- La Guia de Cartagena, Colombia
   The Guide To Cartagena, Colombia





1,142,000 square km, bounded to the north by the Caribbean, to the east by Venezuela and Brazil, to the south by Peru and Ecuador and to the west by the Pacific Ocean and by Panama. The western half of the area is crossed from south to north by three Andean mountain chains. The eastern half comprises the Ilanos (plains) and Amazon jungle.
41.6 million (1999), 59.8 million (2025)
The official language is Spanish.
Ethnic Groups:
Mainly of mestizo (mixed European and Indian) descent, but with black and pure Indian minorities.
Christianity, mostly Roman Catholics.
Tropical in the coastal regions, temperate on the plateaux to cold in the Andes mountains.
Colombian Peso.
Time Zone:
GMT -5
Public Holidays:
Jan 1,8, Mar 19, Apr 20, 21, May 1, 28, Jun 18, 25, Jul 2, 20, Aug 7, 20, Oct 15, Nov 5, 12, Dec 8, 25.
110/120V 60Hz
Travel Rules:
Passport, with six months validity, and visa required, as well as return/onward travel ticket and proof of sufficient funds.
International Driving Permit required.

Health Rules:




Hepatitis A, malaria, polio, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever immunisation is recommended. Hepatitis B and diphtheria immunisation is recommended in some circumstances, seek advice. Malaria exists all year in rural areas below 800 metres, Chloroquine is highly resistant and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistance has been reported. Precautions: boil or sterilise drinking water and milk. All food should be well cooked. Avoid bathing in fresh water.

(Source: The State of World Population 1999, UNFPA)


At the time of the Spanish arrival in Colombia at the end of the 15th century, it was populated by various Indian tribes, each with distinct languages and cultures. The most distinct were the Tayronas, fine goldsmiths who lived on the Caribbean coast, the warrior Chibchas who settled the mountainous centre of the country and the culture which inhabited the area around San Agustin in the south, leaving behind them a series of mysterious burial grounds and statues.

The Spaniards founded their first city at Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast in 1525 and European settlement quickly spread, with Bogota founded in 1538. In 1718, the Madrid Crown created the Vice-royalty of New Granada which included modern-day Colombia.

Independence from the Spanish Crown was declared in 1819, when the new republic joined with Venezuela and Ecuador to form Simon Bolivar's "Greater Colombia." Venezuela broke off in 1829 and Ecuador a year later, while Panama was lost to the United States in 1903. Politics during the Nineteenth Century was dominated by a number of wars between the Liberal and Conservative parties and between regional chieftains.

The country's most brutal civil war, known as "La Violencia" was sparked in 1948 by the assassination of the popular Liberal leader, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan.

Some 300,000 people died in the ensuing bloodshed, which also featured a 1953-57 military dictatorship and ended in 1958 with a formal agreement between the two countries to share power which lasted until 1978. The military has not held power or mounted a coup attempt since 1957.

Elections to a constitutional convention were held in 1990, in which the former guerrilla movement M19 gained 30 percent of the vote, and a new constitution was promulgated in 1991. Congressional elections to the 102-seat Senate and the 163-seat House of Representatives held in March 1994 heralded the re-emergence of the traditional parties. The Liberal candidate Ernesto Samper narrowly defeated the Social Conservative Party (PSC) candidate.

National elections were next held in March 1998. Although Samper is a member of the PSC, the PL has a majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

The next congressional elections are due by March 2002, and the next presidential elections by May 2002. Local and regional elections are scheduled for 29 October 2000, but municipalities want them postponed in rebel areas.

A three-decade-long conflict has cost some 35,000 lives. Marxist guerrilla groups began their insurgency in the early 1960s. An estimated 10,000 rebels remain active in various areas. The largest is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), followed by the National Liberation Army (ELN) and a splinter group of the Popular Liberation Army (EPL).

Right-wing paramilitary groups number an estimated 5,000 to 7,000, and are accused of widespread human rights abuses.

Both paramilitaries and guerrillas are reported to rely on growing and selling coca to finance their operations. Paramilitaries are accused of deliberately displacing civilians, often to benefit wealthy patrons.

As many as 1.8 million Colombians were internally displaced at the end of 1999. The number of Colombians seeking refuge abroad was also on the increase, both in neighbouring countries and in North America and Europe.

Following a number of fierce rebel attacks in November and December 1998, President Pastrana received the full support of political leaders and members of Congress to pursue peace negotiations with the various guerrilla movements; grant presidential pardons to rebels, and offer guarantees for their return to society.

