About Colombia

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National Institutions
Presidency of the Republic
Chamber of Representatives
Senate of the Republic
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
Ministry of Communications
Commission of Telecommunications Regulation
Ministry of Culture
Ministry of Environment
Bank of External Commerce of Colombia
Ministry of Finance and Public Credit
Ministry of Mining and Energy
Commission of Energy and Gas Regulation
Ministry of National Defence
National Police
National Army
Colombian Air Force
Ministry of National Education
Ministry of Transport
Colombian Institute for the Development of Science and Technology
Bank of the Republic
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Colombia -- Geography --

Official Name: Republic of Colombia
Capital City: Bogota
Languages: Spanish (official)
Official Currency: Peso
Religions: Roman Catholicism, others
Population: 44,087,000
Land Area: 1,141,748 sq km
Landforms: 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.
Administrative divisions: 32 departments

Colombia -- History --

When the first spaniards arrive to what is now Colombia, the largest and widespread culture was the Chibchas. They were concentrated mainly in the highland basins and valleys of the Cordillera Oriental. The first Spanish settelment was established in 1510 on the coast of the Gulf of Uraba (Caribbean Sea) but was abandoned after a few years. Bogota was founded in 1538, followed by more than twenty other settlements by the middle of the sixteenth century. About the same time, spaniards moving northward from Peru reached southern Colombia and founded Pasto and Popayan. Spanish settlement grew and expanded during the seventeenth century, stimulated by the sources of gold and silver. Gradually, an increasing number of sttlers turned to agriculture. Large estates were established using the Indians and later Africans for forced labor. Colombia was part of the territory known as the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada (established in 1740), which also extended over present-day Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The population of Colombia was estimated at aproximately 800,000 in 1770. It is believed to have crossed the 1-million mark early in the nineteenth century. In 1811 the populationing parts of Colombia rose up against Spanish colonial rule. A period of armed struggle followed. "Greater Colombia" whose independence was declared in 1819, extended over the former Viceroyalty. It disolved in 1830, when Venezuela and Ecuador declared their independence. Colombia and Panama became the Republic of New Granada. Political and economic rivarly between the different social groups plunged the country in a long period of internal instablility with intermittent civil wars and dictatorships. This continued into the twentieth century. In an attempt to overcome the regional conflict and dissension, the country was given a new Constitution and, in 1863, turned in a Federation of nine states called the United States of Colombia. In 1886 a new Constitution abolished the Federation and divided Colombia into departments with some local authonomy. In 1903 Panama withdrew from Colombia and declared its independence.

Colombia -- 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 15 years. 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. These policies eased import restrictions and opened most sectors to foreign investment, although agricultural products remained protected. The Uribe administration seeks to maintain prudent fiscal policies and has pursued tough economic reforms including tax, pension and budget reforms. A U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) study shows that Colombian tax rates (both personal and corporate) are among the highest in Latin America. The unemployment rate in November 2007 was 9.4%, down from 15.1% in December 2002. The sustained growth of the Colombian economy can be attributed to an increase in domestic security, the policies of keeping inflation low and maintaining a stable currency (the Colombian peso), petroleum price increases and an increase in exports to neighboring countries and the United States as a result of trade liberalization. The Andean Trade Preference Act, which was extended through December 2008, also plays a pivotal role in Colombia's economic growth. The signing of a trade promotion agreement with the U.S. in November 2006 provides further opportunity for growth once it is approved by the U.S. Congress and implemented. Trade In 2006, Colombia was the United States' fifth-largest export market in the Western Hemisphere behind Canada, 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 2006 were U.S. $6.9 billion, up 13.2% from the previous year. U.S. imports from Colombia were U.S. $9.6 billion, up 4%. Colombia's major exports are petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, and nontraditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, gold, bananas, semiprecious stones, sugar, and tropical fruits). The United States is Colombia's largest trading partner, representing about 40% of Colombia's exports and 26.6% of its imports. Colombia has improved protection of intellectual property rights overall, but the United States remains concerned over deficiencies in licensing and copyright protection. Mining and Energy Colombia has considerable mineral and energy resources, especially coal and natural gas reserves. 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 16th-greatest coal producing country, accounting for about 1% of the world's total annual coal production, and the largest producer in Latin America (65.8 million tons in 2006). The country 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 the areas of coal and petroleum. In 2007, new FDI totaled U.S. $7.5 billion, more than triple the amount in 2002. In order to encourage investment in Colombia, Congress approved a law in 2005 to protect FDI. 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. 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. GDP (2006): $125 billion; base year 1994: $105.9 billion. Annual growth rate (2006): 6.8%. Per capita GDP (2006): $2,976. Government expenditures (2006): 22.2% of GDP. Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds. Manufacturing (14.4% of GDP): Types--textiles and garments, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, wood products, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electrical equipment. Agriculture (13.1% 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): Government, personal and other services--18.6%; financial services--17.1%; commerce--11.2%; transportation and communications services--7.9%; construction and public works--5.4; mining and quarrying--4.5%; electricity, gas, and water--2.9%. Trade: Exports (2006)--$24.3 billion: petroleum, coal, coffee, flowers, textiles and garments, ferronickel, bananas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, gold, sugar, cardboard containers, printed material, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds. Major markets--U.S., Venezuela, Germany, Netherlands, Japan. Imports (2006)--$24.5 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. Major suppliers--U.S., Germany, Japan, Panama, Venezuela.

