Colombia Puts Cocaine Capital Stigma Behind It, Economy Expands

Colombia’s days of narcos, drugs and warfare have faded. Once the battleground of Pablo Escobar for his drug war, Colombia is shedding its cocaine capital image countering it with a growing economy, closer ties to the U.S. and taking steps to bring to an end its decade’s old civil war.

The country is hosting the 2016 World Economic Forum for all of Latin America. Current Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday said that the end of the country’s armed conflict would help contribute to economic progress across the region.

Santos is a former journalist who studied at Harvard and is close to President Barack Obama. The two met during February and President Obama pledged to give Colombia $450 million for the peace deal to end the 50-year bloody, civil war.

It is not only politics; car companies, airlines and even Silicon Valley are getting closer to Bogota. The first international meeting for Mark Zuckerberg as the CEO of Facebook was held during January of 2015 in Colombia.

General Motors and Ford have operations in the country, while American Airlines, Spirit, Delta and JetBlue have more flights into Colombia than ever before.

As key neighbors in Latin America suffer recessions, the economy in Colombia is growing even though its growth has slowed of late with the commodities prices crashing.

The IMF has predicted that growth in Colombia’s economy will pick up once again in 2017 as the details of the peace plan become ironed out.

Venezuela a next door neighbor is in economic turmoil as well as suffering through a humanitarian crisis. Brazil is going through a recession it has not seen for decades amidst great political upheaval.

Ecuador and Argentina’s economies have been predicted to shrink in 2016 as well.

An important part of the economic strength in Colombia has been the increased effort to cut down its drug trade. Last month, police in Colombia made their biggest ever drug bust.

Its murder rate that has always been notoriously high is dropping very quickly. This week, President Santos made an announcement that the murder rate had dropped to its lowest point in the past 40 years.

In May, officials in Colombia advanced their peace talks with FARC or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia the guerrilla army.

Peace will not come easy. In the areas controlled by FARC, live millions of Colombians and integrating them back into a civilian life will pose great challenges.

The country has a high inflation rate of recent and its currency has lost over 25% the past year against the U.S. dollar, but it continues to thrive.

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