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A little about Colombia

Today, there are between 3-4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia. According to official figures lived 34.1 percent of the population in poverty and 10.4 percent in extreme poverty in 2012.

Inequality in the distribution of national resources is significant and there are very large differences between urban and rural areas, including in access to health and education.

 

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Cali urban area. Image by Angi Muñoz

municipality-of-bagado-600px_ Fernando Patiño FrancoRural area in Bagado. Image by Fernando Patiño Franco

Colombia is the fourth largest country in South America and one of the continent´s most populous nations. It is bordered on the northwest by Panama, on the east by Venezuela and Brazil and on the southeast by Peru and Ecuador. Through the western half of the country, three Andean ranges run north and south. The eastern half is a low, jungle-covered plain, drained by spurs of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, inhabited mostly by isolated tropical-forest Indian tribes. The fertile plateau and valley of the eastern range are the most densely populated parts of the country.

The region that make up the modern Colombia was conquered by the Spaniards in the 1500s and became America’s leading gold producer. Freedom hero Simón Bolívar led the colony to independence in 1819. Several surrounding areas were included in the polity during the 1800s but 1903, when Panama broke away, Colombia basically got its current boundaries.

Since the 1800s two parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, have dominated the region. The 1800s were characterized by an often violent struggle between liberals and conservatives, several civil wars were fought of which Thousand Days War 1899-1902 was the cruelest. After this war followed 40 years of peace but in 1946, a 10 year long period of insurrection and banditry broke out, referred to as La Violencia.

The economy has traditionally been based on agricultural products such as coffee, tobacco and bananas. A viable manufacturing base has been created and in recent decades a exploation of the extensive oil and coal deposits have begun. Colombia had until 1997 an unbroken economic growth over a quarter century. But much of the growth in the 1980 – and 1990s came from illegal economic activities such as drug trafficking, emerald and gold smuggling.

 

Colombia has a highly stratified society where the traditionally rich families of Spanish descent have benefited from this wealth to a far greater degree than the majority, mixed-race population. With few avenues for social mobility, this provided a natural constituency for left-wing insurgents. However, the lucrative returns from drugs and kidnapping came to dominate the rebel´s agenda and to some extent replaced ideological motivations. At the other end of the political spectrum from the left-wing rebels are the illegal right-wing paramilitary groups, who are sometimes in the pay of drug cartels and landowners, and have at times been backed by elements in the army and the police.

The conflict has dragged on for decades, and at one point the government effectively lost control of large parts of Colombian territory to the rebels, especially in the north and east.

However, since 2002 the government has managed a string of spectacular successes against the rebels, regaining control of much of their territory and raising hopes that the conflict might be drawing to a close. In 2005 there was a law adopted on the disarmament of the right wing militia AUC and most of the militia soldiers left in their weapons Farc, the largest rebel group, began talks with the government in November 2012, and the authorities said that the rival ELN was also interested in negotiations.

The war has over the years had a great impact on civilians who has been forced to flee the fighting. Today, there are between 3-4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia. According to official figures lived 34.1 percent of the population in poverty and 10.4 percent in extreme poverty in 2012. Inequality in the distribution of national resources is significant and there are very large differences between urban and rural areas, including in access to health and education.

By Kerstin Langsten

 

Sources:

 

BBC – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1212798.stm

Infoplease – http://www.infoplease.com/country/colombia.html

Säkerhetspolitik.se – http://www.sakerhetspolitik.se/Konflikter/Colombia/Fakta-om-Colombia/

so-rummet.se – http://www.so-rummet.se/kategorier/historia/varldens-lander-historia/central-och-sydamerika-historia/colombias-historia#

LO-TCO Biståndsnämnd – http://www.lotcobistand.org/colombia#/4548

Globalis – http://www.globalis.se/Laender/Colombia

Human Rights / Mänskliga rättigheter – Swedish government (Link)

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