Colombia, republic in South America, situated in the northwestern part of the continent, and bounded on the north by Panama and the Caribbean Sea, on the east by Venezuela and Brazil, on the south by Peru and Ecuador, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Colombia is the only country of South America with coasts on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The total land area of the country is 1,141,748 sq km (440,831 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Bogotá.
IILAND AND RESOURCES The distinguishing topographical feature of Colombia is the Andes mountain chain, situated in the central and western parts of the country, and extending north-south across almost its entire length. The Andes comprise three principal and parallel ranges: the Cordillera Oriental, the Cordillera Central, and the Cordillera Occidental. On the Caribbean coast is the isolated mountain mass known as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which includes Colombia's highest point at Pico Cristóbal Colón (5776 m/18,950 ft). The Cordillera Central contains the volcanic peaks of Huila (5750 m/ 18,865 ft) and Tolima (5616 m/ 18,425 ft). About 240 km (about 150 mi) south of the Caribbean, the Cordillera Central descends to marshy jungle. The cordillera peaks are perpetually covered with snow; the timberline in these mountains lies at about 3000 m (about 10,000 ft).
East of the Cordillera Oriental are vast reaches of torrid lowlands, thinly populated and only partly explored. The southern portion of this region, called selvas (rain forests), is thickly forested and is drained by the Caquetá River and other tributaries of the Amazon River. The northern and greater part of the region comprises vast plains, or llanos, and is traversed by the Meta and other tributaries of the Orinoco River. Between the cordilleras are high plateaus, a number of which are about 2400 m (about 8000 ft) above sea level, and fertile valleys, traversed by the principal rivers of the country. The principal river of Colombia, the Magdalena, flows north between the Cordillera Oriental and the Cordillera Central, across practically the entire country, emptying into the Caribbean near Barranquilla after a course of about 1540 km (about 960 mi). The Cauca, also an important means of communication, flows north between the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera Occidental, merging with the Magdalena about 320...
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...mber and December anti-guerilla vigilante groups killed 73 people suspected of being guerilla sympathizers.
During 1997 guerillas sporadically attacked remote government outposts. They launched a campaign of violence and intimidation in October aimed at preventing voters from participating in municipal and regional elections. Paramilitary squads launched a counter-campaign of violence, raiding a number of villages and executing individuals suspected of supporting guerilla activities. In March 1998 FARC forces ambushed elite government troops in a remote southern jungle region, killing about 70 soldiers in the worst government defeat in the 35 years since guerilla hostilities began.
Government sources estimated that more than 41,000 Colombians-mostly poor farmers-fled their homes to escape the growing violence between guerillas and paramilitary units. The government and Colombia's second largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) agreed in early 1998 to open peace negotiations. However, the future of negotiations remained questionable following the death in February of 62-year-old ELN leader Manuel Perez, a former priest who had led the rebel group for 25 years.
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