Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia,
is in northwestern South America. Colombia is bordered by Venezuela, Brazil,
Ecuador, Peru and Panama. Colombia
also faces the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
With over 45 million people, Colombia
has the second largest population in South America.
The territory of what is now "Colombia" was originally
inhabited by indigenous people including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. The
Spanish arrived in 1499 and initiated a period of conquest and colonization
creating the Viceroyalty of New Granada (comprising modern-day Colombia, Venezuela,
Ecuador, the northwest
region of Brazil and Panama) with
its capital in Bogotá. Independence from Spain was won in 1819, but by 1830 "Gran Colombia" had collapsed with the secession
of Venezuela and Ecuador.
What is now Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada.
The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858),
and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia
was finally declared in 1886. Panama
seceded in 1903 under pressure to fulfill financial responsibilities towards
the United States government
to build the Panama Canal.
Colombia has a long tradition of constitutional government. The Liberal
and Conservative parties, founded in 1848 and 1849 respectively, are two of the
oldest surviving political parties in the Americas. However, tensions between
the two have frequently erupted into violence, most notably in the Thousand
Days War (1899–1902) and La Violencia, beginning in 1948. Since the 1960s, government
forces, left-wing insurgents and right-wing paramilitaries have been engaged in
the continent's longest-running armed conflict. Fuelled by the cocaine trade,
this escalated dramatically in the 1980s. Nevertheless, in the recent decade
(2000s) the violence has decreased significantly. Many paramilitary groups have
demobilized as part of a controversial peace process with the government, and
the guerrillas have lost control in many areas where they once dominated.