According to the Constitution, freedom of religion prevails and it is also respected in practice. Most are Catholics, although the Catholic Church was formally separated from the state by the Constitution adopted in 1991.
There are no official statistics on religious affiliation, but it is estimated that 75-80 percent of the population are Catholic and up to 15 percent Protestant. As in the rest of Latin America, the proportion of Catholics has decreased and the proportion of Protestants has increased in recent decades. Other residents belong to smaller religious groups or do not identify with any religion.
Freedom of religion and the practice of religion have been threatened by the protracted and violent conflict with government forces, left-wing guerrillas and semi-military groups (see Modern History). Rural priests in particular have been subjected to violence by armed groups. Religious leaders and church servants have been attacked when they worked for human rights and supported groups exposed to violence. The Catholic Church has also had a mediator role between the left guerrillas and the state (see Current Policy).
Following the separation from the state, the Catholic Church has maintained a strong position in society, primarily as a guide on moral and social issues. The Catholic Church was a strong opponent of the total ban on abortion (2006) and opposes proposals for the rights of gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Colombia, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
The Protestant churches have criticized the government for giving the Catholic Church some legal and financial privileges, such as exemption from property taxes, which other communities do not receive.
The United States appreciates ex-guerrilla heads
The United States offers up to $ 10 million in compensation to those who help catch two former Farcrebeller who have returned to arms: Iván Márquez and Jesús Santrich (see August 29, 2019). The two are charged with drug smuggling and for the support of Venezuela’s leftist leader Nicolás Maduro, whom the United States wants to remove from power.
Guerrilla group releases hostage
Left-wing guerrillas ELN release a total of eight people held hostage, after pleading for peace talks to resume with the government. Two civilians are released first and two days later four civilians and two policemen are handed over to the International Red Cross Committee near the Venezuela border. They had all been held captive for up to four months. President Iván Duque has demanded that all kidnapped persons be released before renewed talks can be made. ELN is believed to hold at least another ten hostages. The talks with ELN were broken after a bloody attack in Bogotá (see January 2019).
Airlines request bankruptcy protection
The national airline Avianca is filing for bankruptcy protection in a New York court where it is registered. The company states that revenues have fallen by more than 80 percent during the corona pandemic. Bankruptcy protection gives the company a respite in relation to lenders, to try to reorganize debt or sell parts of the business. Avianca is the second largest airline in Latin America and the second oldest after Dutch KLM to operate without interruption.
Violence gang benefits from the pandemic
The UN expresses concern over increased violence against the civilian population of the Department of Cauca where criminal gangs are reported to be using existing quarantine rules to increase their control. At least 13 human rights activists are reported to have been murdered so far this year in Cauca and now restrictions on freedom of movement have further aggravated the situation, says a spokesman for the UN Human Rights Commissioner.
Mass release due to corona
Over 4,000 prisoners are temporarily released in order to reduce congestion in prisons and thus the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Those covered by the temporary amnesty and allowed to move house arrest are people who are over 60 years of age, have illnesses, have served at least 40 percent of their sentence or have children under three years.
ELN announces corona armor
The left-wing guerrilla ELN announces a unilateral and month-long ceasefire from April 1, due to the corona virus. The ELN calls it “humanitarian gesture” and also says it wants to resume peace talks with the government. In its statement, the ELN refers to an appeal by UN chief António Guterres on March 23, when he appealed for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” as a result of the pandemic.
National quarantine is introduced
24th of March
Colombia becomes the latest in the line of Latin American countries where virtually all residents are ordered to stay home, and only go out to do the necessary matters. When the measure was announced four days earlier, almost half of the population was already covered by restrictions on freedom of movement.
Corona fears trigger deadly prison riots
Panic over the new corona virus triggers a riot in a prison in Bogotá, ending with the death of 23 people. Concern is high that the infection will take root in the country’s overcrowded prisons. Residents of the country have been ordered to stay at home and curfew prevails at night in several cities.
The borders are closed due to coronavirus
Colombia is closing its borders to foreigners to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus causing covid-19. The closure is valid for two weeks. The Bogotá stock market falls by just over 15 percent. So far, relatively few cases of corona infection have been detected in Latin America, but there is a risk that the spread will increase sharply.
Trump: “Aerial spray boilers”
US President Donald Trump said in a meeting with President Iván Duque in Washington that Colombia needs to resume spraying with pesticides from the air to destroy coca cultivation. Aerial spraying is prohibited (see May 2015) because the pesticide glyphosate causes cancer and poison the soil.
The military in the highest readiness
The armed forces are in high alert after the left-wing guerrilla ELN announced on social media that a three-day “armed strike” will begin on February 14. The ELN warns citizens to stay out on the roads during the strike. This is the first time ELN threatens such a strike at the national level.
Ex-senator arrested in Venezuela
The government states that a request should be made to have an exiled former senator, Aída Merlano, expelled from Venezuela – to “the legitimate government in Venezuela, led by Juan Guaidó”. Bogotá does not recognize the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Aída Merlano, who was arrested the day before she illegally crossed the Venezuela border, was sentenced in September 2019 to 15 years in prison for voice purchases, but after only a few weeks escaping from prison guards during a dentist visit. When the next day Maduro proposes that Colombia and Venezuela reestablish diplomatic relations between the countries, Duque gives the cold hand.
New protests against the government
About ten people are injured and nearly 100 are arrested when new comprehensive protests against the government are carried out in several major cities. In Bogotá, it starts with a so-called saucepan protest, something that is common in Latin America – protesters rattle and make noise by, among other things, turning on saucepans. As before, the protests target President Iván Duque and his economic policies, but also against unemployment, corruption and drug-financed violence. Four people have been killed since the protests erupted in November, around 500 were injured and 200 arrested.
Murder averted on ex-guerrilla leader
Police say they have prevented an attempted murder of Rodrigo Londoño (“Timochenko”), the leader of the former left-wing guerrilla Farc, who is now a political party. Two people charged with murdering Londoño in a “terrorist attack” have been killed by police on a road in the western part of the country. According to police, the murder had been ordered by Iván Márquez and Hernán Darío Velásquez (“El Paisa”), former guerrillas who “jumped” from the peace agreement between Farc and the government (see also August 2019). Márquez and Velásquez are believed to reside in Venezuela.