Colombia has been home to many indigenous peoples and cultures since at least 12,000 BCE. The Spanish first landed in La Guajira in 1499, and by the mid-16th century they had explored and colonized much of present-day Colombia, and established the New Kingdom of Granada, with Santa Fé de Bogotá as its capital. Independence from the Spanish Empire was achieved in 1819, with what is now Colombia emerging as the United Provinces of New Granada. The new polity experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858) and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before becoming a republic—the current Republic of Colombia—in 1886. With the backing of the United States and France, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, resulting in Colombia's present borders. Beginning in the 1960s, the country has suffered from an asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict and political violence, both of which escalated in the 1990s. Since 2005, there has been significant improvement in security, stability and rule of law, as well as unprecedented economic growth and development.Colombia is one of the world's seventeen megadiverse countries; it has the second-highest level of biodiversity in the world. Its territory encompasses Amazon rainforest, highlands, grasslands and deserts. It is the only country in South America with coastlines and islands along both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Colombia is a member of major global and regional organizations including the UN, the WTO, the OECD, the OAS, the Pacific Alliance and the Andean Community; it is also a NATO Global Partner. Its diversified economy is the third-largest in South America, with macroeconomic stability and favorable long-term growth prospects. However, Colombia struggles with ideological divisions, widespread corruption, drug trafficking and other forms of criminal activities.
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