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Background Note: Colombia


Republic of Colombia

Area: 1.14 million sq. km. (440,000 sq. mi.); about three times the size of Montana; fourth-largest country in South America.
Cities: Capital--Bogota (pop. 2005 projected: 7.1 million). Other major cities include Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Cartagena.
Terrain: Flat coastal areas, with extensive coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, three rugged parallel mountain chains, central highlands and flat eastern grasslands.
Climate: Tropical on coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Colombian(s).
Population (2005 projected): 46 million.
Annual population growth: 1.8%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 90%.
Language: Spanish.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--80% of children enter school. Only 5 years of primary school are offered in many rural areas. Literacy--93% in urban areas, 67% in rural areas.
Health: Infant mortality rate--25/1,000. Life expectancy (2000-05 period)--men 69 yrs., women 75 yrs.
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (58%), white (20%), mulatto (14%), black (4%), mixed black-Amerindian (3%) and Amerindian (1%).

Type: Republic.
Independence: July 20, 1810.
Constitution: July 1991.
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state and head of government). Legislative--Bicameral Congress.
Judicial--Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Superior Judicial Council.
Administrative divisions: 32 departments; Bogota, capital district.
Major political parties: Conservative Party of Colombia, Liberal, National Unity, Radical Change, Alternative Democratic Pole, and numerous small political movements.
Suffrage: Universal, age 18 and over.

Principal Government Officials
President--Alvaro URIBE Velez
Vice President--Francisco SANTOS Calderon
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Maria Consuelo ARAUJO
Minister of Defense--Juan Manuel SANTOS Calderon
Ambassador to the United States--Carolina BARCO Isakson
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Camilo OSPINA Bernal
Ambassador to the United Nations--Claudia BLUM de Barberi

Colombia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-387-8338). Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Juan and Washington D.C.

GDP (2005): $123.7 billion; base year 1994: $105.9 billion.
Annual growth rate (2005): 5.1%.
Per capita GDP (2005): $2,688.81
Government expenditures (2005): 22.7% of GDP.
Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, gold, silver, copper, platinum, emeralds.
Manufacturing (14.4% of GDP): Types--textiles and garments, chemicals, metal products, cement, cardboard containers, plastic resins and manufactures, beverages, wood products, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electrical equipment.
Agriculture (13.1% of GDP): Products--coffee, bananas, cut flowers, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, rice, corn, tobacco, potatoes, soybeans, sorghum. Cultivated land--8.2% of total area.
Other sectors (by percentage of GDP): Financial services--17.1%; commerce--11.2%; transportation and communications services--7.9%; mining and quarrying--4.5%; construction and public works--5.4%; government, personal and other services--18.6; electricity, gas, and water--2.9%.
Trade: Exports (2005)--$21.1 billion: petroleum, coal, coffee, flowers, textiles and garments, ferronickel, bananas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, gold, sugar, cardboard containers, printed material, cement, plastic resins and manufactures, emeralds. Major markets--U.S., Venezuela, Germany, Netherlands, Japan. Imports (2005)--$21.2 billion: machinery/equipment, grains, chemicals, transportation equipment, mineral products, consumer products, metals/metal products, plastic/rubber, paper products, aircraft, oil and gas industry equipment, supplies. Major suppliers--U.S., Germany, Japan, Panama, Venezuela.

Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Thirty cities have a population of 100,000 or more. The nine eastern lowlands departments, constituting 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 sq. mi.). Ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous peoples, Europeans and Africans. Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully indigenous on the basis of language and customs.

During the pre-Columbian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous societies situated at different stages of socio-economic development, ranging from hunters and nomadic farmers to the highly structured Chibchas, who are considered to be one of the most developed indigenous groups in South America.

The first permanent settlement in Colombia was at Santa Marta, founded by the Spanish in 1525. Santa Fe de Bogota was founded in 1538 and, in 1717, became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what are now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. Bogotawas one of three principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World.

