Eye on Latin America: Columbia

Sugar cane field outside of Cali, Columbia
After visiting Colombia, one can’t help but leave with the impression that the future for Latin America’s second-largest economy is as fresh and green as the Colombian countryside. Certainly, like the rest of Latin America, Colombia has had its political, economic and social challenges. However, the current leadership of President Alvaro Uribe, along with substantial investment in Colombia’s industrial and economic infrastructure in recent decades, positions Colombia as a very important trading partner for the United States, Canada and many other countries around the world.
Colombia has all of the ingredients needed to be a significant player within the global economy, not to mention a leading player within the confectionery industry: a wealth of natural resources; a labor force that is well trained in the skills necessary for industrial operation; a well developed transportation and shipping infrastructure; an attractive tariff structure; and access to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, allowing inexpensive shipping to the United States, Colombia’s largest trading partner.
One of Colombia’s most crippling challenges in recent decades has been guerrilla activity that was born out of divisions in the two main political parties—the Liberals and the Conservatives. In the years between 1949 and 1953, tremendous inter-party struggles came to a head. The Conservatives con-trolled the government and the military. There were violent attacks on the Liberals. In retaliation, the Liberals organized guerrilla armies. By the mid-1950s, many of the guerilla groups were growing increasingly independent from the  Liberal party and were emerging as an armed wing of the Communist party.
The instability that these groups have caused over the decades has been tremendously devastating for both the Colombian people and Colombian economic development.
President Alvaro Uribe has taken a zero tolerance approach to guerilla activity. As a result, Colombian cities and industrial areas have become much, much safer.  This dedication to security has been a key factor in fostering Colombia’s economic growth.  
Although many multi-national companies across a variety of industries have been operating manufacturing facilities in Colombia for well over three decades, the added security and drastic reduction in guerilla violence has substantially helped to reposition Colombia as a very desirable destination for manufacturers and large purchasers of many types of consumer and industrial goods.
Colombia at a Glance
Current President: Alvaro Uribe
Government Type: Constitutional Democracy
Currency: Colombian Peso
Exchange Rate: 1.00 USD = 2,344.50 Colombian Pesos (April 22, 2005)
Economic Growth: 4.12% growth in 2004
Unemployment: 3.3% reduction in unemployment 2002 – 2005 YTD
Population: 42,310,775 (July 2004 estimate)
Main Ports: Bahia de Portete, Barranquilla, Buenaventura, Cartagena, Leticia, Puerto Bolivar, Santa Marta, Tumaco, Turbo
Primary Exports: Petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, gold, copper, emeralds, hydropower, commercial crops (coffee, sugarcane, cotton, bananas, palm oil, tobacco), processed foods, textiles, cement, chemicals and pharmaceuticals
Geographic Location: Colombia is bordered by Panama and the Caribbean Sea on the north, Venezuela and Brazil on the east, Ecuador and Peru on the south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west.