IntroductionSouth America, fourth largest continent (1991 est. pop. 299,150,000), c.6,880,000 sq mi (17,819,000 sq km), the southern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. It is divided politically into 12 independent countries—Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela—and the overseas department of French Guiana. The continent extends c.4,750 mi (7,640 km) from Punta Gallinas, Colombia, in the north to Cape Horn, Chile, in the south. At its broadest point, near where it is crossed by the equator, the continent extends c.3,300 mi (5,300 km) from east to west. South America is connected to North America by the Isthmus of Panama; it is washed on the N by the Caribbean Sea, on the E by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the W by the Pacific Ocean.
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