Colombia is located in the northwest corner of South America and is the continent’s most populous Spanish-speaking nation. Roughly twice the geographic size of France, Colombia is bordered by both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, as well as Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.
Colombia won independence from Spain in the early 19th century, and was one of three countries that formed out of the 19th-century collapse of Gran Colombia – the other two nations being Ecuador and Venezuela. Today the country is a democratic republic with universal suffrage, with separate executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government.
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Beginning in the 1960s, Colombia’s governments experienced varying degrees of conflict with leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups, most notably the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The illegal drug trade heavily funded that conflict. The United States has provided assistance to the government’s battle against these paramilitary groups, and in 2016 the government reached a peace deal with the FARC, a pact that remains controversial.
Colombia is classified as an upper middle-income economy and is one of Latin America’s largest economies, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country’s economy is shaped by its land and like many South American nations is based in its rich natural resources. Agriculture and commodity-driven industries are a large part of the economy, with petroleum, coal, gold and coffee as the top exports. Industries such as textiles and services such as telecommunications along with tourism are also strong economic components.
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Unemployment in Colombia has dropped in the 21st century, but is still high compared to other South American nations. Poverty rates remain high and income inequality is one of the highest in Latin America and the world.
Spanish is Colombia’s official language and the country’s most popular religion is Roman Catholicism. Culturally, Colombians like to boast that more poets than soldiers have occupied the president’s office. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature underscored the central role the written word plays in the country’s arts.
Colombia is a member of several international organizations, including the Organization of American States and the United Nations.
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