Colombia was one of the 12 founding members of the UNASUR, which is supposedly modeled on the European Union having free trade agreements between the members, free movement of people, a common currency, and also a common passport. Colombia as well as all the other members of UNASUR have had some problems with the integration due to the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis. Sony VAIO VGN-AW41XH Battery
Colombia is a member of the Andean Community of Nations and the Union of South American Nations.
The executive branch of government is responsible for managing the defense of Colombia, with the President commander-in-chiefof the armed forces. The Ministry of Defence exercises day-to-day control of the military and the Colombian National Police.Sony VAIO VGN-AW41XH/Q Battery
According to UN Human Development Report criteria, Colombia has 209,000 military personnel, and in 2005 3.7% of the country's GDP went towards military expenditure, both figures placing it 21st in the world. Within Latin America, Colombia's armed forces are the third-largest, behind Brazil and Mexico, and it spends the second-highest proportion of GDP after Chile. Sony VAIO VGN-AW41ZF Battery
The Colombian military is divided into three branches: the National Army of Colombia; the Colombian Air Force; and theColombian National Armada. The National Police functions as a gendarmerie, operating independently from the military as the law enforcement agency for the entire country. Sony VAIO VGN-AW41ZF/B Battery
Each of these operates with their own intelligence apparatus separate from the national intelligence agency, the Administrative Department of Security.
The National Army is formed by divisions, regiments and special units; the National Armada by the Colombian Naval Infantry, the Naval Force of the Caribbean, Sony VAIO VGN-AW50DB/H Battery
the Naval Force of the Pacific, the Naval Force of the South, Colombia Coast Guards, Naval Aviation and theSpecific Command of San Andres y Providencia; and the Air Force by 13 air units. The National Police has a presence in all municipalities.
For over a century Colombian politics were monopolized by the Liberal Party Sony VAIO VGN-AW51JGB Battery
(founded in 1848 on an anti-clerical, broadlyeconomically liberal and federalist platform), and the Conservative Party (founded in 1849 espousing Catholicism,protectionism, and centralism). This culminated in the formation of the National Front (1958–1974), which formalized arrangements for an alternation of power between the two parties and excluded non-establishment alternatives (thereby fueling the nascent armed conflict). Sony VAIO VGN-AW52JGB Battery
By the time of the dissolution of the National Front, traditional political alignments had begun to fragment. This process has continued since, and the consequences of this are exemplified by the results of the 2006 presidential election which was won with 62% of the vote by the incumbent, Álvaro Uribe. Sony VAIO VGN-AW53FB Battery
Uribe was from a Liberal background but he campaigned as part of theColombia First movement with the support of the Conservative Party. In second place with 22% was Carlos Gaviria of theAlternative Democratic Pole, a newly formed social democratic alliance which includes elements of the former M-19 guerrilla movement. Horacio Serpa of the Liberal Party came third with 12%. Sony VAIO VGN-AW70B/Q Battery
Meanwhile in the congressional elections held earlier that year the two traditional parties secured only 93 out of 268 seats available.
Despite a number of controversies, most notably the ongoing parapolitics scandal, dramatic improvements in security and continued strong economic performance have ensured that former President Uribe remained popular among Colombian people,Sony VAIO VGN-AW71JB Battery
with his approval rating peaking at 85%, according to a poll in July 2008.However, having served two terms, he was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election in 2010. Numerous Colombian Congressmen, with the support of a so-called ONG attempted to hold a referendum allowing a vote that would overturn the 2-term limit for presidents, Sony VAIO VGN-AW72JB Battery
but it was ruled unconstitutional by the Colombian constitutional court on 27 February 2010. By then his popularity had fallen to 55%. Uribe has stated that he respects the decision as one that cannot be appealed. His popularity rose again to 85% with the rescue of the politician Ingrid Betancourt from a seven years kidnapping by the FARC. Sony VAIO VGN-AW73FB Battery
Due to various embezzlement scandals uncovered by his successor, Santos, Uribe's popularity decreased by August 2011 to 63% and he no longer leads the political party that brought him the presidency.