On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogota created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed. The new republic included all the territory of the former Viceroyalty (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama). Simon Bolivar was elected its first president with Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president. Conflicts between followers of Bolivar and Santander led to the formation of two political parties that have since dominated Colombian politics. Bolivar's supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, sought strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church and a limited franchise. Santander's followers, forerunners of the Liberals, wanted a decentralized government, state rather than church control over education and other civil matters and a broadened suffrage.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time. Colombia maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free, elections. Notwithstanding the country's commitment to democratic institutions, Colombia's history also has been characterized by widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties: The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1903) claimed an estimated 100,000 lives, and La Violencia (the Violence) (1946-1957) claimed about 300,000 lives.

La Violencia (The Violence) and the National Front
The assassination of Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in 1948 sparked the bloody conflict known as La Violencia. Conservative Party leader Laureano Gomez came to power in 1950, but was ousted by a military coup led by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla in 1953. When Rojas failed to restore democratic rule and became implicated in corrupt schemes, he was overthrown by the military with the support of the Liberal and Conservative Parties. It was out of this alliance between the two parties that the National Front emerged, which ended "La Violencia."

In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gomez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) reached an agreement that led to the creation of the National Front, under which their parties would govern jointly. The presidency would be determined by regular elections every 4 years and the two parties would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices. This system was phased out by 1978.

Post-National Front Years
During the post-National Front years, the Colombian Government made efforts to negotiate a peace with the persistent guerrilla organizations that flourished in Colombia's remote and undeveloped rural areas. In 1984, President Belisario Betancur, a Conservative, negotiated a cease-fire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Democratic Alliance/M-19 (M-19) that included the release of many imprisoned guerrillas. The National Liberation Army (ELN) rejected the government's cease fire proposal at that time. The M-19 pulled out of the cease-fire when it resumed fighting in 1985. The army suppressed an M-19 attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogota in November 1985, during which 115 people were killed, including 11 Supreme Court justices. The government and the M-19 renewed their truce in March 1989, which led to a peace agreement and the M-19's reintegration into society and political life. The M-19 was one of the parties that participated in the process to enact a new constitution (see below), which took effect in 1991. The peace process with the FARC did not enjoy similar success; the FARC ended the truce in 1990 after some 2,000-3,000 of its members who had demobilized had been murdered.

The enactment of a new Constitution in 1991 brought about major reforms to Colombia's political institutions. While the new Constitution preserved a presidential, three-branch system of government, it created new institutions such as the Inspector General, a Human Rights Ombudsman, a Constitutional Court and a Superior Judicial Council. The new Constitution also reestablished the position of Vice President. Other significant constitutional reforms provide for civil divorce, dual nationality and the establishment of a legal mechanism ("tutela") that allows individuals to appeal government decisions affecting their constitutional rights. The Constitution also authorized the introduction of an accusatory system of criminal justice that is gradually being instituted throughout the country, replacing the previous written inquisitorial system. A Constitutional amendment approved in 2005 allows the president to hold office for two consecutive 4-year terms.

Colombian governments have had to contend with the combined terrorist activities of left-wing guerrillas, the rise of paramilitary self-defense forces in the 1990s and the drug cartels. Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential candidates during the election campaign of 1990. After Colombian security forces killed Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar in December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with his organization abated as the "cartels" were broken into multiple, smaller and often-competing trafficking organizations. Guerrillas and paramilitary groups also entered into drug trafficking as a way to finance their military operations.

Pastrana Administration
The administration of Andres Pastrana (1998-2002), a Conservative, faced increased countrywide attacks by the FARC and ELN, widespread drug production and the expansion of paramilitary groups. The Pastrana administration unveiled its "Plan Colombia" in 1999 as a strategy to deal with these longstanding problems, and sought support from the international community. Plan Colombia is a comprehensive program to combat narco-terrorism; spur economic recovery; strengthen democratic institutions and respect for human rights; and provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons.

