Colombia (officially the Republic of Colombia) is a country in
the northwest of South America, with territories in Central America.
The capital is Bogota. It borders with Brazil and Venezuela in the
east, in the south with Ecuador and Peru, in the west with Panama.
It borders by sea with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It is washed by the Caribbean Sea in the north and the Pacific Ocean in the west. In terms of population, the country ranks 2nd in South America after Brazil, 28th in the world and 2nd in terms of the number of Hispanic population.
The territory of present-day Colombia was once inhabited by indigenous peoples, the most developed of which are Chibcha, Quimbaya and Tayrona, the country is one of the richest in the world in terms of the number of peoples living and the languages they use. The modern Colombian people appeared during the mixing of Europeans, Africans and the indigenous population, a significant number of people from the Middle East live in the Colombian Caribbean. Colombia is home to the Amazon rainforest and the Llanos Orinoco. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world. 54,871 species have been recorded here. However, it is among the eight countries with the greatest environmental damage.
For the first time, Spanish colonialists entered Colombian soil in 1499, and the first half of the 16th century saw a period of active conquests, which resulted in the creation of the Viceroyalty of New Granada with its capital in Bogotá. In 1819, independence from Spain was recognized, but already in 1831 the federation of Great Colombia collapsed. On the territory of modern Colombia and Panama, the Republic of New Granada was formed (1832), which was then transformed into the Granada Confederation (1858), and even later - into the United States of Colombia (1863). The final name of the Republic of Colombia was received in 1886, in 1903 Panama withdrew from the country.
The Colombian economy ranks 4th in Latin America, is part of the CIVETS and a member of the UN, WTO, OAS, the Pacific Alliance and other international organizations.
Colombian territory is divided into five well-defined major regions:
Caribbean lowlands (Región Caribe de colombi) . covers the north to the Isthnus of Darién and the area around Cartágena.
Andean highlands (Region andina de Colombia). is the center of the population of Colombia and is located in the central part of the country.
Amazon region (Región Amazónica) occupies the southeast, is sparsely populated and tropically hot. It is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world and is home to an enormous biodiversity, including many endemic species. It is also home to indigenous peoples such as the Ticuna, Yagua and Huitoto. Due to its remoteness and difficult access, the Amazon region of Colombia has remained largely untouched by civilization. However, it is also an area affected by illegal activities such as illegal logging, mining and drug trafficking, which endanger the environment and indigenous people.
Orinoco Region (Región de la Orinoquía) is located in the northeast and is also known as Llanos Orientales. Here you will find a huge wet savannah that is very sparsely populated.
Pacific region (Región Pacífica) in the west is one of the rainiest areas on earth.
Insular Region (Region insular de Colombia). The archipelago known as San Andrés and Providencia deserves special mention here.
1 Barranquilla. Port city on the Pacific with no real sights.
Barranquilla is known as one of the world's largest carnival
strongholds. Carnival is celebrated here on the four days leading up to
Ash Wednesday. It is an Oral World Heritage Site by the United Nations,
the largest folk festival in Colombia and one of the five most important
carnivals in the world.
2 Bogota. Capital with approx. eight million inhabitants with many sights.
3 Cartagena de Indias . one of the most beautiful cities, the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4 Medellin. Once the drug crime capital, the city has since changed for the better. There is rather little to see in terms of attractions.
5 Cali internet (Santiago de Cali). Capital of the Valle del Cauca department and capital of salsa with few sights but beautiful surroundings.
6 Leticia located on the Amazon in the rainforest.
7 Popayan. The main attraction of Popayán is its colonial architecture. In particular, the old town with its white colonial buildings and street lamps has a special charm.
8 Mompox (Centro histórico de Santa Cruz de Mompox;). Founded in 1540 by Juan de Santa Cruz, the historic center is characterized by residential and religious architecture that has retained its colonial character.
Tourists from Europe receive a visa-free residence permit for 90 days upon entry. This can be extended by a maximum of a further 90 days at any Migración Colombia branch. The small fee (about €20) can be paid by card on site or into the nearest Banco de Occidente account. "Aktenzeichen" means "trámite." The paperwork takes half a day in smaller towns, in the big cities you have to wait a week. It helps if you show up early to take your number, Bogotá opens at 7:30am. Since October 2021 there is the possibility to extend a tourist residence permit online (Spanish only). The corresponding point is “Permiso Temporal de Permanencia para Prorrogar Permanencia.” This procedure is free for citizens of the Schengen countries.
Since the reform of the long-term visa categories on Dec. 15, 2017, there are about thirty types of residence permits with or without a work permit. Anyone who overdraws pays a fine that is at least half the legal monthly minimum wage.
Upon arrival by plane, a customs form must be filled out. This also applies if the luggage has been checked through to a connecting flight.
200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 50 grams of tobacco.
2 bottles of alcohol.
There is a duty-free shop in the arrivals area of Bogotá Airport. The prices there are not very attractive for Central Europeans.
Flights from Central Europe to Bogotá depart from Frankfurt am Main (Lufthansa, non-stop) and Munich (until 2020 Avianca). 2022 Air France/KLM with a change in Paris or Amsterdam or Iberia or AirEuropa via Madrid offer cheaper connections. If you use US companies, the flight time increases enormously due to the changeover in the USA. In addition, you have to endure the harassment of Homeland Security because there are no transit areas in the USA.
Colombians and foreigners who have stayed in the country more than 60 days pay an airport tax of US$ 32 (Apr. 2022) for international flights, which is not included in the ticket price.
There is no train service to Colombia or within the country.
In the street
The Transamericana, a road supposedly leading from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska, is broken between the two countries. There is no road crossing. However, travelers often cross the border between Puerto Obaldía (PAN) and Capurganá (KOL) on foot. The Panamanian border police, near the port in Puerto Obaldía, will keep a photocopy of the passport (bring it yourself). Compared to multi-day jungle trails through the Darién National Park (PAN) and Los Katíos National Park, this is a comparatively safe and not difficult route. The footpath goes over the hills behind La Miél (8° 39′ 58″ N 77° 22′ 11″ W) (PAN) to Sapzurro (KOL). There is a police post there, but it does not carry out border clearance. For this you have to go to Capurganá, which is about 3km away.
Small motorboats also run between these places, landing at Playa Blanca (PAN near La Miel) and Sapzurro (KOL) respectively.
Between Ipiales (KOL) and Tulcán (ECU) is the Puente Internacional de Rumichaca wikipediacommons (0° 48′ 55″ N 77° 39′ 54″ W). This is the most important crossing between both countries.
A little more remote is the Puente Internacional (0° 15′ 5″ N 76° 52′ 34″ W) which leads over the Rio San Miguel in General Farfán - the place is called that in both countries. The nearest larger towns are Nueva Loja (= Lago Agrio; ECU) and San Miguel in Putumayo (KOL).
