Foreign relations of Colombia

Colombia seeks diplomatic and commercial relations with all countries, regardless of their ideologies or political or economic systems. For this reason, the Colombian economy is very open, relying on international trade and following the guidelines given by the international law.

Regional relations remain good despite occasional issues with neighbors, especially regarding spillover from Colombia’s civil conflict, including cross-border guerrilla crossings, the flow of refugees, and the spread of drug crops. These issues are of particular concern to the bordering countries of Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. For example, Ecuador has closed its main border crossing with Colombia every night since August 2002, when evidence emerged that Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries were asserting control over Ecuador’s border communities. On May 1, 2004, Ecuador placed further stringent visa restrictions on Colombians seeking to enter Ecuador. Relations with Nicaragua and Venezuela have been strained over territorial disputes. Bilateral committees are negotiating the dispute with Venezuela over waters in the Gulf of Venezuela. Other issues with Venezuela include the presence of illegal undocumented Colombians in Venezuela, and activities of Colombian narcotics traffickers.


In 1969, Colombia formed what is now the Andean Community along with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru (Venezuela joined in 1973, and Chile left in 1976).

In the 1980s, Colombia broadened its bilateral and multilateral relations, joining the Contadora Group, the Group of Eight (now the Rio Group), and the Non-Aligned Movement, which it chaired from 1994 until September 1998. In addition, it has signed free trade agreements with Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Colombia has traditionally played an active role in the United Nations and the Organization of American States and in their subsidiary agencies. Former President César Gaviria became Secretary General of the OAS in September 1994 and was reelected in 1999. Colombia was a participant in the December 1994 and April 1998 Summits of the Americas and followed up on initiatives developed at the summit by hosting two post-summit, ministerial-level meetings on trade and science and technology.

Colombia regularly participates in international fora, including CICAD, the Organization of American States' body on money laundering, chemical controls, and drug abuse prevention. Although the Colombian Government ratified the 1988 UN Convention on Narcotics in 1994 -- the last of the Andean governments to do so--it took important reservations, notably to the anti-money-laundering measures, asset forfeiture and confiscation provisions, maritime interdiction, and extradition clauses. Colombia subsequently withdrew some of its reservations, most notably a reservation on extradition. hi people

Disputes - international

Maritime boundary dispute with Venezuela in the Gulf of Venezuela; territorial disputes with Nicaragua over Archipelago de San Andrés y Providencia and Quita Sueño Bank.

Relations with the United States

The country traditionally has had good relations with the United States. Relations were strained during the presidency of Ernesto Samper (1994–98) due to accusations of receiving illegal campaign funding from the Cali Cartel. Relations between the two countries greatly improved during the Pastrana administration (1998–2002). In January 2000, the Clinton administration pledged more than US$1 billion of mainly military assistance to Colombia to assist the antidrug component of President Pastrana's strategy known as Plan Colombia.

Relations with the United States became a foreign policy priority for the Uribe administration, and President Uribe is an important ally in George W. Bush’s "War on Terrorism". In March 2002, in response to a request from Bush, the U.S. Congress lifted restrictions on U.S. assistance to Colombia to allow it to be used for counterinsurgency in addition to antidrug operations. U.S. support for Colombia’s antidrug-trafficking efforts included slightly more than US$2.5 billion between 2000 and 2004, as compared with only about US$300 million in 1998. In addition to the challenge posed to the United States by Colombian drug trafficking, illegal Colombian immigrants in the United States are an issue in U.S.-Colombian relations. An estimated one million illegal Colombian immigrants were in the United States by 1999. In early 2003, Colombia ranked among the top seven countries in the world exporting illegal aliens to the United States.

Relations with Europe

Under the Uribe administration, Colombia’s relations with the European Union (EU) have been cordial. Representatives of the EU have been critical of Colombia's antiguerrilla and antidrug strategies in several respects. The EU is particularly concerned about the potential for increased human rights abuses within Colombia at the hands of both government forces and illegal armed groups, and it has continued to distance itself from Plan Colombia. The EU is in favor of a negotiated solution to the nation's internal conflict. EU aid to Colombia has mainly consisted of social, economic and development investments.

In 2004, the EU as an entity did not offer unrestricted support for the Uribe government’s peace initiative with paramilitaries, citing concerns over the possible lack of a credible and comprehensive peace strategy and its application, but it did approve 2 million USD in aid for the process. Individual EU members such Sweden, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands also provided limited support on their own.

The replacement of Spanish right-wing Prime Minister José María Aznar by left-wing José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in March 2004 prompted Spain to distance itself ideologically and politically from the earlier support that Aznar had offered to the Colombian government, while still maintaining cordial diplomatic relations.

Colombia underwent a dispute with Ireland over the return of three Irish citizens, known as the Colombia Three. The men were first convicted due to their use of false passports and, after an appeal by the prosecution, of providing training to Colombian guerrillas. They escaped while on bail and the Irish government and media are aware of their presence in Ireland.