In November 1998, Pastrana ceded a sparsely populated area the size of Switzerland in south-central Colombia to the FARC's control to serve as a neutral zone where peace negotiations could take place. The FARC negotiated with the government only fitfully while continuing to mount attacks and expand coca production, seriously undermining the government's efforts to reach an agreement. Negotiations with the rebels in 2000 and 2001 were marred by rebel attacks, kidnappings and fighting between rebels and paramilitaries for control of coca-growing areas in Colombia. In February 2002, after the FARC hijacked a commercial aircraft and kidnapped a senator, Pastrana ordered the military to attack rebel positions and reassert control over the neutral zone. FARC withdrew into the jungle and increased attacks against Colombia's infrastructure, while avoiding large-scale direct conflicts with the military.

Uribe Administration
Alvaro Uribe, an independent, was elected president in May 2002 on a platform to restore security to the country. Among his promises was to continue to pursue the broad goals of Plan Colombia within the framework of a long-term security strategy. In the fall of 2002, Uribe released a national security strategy that employed political, economic and military means to weaken all illegal narco-terrorist groups. The Uribe government offered to negotiate a peace agreement with these groups with the condition that they agree to a unilateral cease fire and to end drug trafficking and kidnapping.

In December 2003, the Colombian Self-Defense Forces (AUC) paramilitary group entered into a peace agreement with the government that has led to the bloc by bloc demobilization of over 30,000 AUC members. In addition, over 9,000 members of the AUC and other illegal armed groups have individually decided to surrender their arms. In July 2005, President Uribe signed the Justice and Peace Law, which established a legal framework for these demobilizations. Under this law, participants have to renounce violence and return illegal assets in exchange for reduced punishments; the assets are to be used to provide reparations to victims.

The ELN and the government began a round of talks with the Colombian Government mediated by the Mexican Government in mid-2004. The ELN withdrew from the talks after the Mexican Government voted to condemn Cuba's human rights record at the United Nations in April 2005. In December 2005, the ELN began a new round of talks with the Colombian Government in Cuba that led to two more meetings, the last one held in April 2006. The dialogue is expected to continue.

As a result of the government's military and police operations, the strength of the FARC has been reduced in major areas, drastically in some areas. Since 2000, the FARC has not carried out large scale multi-front attacks, although it has more recently mounted some operations that indicate it has not yet been broken. The FARC has rejected several government proposals aimed at bringing about an exchange of some 63 hostages being held for political reasons. Three American citizens, who were working on counternarcotics programs, were captured by the FARC in February 2003. Their safe return is a priority goal of the United States and Colombia.

Colombia maintains an excellent extradition relationship with the United States. The Uribe administration has extradited more than 400 fugitives to the United States. Among those extradited in 2005 were Cali Cartel leaders Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel and FARC leaders Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda (aka "Simon Trinidad") and Omaira Rojas Cabrera (aka "Sonia").

The Uribe government established, for the first time in recent Colombian history, a government presence in all of the country's 1,098 municipalities (county seats). Attacks conducted by illegally armed groups against rural towns decreased by 91% from 2002 to 2005. Between 2002 and 2005, Colombia saw a decrease in homicides by 37%, victims of massacres by 63% and kidnappings by 72%. Aerial spraying of coca crops and cocaine and heroin interdictions are setting records.

Although much attention has been focused on the security and military aspects of Colombia's situation, the Uribe government also is making significant efforts on issues such as expanding international trade, supporting alternate means of development and reforming Colombia's judicial system.

In Congressional elections on March 12, 2006, the three leading pro-Uribe parties (National Unity, Conservative Party and Radical Change) won clear majorities in both houses of Congress. President Uribe was reelected by 62 percent of the vote on May 28, 2006, and sworn into office for a second term on August 7.