Paraguachón (11° 21′ 35″ N 72° 7′ 43″ W) in La Guajira. Between Maicao (KOL) and Paraguaipoa (VEN), continue to Maracaibo.
Between Cúcuta (KOL) and Ureña (VEN):
Heavy traffic is not allowed via Puente Francisco de Paula Santander (7° 55′ 0″ N 72° 27′ 45″ W).
a few kilometers south is the Puente Internacional de Tienditas (7° 52′ 37″ N 72° 27′ 7″ W). Completed in 2019, it was initially only opened to pedestrians in 2021.
important for trucks, connecting the Venezuelan N1 to San Cristóbal, is the Puente Internacional Simón Bolívar bridge (7° 49′ 4″ N 72° 27′ 2″ W) between the municipalities of Villa Rosario (KOL) and San Antonio del Táchira (VEN ).
Since the beginning of the crisis in Venezuela in 2015, this border area, which is secured by thousands of soldiers in the surrounding area from the Colombian side, has been repeatedly closed for more or less long periods of time, or the opening times have been severely limited. There were still reports of violent acts by (uniformed) gunmen in 2022.
In Arauca (KOL), the Puente is José Antonio Páez (7° 5′ 19″ N 70° 44′ 25″ W). The security situation in this area can be precarious.
Brazil and Peru
In the Peru-Colombia-Brazil border triangle, you can cross the land border at Tabatinga/Laetitia (4° 15′ 9″ S 69° 56′ 17″ W). You have to translate to Peru by boat. This place can be reached by boat from Iquitos or Manaus. There is no land connection in Colombia, only flights.
There are no regular ferry connections to neighboring countries (anymore). Cruise ships dock primarily in Cartagena.
Sailboats run fairly regularly on the Cartagena - San Blas Islands (PAN, mostly El Porvenir) route from there to Puerto Lindo/Portobello or directly by speedboat to the mainland to Carti or Miramar. Driving time 4-5 nights including island hopping. Corresponding contacts are made in the yacht clubs of Cartagena. Such a ride costs from US$ 600. The Bluesailing agency has a number of boats under contract and also checks their safety.
There is significantly less traffic on the Pacific coast between Bahía Solano (KOL) and Jaqué (PAN).
Colombia is actually divided into three areas: in the north-west the
coast with a flat hinterland, from south-west to north-east the three
cordillera (mountains up to 5750m high) and in the south-east virtually
uninhabited flat land. Most of the cities are in the Cordilleras - which
are not exactly suitable for the construction of highways and railway
lines. So most roads are rather winding mountain pass roads - also the
connections between the big cities.
Some towns in the Amazon region, such as the Leticia border post or Puerto Nariño, can only be reached by air or river boat.
In Colombia you can go everywhere by bus. Every major city has a central long-distance bus station (terminal de pasajeros), the one in the city center is rare. They usually run hourly between larger cities. Hmm, not much less often anywhere else either. Most of the time you can just drive to the bus terminal and find the right bus there and then you don't have to wait long for it to leave. You really only need to make reservations around Christmas/New Year and Holy Week. Some buses also just run when they are full. Bus rides are pretty cheap, especially if you bargain. If you get on the way, you pay the Ayudante.
Medellín - Barranquilla: ~8 hours
Medellín - Cali: ~7 hours
Medellín - Pereira: ~4 hours
Medellín - Santa Fe de Antioquia (only on the other side of the mountain): ~3 hours
Bogotá - Pereira: ~9 hours (~38 km/h)
Bogotá - Medellín: 9 hours (~49 km/h)
Bogotá - Barranquilla: 20 hours (~50 km/h)
Bogotá - Cali: 12 hours (~40 km/h)
Bogotá - Ipiales: 24 hours (~40 km/h)
Bogotá - Manizales: 8 hours (~37 km/h)
Bogotá - Tunja: 3 hours (~50 km/h)
So it fundamentally depends on how many and how high mountains lie between the starting point and the destination.
Bus companies: Rápido Ochoa, Expreso Brasilia, Empresa Arauca and thousands more.
As in Southeast Asia, the air conditioning is set to "ice cold" on long-distance routes, and there is also loud music or television. Don't forget a blanket, pillow and earplugs. WiFi is often advertised, but whether it works is another question. If the bus is too slow or too dangerous for you, take the plane.
Colectivos are minibuses that can compete with the marshrutki of the former Soviet Union in terms of inconvenience and narrowness. Busetas are small buses used in cities and on routes of less than four hours. Air-conditioned, normal buses operate on long-distance routes. If there are those with "business class" you have a little more space.
In the street
Traffic is on the right. Petrol costs about a third of the price in Germany. Gas stations sometimes bill in gallons, which are the US 3.8 liters.
Maximum speeds: 30 km/h in built-up areas, 60 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on country roads, 100 km/h on motorways. Many highways are toll roads. Outside of town, you also drive with your headlights on during the day. Buckling up and using hands-free kits is mandatory. Likewise helmets on motorcycles.
Even the Colombians who own a car usually only drive within a 100km radius of their city. Everything else is usually done by bus or plane. But of course you can also go by car. The road quality is okay. There are almost exclusively country roads - which can be quite winding in the Andes due to their nature. The bus drivers have a rather sporty driving style, so you won't be much faster by car. Guarded paid parking lots are called “parqueaderos.”
Car rental companies require a minimum age of 23. An international driver's license from the Geneva Convention is required in addition to the home driver's license.
Municipalities set taxi prices annually. You should find out about these on the internet. It doesn't hurt to show the route on google maps. The driver's license must be clearly visible on the back of the passenger seat. Since there are hardly any taximeters (which are used in conjunction with a tariff table) except in Bogotá, you still have to negotiate the costs beforehand. Those who can speak Spanish have a clear advantage here. Luggage is included, the price is per car not passenger. Small surcharges for telephone orders, (working) air conditioning, night trips 8pm/9pm-5am are normal. There is also a surcharge for airport taxis. Large bills cause problems with change. It is customary to round up to the nearest thousand.
If the bus is too slow for you, you can take the plane - but that usually costs a lot of money (at least by Colombian standards).
For the slightly smaller travel budget, there are also low-cost airlines such as Viva Air Colombia and Wingo. Be careful when booking as there are hidden costs. Booking is not as regulated as in the EU.
But you can actually fly to anywhere that has an airport. A tourist tax of COP$ 36,000 will be collected at check-in on flights to Puerto Carreño effective June 1, 2020.
Airlines: Avianca, Copa Airlines, LAN, Satena, the low-cost airlines Viva Air Colombia and Wingo (both also to neighboring countries) and many smaller ones that only offer short-haul routes.
There was 4430 Colombian peso (COP$) for one euro in July 2022, down
15% from the previous year. As everywhere in Latin America, the dollar
sign ($) stands for peso.