In presidential elections held on 30 May 2010 the former Minister of defense Juan Manuel Santos received 46% of the vote. Sony VAIO VGN-AW80NS Battery
A second round was required since no candidate received over the 50% winning threshold of votes. In the run-off elections on 20 June 2010 against the second most popular candidate, Antanas Mockus who had scored 21%, Santos was declared the winner. His term as Colombia's president runs for four years beginning 7 August 2010. Sony VAIO VGN-AW80S Battery
Santos began with a popularity of 73% but after one and half years it had decreased to 58%. The Colombian people have experienced a sensation of insecurity under Santos' rule, arguably due more to the new policy of his government of telling citizens the truth of the conflict than to a real escalation of the conflict itself. Sony VAIO VGN-AW80US Battery
For the very first time in Colombian history a President accepted that there is an internal armed conflict in the country and proposed an economic reparation for the victims and restitution of their lands. Santos has promoted a Justice System Reform and some of his Ministers lead a discussion regarding Land Property Reform. Sony VAIO VGN-AW81DS Battery
In addition, President Santos opened a discussion about the convenience of the United States policy of a war against illegal drugs.
n spite of the difficulties presented by serious internal armed conflict, Colombia'smarket economy grew steadily in the latter part of the 20th century, with gross domestic product (GDP) increasing at an average rate of over 4% per year between 1970 and 1998. Sony VAIO VGN-AW81JS Battery
The country suffered a recession in 1999 (the first full year of negative growth since the Great Depression), and the recovery from that recession was long and painful. However, in recent years growth has been impressive, reaching 8.2% in 2007, one of thehighest rates of growth in Latin America. Sony VAIO VGN-AW81YS Battery
Meanwhile the Colombian stock exchange climbed from 1,000 points at its creation in July 2001 to over 7,300 points by November 2008.
According to International Monetary Fund estimates, in 2011 Colombia's GDP (PPP) was US$471.964 billion (28th in the world and third in South America). Adjusted forpurchasing power parity, GDP per capita stands at $10,249, placing Colombia 81st in the world. Sony VAIO VGN-AW82DS Battery
However, in practice this is relatively unevenly distributed among the population, and, in common with much of Latin America, Colombia scores poorly according to the Gini coefficient, with UN figures placing it among the lowest ranking countries. According to the World Bank, in 2010 the richest 20% of the population had a 60.2%share of income/consumption and the poorest 20% just 3.0%, and 15.8% of Colombians lived on less than $2 a day.Sony VAIO VGN-AW82JS Battery
Government spending represents 37.9% of GDP. Almost a quarter of this goes towards servicing the country's government debt, estimated at 52.8% of GDP in 2007. Other problems facing the economy include weak domestic and foreign demand, the funding of the country's pension system, and unemployment (10.8% in November 2008). Sony VAIO VGN-AW82YS Battery
Inflation has remained relatively low in recent years, standing at 5.5% in 2007.
Historically an agrarian economy, Colombia urbanised rapidly in the 20th century, by the end of which just 22.7% of the workforce were employed in agriculture, generating just 11.5% of GDP. 18.7% of the workforce are employed in industry and 58.5% in services, Sony VAIO VGN-AW83FS Battery
responsible for 36% and 52.5% of GDP respectively. Colombia is rich in natural resources, and its main exports include petroleum, coal, coffee and other agricultural produce, and gold. Colombia is also known as the world's leading source of emeralds, while over 70% of cut flowers imported by the United States are Colombian. Sony VAIO VGN-AW83GS Battery
Principal trading partners are the United States (a controversial free trade agreement with the United States was approved on 11 October 2011 by the United States Congress and became effective from 15 May 2012), the European Union, Venezuela and China. All imports, exports, and the overall balance of trade are at record levels, and the inflow of export dollars has resulted in a substantial re-valuation of the Colombian peso. Sony VAIO VGN-AW83HS Battery
Economic performance has been aided by liberal reforms introduced in the early 1990s and continued during the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, whose policies included measures designed to bring the public sector deficit below 2.5% of GDP. In 2008, The Heritage Foundation assessed the Colombian economy to be 61.9% free, Sony VAIO VGN-AW90NS Battery
an increase of 2.3% since 2007, placing it 67th in the world and 15th out of 29 countries within the region. It has Free trade Zone (FTZ), such as Zona Franca del Pacifico, located in the Valle del Cauca, one of the most striking areas for foreign investment.
