Country Listing

Colombia Table of Contents



Government: Under 1886 Constitution, executive, legislative, and judicial branches established with separation of powers and with checks and balances; nonetheless, executive retained strong policy-making authority. Chief executive is president of republic, elected by direct popular vote for four-year term and constitutionally probibited from seeking consecutive terms. Legislative authority vested in bicameral Congress consisting of 114-member Senate and 199-member House of Representatives. Congress popularly elected for four-year term. Judiciary consists of twenty-four-member Supreme Court; various district superior, circuit, municipal, and lower courts; and Council of State. In addition to national government, Colombia divided into twenty-three departments, four intendancies, and five commisaryships.

Politics: Virgilio Barco Vargas of Liberal Party (Partido Liberal) elected president in May 1986, succeeding Belisario Betancur Cuartas of Social Conservative Party (Partido Social Conservador), until July 1987 known as Conservative Party (Partido Conservador). Political institutions dominated since mid-nineteenth century by Liberals and Conservatives. Both parties characterized by factional rivalries in late 1980s. Minor parties included leftist Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica). Political system challenged in late 1980s by various leftist guerrilla movements and by narcotics traffickers linked to rightist paramilitary groups. Four major guerrilla organizations--Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia--FARC), National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional--ELN), Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación--EPL), and 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril--M-19)--and several smaller guerrilla groups operated in 1988. Narcotics traffickers sponsored assassinations of numerous government officials and politicians.

International Relations: Generally adopted low profile, relying on international law and regional and international security organizations. Good relations with United States. Relations with Venezuela strained over border disputes, presence of undocumented Colombians in Venezuela, and activities of Colombian narcotics traffickers and guerrillas.

International Agreements and Membership: Party to InterAmerican Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) and Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Tlatelolco Treaty). Also a member of numerous organizations, including Organization of American States, United Nations and its specialized agencies, World Bank, Latin American Integration Association, and Nonaligned Movement.

Data as of December 1988