|Republic of Colombia|
República de Colombia (Spanish)
|Motto: "Libertad y Orden" (Spanish)|
"Freedom and Order"
|Anthem: ¡Oh, Gloria Inmarcesible! (Spanish)|
O unfading glory!
and largest city
|Recognised regional languages||68 ethnic languages and dialects. English also official in the San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands.|
|Government||Unitary presidentialconstitutional republic|
|-||President||Juan Manuel Santos|
|-||Vice President||Angelino Garzón|
|-||Lower house||Chamber of Representatives|
|Independence from Spain|
|-||Declared||20 July 1810|
|-||Recognized||7 August 1819|
|-||Current constitution||4 July 1991|
|-||Total||1,141,748 km2 (26th)|
440,831 sq mi
|-||Water (%)||8.8 (17th)|
|-||February 2012 estimate||47,072,915 (27th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2012 estimate|
|-||Total||$502.874 billion (28)|
|GDP (nominal)||2012 estimate|
|-||Total||$366.020 billion (31)|
|HDI (2013)|| 0.719|
high · 91st
|Time zone||COT (UTC−5b)|
|Date format||dd−mm−yyyy (CE)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||CO|
|a.||Although the Colombian Constitution specifies Spanish as the official language in all its territory, other languages spoken in the country (approximately 68 languages) are also official. English is also official in San Andrés, Providencia and Santa CatalinaIslands (Consulta de la Norma. Alcaldiabogota.gov.co. Retrieved on 8 October 2012.)|
|b.||The official Colombian time (horalegal.sic.gov.co) is controlled and coordinated by the state agencySuperintendency of Industry and Commerce."Decreto 2153 de 1992, articulo 20" (in Spanish). Presidencia de la República de Colombia. Retrieved 9 October 2013.|
Colombia (// kə-lum-biə, or // kə-lom-biə), officially the Republic of Colombia (Spanish: República de Colombia [reˈpuβlika ðe koˈlombja]), is a unitary, constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. It is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the northwest by Panama; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; and to the west by the Pacific Ocean.
The territory of what is now Colombia was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. The Spanish arrived in 1499 and initiated a period of conquest and colonization ultimately creating the Viceroyalty of New Granada, with its capital at Bogotá.Independence from Spain was won in 1819, but by 1830 "Gran Colombia" had collapsed with the secession of Venezuela and Ecuador. What is now Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada. The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation(1858), and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia was finally declared in 1886. Panama seceded in 1903.
Colombia was the first constitutional government in South America, and an important promoter of the Pan American organizations, initially through the Congress of Panama and later as founder of the Organization of American States. Colombia was engulfed in the Year-Long War with Peru over a territorial dispute and entered the Korean War as an ally of South Korea. Since the 1960s, the country has suffered from an asymmetric low-intensityarmed conflict. The conflict escalated in the 1990s, but since 2000 the conflict has decreased considerably.
Colombia is ethnically diverse, and the interaction between descendants of the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, Africans originally brought to the country as slaves, and 20th-century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East, has produced a rich cultural heritage. This has also been influenced by Colombia's varied geography, and the imposing landscape of the country has resulted in the development of very strong regional identities, in many cases stronger than the national. 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.
Ecologically, Colombia is one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries, and is considered the most megadiverse per square kilometer.Colombia is a middle power with the third largest economy in South America, and is part of the CIVETS group of six leading emerging markets.Its principal industries include oil, mining, chemicals, health related products, food processing, agricultural products, textile and fabrics, garments, forest products, machinery, electronics, military products, metal products, home and office material, construction equipment and materials, banking, financial services, software, IT services and the automotive industry.
The name "Colombia" is derived from the last name of Christopher Columbus (Italian: Cristoforo Colombo,Spanish: Cristóbal Colón). It was conceived by the Venezuelan revolutionary Francisco de Miranda as a reference to all the New World, but especially to those under the Spanish and Portuguese rule. The name was later adopted by the Republic of Colombia of 1819, formed out of the territories of the old Viceroyalty of New Granada (modern-day Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, and northwest Brazil).
In 1835, when Venezuela and Ecuador parted ways, the Cundinamarca region that remained became a new country – the Republic of New Granada. In 1858 New Granada officially changed its name to the Granadine Confederation, then in 1863 the United States of Colombia, before finally adopting its present name – the Republic of Colombia – in 1886.
To refer to the country, the Colombian government uses the terms Colombia and República de Colombia.
Due to its geographical location, the present territory of Colombia was a corridor of populations between Mesoamerica, the Caribbean, the Andes and the Amazon. The oldest archaeological finds are from sites at Monsú and Pubenza, dating from about 20,000 BC. Other vestiges indicate that there was also early occupation in regions likeEl Abra between Tocancipá, Zipaquirá and Tequendama in Cundinamarca. These sites correspond to the Paleoindian period. In Puerto Hormiga, traces of the archaic period have been found, including the oldest pottery discovered in America, dating from about 3000 BC.
Approximately 10,000 BC, the territory of what is now Colombia was inhabited byindigenous people including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. Hunter-gatherersocieties existed near present-day Bogotá (at "El Abra" and "Tequendama") which traded with one another and with cultures living in the Magdalena River Valley. Beginning in the 1st millennium BC, groups of Amerindians developed the political system of "cacicazgos" with a pyramidal structure of power headed by caciques. The Muiscas inhabited mainly the area of what is now the Departments of Boyacá and Cundinamarca high plateau (Altiplano Cundiboyacense). They farmed maize, potato, quinoa and cotton, and traded worked gold, emeralds, blankets, ceramic handicrafts, coca and salt with neighboring nations. The Taironas inhabited northern Colombia in the isolated Andes mountain range of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Spanish explorers, led by Rodrigo de Bastidas, made the first exploration of the Caribbean littoral in 1500. Christopher Columbus navigated near the Caribbean in 1502. In 1508, Vasco Núñez de Balboa started the conquest of the territory through the region of Urabá. In 1513, he was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean, which he called Mar del Sur (or "Sea of the South") and which in fact would bring the Spaniards to Peru and Chile.
