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Political Timeline of Colombia

With almost two hundred years of independence from Spanish colonies, Colombia has gone through several transformations in order to arrive at the political system it has today.

1810—The conquest of South American territory was organized by colonial divisions of cities in which viceroys maintained a local government. Tired of discrimination and abuse, the Criollo population began to fight for autonomy of their land, one city at a time. The first Nueva Granada territories to declare independence were Bogotá in July 1810 and Cartagena on November 11, 1811.

1813—The provinces of Cundinamarca, Antioquia, Neiva and Tunja achieve their independence, thus allowing for the first period of independence of the Nueva Granada as a whole. The idealistic differences of the Criollos turned a war of independence into a civil war, which lasted for two more years.

1815—Though Spain was still reeling after defeating Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814, Spanish King Fernando VII ordered the reconquest of Nueva Granada and sends 10,000 soldiers under the command of Pablo Morillo. Tired of fighting, the Criollos quickly gave up. Most of the territory was taken back by the Spaniards, except for the Eastern Plains, where Criollo armies gathered to strengthen their forces. Simón Bolívar took command and was helped by an English Legion, which contributed with weapons and an army of over 5,000 men.

1819—The colonists’ victory of the Battle of Boyacá on August 7, 1819, marked the definitive defeat of the Spanish Army. This victoryinspired independence campaigns in Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Alto Peru. Gran Colombia was formed in this same year, containing the territories of Venezuela, Colombia (which included present-day Panama) and Ecuador. Since some of the territory was still under Spanish command, Bolívar left Vice President Francisco de Paula Santander in charge at the new capital, Santa Fe de Bogotá, and took for the battle field.

1830—After years of conflict between followers of Bolívar, who wanted the leader to have an almost monarchic power, and the followers of Santander, who wanted a federal government, Gran Colombia began to crack. Venezuela and Ecuador declared independence from Gran Colombia, which was left only with the territory that is currently Colombia and Panama.

1832—Theend of Gran Colombia resulted in the creation of a new country, the Republic of Nueva Granada. Its first president was Santander.

1843—A new Constitution turned Nueva Granada into an authoritative regime under President General Pedro Alcántara Herrán, in order to control the country’s first civil war, the War of the Supremes.

1853—Once again the Constitution is changed. The country is now a federal republic; slavery is eliminated and the right to vote is given to all men over 21 years of age. Separation of Church and State institutionalized administrative and religious freedoms. General José María Obando was elected president with the support of the artisans, who were hoping he would adopt economic reforms that would protect the industry; however, once in power, he adopted neoliberal economic measures.

1854— On April 17, civil war exploded between neoliberals and protectionists. Constitutionalists established the capital in Ibagué temporarily until they could take back Bogotá on December 4. After bloody battles, a new government is installed with Panamanian José de Obaldia. The general who was supporting the artisans in the war and the former president, Obando, were brought to trial before Congress. Close to 2,000 artisans were banished to Panama where they died in shameful conditions.

1886—A new constitution finally canceled out federalism in the now-called Republic of Colombia, though the political scene was as unstable as ever. A movement of “regeneration” is initiated by President Nuñez. Persecution of radicals falls in place, bringing another civil war named the Thousand Days Civil War (1899-1902).

1903—Just as Colombians were beginning to recover from the last civil war, came the most traumatizing event of the century for the nation: The separation of Panamá, which was encouraged and coordinated by the United States since they bought the Panama Canal project from the French.

1921—With a relatively stable political ambiance and progress in place, the Colombian government negotiated with the United States about the Panamanian territory. In the resultant Thompson-Urrutia Treaty , the U.S. paid Colombia $25 million as indemnification for the loss of Panamá, in exchange for special privileges to U.S. oil companies to exploit the Colombian product.

1928— As one Latina America’s “banana republics,” Colombia produced much of its bananas under the U.S.-based United Fruit Company (currently Chiquita Banana). On November 12, 1928, a labor strike broke out on the Caribbean coast. The national army was sent in to control the over 11,000 protestingUnited Fruit workers. Under the command of General Carlos Cortés Vargas, who in turn is said to have acted under the petition of United Fruit, the army opened fire on the crowd, killing a number of people that was never formally determined. As a result of the scandal, President Miguel Abadía Méndez was voted out of office in 1930. Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez’ novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” describes a version of the event as a massacre of 3,000 people.

