Colombia has a diverse industry, which is geographically spread over the country, especially to the largest cities. The heavy industry has grown rapidly in recent decades. The country’s increasing oil and coal mining has been followed by growing production of iron, steel, cement, leather and plastics and other petrochemical products.
Colombia has five oil refineries, and a sixth is planned to be the first privately owned refinery in Latin America.
Gold and emeralds are important products in the mining industry, but much of the raw material is smuggled.
Industrialization in Colombia began in the 1920s with textile mills in the Medellín area. After World War II, the industry developed thanks to the large revenue from coffee exports.
The textile industry still has its center in Medellín. There is also a handicraft tradition known, among other things, for the Colombian hand-woven hammock or the village of Cartago embroideries with Spanish-Arab heritage.
The agricultural industry is significant, with coffee and cut flowers being the most internationally known products. In addition, there are industries for sugar, cooking oil, dairy and meat products. The brewery industry is extensive.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Colombia. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
Industrial policy has long been about making imports superfluous. In protection of high tariffs and other import barriers, for example, boat yards, petrochemical industry and the production of paper, glass, steel and lighter electronic equipment flourished. When the economy was opened to competition from the outside (see Economic overview), the industry was forced to modernize. Colombia has in recent years developed an IT industry, and has become a growing producer of international services from call centers.
The construction industry stagnated in the late 1990s, partly because the big drug mafias, which laundered money by investing in the construction sector, suffered defeat to the authorities. The government has since tried to stimulate housing construction to overcome unemployment and housing shortages.
Over 100 activists were murdered during the year
More than 100 activists working for human rights and decent working conditions were murdered in Colombia in 2017, the UN Human Rights Commissioner said. The killings have mainly been carried out in rural areas previously controlled by Farc. The UN has previously warned that armed groups are in control of such areas.
Leading criminal gang announces ceasefire
Colombia’s largest narcotic, the so-called Gulf Clan, announces a unilateral ceasefire and says all “offensive military actions” should cease. The play comes three months after gang leader Dario Úsuga said he is willing to surrender to the authorities (see September 11). Negotiations are reported to be ongoing on a handover. The Gulf Clan is estimated to have 1,500 active members and controls large portions of drug smuggling out of the country. The league also engages in extortion, illegal mining, human smuggling and murder.
The Liberals appoint a presidential candidate
The Liberal Party holds primary elections and appoints Humberto de la Calle as its candidate in the May 2018 presidential election.
The EU removes Farc from the terrorist list
Finally, the European Union completely removes the former guerrilla Farc from its list of terrorist organizations. Already in September 2016 – the day after the peace agreement was signed – the EU decided to “suspend” Farc from its terrorist list, which the group has been in since 2002. Now Farc is permanently deleted.
Huge seizure of cocaine
Police find just over 13 tonnes of cocaine, in the largest single seizure made in the country. The drug hidden on four banana plantations in the north is said to belong to Dario Úsuga, leader of the Gulf of Clan. The value is estimated at $ 360 million.
UN support will reduce coca cultivation
The government enters into an agreement with the UN agency UNODC to stop farmers from coking cultivation and instead switch to crops such as coffee and cocoa. The settlement includes $ 315 million and is seen as an important step in increasing the chances that the peace agreement will last. Colombia is estimated to have around 120,000 families dependent on coca cultivation for their living.
Ex-guerrilla leader in the presidential election
Former guerrilla leader Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño is running for president of the Farc party in the 2018 election. His vice presidential candidate will be Imelda Daza, who has lived in exile in Sweden for many years.
DC wants to vote against the peace agreement
Ex-President Uribe’s Democratic Center Party is reported to have started collecting signatures to demand the government’s peace treaty with Farc be withdrawn. DC needs 1.7 million signatures that must be collected in six months.
HD strike strengthens peace agreement
The Supreme Court decides that laws pertaining to the peace treaty with Farc and approved by Congress must not be changed in the next twelve years. Thus, during the next three terms of office, presidents are prevented from modifying already approved parts of the peace agreement. It is important for the agreement’s survival, especially if the Democratic Center wins a presidential election. But not all parts of the peace agreement are in port, Santos is finding it increasingly difficult to get the support of the government coalition needed to pass the necessary laws.