Alonso de Ojeda (who had sailed with Columbus) reached the Guajira Peninsula in 1500. Santa Marta was founded in 1525, and Cartagena in 1533. Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada led an expedition to the interior in 1535, and founded the "New City of Granada", the name of which soon changed to "Santa Fé". Two other notable journeys by Spaniards to the interior took place in the same period. Sebastián de Belalcázar, conqueror of Quito, traveled north and founded Cali, in 1536, and Popayán, in 1537; Nicolas Federman crossed the Llanos Orientales and went over the Eastern Cordillera.
The Caribbean people, indigenous to Colombia, experienced a reduction in population due to conquest by the Spanish as well as European-carried diseases such as smallpox, to which they had no immunity. In the 16th century, Europeans began to bring slaves from Africa.
The Spanish settled along the north coast of today's Colombia as early as the 16th century, but their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. In 1549, the institution of the Audiencia in Santa Fe de Bogotá gave that city the status of capital of New Granada, which comprised in large part what is now territory of Colombia.
With the risk that the land was deserted, the Spanish Crown sold properties to the governors, conquerors and their descendants creating large farms and possession of mines. Slaves were introduced as labor. Also to protect the indigenous population decimated, and Indian reservations were created. The repopulation was achieved by allowing colonization by farmers and their families who came from Spain. With this began the colonial period. New Granada was ruled by the Royal Audience of Santa Fe de Bogotá, but important decisions were taken to the colony from Spain by the Council of the Indies.
A royal decree of 1713 approved the legality of Palenque de San Basilio founded by runaway slaves from the 15th century, slaves had fled and sought refuge in the jungles of the Caribbean coast. The Spanish forces could not tolerate them and ended up submitting, thereby giving rise to the first free place in the Americas. Its main leader was Benkos Biohó, born in the region Bioho, Guinea Bissau, West Africa. Palenque de San Basilio was declared in 2005 as a "Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.
In 1717 the Viceroyalty of New Granada was originally created, and then it was temporarily removed, to finally be reestablished in 1739. The Viceroyalty had Santa Fé de Bogotá as its capital. This Viceroyalty included some other provinces of northwestern South America which had previously been under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalties of New Spain or Peru and correspond mainly to today's Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. So, Bogotá became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City, though it remained somewhat backward compared to those two cities in several economic and logistical ways.
The 18th-century priest, botanist and mathematician José Celestino Mutis (1732–1808), was delegated by the viceroy Antonio Caballero y Góngora to conduct an inventory of the nature of the New Granada. This became known as the Royal Botanical Expedition to New Granada which classified plants, wildlife and founded the first astronomical observatory in the city of Santa Fe de Bogotá. On 15 August 1801 the Prussian scientist Alexander von Humboldt reached Fontibón where he joined Mutis in New Granada expedition to Quito.
Since the beginning of the periods of conquest and colonization, there were several rebel movements under Spanish rule, most of them were either crushed or remained too weak to change the overall situation. The last one which sought outright independence from Spain sprang up around 1810, following the independence of St. Domingue (present-day Haiti) in 1804, which provided a non-negligible degree of support to the eventual leaders of this rebellion: Simón Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander.
A movement initiated by Antonio Nariño, who opposed Spanish centralism and led the opposition against the viceroyalty, led to the independence ofCartagena in November 1811, and the formation of two independent governments which fought a civil war – a period known as La Patria Boba. The following year Nariño proclaimed the United Provinces of New Granada, headed by Camilo Torres Tenorio. Despite the successes of the rebellion, the emergence of two distinct ideological currents among the liberators (federalism and centralism) gave rise to an internal clash which contributed to the reconquest of territory by the Spanish. The viceroyalty was restored under the command of Juan de Samano, whose regime punished those who participated in the uprisings. The retribution stoked renewed rebellion, which, combined with a weakened Spain, made possible a successful rebellion led by the Venezuelan-born Simón Bolívar, who finally proclaimed independence in 1819. The pro-Spanish resistance was finally defeated in 1822 in the present territory of Colombia and in 1823 in Venezuela.
The territory of the Viceroyalty of New Granada became the Republic of Colombia organized as a union of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela (Panama was then an integral part of Colombia). The Congress of Cúcuta in 1821 adopted a constitution for the new Republic. Simón Bolívar became the first President of Colombia, and Francisco de Paula Santander was made Vice President. However, the new republic was unstable and ended with the rupture of Venezuela in 1829, followed by Ecuador in 1830.
Colombia was the first constitutional government in South America, and the Liberal and Conservative parties, founded in 1848 and 1849 respectively, are two of the oldest surviving political parties in the Americas. Slavery was abolished in Colombia in 1851.
Internal political and territorial divisions led to the secession of Venezuela and Quito (today's Ecuador) in 1830. The so-called "Department of Cundinamarca" adopted the name "Nueva Granada", which it kept until 1856 when it became the "Confederación Granadina" (Granadine Confederation). After a two-year civil war in 1863, the "United States of Colombia" was created, lasting until 1886, when the country finally became known as the Republic of Colombia. Internal divisions remained between the bipartisan political forces, occasionally igniting very bloody civil wars, the most significant being the Thousand Days' War (1899–1902).
The United States of America's intentions to influence the area (especially the Panama Canal construction and control) led to the separation of the Department of Panama in 1903 and the establishment of it as a nation. The United States paid Colombia $25,000,000 in 1921, seven years after completion of the canal, for redress of President Roosevelt's role in the creation of Panama, and Colombia recognized Panama under the terms of theThomson–Urrutia Treaty. Colombia was engulfed in the Year-Long War with Peru over a territorial dispute involving the Amazonas department and its capital Leticia.
Soon after, Colombia achieved some degree of political stability, which was interrupted by a bloody conflict that took place between the late 1940s and the early 1950s, a period known as La Violencia ("The Violence"). Its cause was mainly mounting tensions between the two leading political parties, which subsequently ignited after the assassination of the Liberal presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on 9 April 1948. The ensuing riots in Bogotá, known as El Bogotazo, spread throughout the country and claimed the lives of at least 180,000 Colombians.
