá, in "El Abra". In 1000 BC, groups of amerindians developed the political system of "cacicazgos" (answering to a figure known as the Cacique) with a pyramidal structure of power, especially in the cases of the Muisca or Chibcha people. They have been considered to have one of the most developed political systems in South America, after the Incas. Spanish explorers made the first exploration of the Caribbean littoral in 1500 led by Rodrigo de Bastidas. Christopher Columbus navigated near the coasts of Choco in 1502. In 1508 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa started the conquest of the territory through the region of Urabá. In 1513, he also discovered the Pacific Ocean which he called "The Sea of the South" and which in fact would bring the Spaniards to Peru and Chile. In 1525, the first European city in the American Continent was founded, Santa María la Antigua del Darién in what is today the Chocó Department. The territory's main population was made up of hundreds of tribes of the Chibchan and "Karib", currently known as the Caribbean people, whom the Spaniards conquered through warfare, while resulting disease, exploitation, and the conquest itself caused a tremendous demographic reduction among the indigenous. In the 16th 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. Eventually being led by Simón Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander, the rebellion finally succeeded in 1819, when the territory of the Viceroyalty of New Granada became the Republic of Gran Colombia, as a Confederation with Ecuador and Venezuela. Modern day Panama, which subsequently remained a Colombian department until 1903, was also included in this union.

Internal political and territorial divisions led to the secession of Venezuela and Quito (today's Ecuador) in 1830. At this time, the so-called "Department of Cundinamarca" adopted then the name "Nueva Granada", which it kept until 1856 when it became the "Confederación Granadina" (Grenadine Confederation). 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, occasionally igniting very bloody civil wars and, eventually, contributing to setting the stage for the U.S.-sponsored secession of Panama in 1903. Afterwards, the country achieved a relative degree of political stability, which was interrupted by a bloody conflict which took place between the late 1940s and the early 1950s, known as La Violencia ("The Violence"). Its cause was mainly due to mounting tensions between partisan groups, reignited by the murder of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, and it claimed the lives of at least 180,000 to more than 200,000 Colombians.

To replace the previous 1886 document, a new constitution was made in 1991, after being drafted by the Constituent Assembly of Colombia. The constitution included key provisions on political, ethnic, human and gender rights, which have been gradually put in practice, though uneven developments, surrounding controversies, and setbacks have persisted.

In recent decades the country has been plagued by the effects of the influential drug trade and by guerrilla insurgents such as FARC and illegal counter-insurgency paramilitary groups such as AUC, which along with other minor factions have been engaged in a bloody internal armed conflict. The different irregular groups often resort to kidnapping and drug smuggling to fund their causes, tend to operate in large areas of the remote rural countryside and can sometimes disrupt communications and travel between different regions. Since the early 1980s, attempts at reaching a negotiated settlement between the government and the different rebel groups have been made, either failing or only achieving the partial demobilization of some of the parties involved. One of the last such attempts was made during the administration of President Andrés Pastrana Arango, which negotiated with the FARC between 1998 and 2002.

In the late 1990s, President Andrés Pastrana implemented an initiative named Plan Colombia, with the dual goal of ending the armed conflict and promoting a strong anti-narcotic strategy. The most controversial element of the Plan, which also included a smaller number of funds for institutional and alternative development, was considered to be its anti-narcotic strategy, consisting on an increase in aerial fumigations to eradicate coca. This activity came under fire from several sectors, which claimed that fumigation also damages legal crops and has adverse health effects upon population exposed to the herbicides. Critics of the initiative also claim that the plan represents a military approach to problems that have additional roots in the social inequalities of the country.

During the presidency of Alvaro Uribe, who was elected on the promise to apply military pressure on the FARC and other criminal groups, some security indicators have improved, showing a decrease in reported kidnappings (from 3700 in the year 2000 to 1441 in 2004) and of more than 48% in homicides between July 2002 and May 2005. It is argued that these improvements have favored economic growth.

Analysts and critics inside Colombia agree that there has been a degree of pratical improvement in several of the mentioned fields, but the exact reasons for the figures themselves have sometimes been disputed, as well as their specific accuracy. Some opposition sectors have criticized the government's security strategy, claiming that it is not enough to solve Colombia's complex problems and that it has contributed to creating a favorable environment for the continuation of some human rights abuses.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Colombia

Colombia is a republic where the executive branch dominates government structure. Up until recently, the president was elected together with the vice-president by popular vote for a single four-year term, which functioned as both head of government and head of state. However, on October 19, 2005 the Colombian Congress amended the constitution, which now allows Colombian presidents to serve up to two consecutive four-year terms.

Colombia's bicameral parliament is the Congress of Colombia or Congreso, which consists of the 166-seat House of Representatives of Colombia and the 102-seat Senate of Colombia. Members of both houses are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Colombia is also a member of the South American Community of Nations.

In the 1990s, the Colombian judicial system underwent significant reforms and is undergoing a process of migration from a inquisitorial system to an adversary system. parts of the coffee growing region of Colombia and Bogotá have already adopted the adversary system, with the rest of the country following suit starting on January 1, 2006.

