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GOVERNMENT Among Latin American nations Colombia has had a traditionally strong democratic role and elected civilian governments have only rarely been replaced by military rule There have been many changes in the constitution since it was created in 1886 At the present time the president is elected for a period of four years A president cannot succeed himself but he can be elected at a later date Every citizen over the age of eighteen is allowed to vote A second-in-command elected on a yearly basis by Congress would assume power if anything happened to the president The president helped by a Cabinet that he appoints has executive power and legislative power rests with Congress The Congress consists of the Senate with 114 members elected for four years and the House of Representatives with 199 members elected for four years At the present time the Liberals have a majority in both houses According to the Constitution citizens of Colombia must have certain rights These include freedom of education the right to strike except in state-run enterprises and freedom of the press A Supreme Court with twenty-four judges district tribunals and lower courts take care of all judicial matters And a national economic council comprising cabinet ministers and representatives from business and industry look after the nations financial affairs Colombia is divided into twenty-three departments four intendencies and five commissariats and one special district of Bogota The intendencies and commissariats include the large areas of llanos and jungle in the east and the islands in the Caribbean LANGUAGE Castilian Spanish is the official language of the republic and Colombians have long claimed to have the purest form of Spanish in South America Academics from Colombia and Spain work together to keep the language as close to the original as possible but inevitably local terminology and phrases have crept in Spanish is spoken most everywhere but Indian languages have also survived Although the Indian people
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