Images of valid notes and coins at the National Bank.
When exchanging cash in exchange offices (“casas de cambio”) you only get a reasonable exchange rate for US$.
The maximum amounts that can be withdrawn from ATMs are comparatively small. 300,000 or 400,000 is the norm, plus COP$10-15,000 for the local bank on top of home fees. Only BBVA and Davivienda do without it. The latter also has slots that pay out up to COP$800,000. In order not to be immediately discarded of the money you have withdrawn with a gun held to your neck, it is advisable not to use ATMs on the street, but only in shopping centers or similar. Credit cards can also be withdrawn at the counter (with PIN). Banks open 9am-3.30pm. You always need your passport, and a thumbprint is also gladly taken.
People who pay by credit card are sometimes asked: “¿En cuantas cuotas?” i.e. H. “in how many installments?” which is possible for Colombians up to 24. As a foreigner, the answer here is “una” (“one”).
Cigarettes are significantly cheaper than in Europe, 2019 COP$ 2500-3500. A quarter of the market is even cheaper contraband.
The metric system is in use, although fresh food is also sold by the pound (libras).
Anyone who, as a tourist, has collected receipts for tourist services or clothing, leather, handicrafts, etc. (but not food and drinks) for a certain minimum amount can have the 19% VAT refunded at the airport, which requires a certain amount of paperwork and a passport copy. Details on Customs website (DIAN). The minimum rate corresponds to 10 "tax units" (UVT) and is set annually. In 2018 it was COP$ 330,000 (approx. € 80), the upper limit is 100 UVT. In the case of accommodation costs, you have to book from abroad or complain directly to the hotel that you do not have to pay the tax. Another catch is that only services that were paid for with a card issued abroad will be reimbursed.
Inexpensive lunch menus are called plato del diá or comida corriente.
In better restaurants, the waiter asks at the checkout whether a service
charge is given, which is ten percent. If you were dissatisfied, you can
certainly decline with “sin servicio, por favor”. Then the boss often
comes and asks what didn't fit.
Colombia is 51% covered by rainforest. This enables a very large biodiversity of the animal world, which in turn is reflected in the Colombian cuisine. Colombian cuisine is very regional and has many differences. Extraordinary specialties such as roasted ants or guinea pigs are considered delicacies in some regions - but cause the same shaking of heads in other regions, such as Germany. But soups and sauces based on Aji Amarillo (a type of pepper) are also often found. Beef, whether steamed or fried, and chicken are popular dishes. Fish is also offered in the regions around the sea. This is usually prepared in coconut milk and served with coconut rice.
The range of fresh fruit is overwhelming: in the supermarket there are five different types of mangoes (very small and green with lemon and salt as a snack, small for juice, up to shoe size), six different types of bananas (small, large, sweet, for cooking, for roasting, also sorted by degree of ripeness (green, yellow, black)) and seven different types of potatoes (yellow, pink, ping-pong ball-sized and also like ours). Well, and there is also a bunch of fruit that I have never seen in Germany. Fresh fruit juices are then made from these whole fruits - either with water or with milk. Yummy!
The main foods are the arepas popular in Antioquia (made of cornmeal with water, topped with cheese, sweet or not, with egg inside, yellow or white, fried or baked, etc.) and rice (which comes as a side dish with almost everything). . Ajiaco is a creamy chicken soup that originated in the Andes. Bandeja paisa is a plate full of sausage, beans, rice and egg. Originally from Ecuador, llapingachos are potato pancakes that are often served with salsa de maní, made from peanuts.
In Europe, people tend to associate Colombia with coffee - and the Colombians themselves tell you that the coffee they drink in Colombia isn't that good because all the good coffee is exported.
Local breweries include Club Colombia, Pilsen, Aguila, Apostol and Costeña. A beer costs less in the shop than in Europe.
Michelada is a beer mixed drink. The rim of a glass is dipped in lime juice, then salt. Some lime juice is poured into the glass and it is filled with beer.
Where there is wine, it is often imported from Chile and California, although there are some smaller wine-growing regions in the country. Schnapps, first and foremost rum and Aquardiente are comparatively expensive from €10 per bottle.
Larger cities all have a zona rosa, the nightlife district. But there
are also red-light districts, since prostitution is not prohibited and
is necessary due to economic hardship, especially among refugees from
Venezuela. Colombia's neoliberal economic order provides only very
limited social security.
In better nightclubs, a drink can cost as much as COP$13,000.
There are hardly any campsites.
The international network of youth hostels has a number of hostels in big cities. Otherwise, private “hostels” (with dormitories) should be distinguished from the Spanish “hostal”, which is more of a simple hotel or guesthouse. Other terms for simpler accommodation are residencia, hospedaje or posada. They are often concentrated in areas around the markets.
Especially hotels in the lower middle class are rare in the country, the upper segment is the rule for hotels. Anyone who books better hotels or resorts from abroad has been exempt from the 19% VAT since 2016. freed. If necessary, one must refer to this regulation.
Spanish. Those who have acquired their knowledge in Spain should note
that the "you" (Usted/Ustedes + 3rd person) is much more common
throughout South America. It is particularly appropriate for officials
University graduates usually know some level of English as well. However, my experience is that everyone is pretty nice, patient and helpful - even if the Spanish falters a bit.
As everywhere in South America, carnival is taken seriously and
celebrated. There are also numerous regional festivals and festivals,
which are listed in the respective articles.
A nice economics minister once decided that all Christian holidays (apart from Christmas) should always be postponed to the following Monday.
After Christmas, Semana Santa (Holy Week, the week before Easter) is most important and in many companies is completely, but at least mostly, free. As a predominantly Catholic country, most of the festivals of this sect are celebrated, but as mentioned, on the following Monday. So was e.g. B. Epiphany (January 6) in 2022 on January 10 off work. The same applies to Josephi (Monday after March 19), Corpus Christi, Monday after June 8, 2023, Peter and Paul (Monday after June 19), May 29, 2023, Ascension Day, Monday after May 18, 2023, Conception of the Virgin Mary (Monday after Dec 8).
Secular holidays are New Year on January 1st, Labor Day on May 1st, Independence Day on July 20th, Anniversary of the Battle of Boyacá in 1819 on August 7th, “Día de la Raza” (“Day of the Races” one celebrates the cultural Diversity) on October 17th and “Independencia de Cartagena” (Cartagena's independence 1811) on November 14th.
In general, the situation in Colombia is that there are normal nice
people, police officers and paramilitaries. The last two now live on
racketeering, kidnapping and drugs. Drug cartels (Calikartell, Pablo
Escobar) no longer exist. The normal nice people are clearly in the
The situation has improved dramatically since President Álvaro Uribe took office. The social-revolutionary guerrilla FARC-EP has made peace and entered parliament as a party Comunes. There are still right-wing paramilitaries, often protection groups for drug producers.