Colombia entered the Korean War when Laureano Gómez was elected as President. Colombia was the only Latin American country to join the war in a direct military role. As an ally of the United States, Colombia’s mission was to help win the war effort and broker a lasting peace on the Asian peninsula. Particularly important was the heroic resistance of the Colombian troops at Old Baldy.
From 1953 to 1964 the violence between the two political parties decreased first when Gustavo Rojasdeposed the President of Colombia in a coup d'état and negotiated with the guerrillas, and then under themilitary junta of General Gabriel París Gordillo.
After Rojas' deposition, the Colombian Conservative Party and Colombian Liberal Party agreed to create the "National Front", a coalition which would jointly govern the country. Under the deal, the presidency would alternate between conservatives and liberals every 4 years for 16 years; the two parties would have parity in all other elective offices. The National Front ended "La Violencia", and National Front administrations attempted to institute far-reaching social and economic reforms in cooperation with the Alliance for Progress. In the end, the contradictions between each successive Liberal and Conservative administration made the results decidedly mixed. Despite the progress in certain sectors, many social and political problems continued, and guerrilla groups were formally created such as the FARC, ELN, EPL, MAQL and M-19 to fight the government and political apparatus.
Since the 1960s, the country has suffered from an asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict between the government forces, left-wing guerrilla groups andright-wing paramilitaries. The conflict escalated in the 1990s. The conflict in Colombia takes place mainly in remote rural areas or marginalized sectors of very difficult access.
The United States of America has been heavily involved in the conflict since its beginnings, when in the early 1960s the U.S. government pushed the Colombian military to attack peasant self-defense communities in rural Colombia. This was part of the U.S. fight against communism.
On 4 July 1991, a new Constitution was promulgated. The changes generated by the new constitution are viewed as positive by Colombian society.
During the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, the government applied more military pressure on the FARC and other outlawed groups. After the offensive, many security indicators improved. Since 2002 the violence decreased significantly, with some paramilitary groups demobilizing as part of a controversial peace process and the guerrillas lost control of much of the territory they had once dominated. Colombia achieved a great decrease in cocaine production, leading White House drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske to announce that Colombia is no longer the world's biggest producer of cocaine.
In February 2008, millions of Colombians demonstrated against the FARC. 26,648 FARC and ELN combatants have decided to demobilize since 2002. During these years the military forces of the Republic of Colombia managed to be strengthened.
The Peace process in Colombia, 2012 refers to the dialogue between the Colombian government and guerrilla of FARC-EP with the aim to find a political solution to the armed conflict. The Colombian government and rebel groups meet in Cuba. As of November 2013, the talks have represented breakthroughs. The Government also began a process of assistance and reparation for victims of conflict.
Colombia shows modest progress in the struggle to defend human rights, as expressed by HRW. In terms of international relations, Colombia has moved from a period of tense animosity withVenezuela, towards a prosperous outlook to further enhance integration. Colombia has also won a seat on the Security Council of the UN.
Today Colombia is the third largest oil producer in South America and it is estimated that by 2012, Colombia will be producing a million barrels a day.
In 2012, the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) reported that 32.7% of the population were living below the poverty line, of which 10.4% in "extreme poverty". More than 1.2 million Colombians have been lifted out of poverty.
In 2012, the Colombian Government launched a policy to deliver 100,000 houses for poor people, the expansion of fiber optic and broadband coverage across the country and a subsidy for to reduce the digital divide.
Recent economic growth has led to a considerable increase of new millionaires, including the new entrepreneurs Colombians with net worth exceeding US$ 1 billion.
The geography of Colombia is characterized by its six main natural regions that present their own unique characteristics, from the Andes mountain range region shared with Ecuador and Venezuela; the Pacific coastal region shared with Panama and Ecuador; the Caribbean coastal region shared with Venezuela and Panama; the Llanos (plains) shared with Venezuela; to the Amazon Rainforest region shared with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.
Colombia is bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by Panama and the Caribbean Sea; and to the west by Ecuador and the Pacific Ocean. Including its Caribbean islands, it lies between latitudes 14°N and 5°S, and longitudes 66° and 82°W
Part of the Ring of Fire, a region of the world subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Colombia is dominated by the Andes (which contain the majority of the country's urban centres). Beyond the Colombian Massif (in the south-western departments of Cauca and Nariño) these are divided into three branches known as cordilleras (mountain ranges): the Cordillera Occidental, running adjacent to the Pacific coast and including the city of Cali; the Cordillera Central, running between the Cauca and Magdalena river valleys (to the west and east respectively) and including the cities of Medellín,Manizales, Pereira and Armenia; and the Cordillera Oriental, extending north east to the Guajira Peninsula and including Bogotá, Bucaramanga andCúcuta.
Peaks in the Cordillera Occidental exceed 13,000 ft (3,962 m), and in the Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental they reach 18,000 ft (5,486 m). At 8,500 ft (2,591 m), Bogotá is the highest city of its size in the world.
East of the Andes lies the savanna of the Llanos, part of the Orinoco River basin, and, in the far south east, the jungle of the Amazon rainforest. Together these lowlands comprise over half Colombia's territory, but they contain less than 3% of the population. To the north the Caribbean coast, home to 20% of the population and the location of the major port cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena, generally consists of low-lying plains, but it also contains the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, which includes the country's tallest peaks (Pico Cristóbal Colón and Pico Simón Bolívar), and the La Guajira Desert. By contrast the narrow and discontinuous Pacific coastal lowlands, backed by the Serranía de Baudó mountains, are sparsely populated and covered in dense vegetation. The principal Pacific port is Buenaventura.
The main rivers of Colombia are Magdalena, Cauca, Guaviare, and Caquetá. Colombia has four main drainage systems: the Pacific drain, the Caribbean drain, the Orinoco Basin and the Amazon Basin. The Orinoco and Amazon Rivers mark limits with Colombia to Venezuela and Peru respectively.
Protected areas and the "National Park System" cover an area of about 12,744,512.9 hectares (127,445.129 km2) and account for 11.28% of the Colombian territory. Compared to neighboring countries, rates of deforestation in Colombia are still relatively low. Colombia is the fourth country in the world by magnitude of total freshwater supply, and still has large reserves of freshwater.