Colombia's Ministry of Defense, charged with the country's internal and external defense and security, exercises jurisdiction over an army, navy--including marines and coast guard--air force and national police under the leadership of a civilian Minister of Defense. Real spending on defense has increased every year since 2000, but especially so under President Uribe. Colombian spending on defense grew over 30% after inflation from 2001 to 2005, from $2.6 billion to more than 3.9 billion. Projected defense spending for 2006 is $4.48 billion. The security forces number about 350,000 uniformed personnel: 190,000 military and 160,000 police. President Uribe instituted a one-time wealth tax in 2002, which raised over $800 million, with 70% used to increase 2002-2003 defense spending. Actual Ministry of Defense spending in 2004 has increased to 16.3% of the overall national budget, up from 12.9% in 2002, and is the third largest expenditure after social protection programs and education.

Many Colombian military personnel receive training in the United States or in Colombia. The United States provides equipment to the Colombian military and police through the military assistance program, foreign military sales and the international narcotics control program.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that more than 80% of the worldwide powder cocaine supply and approximately 90% of the powder cocaine smuggled into the United States is produced in Colombia.

The Colombian Government is committed to the eradication of all illicit crops, interdiction of illegal drug shipments and financial controls to prevent money laundering. Between May 2002 and September 2004, Colombian security forces interdicted 558 metric tons of cocaine, coca base, and heroin. Coca and poppy cultivation has decreased by 33% since 2001.

Terrorism in Colombia both supports and draws resources from the narcotics industry. Colombia's narcoterrorists have kidnapped over 50 American citizens since 1992, and killed at least 10.

Colombia is a free market economy with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. Transition from a highly regulated economy has been underway for more than a decade. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization or "apertura," and this has continued since then, with tariff reductions, financial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises and adoption of a more liberal foreign exchange rate. These policies eased import restrictions and opened most sectors to foreign investment, although agricultural products remained protected.

Unlike many of its neighboring countries, Colombia has not suffered any dramatic economic collapses. The Uribe administration seeks to maintain prudent fiscal policies and has pursued tough economic reforms including tax, pension and budget reforms. A recent U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) study shows that Colombian tax rates (both personal and corporate) are among the highest in Latin America. The unemployment rate in December 2005 was 10.4%, down from 15.1% in December 2002.

The sustained growth of the Colombian economy can be attributed to an increase in domestic security, the policies of keeping inflation low and maintaining a stable currency (the Colombian peso), petroleum price increases and an increase in exports to neighboring countries and the United States as a result of trade liberalization. The Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which will expire on December 31, 2006, also plays a pivotal role in Colombia's economic growth. The conclusion of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement in February 2006 portends further opportunity for growth once it is approved by the legislatures of both countries and implemented.

Industry and Agriculture
The most industrially diverse member of the five-nation Andean Community, Colombia has four major industrial centers--Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla--each located in a distinct geographical region. Colombia's industries include textiles and clothing, leather products, processed foods and beverages, paper and paper products, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement, construction, iron and steel products and metalworking.

Colombia's diverse climate and topography permit the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. In addition, all regions yield forest products, ranging from tropical hardwoods in the lowlands, to pine and eucalyptus in the colder areas. Cacao, sugarcane, coconuts, bananas, plantains, rice, cotton, tobacco, cassava and most of the nation's beef cattle are produced in the hot regions from sea level to 1,000 meters elevation. The temperate regions--between 1,000 and 2,000 meters--are better suited for coffee, flowers, corn and other vegetables, and fruits such as citrus, pears, pineapples and tomatoes. The cooler elevations--between 2,000 and 3,000 meters--produce wheat, barley, potatoes, cold-climate vegetables, flowers, dairy cattle and poultry.

Colombia is the United States' fifth-largest export market in the Western Hemisphere behind Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela and the largest agricultural export market in the hemisphere after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries. It is also the 27th largest export market for U.S. products worldwide. U.S. exports to Colombia in 2005 were $5.4 billion, up 20% from the previous year. Corresponding U.S. imports from Colombia were $9.4 billion, up 21%. Colombia's major exports are petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel and nontraditional exports (e.g., cut flowers, gold, bananas, semiprecious stones, sugar and tropical fruits). The United States remained Colombia's largest trading partner in 2005, representing 40% of Colombia's exports and 29% of its imports. The EU, Japan and the Andean countries also are important trading partners.