In December 2012 a free trade agreement between the EU, Peru and Colombia will be submitted to the European Parliament for ratification. Sony VAIO VGN-AW90S Battery
Environmental organizations like Rainforest Rescue criticize that the agreement lacks binding environmental and human rights standards and refers to a report published by the EU that states that, under the current circumstances, the free trade agreement would endanger water quality and biodiversity in both countries and promote the destruction of fragile ecosystems. Sony VAIO VGN-AW90US Battery
Meanwhile the improvements in security resulting from President Uribe's controversial "democratic security" strategy have engendered an increased sense of confidence in the economy. On 28 May 2007 the American magazine BusinessWeek published an article naming Colombia "the most extreme emerging market on Earth". Sony VAIO VGN-AW91CDS Battery
Colombia's economy has improved in recent years. Investment soared, from 15% of GDP in 2002 to 26% in 2008. private business has retooled. However, unemployment at 12% and the poverty rate at 46% in 2009 are above the regional average.
According to a recent World Bank report, doing business is easiest in Cali, Manizales, Sony VAIO VGN-AW91CJS Battery
Ibagué and Pereira, and more difficult in Medellín and Cartagena. Reforms in custom administration have helped reduce the amount of time it takes to prepare documentation by over 60% for exports and 40% for imports compared to the previous report. Colombia has taken measures to address the backlog in civil municipal courts. Sony VAIO VGN-AW91CYS Battery
The most important result was the dismissal of 12.2% of inactive claims in civil courts thanks to the application of Law 1194 of 2008 (Ley de Desistimiento Tácito).
For many years serious internal armed conflict deterred tourists from visiting Colombia, with official travel advisorieswarning against travel to the country. Sony VAIO VGN-AW91DS Battery
However, in recent years numbers have risen sharply, thanks to improvements in security resulting from President Álvaro Uribe's "democratic security" strategy, which has included significant increases in military strength and police presence throughout the country and pushed rebel groups further away from the major cities, highways and tourist sites likely to attract international visitors. Sony VAIO VGN-AW91JS Battery
Foreign tourist visits were predicted to have risen from 0.5 million in 2003 to 1.3 million in 2007, while Lonely Planet picked Colombia as one of their top ten world destinations for 2006.
In November 2010 the U.S. State Department travel warning for the country stated that security conditions had improved significantly in recent years and kidnappings had been noticeably reduced Sony VAIO VGN-AW91YS Battery
from their previous peak, but cautioned travelers about continuing terrorist threats and the dangers of common crime, including hostage-taking. Rising murder rates in Medellín and Cartagena were also highlighted and U.S. citizens were urged to travel between cities by air instead of using ground transportation. Sony VAIO VGN-AW92CDS Battery
Popular tourist attractions include the historic Candelaria district of central Bogotá, the walled city and beaches ofCartagena, the colonial towns of Santa Fe de Antioquia, Popayán, Villa de Leyva and Santa Cruz de Mompox, and the Las Lajas Sanctuary and the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. Tourists are also drawn to Colombia's numerous festivals, including Feria de Cali (Carnaval of Cali), Sony VAIO VGN-AW92CJS Battery
the Barranquilla Carnival, the Carnival of Blacks and Whites in Pasto, Flower Fair in Medellín and the Ibero-American Theater Festival in Bogotá. Meanwhile, because of the improved security, Caribbean cruise ships now stop at Cartagena and Santa Marta.Sony VAIO VGN-AW92CYS Battery
The great variety in geography, flora and fauna across Colombia has also resulted in the development of an ecotouristindustry, concentrated in the country's national parks. Popular ecotourist destinations include: along the Caribbean coast, the Tayrona National Natural Park in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range and Cabo de la Vela on the tip of theGuajira Peninsula;Sony VAIO VGN-AW92DS Battery