Colombians customarily describe their country in terms of the climatic zones. Below 900 meters (2,953 ft) in elevation is the tierra caliente (hot land), where temperatures vary between 24 and 38 °C (75.2 and 100.4 °F). About 86% of the country's total area lies in the tierra caliente.
The most productive land and the majority of the population can be found in the tierra templada (temperate land, between 900 and 1,980 meters (2,953 and 6,496 ft)), which provide the best conditions for the country's coffee growers, and the tierra fría (cold land, 1,980 and 3,500 meters (6,496 and 11,483 ft)), where wheat and potatoes dominate.
In the tierra fría mean temperatures range between 10 and 19 °C (50.0 and 66.2 °F). Beyond the tierra fría lie the alpine conditions of the forested zone and then the treeless grasslands of the páramos. Above 4,500 meters (14,764 ft), where temperatures are below freezing, is the tierra helada, a zone of permanent snow and ice.
Colombia is one of the megadiverse countries in biodiversity, ranking third in living species and first in bird species.As for plants, the country has between 40,000 and 45,000 plant species, equivalent to 10 or 20% of total global species, this is even more remarkable given that Colombia is considered a country of intermediate size, roughly 1/9 the size of the US .Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, lagging only after Brazil which is approximately 10 times bigger.
Colombia is the country in the planet more characterized by a high biodiversity, with the highest rate of species by area unit worldwide and it has the largest number of endemisms (species that are not found naturally anywhere else) of any country. About 10% of the species of the Earth live in Colombia, including over 1,900 species of bird, more than in Europe and North America combined, Colombia has 10% of the world’s mammals species, 14% of the amphibian species and 18% of the birdspecies of the world.
Colombia has about 2,000 species of marine fish and 1,450 species of freshwater fish. Colombia is the country with more endemic species of butterflies, number 1 in terms of orchid species and more than 250,000 varieties of beetles. Colombia is first in the number of amphibian species, boasting more than 30% of the world's species of turtles and 25% of the species of crocodiles. There are 34 species of primates, 270 species of snakesand according to estimates there are about 300,000 species of invertebrates in the country. In Colombia there are 32 terrestrial biomes and 314 types of ecosystems.
Government and politics
The government of Colombia takes place within the framework of a presidential representative democratic republic as established in the Constitution of 1991. In accordance with the principle of separation of powers, government is divided into three branches: the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch.
As the head of the executive branch, the President of Colombia serves as both head of state and head of government, followed by the Vice Presidentand the Council of Ministers. The president is elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms and is limited to a maximum of two such terms (increased from one in 2005). At the provincial level executive power is vested in department governors, municipal mayors and local administrators for smaller administrative subdivisions, such as corregidores or corregimientos.
The legislative branch of government is represented nationally by the Congress, a bicameral institution comprising a 166-seat Chamber of Representatives and a 102-seat Senate. The Senate is elected nationally and the Chamber of Representatives by every region and minority groups.Members of both houses are elected to serve four-year terms two months before the president, also by popular vote. At the provincial level the legislative branch is represented by department assemblies and municipal councils. All regional elections are held one year and five months after the presidential election.
The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court, consisting of 23 judges divided into three chambers (Penal, Civil and Agrarian, and Labour). The judicial branch also includes the Council of State, which has special responsibility for administrative law and also provides legal advice to the executive, the Constitutional Court, responsible for assuring the integrity of the Colombian constitution, and the Superior Council of Judicature, responsible for auditing the judicial branch. Colombia operates a system of civil law, which since 2005 has been applied through an adversarial system.
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, 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. In presidential elections held on 30 May 2010 the former Minister of defense Juan Manuel Santos received 46% of the vote. 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 Mockuswho had scored 21%, Santos was declared the winner. His term as Colombia's president runs for four years beginning 7 August 2010.
The foreign affairs of Colombia are headed by the President, as head of state, and managed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Colombia has diplomatic missions in all continents.
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 is a member of the Andean Community of Nations, the Pacific Alliance 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-chief of the armed forces. The Ministry of Defence exercises day-to-day control of the military and the Colombian National Police. Colombia has 444,518 active military personnel, as of September 2013. And in 2012 3.3% of the country's GDP went towards military expenditure, placing it 18th 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.
The Colombian military is divided into three branches: the National Army of Colombia; the Colombian Air Force; and the Colombian National Armada. The National Police functions as agendarmerie, operating independently from the military as the law enforcement agency for the entire country. 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, the Naval Force of the Pacific, the Naval Force of the South, Colombia Coast Guards, Naval Aviation and the Specific Command of San Andres y Providencia; and the Air Force by 13 air units. The National Police has a presence in all municipalities.
Colombia is divided into 32 departments and one capital district, which is treated as a department (Bogotá also serves as the capital of the department of Cundinamarca). Departments are subdivided into municipalities, each of which is assigned a municipal seat, and municipalities are in turn subdivided into corregimientos. Each department has a local government with a governor and assembly directly elected to four-year terms. Each municipality is headed by a mayor and council, and each corregimiento by an elected corregidor, or local leader.
In addition to the capital nine other cities have been designated districts (in effect special municipalities), on the basis of special distinguishing features. These are Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Cúcuta, Popayán, Bucaramanga, Tunja, Turbo, Buenaventura and Tumaco. Some departments have local administrative subdivisions, where towns have a large concentration of population and municipalities are near each other (for example in Antioquia and Cundinamarca). Where departments have a low population (for example Amazonas, Vaupés and Vichada), special administrative divisions are employed, such as "department corregimientos", which are a hybrid of a municipality and a corregimiento.
Click on a department on the map below to go to its article.
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 were employed in industry and 58.5% in services, responsible for 36% and 52.5% of GDP respectively.
Colombia's market 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. 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 the highest rates of growth in Latin America. According to International Monetary Fund estimates, in 2012 Colombia's GDP (PPP) was US$500 billion (28th in the world and third in South America).