Geography

Main article: Geography of Colombia

Located in the North of South America (4 00 N, 72 00 W) and part of Caribbean South America. The only South American country with coast in both oceans (Atlantic or Caribbean Sea with 1,760 km and Pacific Ocean with 1,448 km. Borders: North with the Caribbean Sea (sea borders with Jamaica, Haiti and Dominican Republic). West with Panama (225 km) and sea borders with Costa Rica both in the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean and Guatemala. South with Ecuador (590 km), Peru (1,496 km) and Brazil (1,643 km). East with Brazil and Venezuela (2,050 km).


Colombia has a total area of 1,138,910 km² being the fourth biggest country in South America after Brazil, Argentina and Peru and the seventh one in the American Continent. From this area, the land has 1,038,700 km² and the water area has 100,210 km². It has also an archipelago in the Caribbean sea (San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina) that forms the territory of the department San Andrés y Providencia.

Mainland territory divided into four major geographic regions: Andean highlands (composed of three mountain ranges and intervening valley lowlands); Caribbean lowlands; Pacific lowlands; and Ilanos and tropical rainforest of eastern Colombia. Colombia also possesses small islands in both Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.

Striking variety in temperature resulting principally from differences in elevation; little seasonal variation. Habitable areas consist of hot (below 900 meters in elevation), temperate (between 900 and 1,980 meters), and cold (from 1,980 meters to about 3,500 meters) climatic zones. Precipitation generally moderate to heavy, with highest levels in Pacific lowlands and in parts of eastern Colombia; considerable year-to-year variations recorded.

The Andes range is located in Colombia from Southwest (Ecuador boarder) toward Northeast (Venezuela boarder) and is divided in the Colombian Massif (Macizo Colombiano) in three ranges (East Range, Centre Range and West Range) that form two long valleys, Magdalena and Cauca follow by the rivers of the same name. The highest mountain in Colombia is not in the Andes but in the Caribbean plain: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta with its highest points named Pico Cristobal Colon (5,775 m) and Pico Simon Bolivar (same elevation).

File:Hills Colombia.jpg
Cerros de Mavecuri

The eastern part of Colombia, comprising more than half its territory, is plain and composed by savanna and rainforest, crossed by rivers belonging to the Amazon and Orinoco basins. The northern part, called "Los Llanos" is a savanna region, mostly in the Orinoco basin (therefore called also Orinoquía). The southern part, usually called Amazonía, is covered by the Amazon rain forest and belongs mostly to the Amazon basin.

At the north and west of the Andes there are coastal plains, the Caribbean plains to the north and the Pacific plains to the west.

Colombian Pacific plains are among the most rainy parts in the world, especially at the north (Chocó).

The five traditional natural regions are therefore: the Andean Region, the Caribbean Region, the Pacific Region, the Orinoquia Region and the Amazonia Region. Some people also include an Insular Region, separated from the coastal regions.

Departments

Main article: Departments of Colombia

Additionally, there is one capital district (distrito capital), Bogotá D.C.

Economy

File:COLPES20000.jpg
Official 20.000 pesos bill
Main article: Economy of Colombia

After experiencing decades of steady growth (average GDP growth exceeded 4% in the 1970-1998 period), Colombia entered into a recession in 1999, and the recovery from that recession was long and painful. Colombia's economy suffers from weak domestic and foreign demand, austere government budgets, and serious internal armed conflicts. The IMF Economic Indicators published on September 21, 2005, forecast the Colombian GDP to reach US$112,300,000,000 in 2005. Inflation has been below 6% for 2004 and 2005, and is expected to remain below 5% during 2006. Colombia's main exports include manufactures (41.62 of exports), petroleum (26.52%), coal (12.11%), and coffee (6.10%). New oil exploration is needed to offset declining oil production. All imports, exports, and the general trade balance are in record levels, and the inflow of export dollars has resulted in substantial revaluation of the Colombian peso, trading slightly below 2300 pesos for US$1 by September 2005.

The problems facing the country range from reforming the pension system to reducing high unemployment. Several international financial institutions have praised the economic reforms introduced by Uribe, which include measures designed to reduce the public-sector deficit below 2.5% of Gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004. The government's economic policy and its controversial democratic security strategy have engendered a growing sense of confidence in the economy, usually within the business sector, and GDP growth in 2003 which was among the highest in Latin America. In 2005, the value of Colombia's exports are expected to total US$25 billion.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Colombia

Colombia has a diverse population that reflects its colourful history and the peoples that have populated her from ancient, to colonial and modern times. The historic amalgam of three main groups: Amerindians, Spanish colonist/European immigrants, and imported African slaves, are the basis of Colombia's current demographics.

Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico.

Religion

The predominant religion in Colombia is a generally conservative form of Roman Catholicism, although American-based cults, religions and sects are making inroads. There has been a degree of passive discrimination conducted against non-Catholic Christians in some circles, but outright persecution is rare. It is believed that some Evangelical forms of Protestantism would be on the rise and, unofficially estimated as of yet, could number some 4.3 million people, or 10% of the population.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Colombia

Miscellaneous topics

External links

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