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Regions of Colombia would expect for a city of its size, Cali also specializes in pro-­ viding many services. Because African slaves were introduced to work the sugar plantations, the city has one of the highest black populations in all of mainland Spanish-settled Latin ­America—­about 30 ­percent. From the late 1960s through the 1990s, Cali was a major center of the illegal trade in narcotics, particularly cocaine. The lure of drug ­ money—­amounting to billions of ­ dollars— ­established a powerful elite class. It also fatally corrupted the city’s social and political systems, resulting in what Colombian president Álvaro Uribe described as “social fracture.” During the 1980s, it is estimated that the Cali Cartel supplied as much as 80 percent of the cocaine that reached the United States and Canada. Since the late 1990s, the power and influence of the cartel have supposedly been sharply reduced. Nonetheless, if up to 90 percent of the illegal cocaine reaching the United States comes from Colombia, some group is responsible, and a good bet is that the trade originates in ­Cali. The Pasto ­Region South of Popayán is a rugged area often called the “Pasto Knot.” Here, the ­ single-­range Andean backbone splits into the three distinct ­ ranges—­Western, Central, and ­ Eastern—­that extend northward toward the Caribbean. The area is isolated from the remainder of Colombia; in fact, in many respects, it has closer ties to neighboring Ecuador, with which it is linked by the Pan American Highway. Few Europeans settled in the Pasto Region, so its population is predominantly ­Amerindian. Pasto, with a population approaching 500,000 people, is the largest city in the region. It is located at the base of the 14,000foot (4,267-meter) volcanic Mount Galeras, nestled away in the Atriz valley at an elevation of about 8,300 feet (2,530 meters). (In this context, it is important to remember that ­“mile-­high” Denver, Colorado, at 5,280 feet (1,609 meters) is the high-­ est city of any size in the United States.) The Pasto region

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Colombia  

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