Government spending has stabilized at about 29 percent of total domestic output. Public debt remains below 35 percent of GDP. A strong fiscal climate was reaffirmed by a boost in bond ratings. Inflation has remained relatively low in recent years, standing at 1.76% in November 2013. The national unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in October 2013, its lowest level since 1995,  although the informality is the biggest problem facing the labour market (the income of formal workers climbed 24.8% in 5 years while labor incomes of informal workers rose only 9%). Colombia 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.
Colombia is rich in natural resources, and its main exports include petroleum, coal, gold, precious stones, nickel, forest products, pulp and paper, coffee, sugarcane, cereals and vegetable oils, cotton, rice, soy beans, oilseed, tropical treetops, tobacco, fruit and other agricultural products, food processing, processed fish products, beverages, machinery, electronics, military products, aircraft, ships, motor vehicles, metal products, ferro-alloys, boilers, home and office material, chemicals and health related products, petrochemicals, inorganic salts and acids, agrochemicals, perfumery and cosmetics, medicaments, plastics, animal fibers, textile and fabrics, clothing and footwear, leather, construction equipment and materials, cement, software, among others.
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. Principal trading partners are the United States, 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.
Exports of high-tech and medium-tech products increased from US$2,251 million in 2002 to US$4,868 in 2010, 35% of the total exported by the industry in Colombia. The Barrancabermeja refinery in addition to producing fuels such as gasoline and LPG, also produces petrochemicals and industrial products.
The financial sector has grown favorably due to good liquidity in the economy, the growth of credit and in general to the positive performance of the Colombian economy. The Colombian stock exchange climbed from 1,000 points at its creation in July 2001 to over 7,300 points by November 2008.
The electricity production in Colombia comes mainly from renewable energy sources. 70% is obtained from the hydroelectric generation.
Tourism in Colombia is an important sector in the country's economy. 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 2010, tourism in Colombia increased 11% according to UNWTO Tourism Highlights for that year. In 2011 Colombia received 3 million foreign visitors, according to official statistics.
Science and technology
Colombia has more than 4,705 research groups in science and technology. iNNpulsa, a government body that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation in the country, provides roughly $150,000 USD grants to startups, in addition to other services it and institutions like Apps.co provide. Co-working spaces have arisen to serve as communities for startups large and small. Organizations such as the Corporation for biological research for the support of young people interested in scientific work has been successfully developed in Colombia.
Important inventions related to the medicine have been made in Colombia, such as the first external artificial pacemaker with internal electrodes, invented by the electronics engineer Jorge Reynolds Pombo, invention of great importance for those who suffer from heart failure. Also were invented in Colombia one of the most important techniques for the correction of refractive errors of vision known asLASIK and the Hakim valve for the treatment of Hydrocephalus, among others. Colombia has begun to innovate in military technology for its army and other armies of the world; especially in the design and creation of military robots. The country has also begun to manufacture aircraft.
The International Center for Tropical Agriculture based in Colombia investigates the increasing challenge of global warming and food security. The Group of research of the University of the Andes, led by Carlos Avila, Juan Carlos Sanabria and Bernardo Gómez collaborates with the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
Some leading Colombian scientists are Joseph M. Tohme, researcher recognized for his work on the genetic diversity of food, Manuel Elkin Patarroyo who developed the first synthetic vaccineagainst malaria, Francisco Lopera who discovered the "Paisa Mutation" or a type of early-onset Alzheimer's  Rodolfo Llinás known for his study of the intrinsic neurons properties and the theory of a syndrome that had changed the way of understanding the functioning of the brain, Jairo Quiroga Puello recognized for his studies on the characterization of synthetic substances which can be used to fight fungus, tumors, tuberculosis and even some viruses and Ángela Restrepo who established accurate diagnoses and treatments to combat the effects of a disease caused by the Paracoccidioides brasiliensis, among other scientists.
Colombia is one of the few Latin American countries to have a nuclear reactor in operation, the IAN-R1, its function is the production of neutrons for research purposes, each year radiates and analyzes 4,400 samples.
Transportation in Colombia is regulated within the functions of the Ministry of Transport and entities such as the National Roads Institute (INVÍAS) responsible for the Highways in Colombia (13 000 km), the Aerocivil, responsible for civil aviation and airports, DG Maritime (DIMAR), among others and under the supervision of the Superintendency of Ports and Transport. There will be 2,279 kilometres (1,416 miles) of divided expressways in Colombia by 2014.
It is expected that the Antonio Nariño Airport of the Pasto and the El Caraño Airport of Quibdó in Chocó become international aerodrome.
China and Colombia have discussed a Panama Canal rival, a 'Dry Canal' 220 kilometres (137 miles) rail link between the Pacific and a new city nearCartagena.
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 second-largest number of Spanish speakers in the world after Mexico. At the beginning of the 20th century, Colombia's population was approximately 4 million. 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.
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). 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%. The population of Bogotá alone has increased from just over 300,000 in 1938 to approximately 8 million today. In total seventy one cities now have populations of 100,000 or more (2013). As of 2010 Colombia has the world's largest populations of internally displaced persons(IDPs), estimated to be up to 4.5 million people.
The life expectancy is 74.79 years and infant mortality is 15.92 per thousand. 93.4% of Colombians can read and write and the government spends about 7.3% of its GDP in education.
Colombia is ranked third in the world in the Happy Planet Index.
More than 99.2% of Colombians speak the Spanish language; also 65 Amerindian languages, 2 Creole languages and the Romani language are spoken in the country. English has official status in the San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands.
The overwhelming majority of Colombians speak Spanish (see also Colombian Spanish), but in total 101 languages are listed for Colombia in the Ethnologue database. The specific number of spoken languages varies slightly since some authors consider as different languages what others consider are varieties or dialects of the same language, the best estimates recorded that 70 languages are spoken in the country today. Most of these belong to the Chibchan, Arawak and Cariban language families. There are currently about 500,000 speakers of indigenous languages.
