Editor's note: The announcement that DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart is to retire follows a House hearing, last week, in which committee members expressed outrage about her handling of reports about DEA stationed in Colombia. - Tom
Colombia (/kəˈlʌmbiə/ kə-LUM-biə, or /kəˈlɒmbiə/ kə-LOM-biə), officially the Republic of Colombia (Spanish: República de Colombia [reˈpuβlika ðe koˈlombja]), is a country situated in the northwest of South America, bordered to the northwest by Panama; to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; and it shares maritime limits with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Haiti. It is a unitary, constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments.
The territory of what is now Colombia was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. The Spanish arrived in 1499 and initiated a period of conquest and colonization ultimately creating the Viceroyalty of New Granada, with its capital at 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.
Since the 1960s, the country has suffered from an asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict. The conflict escalated in the 1990s, but since 2000 the conflict has decreased considerably.
Colombia is ethnically diverse, the descendants of the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, Africans originally brought to the country as slaves, and 20th-century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East have produced a diverse cultural heritage. This has also been influenced by Colombia's varied geography, and the imposing landscape of the country has resulted in the development of very strong regional identities. The majority of the urban centres are located in the highlands of the Andes mountains, but Colombian territory also encompasses Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines.
Ecologically, Colombia is one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries, and is considered the most megadiverse per square kilometer. Colombia is a middle power with the third largest economy in Latin America,, is part of the CIVETS group of six leading emerging markets and is an accessing member to the OECD. Its principal industries include oil, mining, chemicals, health related products, food processing, agricultural products, textile and fabrics, garments, forest products, machinery, electronics, military products, metal products, home and office material, construction equipment and materials, banking, financial services, software, IT services and the automotive industry.