After rejecting the treaty establishing American control, the Colombian government sent troops to Panama where, with American support, local forces revolted and won independence in 1903.

In the wake of this defeat, a president with dictatorial powers assumed office in Colombia during the following year, ushering in more than four decades of peace.

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Social problems worsened as the birth rate rose and farmers displaced by new technology moved to the cities, where they found their skills inapplicable in an industrial economy.

During the 1980s, producers of illegal drugs flourished, banded together in cartels, and threatened the country's political and social stability through campaigns of bombings, abductions, murders, and the assassinations of officials, judges, and newspaper editors.

During the years of the Spanish Main, the Caribbean port city of Cartagena (founded 1533) was a point of embarkation for shipments of gold and other minerals bound for Spain.

The Spanish relied increasingly on the labor of slaves to maintain the expanding colony, and Colombia soon had one of the largest African populations on the continent.

It embraces the northernmost point in South America, Point Gallinas, and is the only country on the continent with both Caribbean and Pacific coasts.

The Andes run the length of the country in three ranges called the Cordillera Occidental, the Cordillera Central, and the Cordillera Oriental, which comprise the highland core where most of the population lives.

Bolívar renamed the territory Greater Colombia and annexed Ecuador to it in 1822; political differences led Venezuela to secede in 1829, followed by Ecuador in 1830.

The 1830s were marked by the rise of the Partido Conservador and the Partido Liberal as the most powerful rivals in national politics.

After 1740 the colony formed the center of New Granada, a territory that included the greater part of what is now Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela.

A movement for independence from Spain began in 1810; in 1812 the territory came under the direction of Simón Bolívar, who waged a series of campaigns that ended with the surrender of the Spanish in 1819.

Several presidential candidates were assassinated before the election of 1990; victory nonetheless went to César Gaviria Trujillo, a well-known opponent of the drug trade.