According to the 2005 national census, approximately 4.5 million persons, or 10 percent of the country's population, described themselves as of African descent. A November UN report estimated that Afro-Colombians composed 15 to 20 percent of the population, while human rights groups and Afro-Colombian organizations estimated the proportion to be 20 to 25 percent. Afro-Colombians are entitled to all constitutional rights and protections, but they faced significant economic and social discrimination. According to the UN report, 45.5 percent of the country's population lived below the poverty rate, but in Choco, the department with the highest percentage of Afro-Colombian residents, 70.5 percent of residents lived below the poverty line (41 percent in extreme poverty). Choco continued to experience the lowest per capita level of social investment and ranked last in terms of infrastructure, education, and health. Maternal mortality in Choco was four times higher than the national average. It also continued to experience some of the country's worst political violence, as organized criminal gangs and FARC and ELN guerrillas struggled for control of the department's drug- and weapons-smuggling corridor (see section 1.g.). The UN report further explained that illiteracy rates were six times the national average in Narino, another department with a high percentage of Afro-Colombians.
In 2010 the government approved a policy to promote equal opportunity for black, Afro-Colombian, Palenquera, and Raizal populations. (Palenquera populations along some parts of the Caribbean coast, Raizal populations in the San Andres archipelago, and blacks and Afro-Colombians are all Afro-descendents who self-identify slightly differently based on their unique linguistic and cultural heritages.) In November President Santos signed into law an antidiscrimination bill that imposes a penalty of one to three years in prison or a fine of approximately 5.3 million to 8 million pesos ($2,740 to $4,140). It also adds a chapter on discrimination to the penal code that includes not only racism but discrimination based on ethnic origin, religion, nationality, political ideology, sex, and sexual orientation.