Fines are calculated by a factor (or a range) that is multiplied by the monthly minimum wage that is set annually (2022: 1 million pesos).
But there are still areas where you shouldn't drive. Strolling through the woods somewhere or following any mountain trails is not advisable - because that's exactly where the paramilitaries live and plant their coca. If you want to travel outside of a city, you should plan well where you want to go. If possible, travel with a reliable local.
Requisas are military roadblocks. Buses are particularly popular here at night and identity cards are often searched for weapons, including those on the body. Extremely annoying when you are woken up for the fifth time in one night.
In the cities of Colombia one should have good manners and follow a few common precautions. In the centers of most cities it is fairly rare to have potential problems, but it is very important to be careful in the outer parts of a city. There are neighborhoods in the big cities where you shouldn't be a tourist, and armed robberies happen even in broad daylight. Don't expect help from viewers. However, compared to most other Latin American countries, normal street crime is not as high. If you want to order a taxi, you should politely ask for a phone, it costs the same and a call is answered immediately.
As a tourist, you should actually keep three things in mind:
Some areas are dangerous.
Jungle near Leticia: If one of the crew strolls over the boat with a machine gun on a boat tour at night to keep bad people away, then that does not indicate a particularly high level of security.
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: There are said to be beautiful old Indian houses here, but also a particularly high probability of being kidnapped. Germans have also been kidnapped here (every Colombian the writer of this section asked about the security of this region strongly advised against it).
Area between Cali and Popayan: For a long time it was considered to be very unsafe because the main guerrilla settlement area was nearby. But should have improved. You should ask people about the current situation. In any case, it is definitely not the safest region in Colombia.
Bad people are blocking the road.
Occasionally the paramilitaries block the road somewhere and stop buses and cars. The most promising of the inmates are kidnapped or have to leave their money or their car. Foreigners (who are almost non-existent in Colombia) are not necessarily at the top of the list, because Colombians already know how to handle the ransom etc., speak Spanish and are just generally much less complicated. Well, but a foreigner can of course be a big catch.
The author of this section has twice had his intercity bus take a different route because the shortest route was blocked by paramilitaries.
There is also a rumor that the more expensive bus companies are paying money to the guerrillas and paramilitaries to be spared.
well, the typical thing: don't strap the camera to your chest, put your wallet in your front pocket, leave valuables at home, stay away from bad people, don't walk around alone at night
Drugs: Most of the cocaine used in the US and Europe used to come from Colombia, but now production has plummeted, with much being smuggled out of Venezuela. Local consumption is low, so you will not be offered drugs there, nor will you see all kinds of drugs there unless you look for them. Colombians are so offended by jokes about drugs outside the country, especially by Europeans and Americans. Drugs and mafia have created a bad image, but now the police and the armed army are trying hard to fight them. All Colombian governments have had obligations to combat drug production. President Alvaro Uribe Velez, with great help from the US government, has implemented a policy of massively destroying drug plantations with chemical defoliation.
Possession, not trafficking, of small amounts for personal use (1 gram of cocaine, 20 grams of marijuana) has been decriminalized, but this does not protect against awkward prolonged encounters with the often corrupt police.
In summary, Colombia is quite dangerous compared to Europe. But it's not so bad that you can't go there at all.
Malaria risk areas are the Amazon region and the 50 km wide coastal
strip from Covenas to the border of Ecuador. In short, all regions below
1700 m. The major cities of Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena,
Medellín, Santa Marta are free of malaria. About half of the infections
are caused by Plasmodium falciparum (i.e. malaria tropica), of which
multidrug-resistant forms occur nationwide. All-day mosquito repellent
is recommended in the lower regions, as Zika, dengue and chikungunya
fevers also occur.
Travelers coming from Brazil must provide proof of yellow fever vaccination. Domestically, it is required for travel to the Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Parque Tayrona and the various reserves of the Amazon.
In acute life-threatening cases, hospitals are legally obliged to treat patients initially, regardless of existing insurance or solvency. Nevertheless, a travel health insurance makes sense.
Smoking is prohibited in practically all publicly accessible indoor areas, including bars and restaurants.
Colombia offers palm-fringed Caribbean beaches, 18,000-foot mountains
topped with glaciers, and everything in between. Due to its location on
the equator, the weather and the length of the days are almost the same
all year round. It rains a bit more often in the rainy season and less
frequently in the dry season.
Like in Germany, that it rains for two weeks in a row and then it's nice for another two weeks or something like that doesn't exist in Colombia. There are no seasons either: instead, Colombians speak of winter when they are cold. (So if it's a bit chilly in the morning at 20°C, the Colombian will say "What a winter today!", but that doesn't stop him from complaining about the heat at midday (32°C).)
Much more serious than any seasons is the difference in where you are.
Barranquilla + Cartagena (on the coast): 25-38°C, always sunshine, thunderstorms every few days (which then flood the streets)
Medellín (in a valley surrounded by 3500 m mountains, 1500 m asl): 17–32°C, like midsummer in Germany, thunderstorms every few days (which only slightly flood the streets)
Cali: a tad warmer than Medellín
Bogotá (in a wide high valley, 2800m above sea level): 10-25°C, like autumn in Germany, rain four times a day is not uncommon, some people walk around with scarves and gloves (well, if you come from the coast it's pretty fresh here). Dry season is December to March.
Tourist Information Centers (Punto Información Turística, PIT) can
usually be found in the city's main square. They are recognizable by a
sign with a red I.
There are hardly any public toilets (“baño”) outside of museums or bus stations. You use a nearby café or similar. You should bring your own paper to be on the safe side.
The power supply is 120 volts at 60 hertz. The American plugs (type A and B) are common.
Most cities were laid out with streets running at right angles to each other. The streets running north-south are usually numbered as Carreras. Abbreviated as: Cra, Cr or K. Streets running east-west are numbered as Calles, short Cll, Cl or C (the Spanish “C/” is not used). The principle is often broken, be it because of landscape conditions or other reasons. There are therefore also diagonals or transversals. Important main streets often have names as Avenida. Street names are (also) common only in Cartagena and Medellín.
A typical address such as “Calle 8 № 12-40” indicates a house on Calle 8, 40 meters from the corner of Carretera 12. So it's not really a house number. The № is increasingly being replaced by #.
The post until 2006 as Adpostal was privatized under the name 4-72. 6-digit postcodes were introduced (search). When sending international parcels, ID is required.
cellphone and internet
In 2010-8, the Plan Vive Digital led to a massive expansion of the Internet, especially in small towns and rural regions. WLAN access can often be found in the local library, cultural center or city park.
