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Emerging Market Rising: Colombia

Mention Colombia, and negative images often come to mind—drug trade, instability and guerrilla warfare.

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But this lush Andean nation has made significant headway with the challenges that have given it a bad name.

From an investor's point of view, Colombia has sidestepped the current economic downturn plaguing many developed nations and, like other emerging economies, it’s moving up.

Colombian stocks have risen overall nearly 40 percent this year, and the stock of country's largest bank, Bancolombia is showing a 72 percent increase.

“Most of the emerging markets have been doing very well in this particular crisis,” Jorge Londono Saldarriaga, CEO and president of Bancolombia, told CNBC. Londono Saldrarriaga opened the NYSE Monday to celebrate his bank’s 15th year on the Big Board.

“Colombia especially has been doing very well.”

Bancolombia, based in Medellin, has a customer base of nearly 7 million, banking subsidiaries in Panama, the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico and a financial conglomerate in El Salvador.

On May 30, Colombians will go to the polls to elect a president. Among those running are the high-profile incumbent, Alvaro Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe’s former defense minister, and Antanas Mockus, a reformist, anti-corruption candidate.

Regardless of the election outcome, said Londono Saldarriaga, it will be good for the economy. “We are optimistic about whoever is elected,” he said, “because most of them are supportive, roughly, of the same type of [economic] policy that has been maintained in the last years—a very successful period.”