Mining, manufacturing industries and oil continue to attract the greatest U.S. investment, which accounted for 13% of the total $10.2 billion in foreign direct investment in Colombia in 2005. Colombia has improved protection of intellectual property rights through the adoption of three Andean Pact decisions in 1993 and 1994 as well as an internal decree on data protection, but the United States remains concerned over deficiencies in licensing and copyright protection.

Mining and Energy
Colombia has considerable mineral and energy resources, especially coal and natural gas reserves. New security measures and increased drilling activity have slowed the drop in petroleum production, allowing Colombia to continue to export through 2010 or 2011, given current production estimates. In 2005, gas reserves totaled 6.711 billion cubic feet. Gas production totaled 649 million cubic feet per day. The country's current refining capacity is 299,200 barrels per day. Losses from theft of fuel (gasoline) decreased from $59 million in 2004 to $46 million in 2005. Mining and energy related investments have grown because of higher oil prices, increased demand and improved output.

The Pastrana and the Uribe administrations have significantly liberalized Colombia's petroleum sector, leading to an increase in exploration and production contracts from both large and small hydrocarbon industries. In 2002, royalties were linked to the size of the discovery as opposed to a flat rate. In 2003, a new oil policy created the National Agency for Hydrocarbons (ANH), which now administers all exploration and production contracts. Ecopetrol, the state-owned hydrocarbon company, must now compete alongside other hydrocarbon companies for exploration and production contracts, separating state roles as investor and resource administrator. State association contracts have dropped from 30% to 0%, allowing private companies 100% ownership upon exploration success. In July 2006, the Colombian Government announced plans to sell 20% of Ecopetrol to private investors.

The country's oil industry has continuously been a target of extortion and bombing campaigns by the ELN and the FARC. Strong security policies and an offensive military posture had reduced attacks on pipelines. According to the Security and Democracy Foundation, this trend regressed in 2005 as attacks on infrastructure increased from 47 in 2004 to 117 in 2005. According to Ecopetrol, at the end of 2005, total oil reserves amounted to 1.4 billion barrels. Oil production amounted to 526 million barrels per day, and petroleum exports were 169 million barrels per day. The country's efforts in exploration during 2005 produced 19 million barrels of new reserves. Output also dramatically improved, due to an additional 35 new exploratory wells, 11,896 kilometers of seismic exploration and a lower drop in production--from 528 thousand barrels per day in 2004 to 526 thousand barrels per day in 2005. According to this new outlook, Colombia will become a net oil importer one or two years later that originally thought (by 2010 or 2011). In 2005, 31 new exploration and production agreements and 28 technical evaluation contracts were signed between private investors and the Colombian ANH, representing $367 million in oil investments.

In 2005, Colombia was the largest producer in Latin America of coal (59 million tons) and ferronickel (39,696 tons). It historically has been the world's leading producer of emeralds, although production has fallen in recent years. In 2005, it was 6.74 million carats, generating $72 million in revenue. Colombia is also a significant producer of gold, silver and platinum.

Foreign Investment
The United States is the largest source of new foreign direct investment (FDI) in Colombia by far, particularly in the areas of coal and petroleum. In 2005, new FDI totaled $10.2 billion, an increase of over 300% from 2004. The bulk of the new investment is in the manufacturing, mining and petroleum sectors. The only activities closed to foreign direct investment are defense and national security, disposal of hazardous wastes and real estate--the last of these restrictions is intended to hinder money laundering. Capital controls have been implemented to reduce currency speculation and to keep foreign investment in-country for at least a year. Likewise, in order to encourage investment in Colombia, Congress approved a law in 2005 to protect FDI and laws governing the investment for the productive life of the venture.