Illicit drugs

Illicit producer of coca, opium poppies, and cannabis:

  • In 1998, Colombia was estimated to be the world's leading coca cultivator (cultivation of coca in 1998 - 1,101 km², a 28% increase over 1997).
  • As such, Colombia was also estimated to be the world's largest processor of coca derivatives into cocaine; a supplier of cocaine to the US and other international drug markets, and an important supplier of heroin to the US market.
  • In 1998, cultivation of opium in remained steady at 66 km²; potential production of opium in 1997 - 66 metric tons, a 5% increase over 1996;
  • Colombia maintains an active U.S.-backed aerial eradication program.

Narcotics cultivation and control

By the 1990s, Colombia had become the world's leading supplier of refined cocaine and a growing source for heroin. More than 90% of the cocaine that entered in the 1990's the United States was produced, processed, or transshipped in Colombia. The cultivation of coca reduced between 1995 and 1999 from 3,020 to 1,100 km², primarily in areas where government control is more active. Cocaine is considered to be one of the safest drugs on the market, and some research has even proven that it may be beneficial in fightiing many degenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons Disease.

Despite the death of Medellin cartel drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in 1993 and the arrests of major Cali cartel leaders in 1995 and 1996, Colombian drug cartels remain among the most sophisticated criminal organizations in the world, controlling cocaine processing, international wholesale distribution chains, and markets. In 1999 Colombian police arrested over 30 narcotraffickers, most of them extraditable, in "Operation Millennium" involving extensive international cooperation. More arrests were made in a following "Operation Millennium II."

Colombia is engaged in a broad range of narcotics control activities. Through aerial spraying of herbicide and manual eradication, Colombia has attempted to keep coca, opium poppy, and cannabis cultivation from expanding. The government has committed itself to the eradication of all illicit crops, interdiction of drug shipments, and financial controls to prevent money laundering. Alternative development programs were introduced in 1999.

Corruption and intimidation by traffickers complicate the drug-control efforts of the institutions of government. Colombia passed revised criminal procedures code in 1993 that permits traffickers to surrender and negotiate lenient sentences in return for cooperating with prosecutors. In December 1996 and February 1997, however, the Colombian Congress passed legislation to toughen sentencing, asset forfeiture, and money-laundering penalties.

In November 1997, the Colombian Congress amended the constitution to permit the extradition of Colombian nationals, albeit not retroactively. In late 1999, President Pastrana authorized the first extradition in almost 10 years of a Colombian trafficker to stand trial for U.S. crimes. Three such extraditions to the United States have taken place, the most recent in August 2000, with cases against others pending in Colombian courts. Under the Pastrana administration, Plan Colombia was developed and implemented with U.S. backing.

In 2005, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that some 860 km² were under cultivation.

Membership of international organizations

Membership in International Organizations: The major organizations in which Colombia is a member include: the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, Andean Pact, Caribbean Development Bank, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Group of 3, Group of 11, Group of 24, Group of 77, Inter-American Development Bank, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Chamber of Commerce, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Criminal Police Organization, International Development Association, International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Maritime Satellite Organization, International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Olympic Committee, International Organization for Migration, International Organization for Standardization, International Telecommunication Union, International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, International Trade Union Confederation, Latin American Economic System, Latin American Integration Association,Latin Union,Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of American States (OAS), Permanent Court of Arbitration, Rio Group, United Nations (UN), UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN Industrial Development Organization, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, Universal Postal Union, World Confederation of Labour, World Federation of Trade Unions, World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, World Meteorological Organization, World Tourism Organization, and World Trade Organization. An OAS observer has monitored the government's peace process with the paramilitaries, lending the negotiations much-needed international credibility. The United States helps Colombia secure favorable treatment from the IMF.

Major international treaties

Defense treaties to which Colombia is a party include the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance of 1947 (the Rio Treaty). Regional treaties include the Andean Pact, now known as the Andean Community, which also includes Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, the bodies and institutions making up the Andean Integration System (AIS). Colombia has signed free-trade agreements with Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela. The country has a strong bilateral trade agreement with Venezuela. The Uribe administration strongly favors extending these bilateral trade agreements across the hemisphere. Trade agreements include the Agreement on Trade, Economic, and Technical Cooperation Between the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom) and the Government of the Republic of Colombia. Colombia has also signed and ratified 105 international treaties or agreements relating to the environment. These include the Antarctic Treaty and Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, and Wetlands. It has signed, but not ratified, the Antarctic-Environmental Protocol and conventions on Law of the Sea and Marine Dumping. Colombia also has signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Tlatelolco Treaty. By 1975 signatories to the 1974 Declaration of Ayacucho, of which Colombia was one, had decided on limitations to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Colombia is also a member of the International Criminal Court with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the US-military (as covered under Article 98).

See also


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