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As of 1999, Colombia was still recovering from a recession that began in 1996.
In the face of an escalating social and political crisis, President Virgilio Barco Vargas launched a campaign in 1989 to suppress the drug trade, which resulted in hundreds of arrests, the confiscation of property worth millions of dollars, and violent retaliations by the cartels.
Hostilities between the Liberals and Conservatives led again to civil war in 1948, and in 1953 General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla seized power through a military coup; he was removed by the military in 1957 after Liberals and Conservatives joined together to oppose his regime, and political order was restored in 1958 when the two parties formed a coalition government, the National Front.
The 1830s were marked by the rise of the Partido Conservador and the Partido Liberal as the most powerful rivals in national politics.
The eastern plains, or llanos, account for 60 percent of the country's territory and are sparsely populated, as are the coastal lowlands.
To the southeast lie the undeveloped tropical rain-forests of the Amazon basin.
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.