The farc issue wounds split in the government
Three former guerrilla leaders formally apply for Farc to be registered as a political party by the National Electoral Council (CNE), which is expected to make its decision within a few weeks. But the legislation required for the party to stand in the 2018 election is not yet in place and creates disagreement within the government. Germán Vargas Lleras of Radical Change (CR) questions, among other things, whether the members of one of the new special courts are truly impartial, and decides to withdraw his two ministers from the ruling coalition (one of them, however, remains in office). The week before, Santos had issued an ultimatum to his ministers that those who do not support the peace process should leave the government.
The UN monitors the ceasefire between the government and the ELN
The UN Security Council approves the UN intervention group to monitor the ceasefire between the government and the left-wing guerrilla ELN. This is done after a request from the Colombian government. The UN will also send 70 international observers to Colombia. The Catholic Church also participates in the work of monitoring peace.
ELN and the government launch a truce
The ceasefire between the left guerrilla ELN and the government army takes effect. ELN leader Nicolás Rodríguez urges his rebels to observe the ceasefire, and President Santos has signed a decree that government forces should not attack the ELN. The left-wing guerrillas have been accused of stepping up their activities before the ceasefire, including kidnappings and attacks on oil pipelines. Now it is committed to stop taking people hostage, recruiting minors, using land mines and attacking oil pipelines and other infrastructure. The government, for its part, has promised to improve the conditions in the prisons for the approximately 450 ELN prisoners who are there, and strengthen the protection of local leaders.
Leader of Farc jumpers is killed
Euclides Mora, the leader of a group of former Farcrebeller who refused to agree to the peace agreement with the government, was killed in an air raid in Guaviare province, according to the Department of Defense. The military claims that he was involved in drug dealing and was killed in connection with a jungle operation. Farc broke with Mora and four other former Farc commanders (mid-level) in December.
New Valallians are formed
Several smaller parties come together in an election alliance, Coalition Colombia (Coalición Colombia), ahead of the spring 2018 elections. Representatives of the Green Party, Civil Engagement (Compromiso Ciudadano) and the Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo) say they will appoint a joint candidate in the presidential election.
Farc’s tribute to killed leaders receives criticism
A tribute to a former Farc leader raises criticism. About 200 people gather in Bogotá since Farc invited to the ceremony to pay tribute to Jorge “Mono Jojoy” Briceno (see September 2010), who is described as a person who defended the simple people. Among politicians who criticize the ceremony are Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón, who calls it a way to justify crimes. 62 arrest warrants for murder, kidnapping and terrorism had been issued for Mono Jojoy before he was killed in an air raid. He was also wanted for drug smuggling and kidnapping in the United States.
Santos rejects Trump’s criticism of the drug issue
In his last speech before the UN General Assembly, President Santos portrays Colombia as one of the few success stories in the news flow. But he also spends part of his speech to counter US President Donald Trump’s claim that Colombia has not done enough to combat drug trafficking. Santos emphasizes, among other things, that the Colombian authorities made considerably more seizures of cocaine than their American counterparts. Trump had said earlier in September that he had considered withdrawing some of the support for Colombia’s drug fight, but that he had decided not to. The reason for his statement is that the production of boil has increased in Colombia in recent years. This is due to several things: that in the fall of 2015, Santos decided to stop using plant poison to destroy the plants,
Statistics from the Ministry of Defense show how the number of attacks against security forces, the civilian population and power lines has decreased since the government and Farc made peace. In 2012, 894 incidents were registered, in 2016 the number had fallen to 212. In the first seven months of 2017, 86 incidents were reported. The left-wing guerrilla ELN is suspected for most of the death, but some are also believed to have been carried out by criminal groups. According to Gaula, the intervention force against kidnappings, ELN accounted for about a tenth of the 207 kidnappings carried out in 2016, and about the same proportion of the 114 kidnappings carried out between January and July 2017.
