Some of the richest farmland lies between the western and central ranges along the Cauca River.The Magdalena River valley, between the central and eastern ranges, is densely populated and the site of the capital, Bogotá.Colombia lies in the northwest corner of South America and covers an area of 439,735 square miles (1,138,914 square kilometers), about three times the size of Montana.

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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.

Under its leadership the country began its recovery from the war, known as "La Violencia," which in the course of a decade had left between 200,000 and 300,000 dead and had displaced numerous others by forcing the rural population into the cities and that of small cities into the largest urban centers.

After a period of gradual transition toward full democracy, the government of the National Front ended when elections were held in 1974.

Extreme disparity between the wealthy and the poor contributed to widespread disillusionment that kindled a Marxist guerrilla movement dedicated to revolution.

Manufacturing, a growing sector of the economy, employed about 20 percent of the population in the early 1990s.

The country's highly diverse population of 38.5 million includes at least 15 distinct cultural and regional groups.

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.

The eastern plains, or llanos, account for 60 percent of the country's territory and are sparsely populated, as are the coastal lowlands.