- For other uses see Columbia.
The Republic of Colombia is a country in north-western South America. It is bound 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.
Main article: History of Colombia
Spanish explorers arrived in the area around 1500, at which time they encountered many Chibchan and "Karib" or caribe peoples whom they assimilated or killed through warfare, disease, exploitation, and conquest. They soon established settlements that eventually grew into the provinces which were part of the Captaincy General of New Granada. As it became a Viceroyalty in 1717, some other provinces of northwestern South America came under its jurisdiction. An independence movement sprang up around 1810, led by Simón Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander, that finally succeeded in 1819 when the territory of the Viceroyalty of New Granada became the Republic of Gran Colombia.
Internal political and territorial divisions led to the secession of Venezuela and Quito (today's Ecuador) in 1830 and the remaining Department of Cundinamarca was renamed New Granada until 1856 when it became the Granadine Confederation until 1863 when it became the United States of Colombia until 1886 when it became the Republic of Colombia. Internal divisions remained, occasionally igniting very bloody civil wars and contributing to the US-sponsored secession of Panama in 1903. 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 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. These and other issues have hampered political and economic reforms, have lead to disruptions of public life and attracted international concern about the situation in Colombia.
Main article: Politics of Colombia
Colombia is a republic where the executive branch dominates government structure. The president, elected together with the vice-president by popular vote for a single four-year term, functions as both head of state and head of government.
Colombia's bicameral parliament is the Congress or Congreso, which consists of the 102-seat Senate and the 166-seat Chamber of Representatives. Members of both houses are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms.
Colombia is a member of the South American Community of Nations.
The Colombian judicial system underwent significant reforms in the 1990s, and is undergoing a process of migration from a inquisitorial system to an adversary system.
Main article: Departments of Colombia
Colombia is divided into 32 departments (departamentos):
Additionally, there is one capital district (distrito capital), Bogotá D.C..
Map of Colombia
Main article: Geography of Colombia
The western half of Colombia is dominated by the Andes, which split into three great mountain ranges, the Western , Central and Eastern Cordillera . The eastern half is characterised by lowland plains (Llanos), often densily forested, which contain many rivers. Colombia possesses the islands of Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia in the Caribbean and Malpelo and other small islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The local climate is tropical along both coasts and in the eastern plains, whereas the mountain ranges and highlands can be considerably cooler. Colombia's largest city is its capital Bogotá, other major cities include Cali, Medellín, and Barranquilla. Colombia is the only South American country that has coasts in both the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean.
Main article: Economy of Colombia
Colombia's economy suffers from weak domestic and foreign demand, austere government budgets, and serious internal armed conflict, but seems poised for recovery. Other economic problems facing President Alvaro Uribe range from reforming the pension system to reducing high unemployment. Two of Colombia's leading exports, oil and coffee, face an uncertain future; new exploration is needed to offset declining oil production, while coffee harvests and prices are depressed. On the positive side, 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 GDP in 2004. The government's economic policy and its controversial democratic security strategy have engendered a growing sense of confidence in the economy, particularly within the business sector, and GDP growth in 2003 was among the highest in Latin America.
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 colonists, and imported African slaves, are the basis of Colombia's current demographics.
Race mixing between these three was widespread and has produced distinct groups that now constitute much of the population. The country's largest ethnic group are known as mestizos (58%) and are the result of intermingling between Spaniards and Amerindians. Whites are mainly descendants of the Spanish colonists, and constitute the largest minority (20%) followed closely by Mulattos (14%) which are descended from the unions of Spaniards and African slaves. The remainder of the population comprises unmixed descendants of African slaves (4%) and zambos who descend from the mixture of African slaves and Amerindians (3%). Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully Amerindian on the basis of language and customs. The predominant religion in Colombia is Roman Catholicism.
Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico.
Main article: Culture of Colombia'
PEC – Official governmental portal (in Spanish)
Casa de Nariño – Official presidential site (in Spanish)
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