1948— A new Liberal wave led by presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was causing tumult in the Conservative government of Mariano Ospina. During the lunch hour on April 9, 1948, Gaitán was fatally shot while walking down a Bogotá street. This single event untied a series of conflicts that lasted until the early 1950s: La Violencia, which, known began that same night with riots in Bogotá, later called El Bogotazo. Violence took over the streets of the Colombian capital as robberies, riots and a blood bath transformed the city, ending a few days later with the spread of the rebellious mood to the rest of the country.

1953— After five years of the La Violencia civil war and over 200,000 deaths, General Gustavo Rojas organized a coup d’état against Conservative President Laureano Gómez. After taking power, Rojas granted amnesty to over 5,000 Liberal guerrilleros (soldiers) who in return drop their weapons.

1958— Rojas’ dictatorship, filled with police abuse, media censorship and raw violence, came to an end with a new political alliance between the Liberal and Conservative parties, and the election of Alberto Lleras as president. The National Congress is re-instituted. Although La Violencia came to an end, organized guerrilla groups began to develop.

1964— What had started as small Communist guerrilla armies in 1949 grew stronger throughout the La Violencia years and with the inspiration of other Latin American revolutionary movements. By 1964 the Colombian government could no longer ignore these groups’ power and influence, so it sent the military to attack the guerrillas’ “independent republics.” Though the army managed to disperse the Communists, the irregular forces regrouped as the Southern Bloc and then renamed themselves Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia(FARC). Nowadays FARC has between 15,000 and 18,000 troops, some of which were recruited as teenagers and look at the organization as a way of escaping poverty rather than an ideological group.

1974— Liberal presidential candidate Alfonso López Michelsen won the first free election since 1958 by a margin of three million votes. Due to the new monetary units –UPAC – the previous president had created in order to give Colombians housing mortgages, inflation put the economy at risk. Michelsen declared the first constitutional emergency economic crisis. His government eventually managed to reactivate the economy and implement important social reforms like divorce.

1983— The newly elected Conservative President Belisario Betancur initiated peace talks with FARC representatives. They agreed to cease fire. Within two years the FARC presented a new political party as part of the reintegration to civil and legal life. Nonetheless, in another year, armed conflict again began.

1985 – On November 6, M-19 guerrillas seized the Palacio de Justicia (Supreme Court) in Bogotá, taking 350 hostages. The Colombian military attacked. The firefight resulted in 95 deaths, including 11 judges.

1986— The drug cartels that have been increasingly taking over political and economic power during the 1970s and 1980s crossed the line when the chief of the Medellín cartel, Pablo Escobar, ordered the death of Guillermo Cano, director of the newspaper El Espectador. The event unleashes a war against drug trafficking.

1994— Liberal presidential candidate Ernesto Samper won the election. From the time the results were announced, his opponent revealed recordings that implied Samper’s campaign had been funded by drug cartels. The scandal, later dubbed “Process 8,000,” takes two years to resolve. After countless investigations, interrogations and many murders, Samper gets off the hook in 1996.

2002— Independent Liberal candidate Álvaro Uribe won the presidential election by promising to put military pressure on thecountry’s largest guerrilla organization, the FARC. Within two years, governmental data showed that homicides, kidnappings and terrorist attacks in Colombia had decreased by 50 percent. Uribe’s security policy kept the public happy.

2006 — With the Constitution modified to allow a second term, Álvaro Uribe was reelected to serve another term until 2010.

2008— After being held hostage by the FARC for over six years, former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and with 15 others were rescued.

2010 — Uribe protégé Juan Manuel Santos was elected president, but soon faced criticism from Uribe about becoming “too soft” with the guerrilla movements. Uribe came under increasing charges of corruption and human rights abuses during his terms in office.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Colombia: History, The History of Pasto, History of Barranquilla, History of Providencia and Santa Catalina, History, Refugees of the War on Drugs, Tumaco History, History of the Caribbean Coast and Islands, Colombia's Social Issues and History.

28 Sep 2011

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