On the surface, Colombia would appear to have the potential for greatness within the environs of the Western Hemisphere. With its capital in Bogotá, Colombia’s 2010 population of 44.2 million made it the fourth largest nation in Latin America. The country enjoys both ample resources and access to markets via the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, despite these advantages, Colombia has been beset by violence for much of its history. Some clashes have been political in nature. After achieving independence from Spain, the country oscillated between oligarchical rule and outright dictatorship. Violence employed in the service of state power is a common, well-established practice. Consequently, the rule of law has suffered. In the modern era, Colombia’s most recent constitution dates back to only 1991.

Economically, Colombia ...

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