The largest mobile operator is Claro, a subsidiary of Mexico's América Móvil. Movistar belongs to the Spanish Telefónica, via whose network you can also make calls with Virgin Mobile. Another company is Tigo. These usually have their branches in shopping malls. SIM cards (“prepago”) are available for COP$ 5,000. In 2022, data packages for 2GB usually cost COP$ 10,000, but have comparatively short terms of 7, 10 or 15 days, depending on the operator.
Calls within a provider's network are cheaper than between operators. For international calls, the first two offer (different) Latin American country packages in which a cheaper tariff applies. For calls to Europe, the price per minute is just under €2.
You see minutos advertised at kiosks or as street vendors. The corresponding gentlemen rent telephones in order to make calls into a certain network cheaper than between operators.
Colombia is located in northwestern South America and is the only
South American country that borders both the Atlantic (1626 km
coastline) and the Pacific Ocean (1448 km). In the south-west Colombia
borders on the neighboring countries of Ecuador (590 km border line) and
Peru (1626 km), in the south-east on Brazil (1645 km), in the north-east
on Venezuela (2050 km) and in the north-west on Panama (225 kilometers).
The total length of the Colombian land border is 6136 kilometers.
The earth's equator runs through Colombia (see also States, islands and cities on the equator).
Colombia is divided into six different metropolitan areas.
The western half of Colombia is dominated by the Andes, which are divided into three major mountain ranges: the Western, Central and Eastern Cordilleras. Between the mountain ranges, the large, partially navigable rivers Cauca and Magdalena flow into the Caribbean Sea. Western Colombia drains into the Caribbean via the Atrato and into the Pacific via the San Juan and Baudó rivers. The high mountains are home to the partly active volcanoes Galeras (4276 m), Nevado del Huila (5364 m), Nevado del Ruiz (5321 m), Puracé, Nevado del Tolima (5215 m) and Nevado de Santa Isabel (4965 m). In northern Colombia, on the Caribbean coast, rises the 5775 m high Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range on earth and at the same time the highest elevation in Colombia. The highest peaks of the isolated pyramid-shaped massif are Pico Cristóbal Colón and Pico Simón Bolívar, both 5775 m high.
In terms of climate, the Andean region has the typical altitude gradation of tropical high mountains as described by Alexander von Humboldt.
Caribbean coastal lowlands
The Caribbean coastal lowlands of Colombia are largely flat and, apart from the coastal strip, relatively sparsely populated. Large parts of the lowlands are characterized by large areas of marshland, which make it difficult to open up traffic. The most famous islands in the Atlantic are the archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia (770 km northwest of Colombia), with the islands of San Andrés, Providencia, Santa Catalina, Roncador, Quitasueño, Serrana and Serranilla. The partly uninhabited islands of Roncador, Quitasueño and Serrana were among the US's foreign possessions until the 1980s, since a return agreement signed in 1972 was not ratified by the US Senate. In front of the Caribbean coast are the island of Fuerte and the archipelagos of San Bernardo and del Rosario.
Pacific coastal lowlands
Apart from a few port cities, the Pacific coastal lowlands are largely uninhabited, which can be attributed in particular to the constantly hot and humid climatic conditions. Up to 10,000 mm of precipitation can fall per year. The region is largely covered with tropical rain forest that is difficult to access and is characterized by a diverse flora and fauna. The only traffic routes are the natural waterways, especially the Río Atrato, which drains towards the Caribbean. In the Pacific are the islands of Malpelo (west of Buenaventura), Gorgona, an old prison colony, and Gorgonilla.
Amazonia and Orinocia
The eastern half of Colombia is characterized by densely forested plains, through which flow the Putumayo, Yapura, Meta and Guaviare rivers, which flow into either the Orinoco or the Amazon, and can be divided into two major areas, the distinguishing feature of which is primarily the direction of flow of the rivers is. The area with the rivers draining towards the Orinoco is called Orinocia. It is also known in Colombia as Llanos Orientales. The area is mostly flat and the only mountain range is the Serranía de la Macarena, which can be assigned to the Andean region in terms of natural area, but is much older than the Andean cordillera, which is documented by its north-west-southeast orientation. The Llanos Orientales are covered by a wet savannah, with the heavy rainfall of the rainy season often making the region's few roads impassable. Apart from the eastern foot of the Andes, Colombian Orinocia is largely uninhabited.
The southeast quarter of Colombia includes the Colombian part of Amazonia. This region is almost entirely covered by dense rainforest, is characterized by extremely high biodiversity and, with the exception of a number of indigenous population groups, is sparsely populated.
The great lakes of Colombia extend to the Andes. Some are: Laguna de Guatavita, Laguna de Tota, Laguna de Iguaque and Laguna de La Cocha.
Colombia's largest cities are the capital Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena de Indias, Ibagué, Manizales, Pereira, Santa Marta, Cúcuta and Bucaramanga.
In terms of biodiversity, Colombia ranks second in South America: ten
percent of the world's species are represented on Colombian soil. With
an enormously high biodiversity and due to the large number of endemic
species, genera and families as well as diverse ecosystems, Colombia is
one of the megadiverse countries on earth and, with the
Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena ecoregion on the western slopes of the Andes
(reaching to Costa Rica), is home to the most species-rich one of five
global centers of megadiversity. Due to the threat to nature, this
region is one of the international hotspots of diversity.
53.2 million hectares of Colombia are covered with natural forests; 21.6 million ha with other vegetation types of savanna, dry and wet areas; 1.1 million with bodies of water, snow-capped mountains, urban settlements, at least 38.4 million hectares of the surface of Colombia are cultivated for agriculture or developed. The most important ecosystems in Colombia are the humid tropical forests (378,000 km²), the savannah plains (105,000 km²), floodplain and peat forests (95,000 km²), the Andean forest (45,000 km²) and the coppice and Amazon forests (36,000 km²).
The country's greatest natural wealth is its flora. In total, Colombia has between 45,000 and 55,000 plant species, including 3,500 orchid species alone, i.e. 15% of all orchid species in the world. The animal kingdom is also very diverse with a total of 2890 land vertebrate species: 1721 bird species represent 20% of all species occurring worldwide and 358 species of mammals represent seven percent of the species occurring worldwide. The number of 819 amphibian species is the second largest in the world after Brazil.
Colombia has 2.1 billion m³ of water resources annually, derived from wetlands, swamps, lagoons, rivers and other flowing waters that feed groundwater.
Heterogeneous soil conditions, different altitudes and climatic zones, which include the transition and contact between the Amazon and the Andes, result in a high level of biodiversity with a high number of endemic species. Colombia is one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity per territorial unit in the world: With only 0.7% share of the global mainland mass, the country has ten percent of all animal and plant species on the planet on its territory. Although Colombia has been promoting the protection of its natural resources since the 1970s, in addition to natural environmental disasters (often caused either by extreme dry or rainy seasons), dynamic social and economic growth and military conflicts in recent decades have caused considerable environmental damage .
