Colombia has significant natural resources and its diverse culture reflects the indigenous Indian, Spanish and African origins of its people. But it has also been ravaged by a decades-long violent conflict involving outlawed armed groups and drug cartels. The fourth largest country in South America and one of the continent's most populous nations, Colombia has substantial oil reserves and is a major producer of gold, silver, emeralds, platinum and coal. It also has a highly stratified society where the traditionally rich families of Spanish descent have benefited from this wealth to a far greater degree than the majority, mixed-race population. With few avenues for social mobility, this provided a natural constituency for left-wing insurgents.

Colombia lies entirely within the tropics, but climate and land use vary greatly according to altitude, ranging from the arid low-lying Guajira peninsula in the north-east and tropical lowlands of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, to the bleak pastures of the Andean páramo (high moorlands). The Andes' western, central and eastern cordilleras (mountain ranges) run parallel south-west to north-east. The physical geography means that large areas are very sparsely populated.


Before Spanish rule, Colombia was populated by indigenous peoples. Most were hunters or nomadic agriculturists, but one part of the country, the high basins of the Eastern Cordillera, was densely occupied by Chibcha Indians who had become sedentary farmers.


Despite years of drug and politically related violence, Colombia has managed to maintain long-term sustainable growth and remains one of the larger economies in Latin America. Crude oil, coal, coffee and cut flowers are Colombia's principal legal exports.
Colombia has emerged from the crisis of 1999 when the country was affected by instability in Brazil and South East Asia. In 2003, GDP growth was 3.75%, in 2004 it was 3.9% and 2005 saw the biggest growth for over a decade at 5.13%. Inflation and debt are at manageable levels and unemployment is on a downward trend, although at 12.1% it remains high, together with high levels of under-employment.
Whilst the Government of Alvaro Uribe has strengthened the country's macroeconomic stability and improved its long term potential, the hoped-for structural reforms in the areas of taxation, pensions and labour laws have not yet materialised. In February 2006, the Colombians signed a Free Trade Agreement with the US, which is expected to take effect from early 2008, if ratified by the US Congress. This is aimed at providing a stimulus for the economy, as business – both national and international – will look to capitalise on the immediate duty free access to the vast US market for 99.9% of all Colombian products that the agreement will provide. However, there has also been debate over whether the FTA will impact adversely on more sensitive sectors of the economy such as sugar, chicken and rice.

President Alvaro Uribe Vetez

Quick Facts

Official Name

Republic of Colombia


Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama


44,379,598 (July 2007 est.)


mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%


Roman Catholic 90%, other 10%

National Holiday

National Holiday Independence from Spain, July 20 (1810)



Head of State

President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

Head of government
Legal System

Based on Spanish law; a new criminal code modeled after US procedures was enacted into law in 2004 and reached full implementation in January 2008; judicial review of executive and legislative acts

Colombian peso (COP)
Import Partners
US, Venezuela, China, Mexico, Brazil
Export Partners
US, Venezuela, Ecuador.

Cartagena, one of the most popular tourism destinations in the country