Colombia

The Colombian flag retains the three main colors of the banner of Gran Colombia, the short-lived South American republic that broke up in 1830. Fun fact: It’s similar to the flag of Ecuador, which is longer and bears the Ecuadorian coat of arms superimposed in the center.

Colombia is a unitary constitutional republic located at the northwestern tip of South America. With a landmass of 440,831 square miles (1,141,748 sq km), Colombia is the 26th largest country by area in the world and fourth largest in South America. With over 46 million people, it is also the 27th largest country by population. The capital of Colombia is Bogotá, the largest city in the country with a population of over 7 million.

Bordering countries include: Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil.

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Colombian history goes back a long time, all the way back to before the Spanish Conquest, including an Indian past. There have been artifacts of “monoliths of volcanic stone representing gods and warriors” that have been preserved near the area of San Agustin.

Before Colombia became a Spanish Conquest, over twelve cultures inhabited the area and left behind their mark. The artifacts that represent the early Colombian days are still there to teach us about these pre-hispanic days of an early country. Some of the oldest archaeological finds were found in Monsu and Pubenza and are dated back to about 20,000 BC.

Colonial Colombia began the launching of the Colombia that we know today. Natural resources were exposed by those invading the land and Christianity was exposed to the people that lived there. Important trading posts were located throughout the land and helped to promote the export and importing of trading with what would become our modern day world. Europe began to make it’s mark on the country at this time and “the capital of the Spanish Viceroyalty was established in Bogota, home of the government and ecclesiastic hierarchy”.

The city, and current capitol of Colombia, Santa Fe de Bogota was founded in 1538 and in 1717 it became the capital. Bogota has become “one of three principal administrative centers of the Spanish possession in the New World. The very first permanent city in Colombia was Santa Marta, which was founded in 1525. Much of the earlier days of Colombia have been preserved and looked at to remember the incredible history that once inhabited the untouched land. Honda was an important “stopover for people and goods in their ascent to Bogota in Colonial times and until the 19th century, and still preserves its lovely and architecture and its steep and narrow streets”. Many Colombian people have preserved their history and appreciate that looks back they can take in before Colonial times arrived and European tradition was instilled among the people. The people of Colombia are a mixture of races and “has enriched Colombia with valuable cultural expressions in music, art and literature” because the work of writers and artists are, to this day, still admired in museums, art galleries, libraries, and other spaces throughout the country.

  • GDP (purchasing power parity; International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2011): $467.6 billion.
  • GDP (current prices; IMF): $321.4 billion.
  • Annual growth rate: 4%-5% (2012 projected); 7.7% (third quarter 2011).
  • Per capita GDP (purchasing power parity; IMF 2011 est.): $10,155.
  • Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds.
  • Industry (14.4% of GDP): Types–textiles, garments, footwear, chemicals, metal products, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, wood products, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electrical equipment.
  • Agriculture (7.1% of GDP): Products–coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, shrimp, tobacco, vegetables, corn, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum, cocoa beans, oilseed.
  • Services (46% of GDP): Government services, financial services, commerce, transportation and communication, construction and public works, utilities.
  • Mining (7.8% of GDP): Main products–coal, crude oil, gas, gold, nickel.
  • Trade: Exports (2011 est.)–$61 billion: petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, emeralds, apparel, bananas, and cut flowers. Major markets–United States, European Union, China, and Ecuador. Imports (2010 est.)–$41 billion: machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, paper products, oil and gas industry equipment, and electricity. Major suppliers–United States, China, Mexico, Brazil, and Germany.

Drugs:

  • Colombia remains one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of cocaine, as well as a source country for heroin and marijuana. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2010 Cocaine Signature Program, 95.5% of the cocaine seized in the United States originates in Colombia. Colombia’s marijuana is typically not sent to the United States, but feeds internal and Latin American consumption. The Colombian Government, with U.S. support, has made progress in weakening drug trafficking organizations, disrupting the supply of illicit drugs to the United States, and establishing a security presence in former conflict regions. The United States Government found that the area devoted to coca cultivation in 2010 was down 14% compared to 2009, from 116,000 to 100,000 hectares (ha). Crediting sustained aerial and manual eradication operations and aggressive enforcement activity in 2010, the U.S. Government also reported a decline in potential pure cocaine production of 7.4%, from 290 metric tons (MT) in 2009 to 270 MT in 2010–and a 60% drop from the 700 MT estimated pure cocaine production potential in 2001.