With the constitution of 1991, the country explicitly committed itself to sustainable development; about 60 constitutional articles relate directly or indirectly to the environment. Law 99 of 1993, which created a Ministry of the Environment as part of the National Environmental System (Sistema Nacional Ambiental, SINA for short), forms the normative framework for the design of these requirements. In addition to the ministry, the SINA also includes the regional development authorities responsible for managing natural resources and their sustainable development, urban environmental planning authorities and systems such as the DAMA in Bogotá and the Ecofondo, the association of all environmental NGOs. State environmental plans should contribute to the achievement of the ambitious goals. However, the regional development authorities are accused of, among other things, excessive operating costs, a lack of investment in environmental programs and the abandonment of reforested areas. These and other deficiencies are therefore to be eliminated by means of a far-reaching environmental sector reform. A legislative proposal for this was already presented in March 2003; in addition, the Ministry of the Environment was merged into the Ministerio de Ambiente, Vivienda y Desarollo Territorial in April 2003. Efforts are currently being made to restructure the national park administration (UAESPNN - Unidad Administrativa Especial del Sistema de Parques), which has been in existence for decades.
Backsliding was often reported during Uribe's presidency, especially as environmental and natural degradation as a result of the armed conflict increased year by year.
With the support of EMPA Dübendorf, Colombia became a pioneer in the recycling of e-waste in South America from 2008. Up until 2018, successive state regulations to expand formal recycling followed, without entrepreneurs objecting. The informal collection sector is difficult to reduce because drug dealers used it to launder money.
UNESCO declared a total of five areas in Colombia to be biosphere reserves:
Parque Nacional Natural El Tuparro (since 1979) Area in ha: 548,000
Nudo de los Pastos (since 1979) Area in ha: 175,300
Parque Nacional Natural Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (since 1979) Area in ha: 2,115,800
Santuario de fauna y flora Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta (since 2000) Area in ha: 493,150
Parque Nacional Natural Old Providence (since 2000) Area in ha: 5348
About 25% of Colombia's wetlands have disappeared in recent decades, mostly as a result of mining activities, deforestation and river pollution.
The government is planning a revival of the gold and copper markets with its National Development Plan 2018-2022. In addition, 161 new oil drilling sites are planned for 2022, four times more than the 46 existing sites in 2018. Fracking will be legalized in 2019.
Air pollution causes at least 17,500 deaths a year in Colombia, according to the government. According to Greenpeace data, Colombia is the fifth most polluted country in Latin America (after Mexico, Chile, Peru and Brazil).
Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, indigenous advanced cultures existed in what is now Colombia, which traded with one another and in particular mastered the art of goldsmithing at the highest level. BC to around 1600 processed clay into figures and objects. Due to the diverse ecological and landscape conditions, a unified state structure never developed in pre-colonial Colombia, as represented by the Inca Empire in Peru. Among the many indigenous peoples who inhabited Colombia, the most notable are: the Muisca, who lived on the high plateaus of the Eastern Cordillera; the Tairona, who built one of the earliest cities on the South American continent with the so-called Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta; the Sinú, who populated the area along the river of the same name; the Quimbaya in the area of today's coffee zone on the west slope of the central cordillera; and last but not least the mysterious cultures of San Agustín with their stone sculptures and Tierradentro with their painted burial chambers, which reached their heyday long before the arrival of the Spaniards.
Colombia was discovered for Europe in 1499 by Alonso de Ojeda and
Amerigo Vespucci. Christopher Columbus, on the other hand, in whose
honor the country "Colombia" was named, never set foot in the country.
The first two discoverers of Colombia first came to the "La Guajira"
peninsula, which they initially gave the name "Isla de Coquivacoa",
believing it was an island. In 1508, Vasco Núñez de Balboa led an
expedition to the Urabá Gulf area. In 1510, the city of Santa María la
Antigua del Darién became the first stable settlement on the continent.
Other parts of the country were later u. a. discovered, explored and
often plundered by Rodrigo de Bastidas and Juan de la Cosa. Early
colonial bases were Santa Marta (est. 1525) and Cartagena de Indias
(est. 1533) on Colombia's Caribbean coast.
Lured by gold and emeralds, the conquistadors occupied the country. Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada invaded the Andes in 1537, subjugated the Chibcha and founded Santa Fe de Bogotá in 1538. Coming from the south, from today's Ecuador, Sebastián de Belalcázar conquered southern Colombia. Coming from the east, the Ulm merchant Nikolaus Federmann reached Bogotá in 1539 to advance the colonization of the country on behalf of the people of Wels. The Spaniards built settlements that replaced the former Indian trading centers, such as Santa Fé de Bogotá (est. 1538) and Tunja (est. 1539).
Because of its central importance to the Spanish possessions in northern South America, in 1547 Colombia was elevated to its own province "New Granada" within the Viceroyalty of Peru, and Bogotá became the seat of a Real Audiencia. Cartagena de Indias rose to prominence as a port of call for navies from Spain, and during the colonial era became one of the most important - and best-protected - ports in the new world. The country's wealth led to pirate attacks in 1544, 1560 and 1586, e.g. by Francis Drake, on Cartagena. In the 17th century, 80 percent of the world's gold production came from Colombia. Indians worked the gold mines, many of whom died from weakness and diseases brought by the Europeans. After that, mostly African slaves took over the work, which could be bought in the port of Cartagena.
In 1717 the north of South America (today's Colombia, Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador) was constituted as the Viceroyalty of New Granada with Bogotá as its capital. In 1741, Cartagena was attacked by an English armada of 186 warships and defended by Spanish troops under Don Blas de Lezo.
The conflict that led to independence from Spain took place in
Colombia between 1810 and 1819. It began when, on July 20, 1810, a group
of Creoles went to the Spaniard José González Llorente in Bogotá,
ostensibly to borrow a flower vase from him. When Llorente refused, a
brawl (known as "el grito") ensued. The term "El Florero de Llorente"
("the flower vase of Llorente") is also common.
The increasing development of a self-confident upper class in the colonies in combination with the weakening of Spain at the time of Napoleon favored the establishment of an independence movement. After the successful struggle for independence in Venezuela, Simón Bolívar united the two countries after numerous battles (e.g. Pantano de Vargas, Puente de Boyacá) to form independent Greater Colombia in 1819. Ecuador then also joined the newly founded state in 1825.
In 1821 Simon Bolivar was elected President. During his tenure, he tried unsuccessfully to push through the total abolition of slavery. The power of the big landowners was too great to abolish slavery by law. Only in the 1850s did the large landowners allow slavery to be abolished. The motive, however, was that a "free" worker employed at a very low wage was permanently cheaper.