Högermilis wants peace talks with the government
Members of the Gulf Clan are considering submitting themselves to the authorities (see also August 2017). Commander Dario Úsuga contacts the government with hopes for new peace talks. He says the group is prepared to give up all illegal activities: drug trafficking (the Gulf Clan is one of the leading suppliers of cocaine to markets in the US and Europe), human trafficking, blackmail and kidnapping. A similar initiative was taken in 2015 without any progress being made. The American think tank Stratfor warns in an analysis that the violence in Colombia is likely to increase if the Gulf Clan – and for that matter even the leftist guerrilla ELN – dissolves, as new conflicts learn to flare up when defectors from the group and other leagues compete to fill the void that arises..
The Pope calls for peace and reconciliation
During his five-day visit to Colombia, Pope attracts Francis to large crowds. At several outdoor fairs – in Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellín and Cartagena de Indias – each attracting between 600,000 and 1 million participants, he urges the Colombians to work for peace, reconciliation and social justice. In Villavicencio, he holds a prayer meeting, in which formerly guerrilla members, 6,000 people affected by violence during the conflict and people from the security forces. Francis ‘visit, the first pope to make in Colombia, is considered to strengthen President Santos’ camp ahead of the May 2018 elections, while it is seen as a setback for rival Álvaro Uribe. In connection with the visit, two Colombian priests, Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve, who was murdered in 1989 by ELN after he criticized the guerrilla abuse, are blamed, and Pedro Maria Ramírez, who was murdered in connection with the wave of violence that began in 1948. According to authorities, crime drops by 70 percent during the visitation.
The government and the ELN agree on a ceasefire
The left-wing guerrilla ELN and the Colombian government for the first time agree on a ceasefire, from October 1 to January. According to a statement from ELN, Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Colombia has given the parties extra motivation to agree.
Farc holds its first party congress
Farc is officially transformed into a political party, under the name Alternative Common Revolutionary Force, which will continue to be abbreviated Farc, with a red rose as a party symbol. 1,200 delegates will gather in Bogotá for the party’s first congress to nominate candidates for the 2018 elections.
King of drugs is killed by security forces
President Santos announces via Twitter that the second highest leader in the drug league called the Gulf Clan, Roberto Vargas Gutiérrez (“Gavilán”), has been killed. A price of the equivalent of $ 170,000 was on his head. Golf club leader Dario Antonio Úsuga (“Otoniel”) is the country’s most wanted man, the United States has promised him $ 5 million. The security forces are pursuing the Gulf Klan intensively and stated in June that more than 50 leaders were killed this year. In addition, 1,300 gang members are said to have been arrested, which is said to have halved the number of members on a free foot to around 1,500.
Farc becomes a political party
Thousands of former guerrillas have gathered to form a political party and decide to keep the name Farc – but the abbreviation should now be interpreted as Fuerza’s alternative revolucionaria del común (Alternative Joint Revolutionary Force).
Farc hands over the last weapons
President Santos calls it “the last breath of civil war” when guerrillas surrender their last weapons under UN surveillance, in a camp in La Guajira in the north. Farc has also provided the UN with information on hundreds of places where weapons are hidden, some of them in remote jungle areas. The UN is now mandated to collect these weapons until September 1, after which it will be the military’s job.
The UN shall monitor peace
The UN Security Council votes to establish a new intervention group with the mission to monitor the peace process in Colombia. The intervention group will be in place in September 2017.
Amnesty for 3,600 Farc members
President Santos signed a decree which gives impunity (amnesty) to 3 600 members of the FARC guerrillas. This is the third time a mass amnesty has been issued for former guerrillas, in accordance with the peace agreement. In total, more than 7,000 members of Farc have been granted amnesty or released from prison for integration into society.
The head of the anti-corruption authority is suspected of bribery
The head of the country’s anti-corruption authority, Luis Gustavo Moreno Rivera, is arrested. He, along with a lawyer, is suspected of money laundering and attempted bribery. The two must have traveled to the United States to receive a bribe from a Colombian politician, who was in fact working as an information officer for the government. The men were requested to be extradited to the United States at the request of a Miami court.
Farc has left
The Fargo guerrilla is now disarmed. The guerrillas have surrendered more than 7,000 weapons. The process ends the day before the deadline expires. At the same time, the UN continues to empty a number of arms hides in the countryside. This process is expected to take longer. To date, 77 of about 900 weapons hides have been found and emptied.
Two Dutch journalists abducted in the northeastern part of the country are being held by the ELN, authorities say. The kidnapping has taken place in the same area where three journalists were held in May 2016. The journalists are released just over a week later.