the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, the Cocora valley and the Tatacoa Desert in the central Andean region, theFarallones de Cali National Natural Park, in the departament of Valle del Cauca; Amacayacu National Park in the Amazon River basin; and the Pacific islands ofMalpelo and Gorgona, there other unique landscapes like the river of the seven colors in Meta. Sony VAIO VGN-AW92JS Battery
Colombia is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Colombia has a network of national highways maintained by the Instituto Nacional de Vías or INVIAS (National Institute of Roadways) government agency under the Ministry of Transport. The Pan-American Highway travels through Colombia, connecting the country with Venezuela to the east and Ecuador to the south. Sony VAIO VGN-AW92YS Battery
Colombia's main airports are El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, Jose Maria Cordova International Airport in Medellín, Alfonso Bonilla Aragon International Airport in Cali, Rafael Nuñez International Airport in Cartagena, Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport in Barranquilla, andMatecaña International Airport in Pereira. Sony VAIO VGN-AW93FS Battery
El Dorado International Airport is the busiest airport in Latin America based upon the number of flights and the weight of goods transported. Several national airlines (Avianca,AeroRepública, AIRES, SATENA and EasyFly, ), and international airlines (such as Iberia, American Airlines, Varig, Copa, Sony VAIO VGN-AW93GS Battery
Continental, Delta, Air Canada, Spirit,Lufthansa, Air France, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aerogal, TAME, TACA, JetBlue Airways, LAN Airlines) operate from El Dorado. Because of its central location in Colombia and America, it is preferred by national land transportation providers, as well as national and international air transportation providers. Sony VAIO VGN-AW93HS Battery
Urban transport systems are developed in Bogotá and Medellín. Traffic congestion in Bogotá has greatly exacerbated by the lack of rail transport. However, this problem has been alleviated somewhat by the development of the TransMilenio bus rapid and restriction of vehicles through a ban on all day, the rotation of passenger cars based on the number of plates called Pico and plate.Sony VAIO VGN-AW93ZFS Battery
Bogotá system consists of bus and minibus services run by both private and public sector. Since 1995 Medellín had a street railway known as the 'Metro de Medellín', which connects to most of the area Medellín Metropolitan. A high cable car system,Metrocable, was added in 2004 to link some of the poorest neighborhoods of Medellín mountain with the Metro of Medellín. Sony VAIO VGN-AW93ZGS Battery
In late 2011 a system of articulated buses, called Metroplus began operating in Medellín as well. A system called bus rapid transit Transmetro, similar to the TransMilenio in Bogotá, Barranquilla began operating in late 2007. In other highly developed cities such as Cali constructed a system of articulated buses that changed the face of the city, in 2013 came into operation a system of high modern cable car. Sony VAIO VGN-AW93ZHS Battery
China and Colombia have discussed a Panama Canal rival, a 'Dry Canal' 220 km rail link between the Pacific and a new city near Cartagena. China is Colombia's second largest trade partner after the USA. Colombia is also the world's fifth-largest coal producer, but most is currently exported via Atlantic ports while demand is growing fastest across the Pacific. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ11EN Battery
A dry canal could make Colombia a hub where imported Chinese goods would be assembled for re-export throughout the Americas and Latin American raw materials would begin the return journey to China.
Colombia has the third largest economy in Latin America, but income and wealth are unevenly distributed.[ Sony VAIO VGN-BZ11MN Battery
According to a 2006 report by the National University of Colombia, only 13.8% of total income is allocated to the poorest half of the population, while the wealthiest 10% of the population benefit from 46.5%. The wide income gap between rich and poor compounds the country's poverty issues. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ11XN Battery
According to a 2011 United Nations report, Colombia was one of the seven most unequal countries in the world during 2010.