In 1830, after Bolívar's death, the federation disintegrated, partly because Bolívar's attempts to win Peru and Bolivia had failed. Ecuador and Venezuela declared their independence. Panama and Colombia formed New Granada. In addition, there were civil war-like political conflicts between liberals and conservatives. The liberals wanted a federal state and recruited themselves from the bourgeoisie of the commercial cities. The Conservatives wanted a strong central government and came from the class of large landowners. In 1863, the Liberals passed a constitution and named the federal state the United States of Colombia. In 1886, the conservatives enacted a constitution in which Colombia again formed a central state, today's "Republic of Colombia". Colombia was the first democracy in Latin America and the second in America after the United States.
Only in 1886 was it possible to unite Colombia in a centralized republic. This republic was put to the test again in 1898 when the ongoing internal conflicts erupted in the "War of a Thousand Days". Between 1899 and 1902 the opposition Liberals fought the conservative central government without either side being able to achieve a clear victory. The devastating conflict (over 100,000 dead) was finally defused by a peace treaty intended to secure future government participation for the Liberals. Nevertheless, the "conservative hegemony" (since 1886) continued until 1930. Much more serious than the material losses of the war, however, were its foreign policy aftermath. In 1903, for example, the USA exploited Colombia's weakness to assert its geostrategic and economic interests in Central America. For US President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1908), building a canal across the Isthmus of Panama was a military imperative. A secession was also favored by the fact that the isthmus was poorly integrated into the central Colombian state and the merchant oligarchy based there felt patronized and ignored by Bogotá. The Colombian Senate had previously rejected the USA's forced construction of the Panama Canal, citing an imminent loss of sovereignty, whereupon the United States forced the separation and subsequent constitution of the Isthmus Department as an independent and independent state through military intervention in agreement with the Panamanian separation movement. Colombia had emerged from the "Thousand Days War" so weak that it had to reluctantly accept Panama's secession, made possible by military intervention by the USA.
In the first half of the 20th century, Colombia experienced an economic heyday. By the 1920s, coffee accounted for up to 90 percent of Colombia's exports, enabling the country to invest in expanding transportation infrastructure and strengthening state institutions. The dark side of this boom was increasing social tensions between a wealthy oligarchy and an impoverished rural population. By 1929, the economy was thriving at unprecedented annual growth rates. After “Black Friday” in 1929, there was a crisis and in 1930 there was a change of government. The Liberals brought land reform and industrialization to the country. The assassination of left-wing populist presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on April 9, 1948 in Bogotá was the spark that caused the powder keg to explode. The civil war (La Violencia) that had been raging in rural areas between liberals and conservatives since 1946 was now carried into the cities.
Between 1948 and 1953, the so-called La Violencia (literally "The
Violence") entered its toughest phase. Conservative President Mariano
Ospina Pérez (1946–50) wanted the Liberals to participate in the
government and opted for moderation. Pérez' successor, Laureano Gómez,
who was also conservative, took a radical course from 1950 onwards.
Although he had to be temporarily replaced by Roberto Urdaneta due to
his poor health, Gómez remained the dominant man in the background until
1953. During his almost three-year reign, around 80,000 people lost
their lives in the political conflict. La Violencia, which lasted until
around 1963, claimed more than 200,000 civilian lives. After the
formation of the so-called “National Front” (1958), peace did not yet
come, despite a comprehensive amnesty under President Alberto Lleras
Camargo (1958–62). The pact within the elite between the leaders of the
Conservatives (group around Laureano Gómez) and the Liberals (group
around Alberto Lleras) resulted in a parity system of government in
which both traditional parties took turns in power every four years; all
offices in the state administration were also filled equally according
to party affiliation. The system, which formally existed until 1974 but
whose effects could still be felt into the 1980s, reinforced the
existing political exclusivism. Left-wing political actors in particular
(FARC, ELN, M-19, Quintín Lame, EPL, etc.) therefore saw themselves
challenged to use violence to create a truly participatory political
system. Of the guerrilla groups that emerged during the 1960s and 1980s,
however, only the FARC, which emerged from the liberal peasant
self-defense groups (repúblicas independientes), had direct roots in the
After the short interlude of a military dictatorship under Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (1953–1957), supported by part of the political elite and which was atypical for Colombia, the traditional civilian “pseudo-democratic rule” continued. However, no comprehensive social reforms were carried out. Certain structural features of the political system, such as the strong dominance of the executive or the exclusion of "radical" political parties, became entrenched over time. The formally oldest democracy in South America thus took on the character of a cartel-like consociational democracy.
The constitutional reform adopted by referendum (on December 10, 1957) enshrined the right to vote and stand for women, a right already granted in Acto Legislativo Número 3 of August 25, 1954 by the Constituent Assembly under the government of General Rojas Pinilla, but which after its fall, like all resolutions of Congress, was declared null and void; but Decree 247 of 1957 by the military junta also called on women to take part in the referendum. Women first went to the polls in 1957.
From 1974: Liberal election victory, drug mafia and "left against right"
After the liberal electoral victories of Alfonso López Michelsen (1974-1978) and Julio César Turbay Ayala (1978-1982), corruption and mismanagement increased. The dependence of the police and judiciary on political parties and the government favored the erosion of the rule of law and the suppression of the opposition. Paramilitary groups occupied parts of the country on behalf of the military and large landowners.
The drug mafia, which was gaining economic power at the same time, was threatened by US intervention in the local drug war in the early 1980s. After the dismantling of the large networks of the Cali cartel and the Medellín cartel in the drug war, small, decentralized networks (as of 2008) that sell the drugs mostly in the USA gained in importance.
Armed conflict in Colombia has been going on for decades. After another wave of violence and terror, President Álvaro Uribe Vélez declared a 90-day state of emergency on August 12, 2002. The demobilization of the paramilitary organizations begun by Uribe in 2003 threatened to fail. The demobilization process sparked controversy over the impunity of those who committed serious crimes. In addition, there is criticism that drug dealers who want to avoid extradition to the USA officially pretend to be former paramilitaries and thus benefit from amnesty.
Without income from the drug trade, the non-state armed actors in Colombia would not have been able to finance themselves. Successful action by the industrialized countries against illegal drug imports would therefore harm the insurgents. In 2007, the area under coca cultivation reached about 100,000 hectares. However, it decreased in size over the next few years, as did the area of fields destroyed by herbicides, particularly aerial spraying of glyphosate. In November 2011, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos considered limited legalization of cocaine and marijuana as a possible way to help resolve the military standoff in Colombia, a move that the US fiercely opposed. In 2014, according to various estimates, the area under cultivation increased again by 20 to 39 percent to 60,000 to 70,000 hectares. In 2015, President Santos decided to stop chemically destroying coca plants because of the health consequences. The US embassy has since given up its opposition. Observers also consider the president's decision to be a peace gesture towards the FARC.
