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Colombia Looks Ahead usual results: declining native populations; eventual racial mixing, contributing to a dominant (in Colombia) mestizo population; conversion to Roman Catholicism and other European cultural practices; and the imposition of a feudal system that continues to affect society, government, and economy. In some respects, Colombians have been more successful than many other Latinos in moving beyond this heritage. For example, machismo never took deep root in Colombia, and rather than avoiding manual labor, many residents of European heritage welcome hard ­work. Population and settlement pose few major obstacles to future stability and development. The rate of population increase is fast approaching the world average (1.4 percent vs. 1.2 percent). With the third-largest population in Latin America and a literacy rate of about 92 percent, the country has ample human resources with which to develop ­economically. With regard to settlement, it is true that huge ­ areas— ­particularly the Pacific coastal lowland and ­ Oriente—­remain isolated from the rest of the country. Isolation, however, is not really a physical condition. Rather, it is the result of a lack of economic incentives to draw settlers into an area. This, in turn, contributes to a lack of infrastructure and other amenities, which further contribute to isolation. Assuming Colombia can eventually overcome its current conflicts, the country’s economy will surely grow. When this occurs, capital resources to invest in the further development of the country’s regional potentials will become ­available. In many respects, a stable and effective government is the key to any country’s stability. This becomes evident when one looks over the list of countries at the top and bottom of various country rankings. (For example, see the Human Development Index, or Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.) Colombia, perhaps more so than most other Latin American countries, has a tradition of democratic government. Unfortunately, the parties engaged in the country’s ­two-­party



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