The descendants of the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, African people originally brought to the country as slaves and 20th-centuryimmigrants from Europe and the Middle East have produced a diverse cultural heritage in Colombia. The demographic distribution reflects a pattern is influenced by colonial history. Whites tend to live mainly in urban centers, particularly in Bogotá and the burgeoning highland cities. The populations of the major cities also include mestizos. Mestizo campesinos (people living in rural areas) also live in the Andean highlands where the Spanish conquerors mixed with the women of Amerindian chiefdoms. Mestizos include artisans and small tradesmen that have played a major part in the urban expansion of recent decades.
According to the 2005 census, 49% of Colombia's population is Mestizo or of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry. Approximately 37% is ofEuropean ancestry (predominantly Spanish, and a part of Italian, Portuguese, and German). About 10.6% is of African ancestry. Indigenous Amerindians comprise 3.4% of the population. The 2005 census reported that the "non-ethnic population", consisting of whites and mestizos (those of mixed white European and Amerindian ancestry), constituted 86% of the national population.
Many of the Indigenous peoples in Colombia experienced a reduction in population during the Spanish rule  and many others were absorbed into the mestizo population, but the remainder currently represents over eighty-five distinct cultures. 567 reserves (resguardos) established for indigenous peoples occupy 365,004 square kilometres (140,929 sq mi) (over 30% of the country's total) and are inhabited by more than 800,000 people in over 67,000 families. Some of the largest indigenous groups are the Wayuu, the Arhuacos, the Muisca, the Kuna, the Paez, the Tucano and theGuahibo. Cauca, La Guajira and Guainia have the largest indigenous populations.
The Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC), founded at the first National Indigenous Congress in 1982, is an organization representing the indigenous peoples of Colombia, who comprise some 800,000 people – roughly 2% of the population. In 1991, Colombia signed and ratified the current international law concerning indigenous peoples, Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989.
Black Africans were brought as slaves, mostly to the coastal lowlands, beginning early in the 16th century and continuing into the 19th century. Large Afro-Colombian communities are found today on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The population of the department of Chocó, running along the northern portion of Colombia's Pacific coast, is over 80% black. A number of other Europeans and North Americans migrated to the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and, in smaller numbers, Poles, Lithuanians, English, Irish, and Croats during and after the Second World War.
Many immigrant communities have settled on the Caribbean coast, in particular recent immigrants from the Middle East. Barranquilla (the largest city of the Colombian Caribbean) and other Caribbean cities have the largest populations of Palestinian, Lebanese, and other Arabs, Sephardi Jews and Romanis. There are also important communities of Chinese and Japanese. There is a major migration trend of Venezuelans, due to the political and economic situation in Venezuela.
The National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) does not collect religious statistics, and accurate reports are difficult to obtain. However, based on various studies, more than 95% of the population adheres to Christianity, the vast majority of which (between 81% and 90%) are Roman Catholic. About 1% of Colombians adhere to indigenous religions and under 1% to Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. However, around 60% of respondents to a poll by El Tiempo reported that they did not practice their Catholic faith actively.
Like the rest of Latin America, Colombia is seeing a continuous increase of Protestant adherents, most of them being converts from Catholicism toProtestantism. Now Protestants constitute between 10 to 13% of the Colombian population (Compared to 3.5% in 1965) While Colombia remains a mostly Roman Catholic country by baptism numbers, the 1991 Colombian constitution guarantees freedom and equality of religion. Today there is more openness to a great diversity of beliefs, including the activity of atheists.
|Largest cities or towns of Colombia
|3||Cali||Valle del Cauca||3,225,580||13||Pasto||Nariño||422,618|
|6||Cúcuta||Norte de Santander||1,358,676||16||Montería||Córdoba||400,790|
|9||Ibagué||Tolima||600,000||19||Buenaventura||Valle del Cauca||369,753|
Colombia lies at the crossroads of Latin America and the broader American continent, and as such has been hit by a wide range of cultural influences. Native American, Spanish and otherEuropean, African, American, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern influences, as well as other Latin American cultural influences, are all present in Colombia's modern culture. Urban migration, industrialization, globalization, and other political, social and economic changes have also left an impression.
Many national symbols, both objects and themes, have arisen from Colombia's diverse cultural traditions and aim to represent what Colombia, and the Colombian people, have in common. Cultural expressions in Colombia are promoted by the government through the Ministry of Culture.
Colombian literature dates back to Spanish colonial times; notable writers of the period include Hernando Domínguez Camargo and his epic poem to San Ignacio de Loyola, Juan Rodríguez Freyle (The Billygoat) and the nun Francisca Josefa de Castillo, representative of mysticism. Post-independence literature linked to Romanticism highlightedAntonio Nariño, José Fernández Madrid, Camilo Torres Tenorio and Francisco Antonio Zea. In the second half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century the literary genre known as costumbrismo became popular; great writers of this period were Tomás Carrasquilla, Jorge Isaacs and Rafael Pombo (the latter of whom wrote notable works of children's literature). Within that period, authors such as José Asunción Silva, José Eustasio Rivera, León de Greiff, Porfirio Barba-Jacob and José María Vargas Vila developed the modernist movement. In 1871, Colombia established the Colombian Academy of Language, the first Spanish language academy in the Americas.
Between 1939 and 1940 seven books of poetry were published under the name Stone and Sky in the city of Bogotá that significantly impacted the country; they were edited by the poet Jorge Rojas. In the following decade,Gonzalo Arango founded the movement of "nothingness" in response to the violence of the time; he was influenced by nihilism, existentialism, and the thought of another great Colombian writer: Fernando González Ochoa. During the boom in Latin American literature, successful writers emerged, led by Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez and his magnum opus, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Eduardo Caballero Calderón, Manuel Mejía Vallejo, and Álvaro Mutis, a writer who was awarded the Cervantes Prize and the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters. Other leading contemporary authors are Fernando Vallejo (Rómulo Gallegos Prize) and Germán Castro Caycedo, the best-selling writer in Colombia after García Márquez.
