History to 1858
Before the Spanish conquest, Colombia was inhabited by the Chibcha, Andean peoples, and Caribs, all of whom formed organized, agriculturally based communities. After the panic conquest (which began in 1525), what is now Colombia formed the core of New Granada. The struggle for independence, as in all American possessions in Spain, was intensified by the Napoleonic invasion of Spain.
Among the first revolutionary leaders, Antonio Nariño, who took part in the Bogotá uprising on July 20, 1810, was particularly well known. The revolution was supposed to last nine years and only came about with the victory of Simón Bolívar finished victorious in Boyacá (1819). Greater Colombia (Spanish Gran Colombia) was now independent. The newly created state by Bolívar comprised the areas of today’s Venezuela, Panama and (after 1822) Ecuador and Colombia. Cúcuta was chosen as the capital. While President Bolívar led campaigns in Ecuador and Peru, Vice President Francisco de Paula Santander administered the new nation. Different political factions soon emerged. Santander favored a union of sovereign states, while Bolívar favored a centrally ruled republic.
Although Bolívar largely ruled the constituent assembly, Greater Colombia soon fell apart. In 1830 Venezuela and Ecuador split off. The rest of the area became the New Granada Republic. Political unrest and civil war continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Strong conservative and liberal parties developed, the conservatives favored centralism and church participation in government and education, the liberals supported federalism, were more anti-church and in favor of some level of social legislation and tax reform. Civil wars often broke out between these factions. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, three statesmen stood out in particular: Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera, Rafael Núñez and Rafael Reyes. During Mosquera’s tenure as president, a treaty was signed in 1846 that granted the United States transit rights in the Isthmus of Panama.
The new nation
In 1858, according to pharmacylib, a new constitution created a confederation of nine states with the name Granadina. Three years later, in 1861, under President Mosquera, the country was named the United States of New Granada, before it was renamed again in 1863, now it was called the United States of Colombia. The anti-federalist revolution of 1885 resulted a year later under the presidency of Núñezfor the formation of the Republic of Colombia and the adoption of a conservative constitution. In 1899, five years after Núñez’s death, a civil war of unprecedented violence broke out and raged for three years. Up to 100,000 people were killed before the Conservatives won. Another cut came after the US acquired the right to build the Panama Canal (although the agreement was later rejected by the Colombian Congress). The Republic of Panama later declared its independence with the support of the USA, which was finally achieved in 1903.
During the quasi-dictatorial rule of Reyes(1904 – 1909) the internal order was restored, trade expanded and productivity greatly increased. However, Reyes had to resign due to general dissatisfaction with his handling of the Panama Canal issue. Soon after (1914) Colombia recognized Panama’s independence in exchange for rights in the Canal Zone and compensation from the US.
For the next four decades, political life in Colombia remained relatively peaceful, apart from the economic and social turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1917 Colombia settled its border disputes with Ecuador and in 1934 the border conflict with Peru over the city of Leticia was resolved by the League of Nations for Colombia. Far-reaching reforms were passed under the leadership of the liberals Olaya Herrera (1930-34), Alfonso López (1934-38) and Eduardo Santos (1938-42). In World War II, Colombia took part on the Allied side. The Liberal Party split during the war years and ran two candidates in the 1946 election, which the Conservatives won.
From the middle of the 20th century to the present
In 1948, during an Inter-American conference in Bogotá, the left-liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, under whom the party had reunited, was assassinated. After that there was violent rioting and vandalism. Gaitan’s death heightened hostility between social groups and plunged the country into a decade of civil unrest, martial law, and tyranny that killed hundreds of thousands. Political violence turned into simple crime (la violencia), especially in rural areas. The ultra-conservative dictator Laureano Gómeztook power in 1950 after the Liberals failed to put up a candidate for election. In 1953 Gómez was deposed by a coup led by Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, the chief of the armed forces. The repressive measures continued, however, a tax reform failed, the country went into debt and Rojas Pinilla came under suspicion of corruption.
A military junta, supported by liberals and conservatives alike, deposed Rojas Pinilla in 1957. The following year Alberto Lleras Camargo became President. In 1970 the National Front presidential candidate, Misael Pastrana Borrero, won, very close to Rojas Pinilla. Colombia’s economy began to recover from the setbacks in the early 1970s through economic diversification and foreign capital. However, a high rate of inflation continued to hamper economic growth. In 1974 the Liberal Party candidate, Alfonso López Michelsen, won the presidential elections.
In the course of the 1970s and 80s, the illegal drug trade increased steadily in Colombia, and the drug cartels had large amounts of money, weapons and influence. In the 1970s, however, left rebel groups such as the May 19 Movement (M-19), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) appeared. Violence rose rapidly during these years, with many journalists and government officials killed. The 1980s saw the rise of far-right paramilitary groups founded to fight the left rebels but also attacked the civilian population. Both left and right-wing guerrillas used drug trafficking as a source of funding.
In 1986 the liberal Virgilio Barco Vargas was elected president. In 1990 he was replaced by César Gaviria Trujillo (also a Liberal). In 1990 the Constituent Assembly, which included members of the M-19 group, drafted a new constitution. The document came into force on July 5, 1991 and was intended in particular to safeguard human rights and civil rights to social security and health care. The liberal Ernesto Samper Pizano was elected President in 1994. Although he appeared to be fighting drug trafficking, he was charged with using “Cali Cocaine Cartel” money to campaign. He was cleared of all charges by Congress in 1996, but his reign was marked by corruption and mismanagement.