The country is shaped by decades of armed conflict. On June 22, 2016,
both sides agreed on a final ceasefire. Both sides had already agreed on
transitional justice, agricultural development programs in the rebel
strongholds and future political participation of the guerrillas. On
September 26, the FARC and the government signed the peace treaty. A
(non-binding) referendum was held on October 2, in which, contrary to
forecasts, the voters rejected the peace treaty with just over 50
percent of the votes. Contrary to previous announcements, both sides
gave hope that they would stick to the ceasefire. One problem seemed to
be how long the FARC could be sustained financially without having to
resume criminal activity. The rejection came for the following reasons:
60 percent of those entitled to vote did not take part in the vote.
Obviously, among the 40 percent who participated, there were many people
with strong motives for voting yes or no. One motive for the rejection,
especially among supporters of the conservative party, was the
assumption that the FARC was already so weakened after heavy military
defeats that they could now be dealt the ultimate devastating blow. A
leader of the No movement admitted after the plebiscite that it had
systematically instilled fear in the middle and upper classes by raising
the threat of impunity for FARC members. In the lower classes, the lie
was spread that after a peace agreement was concluded, subsidies would
have to be raised by the people. With the agreement running to almost
300 pages, many voters relied on the messages from their leaders. It was
not until President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
that the peace process in Colombia was perceived differently and
students and young people were mobilized in an unprecedented way. In
this respect, the Nobel Prize acted like a "salvavidas" (lifebelt) for
In November 2016, a new peace treaty with FARC concessions was signed in Havana, which was approved unanimously by both chambers of Congress on November 30, 2016. The opponents had boycotted the vote and the bill was no longer submitted to the people for a vote.
In order to secure the peace process, the United Nations set a political d. H. purely civilian peacekeeping mission called the UN Mission in Colombia. Their goal is to monitor the peace agreement, the ceasefire and the disarmament of the FARC guerrillas. In July 2017, the UN Security Council decided to carry out a second political mission in Colombia. The "verification mission" beginning in September 2017 aims to check the reintegration of the FARC rebels and the reconstruction of civilian institutions in affected areas. Due to a lack of infrastructure, the state did not succeed in gaining complete control over all former FARC areas. The power vacuum that emerged in these outlying areas was filled by armed groups, including paramilitary groups, criminal drug trafficking organizations and also renegade FARC guerrillas.
In 2018, Colombia was the country with the highest number of internally displaced persons in the world due to guerrilla warfare. Added to this was the burden of refugees from Venezuela during the local supply crisis. Parts of Colombia are still affected by active landmines operated by the FARC, drug cartels and militias, causing mine casualties, particularly among the rural population.
On February 7, 2017, talks between the government and the second-largest rebel organization, ELN, began in Ecuador with the aim of disarmament. However, the peace talks quickly ended under right-wing President Ivan Duque. They only resumed in 2022 with the election of left-wing President Gustavo Petro.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia, coca cultivation was often the last opportunity for farmers in rural areas to earn money. In 2021, for example, the area under cultivation for the production of cocaine increased by 43 percent. According to UN experts, as of 2022, more cocaine will be produced in Colombia than at any time in the country's history.
In 1989, the Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in
Independent Countries was adopted as part of the Constitution. Between
1986 and 1990, the government recognized more than 200,000 km² of
rainforest in the Amazon region as collective indigenous territories
(resguardos). In addition, a separate commission for Indian affairs and
one for environmental affairs was set up.
From 1986, Martín von Hildebrand was chairman of the indigenous authority and advisor to President Virgilio Barco Vargas. He created a network of non-governmental organizations, a foundation called Fundación Gaia Amazonas. He launched the COAMA program, which seeks new ways of environmental protection in cooperation with indigenous groups. The transnational initiative CANOA is now active in Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela.
Colombia has been a democratically constituted republic since 1886
with a politically strong position of the president based on the US
model. The (official) characterization of Colombia as a democracy is
primarily based on formal criteria such as regular elections and a
superficial institutional stability. In terms of quality, however,
Colombian democracy has deficits.
The President is directly elected by the people for a four-year term, he cannot stand for re-election. A vice president helps him with official business. The president can dissolve parliament and force new elections.
As a presidential republic, Colombia is constitutionally divided into executive, legislative and judiciary branches. The parliament consists of two chambers, called the Congress, and consists of the House of Representatives (Cámara de Representantes) with 166 seats and the Senate (Senado), representing the 32 regions, with 102 seats. The current constitution was passed after a referendum on July 5, 1991 and is considered one of the most progressive – and comprehensive – in the world. Almost all offices, from president to deputy, are directly elected by the people. Anyone over the age of 18 is considered an adult, and only members of the army and convicts are not allowed to vote. The President of the Senate and the members of the Senate and Congress are elected to four-year terms.
Although the executive is formally subject to the control of the judiciary (Corte Suprema, Corte Constitucional, Consejo de Estado, Consejo Superior de la Judicatura) of the legislature and even an ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo), in political practice the president has a strong preponderance to observe. The Congress, characterized by clientelism and the assertion of particular interests, has lost more and more of its control function in recent decades.
The President's constitutional veto power over Parliament is unusually strong compared to other systems of government in the hemisphere. The traditional elites still determine the distribution of goods and the exercise of political power. The cartel-like consociational democracy that emerged during the Frente Nacional (1958–62) has thus only undergone superficial changes. Qualitative democracy criteria such as participation and pluralism, on the other hand, have only been implemented to a limited extent. The policy of the current government, which is based on massive militarization (seguridad democráctica), coupled with the increased powers of the executive (Estado comunitario) are diametrically opposed to the development of a strong civil society and a stable constitutional state. International organizations such as Amnesty International therefore primarily criticize the negative human and civil rights record of the current government.
Colombia is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Andean Community (CAN) and was a member of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) between 2008 and 2018. Within the framework of the CAN, Colombia is trying to conclude an association agreement with the EU. Colombia is also a member of the World Bank, the WTO, the IDB and IMF, the G3 and the United Nations. Accession negotiations to Mercosur are being conducted. In recent months, Colombia has made initial efforts to reach a free trade agreement with the Central American states of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Colombia has concluded a bilateral free trade agreement with the USA, which has yet to be ratified by the North American parliament in June 2007. Colombia maintains industrial relations with the OECD. It joined the OECD on April 28, 2020.
The national flag of Colombia bears the "Bolivarian" colors of yellow, blue and red. The national coat of arms shows the Isthmus of Panama, the condor as a heraldic animal and the motto "Freedom and Order". The Colombian national anthem entitled "O immortal glory" was composed at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. It was written by Rafael Núñez and set to music by the Italian Oreste Sindici. It became the country's official anthem in 1928. On official occasions only the first verse is sung. A folk song from the south of the country "La Guaneña" is generally regarded as Colombia's first anthem.