Colombian art has over 3,000 years of history. Colombian artists have captured the country's changing political and cultural backdrop using a range of styles and mediums. There is archeological evidence of ceramics being produced earlier in Colombia than anywhere else in the Americas, dating as early as 3,000 BC. The earliest examples of gold craftsmanship have been attributed to the Tumaco people  of the Pacific coast and date to around 325 BCE. Gold would play a pivotal role in luring the Spanish and other Europeans to the area now called Colombia during the 16th and 17th centuries. Roughly between 200 BCE and 800 CE, the San Agustín culture, masters of stonecutting, entered its “classical period". They erected raised ceremonial centres, sarcophagi, and large stone monoliths depicting anthropomorphic and zoomorphhic forms out of stone.
Colombian art has followed the trends of the time, so during the 16th to 18th centuries, Spanish Catholicism had a huge influence on Colombian art, and the popular Baroque style was replaced with Rococo when the Bourbons ascended to the Spanish crown. More recently, Colombian artists Pedro Nel Gómez andSantiago Martínez Delgado started the Colombian Murial Movement in the 1940s, featuring the neoclassical features of Art Deco. Since the 1950s, the Colombian art started to have a distinctive point of view, reinventing traditional elements under the concepts of the 20th century. Examples of this are the Greiffportraits by Ignacio Gomez Jaramillo, showing what the Colombian art could do with the new techniques applied to typical Colombian themes. Carlos Correa, with his paradigmathic “Naturaleza muerta en silencio” (silent dead nature), combines geometrical abstraction and cubism. Alejandro Obregón is often considered as the father of modern Colombian painting, and one of the most influential artist in this period, due to his originality, the painting of Colombian landscapes with symbolic and expressionist use of animals, (specially the andean condor). Fernando Botero and Omar Rayo are probably the most widely known Colombian artists in the international scene. 
The Colombian sculpture from the sixteenth to 18th centuries was mostly devoted to religious depictions of ecclesiastic art, strongly influenced by the Spanish schools of sacred sculpture. During the early period of the Colombian republic, the national artists were focused in the production of sculptural portraits of politicians and public figures, in a plain neoclassicist trend. During the 20th century, the Colombian sculpture began to develop a bold and innovative work with the aim of reaching a better understanding of national sensitivity.
Photography in Colombia began with the arrival in the country of the Daguerreotype that was brought by the Baron Gros in 1841. The first photographersor daguerrotypists were painters, several of the most prominent were Luis García Hevia, Fermín Isaza and Demetrio Paredes. The Restrepo brothers brought the technique known as Collodion process to Colombia. At the beginning of the 20th century the photographic work of Melitón Rodríguez, Leo Matiz, Benjamin de la Calle and Luis Benito Ramos allowed the development and support of the photo essay and photography as a document. In the middle of the 20th century began to be considered the artistic side of photography thanks to the work of several photographers, some of the most prominent Colombian photographers of this artistic movement were Hernán Díaz, Abdú Eljaiek, Manuel H Rodríguez and Nereo López.
In general, Colombian music blends European-influenced guitar and song structure with large gaita flutes and percussion instruments from the indigenous population, while its percussion structure and dance forms come from Africa. Colombian music reflects a wealth of musical influences that have given birth to a dynamic musical environment. Some of the most popular music genres that have marked the Colombian music with special relevance are the cumbia, vallenato, joropo, salsa, bambuco, rock, pop and the classical music. Shakira and Juanes are two of the most well-known Colombian musicians internationally. Colombian music is promoted mainly by the support of the largest record labels, independent companies and the Government of Colombia, through the Ministry of Culture.
Colombian architecture is mainly derived of adapting European styles to local conditions, and Spanish influence, especially Andalusian, can be easily seen. The Teatro Colón in Bogotá is a lavish example of Colombian architecture from the Republican period, and the Archbishopric Cathedral also in the capital, was made in the neoclassic style in 1792, by Colombian architect Domingo de Petrés. Rogelio Salmona, whose works are noted for their use of red brick and natural shapes, is a widely renowned Colombian architect.
Theater was introduced in Colombia during the Spanish colonization in 1550 through zarzuela companies. Colombian theater is supported by the Ministry of Culture and a number of private and state owned organizations. The Ibero-American Theater Festival of Bogotá is the cultural event of the highest importance in Colombia and one of the biggest theater festivals in the world. Other important theater events are: The Festival of Puppet The Fanfare (Medellín), The Manizales Theater Festival, The Caribbean Theatre Festival (Santa Marta) and The Art Festival of Popular Culture "Cultural Invasion" (Bogotá).
Some important national circulation newspapers are El Tiempo and El Espectador. Television in Colombia has two privately owned TV networks and three state-owned TV networks with national coverage, as well as six regional TV networks and dozens of local TV stations. Private channels, RCN and Caracol are the highest-rated. The regional channels and regional newspapers cover a department or more and its content is made in these particular areas.
Although the Colombian cinema is young as an industry, more recently the film industry was growing with support from the Film Act passed in 2003.
Colombia's varied cuisine is influenced by its diverse fauna and flora as well as the cultural traditions of its immigrants. Colombian dishes and ingredients vary widely by region. Some of the most common ingredients are: cereals such as rice and maize; tubers such as potato and cassava; assorted legumes; meats, including beef, chicken, pork and goat; fish; and seafood. Colombia cuisine also features a variety of tropical fruits such ascape gooseberry, feijoa, arazá, dragon fruit, mangostino, granadilla, papaya, guava, mora (blackberry), lulo, soursop and passionfruit.
Among the most representative appetizers and soups are patacones (fried green plantains), sancocho de gallina (chicken soup with root vegetables) and ajiaco (potato and corn soup). Representative snacks and breads are pandebono, arepas (corn cakes), aborrajados (fried sweet plantains with cheese), torta de choclo, empanadas and almojábanas. Representative main courses are bandeja paisa, lechona tolimense, mamona, tamales and fish dishes (such as arroz de lisa), especially in coastal regions where suero, costeño cheese and carimañolas are also eaten. Representative side dishes are papas criollas al horno (roasted Andean potatoes), papas chorreadas (potatoes with cheese) and arroz con coco (coconut rice). Organic food is a current trend in big cities, although in general across the country the fruits and veggies are very natural and fresh.