The notorious Medellín drug cartel was founded in 1993, and the main leaders of the Cali cartel were later arrested. Large drug traffickers in Colombia still have considerable wealth and power, and the FARC and ELN are also instability factors. Conservative Andrés Pastrana Arango, former mayor of Bogotá and son of Misael Pastrana, became President of Colombia in 1998. He promised to work with left-wing rebels and right-wing paramilitary leaders to find a solution to the 30-year-old conflict.
In November 1998, as a gesture of goodwill, Pastrana transferred an area the size of Switzerland in central Colombia to the control of the FARC. However, the rebels rarely negotiated with the government, launched further attacks, expanded coca production and essentially instituted a parallel government. Government energy was also strained in 1999 by a severe recession and earthquake in western Colombia that killed more than 1,000 people. Negotiations with the rebels in 2000 and 2001 were undermined by rebel attacks and kidnappings as well as fighting between rebels and paramilitaries for control of the coca-growing areas. The people’s expectations of Pastrana were disappointed, even when he wrote his “Plan Colombia”, unveiled a program that included $ 7 billion in social aid and the anti-drug war.
In February 2002, the FARC hijacked a plane carrying presidential candidate Senator Ingrid Betancourt. Pastrana then attacked rebel positions and took control of the rebel zone again. The FARC withdrew into the jungle and launched attacks on electricity and telecommunications systems. So they tried to disrupt public life in the cities while avoiding direct conflict with the military. In May 2002 the right-wing candidate Álvaro Uribe Vélez won the presidential election. He promised to take action against the left rebels. Uribe, a former governor and senator who ran as an independent candidate, declared a limited state of emergency and an extension of the government’s police powers in this campaign against the rebel left.
By the end of 2003, the government’s actions reduced the violence in the country somewhat and the rebels had to withdraw, but they remained strong. The economic situation in Colombia improved and cocaine production improved was reduced with American help. Some paramilitary forces agreed to disarm. Despite his popularity, Uribe lost a referendum in November 2003 that would have increased his control over the government budget. In the same year the national debt rose to 50% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Negotiations with paramilitary forces continued in 2004, by which time most paramilitary leaders had become drug traffickers. Safe zones for the paramilitaries were agreed during the negotiations, and some paramilitaries were later demobilized.
In December 2004, bounty hunters in Venezuela kidnapped a FARC leader who was then turned over to the Colombian authorities. Relations between Colombia and Venezuela then fell into a crisis in early 2005. Colombia initially denied any involvement in the incident, claiming the rebels were captured in a Colombian border town, but later admitted a bounty was paid. The dispute between the two states was settled in February 2005 when the presidents of both states met in Caracas, Venezuela.
In June 2005, Congress passed legislation to facilitate the disarmament of paramilitary groups. These were to be protected from extradition, and the expected penalties were reduced. The law has been criticized because it did not expect a full ceasefire and disarmament from the rebel groups and did not ensure that criminal activities such as drug trafficking would end. In fact, it later emerged that some former paramilitaries continued to work in organized crime and as corrupt government officials. However, around 31,000 paramilitary fighters had been demobilized by mid-2006. In August 2006, Uribe ordered the arrest of several paramilitary leaders who had refused to work.
The situation of the left rebels, who continued to launch limited attacks, remained essentially unchanged. Uribe also pushed through constitutional amendments that allowed the popular president to run for a second term. In December 2005 the government started a new round of talks with the ELN, but the FARC, which remained responsible for the strongest attacks, refused to negotiate with the Uribe government. The parties that supported President Uribe won a majority in Congress in the March 2006 elections and Uribe was re-elected in May 2006. Talks with the ELN continued in 2006 but yielded no results.
A Supreme Court investigation revealed links between paramilitaries and members of the Colombian Congress and other politicians in northern Colombia, several members of Congress were arrested in late 2006 and early 2007. The Secretary of State resigned because her brother, a senator, was one of those arrested in February 2007. In March 2007, details of a CIA report came to light after ties between the Army Commander-in-Chief and paramilitary death squads, and the Commander-in-Chief denied the allegations. Statements by a former paramilitary warlord in May 2007 suggested the current vice president and defense minister and former government officials had ties with paramilitary leaders. Revelations of government and military links with paramilitaries, rebels and drug dealers continued through the summer. In July, several senators, including Uribe ‘ s cousin, the subject of a paramilitary investigation. In August 2007, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez offered himself as a mediator between the Colombian government and the rebels. Although Chavez’s efforts resulted in the release of some hostages in 2008, they were also what led to strained relations between the two states in 2007.
In March 2008, a Colombian attack on rebels in Ecuador fueled further tensions between Colombia and neighboring countries Ecuador and Venezuela who relocated armed forces to common borders. The Colombian government claimed that computer files found among the rebels provided evidence of links between the Colombian rebels and Colombia’s neighboring states. Colombia later apologized for the attack, which, according to the Organization of American States, was a violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty and the OAS charter. Tensions with Venezuela subsequently eased, but relations with Ecuador remained tense. In July 2008, Colombian armed forces, disguised as a humanitarian group and journalists, liberated several FARC hostages, including Senator Betancourt.