In 1969, Colombia, along with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, formed what is now the Andean Community. (Venezuela joined in 1973 and announced its departure in 2005, and Chile left in 1976.) In the 1980s, Colombia broadened its bilateral and multilateral relations, joining the Contadora Group, the Group of Eight (now the Rio Group) and the Non-Aligned Movement, which it chaired from 1994 until September 1998. In addition, it has signed free trade agreements with Chile, Mexico and Venezuela.

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the United Nations and the Organization of American States and in their subsidiary agencies. Former President Gaviria became Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) in September 1994 and was re-elected in 1999. Colombia has participated in all five Summits of the Americas, most recently in November 2005, and followed up on initiatives developed at the first two summits by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level meetings on trade and science and technology. On March 22-24, 2006, Bogota hosted the Sixth Regular Session of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism.

In 1822, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and to establish a resident diplomatic mission. Today, about 25,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. Embassy as living in Colombia, most of them dual nationals.

Currently, there are about 250 American businesses conducting operations in Colombia. In 1995-96, the United States and Colombia signed important agreements on environmental protection and civil aviation. The two countries have signed agreements on asset sharing and chemical control. In 1997, the United States and Colombia signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels.

During the Pastrana administration, relations with the United States improved significantly. The United States responded to the Colombian Government's request for international support for Plan Colombia by providing substantial assistance designed to increase Colombia's counter-narcotics capabilities and support human rights, humanitarian assistance, alternative development and economic and judicial reforms.

The U.S. has continued close cooperation with Colombia under the Uribe administration. Recognizing that terrorism and the illicit narcotics trade in Colombia are inextricably linked, the U.S. Congress granted new expanded statutory authorities in 2002 making U.S. assistance to Colombia more flexible in order to better support President Uribe's unified campaign against narcotics and terrorism.

The results thus far have been impressive, but much remains to be done. U.S. policy toward Colombia supports the Colombian Government's efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, intensify counter-narcotics efforts, foster socioeconomic development, address immediate humanitarian needs and end the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Promoting security, stability and prosperity in Colombia will continue as long-term American interests in the region.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--William Braucher Wood
Deputy Chief of Mission--Milton K. Drucker
Political Counselor-- John S. Creamer
Economic Counselor--Lawrence J. Gumbiner
Consul General--Raymond G. McGrath
Commercial Counselor--Larry Farris
Management Counselor--Kathleen Hodai
Military Group Commander--COL Kevin D. Saderup
Narcotics Affairs Section Director--Julie Gianelloni Connor
Defense Attache--COL Rey A. Velez
Public Affairs Officer--Mark Wentworth (arrives November 2006)
Regional Security Office--Robert Hartung
USAID Director--Liliana Ayalde

U.S. Embassy
Calle 22D Bis, No. 47-51
Bogota, Colombia
(tel: (571) 315-0811; fax: (571) 315-2197).
The mailing address is APO AA 34038.

U.S. Consular Agency in Baranquilla
Calle 77, No. 68-15
Baranquilla, Colombia
(tel: (575) 353-0970 or 0974; fax: (575) 353-5216).

Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Main Switchboard: 202-647-4000 (http://www.state.gov/)

U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center, International Trade Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue
Washington, DC 20230
(tel: 800-USA-TRADE, Internet: http://www.ita.doc.gov/)

Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce
Calle 98, @2264, Oficina 1209
Apartado Aereo 8008
Bogota, Colombia
(tel: (571) 621-5042/7925/6838, fax: (571) 612-6838, email: 73050.3127@compuserve.com) Chapters in Cali, Cartagena, Medellin.

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on entry requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov/. Consular Affairs Tips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are available on the Internet and hard copies can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged to register their travel via the State Department's travel registration web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ or at the Consular section of the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country by filling out a short form and sending in a copy of their passports. This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://www.state.gov/, the Department of State web site provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of Foreign Service posts and more.

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help with the export process, and more.

STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank.

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