Representative desserts are buñuelos, natillas, torta Maria Luisa, bocadillo made of guayaba (guava jelly), cocadas (coconut balls), casquitos de guayaba (candied guava peels), torta de natas, obleas, flan de arequipe, roscón, milhoja, and the tres leches cake (a sponge cake soaked in milk, covered in whipped cream, then served with condensed milk). Typical sauces (salsas) are hogao (tomato and onion sauce) and Colombian-style ají.
Some representative beverages are coffee (Tinto), champús, cholado, lulada, avena colombiana, sugarcane juice, aguapanela, aguardiente, hot chocolate and fresh fruit juices (often made with sugar and water or milk).
Tejo is Colombia’s national sport and is a team sport that involves launching projectiles to hit a target. But of all sports in Colombia, football is the most popular. Colombia was the champion of the 2001 Copa América, which they hosted and set a new record of being undefeated, conceding no goals and winning each match. Interestingly, Colombia was the first team to win FIFA best mover in 1993 where the achievement was first introduced and the second team to win it twice with the second being in 2013. Colombia also hosted the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup and is to host the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup.
Colombia is a mecca for roller skaters. The national team is a perennial powerhouse at the World Roller Speed Skating Championships and has won the overall title nine times in the past 12 years. Colombia also exports state of the art technology in this sport. Colombia has a long tradition in weightlifting. Some notable Weightlifters were María Urrutia and Óscar Figueroa.
Baseball, another sport rooted in the Caribbean Coast, Colombia was world amateur champion in 1947 and 1965. Baseball is popular in the Caribbean. Mainly in the cities, Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta. Of those cities have come good players like: Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Rentería who was champion of the World Series in 1997 and 2010, and others who have played in Major League Baseball.
Boxing is one of the sports that more world champions has produced for Colombia; some prominent world champions were Antonio Cervantes "Kid Pambelé", Rodrigo Valdéz, Miguel "Happy" Lora and Fidel Bassa, among others. Motorsports also occupies an important place in the sporting preferences of Colombians; Juan Pablo Montoya is a race car driver known for winning 7 Formula One events. Colombia also has excelled in sports such as taekwondo, shooting sport, wrestling, judo, bowling and athletics.
Colombia has classically been very good in cycling. Some cyclists featured in the major cycling competitions were Luis Herrera, Fabio Parra, Santiago Botero, Martín "Cochise" Rodríguez, Rigoberto Uran, María Luisa Calle and Carlos Oquendo. In 2010, Nairo Quintana won the Tour de l'Avenir proving to be one of the great prospects for the future of Colombian cycling. At the 2013 Tour de France, Quintana won the Young Riders Jersey and the King of the Mountains competition. Mariana Pajón won a gold medal in the BMX Competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She was selected as the Best Latin American and the Caribbean Sportwoman, according to the poll carried out by the Cuban agency Prensa Latina in December 2012.
Life expectancy at birth in 2005 was 72.3 years; the life expectancy increased to 74.79 years by 2012. Health standards in Colombia have improved very much since the 1980s. A 1993 reform transformed public health-care funding by shifting the burden of subsidy from providers to users. As a result, employees have been obligated to pay into health plans to which employers also contribute. Although this new system has widened population coverage by the social and health security system from 21% (pre-1993) to 66% in 2005 and 96% in 2012, health disparities persist, with the poor continuing to suffer less attention in their medical procedures.
Through health tourism, many people from over the world travel from their places of residence to other countries in search of medical treatment and the attractions in the countries visited. In Colombia, the potential is very large. For the quality of its health care professionals, a good number of institutions devoted to health, and an immense inventory of natural and architectural sites, Colombia is projected as one of Latin America’s main destinations in terms of health tourism. Cities such as Bogotá, Cali and Medellín are the most visited in cosmetic surgery and dental treatment for its high quality. Every year the city of Cali receives approximately 14,000 patients from abroad for cosmetic surgery procedures.
According to América Economía 16 of the best 40 hospitals in Latin America are located in Colombia. The level and quantity of specialized and sub-specialized physicians is also noticeable. "In average, 85.4% of the physicians in ranked Colombian hospitals are specialized, and 27.7% sub-specialized; whereas the general average for the top 40 was of 82.2% and 22.8%.
The educational experience of many Colombian children begins with attendance at a preschool academy until age five (Educación preescolar). Basic education (Educación básica) is compulsory by law. It has two stages: Primary basic education (Educación básica primaria) which goes from first to fifth grade – children from six to ten years old, and Secondary basic education (Educación básica secundaria), which goes from sixth to ninth grade. Basic education is followed by Middle vocational education (Educación media vocacional) that comprises the tenth and eleventh grades. It may have different vocational training modalities or specialties (academic, technical, business, and so on.) according to the curriculum adopted by each school.
After the successful completion of all the basic and middle education years, a high-school diploma is awarded. The high-school graduate is known as abachiller, because secondary basic school and middle education are traditionally considered together as a unit called bachillerato (sixth to eleventh grade). Students in their final year of middle education take the ICFES test (now renamed Saber 11) in order to gain access to higher education (Educación superior). This higher education includes undergraduate professional studies, technical, technological and intermediate professional education, and post-graduate studies.
Bachilleres (high-school graduates) may enter into a professional undergraduate career program offered by a university; these programs last up to five years (or less for technical, technological and intermediate professional education, and post-graduate studies), even as much to six to seven years for some careers, such as medicine. In Colombia, there is not an institution such as college; students go directly into a career program at a university or any other educational institution to obtain a professional, technical or technological title. Once graduated from the university, people are granted a (professional, technical or technological) diploma and licensed (if required) to practice the career they have chosen. For some professional career programs, students are required to take the Saber-Pro test, formerly known as ECAES, in their final year of undergraduate academic education.
Public spending on education as a proportion of gross domestic product in 2006 was 4.7% – one of the highest rates in Latin America – as compared with 2.4% in 1991. This represented 14.2% of total government expenditure. In 2006, the primary and secondary net enrollment rates stood at 88% and 65% respectively. School-life expectancy was 12.4 years. A total of 92.3% of the population aged 15 and older were recorded as literate, including 97.9% of those aged 15–24, both figures slightly higher than the regional average.