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Colombia

Colombia is a Latin American country located at the crossroads of the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Andes. Its capital is Bogotá, with other major cities including Medellín and Cali. The climate is tropical, as Colombia is very close to the equator, but it has significant highland areas where the altitude makes the temperature cooler than latitude would imply (Bogotá itself, for example, has a cool and typically grey climate).

Colombia’s government is known for being the closest ally of the USA in Latin America. In its entire modern history, up until June 2022, it had only ever had right-wing governments. Colombia has had a long history of massacring trade union and indigenous activists (for example, the massacre Gabriel García Márquez fictionalised in One Hundred Years of Solitude). In the 1980s and 1990s, Colombia went through a period of intense violence and effectively lawlessness, as mafiosos like Pablo Escobar wielded immense power and influence. The US and Colombian governments, however, preferred to blame left-wing militants like FARC for Colombia’s centrality in the drug trade (perhaps to conceal the reality that, to a large extent, these right-wing Colombian governments were actively fuelling the drug trade). The US used the War on Drugs as a pretext to fund Colombian paramilitaries to murder left-wingers en masse; in many cases the dead were totally unaffiliated with FARC, but simply indigenous farmers who the paramilitaries claimed were FARC militants (and sometimes staged photos of to backup their claims – no serious investigations were conducted, at least not until years later). In any case, the right-wing paramilitaries were trafficking far more drugs than the left-wing ones were, sometimes even in the CIA’s own planes.

Recent Colombian leaders include Andrés Pastrana (1998–2002), who tried to find a resolution to the drug trafficking issue that acknowledged rural poverty as a leading cause of the problem before being overruled by the US; Álvaro Uribe (2002–2010), who threw out his predecessor’s efforts to negotiate peace with FARC and instead massively ramped up military and paramilitary violence against rural communities; Juan Manuel Santos (2010–2018), who had served in Uribe’s government but took a more conciliatory line and negotiated peace with FARC; and Iván Duque (2018–2022), who wanted a return to Uribe-style hardline right-wing politics and was characterised by his duplicity, feigning commitment to international agreements abroad while criticising the peace process and announcing policies to worsen climate change at home. Duque also refused to do anything about Col­om­bia’s staggering wealth inequality, causing mass protests in 2021 that he brutally suppressed, with police killing dozens of protesters.

In June 2022, Colombia elected its first ever left-wing president, Gustavo Petro (formerly mayor of Bogotá). His running mate and now vice president is Francia Márquez, of Afro-Caribbean background.

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