Presidential economics:

  • The Uribe administration (2002-2010) sought to maintain prudent fiscal policies and pursued tough economic reforms including tax, pension, and budget reforms. It opened the oil and gas sector in Colombia, forcing the state-owned petroleum company, Ecopetrol, to compete alongside private sector companies for exploration/production rights. This action led to increased foreign direct investment in the extractive industries and almost a doubling in oil production.The Santos administration has been promoting economic growth through additional economic reforms and by pursuing free trade agreements with other South American and Asian countries, as well as with the European Union, the United States, and Canada. The average unemployment rate in 2011 (Jan.-Nov.) was around 10.9%, down from 12% in 2009. Despite recent improvements in Colombia’s economy, the country continues to have a high rate of poverty (37.2%) and one of the highest levels of income disparity in the world.Colombia’s economic growth in the last decade 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 in part by the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) of 2002. Investments as a percentage of GDP were around 28% in mid-2011, which was higher than both Brazil and Chile.Economists projected growth of up to 6% for 2011, and Colombia’s third-quarter 2011 GDP growth was 7.7%. It is estimated that the economy will grow between 4% and 5% in 2012. Per capita GDP has doubled since 2002, while unemployment fell from 15.7% in 2002 to 9.2% in November 2011. Colombia has concluded or is pursuing free trade agreements (FTAs) with the EU, Turkey, Panama, South Korea, Japan, Switzerland (July 2011), Canada (August 2011) and the United States (ratified in October 2011 with entry into force expected in 2012). It also has trade agreements with Mexico, Chile, Central America, the Andean Community of Nations, and Mercosur.

Famous Trades known for:

  • Trade Colombia is the United States’ fourth-largest export market in Latin America behind Mexico, Brazil, and Chile. U.S. exports to Colombia from January through November 2011 were $13.1 billion, up 20% from the previous year. U.S. imports from Colombia from January through November 2011 were $20.9 billion, up 47% from 2010 due to high crude oil prices and the weak dollar. Colombia’s major exports are petroleum, coal, coffee, nickel, cut flowers, and bananas. The United States is Colombia’s largest trading partner, representing about 42% of Colombia’s exports and 26% of its imports as of November 2011. Colombia is the United States’ sixth-largest supplier of crude oil (September 2011). 
  • Labor While Colombia continues to face challenges in terms of labor rights, it has committed to sweeping reforms under the Labor Action Plan announced by Presidents Obama and Santos on April 7, 2011. The Colombian Government has committed to doubling the labor inspectorate by hiring 480 inspectors over the next 4 years. A significant number of these inspectors will be dedicated to addressing worker rights abuses in the palm oil, sugar, mines, ports, and flowers sectors. Preventive inspections in these sectors and for temporary service agencies have already begun. New legislation also establishes criminal penalties, including imprisonment, for employers that undermine the right to organize and bargain collectively or threaten workers who exercise their labor rights. In November 2011, the Government of Colombia established a separate Labor Ministry and appointed new Labor Minister Rafael Pardo to provide better institutional capacity to protect labor rights.
  • Natural Gas. In 2011, natural gas reserves totaled 5.4 trillion cubic feet. Natural gas production totaled 1.031 million cubic feet per day on average during 2011 (Jan.-Nov.).
  • Crude Oil. Crude oil production has nearly doubled since 2007, reaching 965,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) in November 2011. Colombia had 2.0 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves in 2010, the fifth-largest in South America.
  • Refining Capacity. The country’s current oil-refining capacity is 325,000 bbl/d, but is expected to grow to 415,000 in 2016 according to the Ministry of Mines and Energy after renovations to its two largest refineries in Cartagena and Barrancabermeja.
  • Coal. As of 2010, Colombia was the tenth-largest coal producing country and the fifth-largest coal exporting country in the world. It is the largest coal producer in Latin America (74.3 million tons in 2010). Colombia also is the largest exporter of coal to the United States.
  • Gems. Colombia historically has been the world’s leading producer of emeralds and after a short lull in production it has returned to being a leader in this field. Emerald production rose to 5.23 million carats in 2010, up from 2.12 million carats in 2008.
  • Precious Metals. Colombia is also a significant producer of gold (53.6 tons in 2010), silver (15.3 tons in 2010), and platinum (1 ton in 2010).
  • Mining and Energy. Colombia is a fast-growing market with a good investment climate and is increasingly seen as a regional leader in trade and security. Colombia has considerable mineral and energy resources, especially coal and natural gas reserves.
  • 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 (coal, gold, and emeralds), oil, textiles and clothing, agribusiness (cut flowers, bananas, sugarcane, and coffee), beverages, 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, and animation).