Colombia -- Culture --

Colombian culture lies at the crossroads of Latin America, and is distinguished by having a very multicultural society. European, African, Native American, American, Middle Eastern, and other Latin American cultural influences such as the Caribbean are all felt in Colombia's modern culture. Due to Colombia's geography and years of social and political instability, Colombian culture has been heavily fragmented into five major cultural regions which also correspond to Colombian natural regions. Urban migration, industrialization, globalization, and other political, social and economic issues have altered the Colombian lifestyle throughout the years. The country's imposing landscape, poor transportation infrastructure and fears of armed groups and bandits on intercity highways have all contributed to very strong regional identities, which many argue are stronger than national identity. The differences in accent, dress, music, food, politics and general attitude very greatly between the paisas of Antioquia and the coffee region, the costenos of the Caribbean coast, the llaneros of the eastern plains, the Bogotanos and residents of the central highlands (Boyaca Cundinamarca) , the inhabitants of the Pacific coast, and the vast Amazon region to the south. Inherited from colonial times, Colombia maintains its large base of Roman Catholic traditions which largely influence and unite its multicultural society. The mixing of various different ethnic traditions is reflected in Colombia's music and dance. The most well-known genres of music in Colombia are cumbia and vallenato, the latter being strongly influenced by global pop culture. Colombia has many celebrations and festivals throughout the year, with a majority stemming from Catholic religious traditions. Prominent examples of festivals include the Ibero-American Theater Festival, Barranquilla's Carnival, Carnival of Blacks and Whites, Colombian independence day, Holy Week, and Christmas. A powerful cultural medium in Colombia is television; the telenovela Betty La Fea has gained international success through localized versions in the United States, Mexico, and Croatia. Television has also played a role in the development of the local film industry. As in many Latin American countries, Colombians have developed 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, Ruben Dario Bustos, and Faustino Asprilla. Other Colombian athletes have achieved success in other sports, such as NASCAR's Juan Pablo Montoya, Major League Baseball's Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera, and the PGA Tour's Camilo Villegas. Other famous Colombians include the Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the artists Fernando Botero, Luis Caballero, the musicians Shakira, Juanes, and Carlos Vives, and the actors Rafael Novoa, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Sofia Vergara. The Cuisine of Colombia developed mainly from the food traditions of European countries. Spanish, Italian and French culinary influences can be seen in Colombian cooking. American cuisine, the cuisine of neighboring Latin American countries, Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as the cooking traditions of the Native Americans have all influenced Colombian cuisine.

Colombia -- Political system, law and government --

The Government of Colombia takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic as established in the Colombian Constitution of 1991. The Colombian government is divided into three branches of power; the executive, legislative and judicial with special control institutions and electoral institutions. The President of Colombia is the highest representative of the executive branch of government in Colombia and is also the head of state and head of government with supreme administrative authority, followed by the Vice President and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Colombia. At a provincial level the executive is managed by department governors, municipal mayors at municipal level and local administrators for smaller administrative subdivisions such as corregidor for corregimientos. The legislative branch of government in Colombia is represented by the National Congress of Colombia which is formed by an upper house the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives. At a provincial level the legislative branch is represented by department assemblies and a municipal level with municipal councils. Both the legislative and executive branches share most of the government power while the judicial branch of Colombia functions as an independent body from the other two branches which are vested with a shared power. The judicial branch under a adversarial system is represented by the Supreme Court of Justice which is the highest entity in this branch but shared in responsibility with the Council of State, Constitutional Court and the Superior Council of the Judicature which also have jurisdictional and regional courts. Правителството, право и политика Управлението на Колумбия се извършва в рамките на президентска представителна демократична република, както е установено в колумбийската Конституцията от 1991 година. Правителството е разделено на три клона на властта; изпълнителната, законодателната и съдебната със специални контролни институции и изборни такива. Президентът на Колумбия е най-високият представител на изпълнителната власт в Колумбия и е държавен глава и ръководител на правителство, Върховен административен орган, следван от заместник-председателя и на Министерски съвет на Република Колумбия. Изпълнителната власт на провинциално ниво се управлява от отдел управители, общинските кметове на общинско равнище и на местното самоуправление за по-малките административни подразделения като “корегидор” за “корегимиентос”. Законодателната власт в Колумбия е представена от Националния конгрес на Колумбия, която се формира от горната камара на Сената и Камарата на представителите. На провинциално ниво законодателният клон е представен от отдел събрания и общинско равнище с общинските съвети. Съдебната власт в рамките на противоречивата система е представена от Върховния съд на Европейските общности, която е най-висока организация в този бранш, но със споделена отговорност с Държавния съвет, Конституционния съд и Висшия съвет на съдиите, които също имат свързани с правосъдието и регионални съдилища.

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