Inequity regarding land ownership has also been a long existing problem in Colombia, prompting the formation of left-wing guerrilla groups during the 1950s and 1960s. As counteraction, adversaries backed by powerful landowners established rightwing paramilitary organizations. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ12VN Battery
Internal contention intensified by civil war in the 1980s, which was chiefly provoked by the cocaine trade. Although the state of conflict has calmed tremendously in recent years, over 3.2 million individuals have been internally displaced during the confrontation—a figure so high that it falls only second to that of Sudan. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ12XN Battery
Inadequacies in land allocation have failed to diminish in recent years, further contributing to Colombia's health, income and societal inequity struggles.Inequitable land ownership is more problematic in rural areas of the country. Statistics indicate that 1.5% of landowners own 52% of rural territory. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ31VT Battery
The lack of fair land availability prevents local farmers from cultivating usable terrain for agricultural purposes, hindering income distribution and further exacerbating the poverty gap. Poverty inflicts rural areas in greater magnitude than that of urban areas. While 39% of the urban population is considered poor and another 9% is considered extremely poor (under the level of misery), Sony VAIO VGN-BZ31XT Battery
62% of the rural population is considered poor with an additional 22% considered extremely poor. The National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), classifies poverty by those earning a monthly income of less than 281,384 Col pesos (143 USD) and extreme poverty those earning less than 120,588 Col Pesos (61 USD). Sony VAIO VGN-BZ560 Battery
In 1990, the income ratio between the richest and poorest 10% was 40-to-one, climbing to 80-to-one in 2000. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and its Statistical Yearbook 2009, figures for 2005 indicated that Colombia had a national Gini coefficient of 0.584 and an urban Gini of 0.587, Sony VAIO VGN-BZ560N24 Battery
which were among the highest in Latin America. In 2009, the DANE reported that 45.5% of Colombians were living below the poverty line and 16.6% in "extreme poverty". The Colombian government has since claimed to establish a state-funded program aiming to bring at least one million families out from extreme poverty status. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ560N30 Battery
With an estimated 46 million people in 2008, Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. It is also home to the third-largest number of Spanish speakers in the world after Mexico and Spain. It is slightly ahead of Argentina by almost 6 million people. At the outset of the 20th century, Colombia's population was approximately 4 million. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ560P Battery
The population increased at a rate of 1.9% between 1975 and 2005, predicted to drop to 1.2% over the next decade. Colombia is projected to have a population of 50.7 million by 2015. These trends are reflected in the country's age profile. In 2005 over 30% of the population was under 15 years old, compared to just 5.1% aged 65 and over. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ560P20 Battery
The population is concentrated in the Andean highlands and along the Caribbean coast. The nine eastern lowland departments, comprising about 54% of Colombia's area, have less than 3% of the population and a density of less than one person per square kilometer (two persons per square mile). Sony VAIO VGN-BZ560P22 Battery
Traditionally a rural society, movement to urban areas was very heavy in the mid-20th century, and Colombia is now one of the most urbanized countries in Latin America. The urban population increased from 31% of the total in 1938 to 60% in 1975, and by 2005 the figure stood at 72.7%. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ560P28 Battery
The population of Bogotá alone has increased from just over 300,000 in 1938 to approximately 8 million today. In total thirty cities now have populations of 100,000 or more. As of 2010 Colombia has the world's largest populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs), estimated up to 4.5 million people. Sony VAIO VGN-BZ560P30 Battery
According to the The World Factbook, the majority of the population (58%) is Mestizo, or of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry. Approximately 20% of the population is of European ancestry (predominantly Spanish, partly Italian, Portuguese, andGerman). The CIA World Factbook also states that 14% of Colombia's total population is of mixed African and European ancestry, Sony VAIO VGN-BZ560P34 Battery
with 3% being of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry, and 4% having primarily African ancestry. Indigenous Amerindians comprise only 1% of the population. Other sources claim that up to 29% of Colombians (13 million people) have some African ancestry. The 2005 census reported that the "non-ethnic population",Sony VAIO VGN-BZ561 Battery
consisting of whites and mestizos(those of mixed white European and Amerindian ancestry, including almost all of the urban business and political elite), constituted 86% of the national population. The 86% figure is subdivided in to 49% mestizo and 37% white.