Terrorism in Bogotá
17th of June
Three women are killed in an explosion that, according to authorities, was caused by a terrorist act. Eleven people are injured in the explosion which is said to have occurred on the ladies’ toilet inside a business mall in Bogotá. One of the three victims is a 23-year-old Frenchwoman who volunteered at a school.
The government and Farc agree to extend the deadline for handing over weapons by 20 days. The message comes the day before what was otherwise the deadline. Farc’s leaders requested an extended deadline as it expired on time before the disarmament camps were ready. President Santos also announces that the time the rebels can stay in the camps is extended until August 1.
ELN kidnaps eight people
The government accuses ELN of having carried away eight people in a boat, in a remote part of the Chocó department in the west. A large rescue effort is initiated in the area. A new round of talks is scheduled to start in Ecuador next week, but government chief negotiator Juan Camilo Restrepo tweets that kidnapping represents a “huge” obstacle to continued negotiations. After a couple of days, President Santos states that the eight people are free again, thanks to “pressure from the public”.
Heavy landslide in the southwest
Over 300 people have died since heavy rains triggered landslides that bury parts of the city of Mocoa in the Putomayo department. Farc offers to help with the reconstruction. The government promises humanitarian aid and calls for an “economic, social and ecological” emergency.
The Vice President resigns
Vice President Germán Vargas Lleras resigns to be a candidate for Radical Change in the 2018 presidential election. New Vice President becomes former National Police Chief Óscar Naranjo who participated in the peace talks with Farc.
ELN takes on bombing
ELN claims to have been behind an explosion against a bullfighting arena in Bogotá on February 19, which claimed the life of a police officer and injured over 20 people. The attack represents a severe setback to the peace talks, which had begun almost two weeks earlier. The ELN also attacks a military patrol on February 14, when two soldiers were wounded, and several blast attacks against the Cano Limón Covenas oil pipeline.
Corruption suspicions against Santos
Prosecutors say Santos is suspected of receiving a bribe from corruption-accused Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in connection with his reelection campaign in 2014. A former Colombian congressman, Otto Bula, has been singled out in the huge rally around Odebrecht. He is supposed to have made two transfers totaling $ 1 million in 2014, in connection with helping Odebrecht with a contract for a road project. The money should have benefited Santos in the end
Peace talks with ELN begin
Negotiators from the government and left-wing guerrilla ELN begin peace talks in Ecuador’s capital Quito. In addition to Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Norway and Venezuela are in charge of the talks.
ELN releases the last prisoner
Left-wing guerrillas ELN release Odín Sánchez (see October 2016) and thus negotiations with the government are expected to begin within a few days.
Farc initiates disarmament process
The members of the guerrillas begin to gather in the demobilization zones in what is seen as the beginning of a historic process after the long war. About 4,500 rebels have gathered in or near any of the 26 camps until the end of the month, with the remaining just over 2,000 expected within a couple of days. No incidents are reported from what is called “Farc’s last march”.
Activist leaders killed
30th of January
Seventeen leaders in groups working for social and civil rights are reported to have been murdered in the past two months, since the peace treaty was signed, reports a state agency working on conflict resolution. Santos has warned that the violence poses a threat to the disputed peace process.
French President meets Farc leader
French President Franҫois Hollande is on a state visit and, together with his colleague Santos, moves to a rural camp in western Colombia, where they both meet Farc leaders. Hollande offers French support for mine clearance and the search for missing persons. France accounts for around one fifth of the EU’s financial support for the peace process.
A UN envoy states that the disarmament of the approximately 6,000 Farcs soldiers can be launched within a few weeks, and that the process may be completed in early June. The focus of the work on the peace process is currently to set up the 26 UN-supervised camps that are currently in place, in which the rebels will gather and surrender their weapons. One-third of the camps are being built and preparations are underway for one-third, but difficulties remain with regard to the remainder, the envoy Jean Arnault told the Security Council. Around 350 of the 450 supposed UN monitors are in place. Some rebellion arose earlier when Colombian media showed pictures of UN representatives dancing with Farc members at a New Year’s party. Four UN monitors have been allowed to return to their home countries.