In November 1998, Pastrana pulled some 2,000 government troops out of a 16,000-square-mile (42,000-sq-km) area of southeast Colombia - an area the size of Switzerland - to make way for release of troops held prisoner by the FARC. The FARC insisted that Pastrana crack down on illegal right-wing death squads, which it accused of fighting a "dirty war" with the help of the armed forces against leftist sympathisers.

Peace talks began in January 1999, but stalled in the same month, to resume in October. Guerrillas increased their use of kidnapping during 1999 as a way of raising funds.

In January 1999, a strong earthquake measuring 6.3 killed at least 1,170 people in the central coffee-growing region, centred in the provincial capital Armenia.

President Pastrana's $7.5 billion "Plan Colombia" aims to destroy the country's drug market -- the world's leading supplier of cocaine -- while pouring money into social resources to help turn the economy around.

A $1.3 billion aid package -- mostly military -- was approved by the U.S. Senate in June 2000. U.S. President Bill Clinton waived human rights conditions on aid in August 2000 so that assistance could be released.


Infant Mortality:
25 per 1,000 live births.

Maternal Mortality Ratio:

80 per 100,000 live births.
Life Expectancy:
67.6 years male, 74.5 years female.
0.7 percent male, 0.8 percent female above 15 years.
Access To Basic Care:
85 percent.
Access To Safe Water:
87 percent.
Human Development Index Value:
0.764 (1998).

(Source:Human Development Report 2000, UNDP)


Peso 160 trillion, US$ 77 biliion (1999).

Per capita:

US$5800 (1999).
-5.0 percent (1998).
11.2 percent (1998).
Defence budget:
Peso 4.0 trillion, US$ 2.0 billion (2000).
Access To Safe Water:
87 percent.
Human Development Index Value:
0.764 (1998).

(Source: The Military Balance,2000/2001, IISS)


Armed Forces:
Active 153,000 men (some 74,700 conscripts) ; Reserves 60,700 men (Army 54,700, Navy 4,800, Air Force 1,200).


130,000 men (63,800 conscripts) with 30 light tanks (in store).
15,000 men (including 8,500 Marines, l00 Naval Aviation and 7,000 conscripts) with four submarines, four frigates and 104 patrol vessels.
Air Force:
8,000 men (some 3,900 conscripts) with 72 combat aircraft and 72 armed helicopters.

(The Military Balance 2000/2001, IISS)


Civil aviation:








Colombia has more than 100 airports, including 11 international airports: Santa Fe de Bogota, DC (El Dorado International Airport), Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cartagenas, Cucuta, Leticia, Pereira, San Andres and Santa Marta.
Aerolineas Centrales de Colombia, SA, operates scheduled domestic passenger services throughout Colombia and charter flights to the United States and the Caribbean. Aerotaxa, SA, operates scheduled domestic passenger services. Avianca operates domestic services to all cities in Colombia and international services to the Unied States, France, Germany, Spain and throughout Central and Southern America. Intercontinental de Aviacion operates scheduled domestic passenger and cargo services throughout Colombia. Servico Aereo a Territorios Nacionales, a commercial enterprise attached to the National Defence Ministry, operates internal services. Transportes Aeroes Mercantiles Panamericanos operates international cargo services to destinations throughout South America, also to Puerto Rico and the United States. Aerosucre Colombia, Aeroatransportes Colombianos, Aerovias Colombianos, Lineas Aereas del Caribe and Lineas Aereas Suramericas operate international,domestic charter, and cargo services.


Sociedad Colombiana de Transporte Ferroviaro, SA, operates public rail services with a network of 2,532 km in 1992.






In 1996 there were an estimated 107, 000 km of roads, of which 25,600km were highways and main roads and 43,900 km were secondary roads.
About 12% of the total road network was paved in the same year.
The country's main highways are the Carribean trunk highway, the Eastern and Western trunk highways, the Central trunk highway, and there are also roads into the interior.
There are plans to constuct a Jungle Edge highway to give access to the interior.
In 1992 the World Bank granted a loan of US$ 266m to Colombia for the construction of 400km of new roads and the completion of 2000 km of roads begun under an earlier programme.
There are 118 main telephone lines per 1000 people (1996).

Inland waterways:




The Magdalena - Cauca river system is the centre of river traffic and is navigable for 687 km. The Orinoco system has more than five navigable rivers, which total more than 4000 km of potential navigation (mainly through Venezuala); the Amazonas system has four main rivers, which total 3000 navigable km. There are plans to connect the Arauca with the Meta, the Putamayo with the Amazon, and also to constuct an Atrato- Truando inter-oceanic canal.
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