Colombia Recent History

In 1904 Rafael Rejes was elected president who attempted to rebuild the entities, restored finances and carried out important public works, but also his reforms aroused such discontent that he had to leave the country (1909). He had attempted to centralize the powers of the various departments; at its fall, a National Assembly reported administrative decentralization.

From 1910 to 1930 there were several more or less peaceful presidencies and the government was able to pay particular attention to public works and administrative issues. In 1930, in fact, President Nerique Olaya Herrera called to Colombia a commission of 6 American advisers, experts in administration, finance and banking technique, who after studying the conditions in the country proposed improvements.

During the 1st World War Colombia remained neutral but entered the League of Nations. In 1932 the most salient political episode was the occupation, on the night of September 1 to 2, of the city of Leticia, by Peruvian armed gangs not supported by their government. According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Colombia, Colombia appealed to an international commission set up in Washington that ordered Peruvians to evacuate the city for the reintegration of Colombians. On the Peruvian side this resolution was not accepted and then an Advisory Committee was formed composed of representatives of Germany, China, Spain, France, Guatemala, Ireland,, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Poland, Czechoslovakia with the collaboration of the United States and of Brazil.

This committee managed to get the two contestants to sign the previous resolution that Leticia returned to Colombia; it was June 22, 1934. That same year, at the end of the four-year term of President Olaya Herrera, the liberal Alfonso Lopez was elected, who resigned in 1937 but was forced to remain in office as his resignation was not accepted.

In 1938, after the election as president of Eduardo Santos, public works intensified among which the most important was, without doubt, the expansion of the port of Barranquilla and the oil pipeline, with more than 400 km., From Barco to Puerto Covenas, on the Caribbean Sea. In June of the same year he concluded a commercial pact with Italy and in July he withdrew from the League of Nations.

In 1940, at the outbreak of World War II, Colombia declared its neutrality but, at the same time, nationalized the “Sociedad Colombiano Alemana de Trasportes Aereos” by ousting all German pilots.

Colombia Recent History

In December 1941 he broke off relations with the Axis and, on the other hand, although he was not a belligerent nation, he sided with the United States, thus managing to obtain vital loans for his economy, which was so difficult.

In 1942 Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo was elected president, who formed a cabinet with a liberal majority; in 1943 he approved a convention with the Holy See, established diplomatic relations with the USSR and, in November of the same year, following the sinking of some Colombian ships by the Germans, declared war on Germany

In January 1944 he signed the United Nations declaration but finding himself unable to remedy the internal economic situation, which was already generating workers’ unrest and political uprisings, resigned from office. However, his resignation was not accepted; he then succeeded in suppressing an attempted military uprising, instituted a new Labor Code, ensured minimum wages, paid holidays, insurance against accidents and illnesses and finally approved a provision for the expropriation and division of large estates.

Political tensions, always present, continued also in the following year; there were severe clashes between conservatives and liberals; the latter triumphed in parliamentary elections and the communists also increased their deputies from 1 to 5.

In August 1945 Lopez was forced to retire for health reasons and, until the expiry of his mandate, he was replaced by A. Lleras Camargo, who formed a coalition ministry, also joining two conservatives to the government.
The elections of May 1946 were won by the conservative Mariano Ospina Perez who formed a cabinet made up of 6 liberals and 6 conservatives.

Meanwhile an economic agreement was concluded with Canada; great progress was made in the production of rayon and in construction, in hydroelectric plants and in the production of cast iron and steel. Despite everything, Colombia’s economic difficulties were always present and workers’ unrest continued.

The general elections of 1947 gave victory once again to the liberals, headed by Gaitan, who did not intend to open to the conservatives, thus putting in serious difficulty Ospina who, in order to form the government, in January 1948, had to resort to repressive methods which immediately led to a crisis. This broke out in Bogota just as an Inter-American Conference was meeting there. On April 9, Gaitan was killed in Bogota from which the riots then left until they also involved Medellin, Tunja and Cali. The next day Ospina resigned; the government, made up of 6 liberals, 6 conservatives and General German Ocampo, under the presidency of D. Echandia, proclaimed a state of siege. The unrest continued and was attributed to Russian agents. Moscow denied and, however, relations with the USSR were broken in May.

Important, in August, was the news that Colombia and the United States would study together a project to open an interoceanic canal, about 400 km SE of the Panama Canal.

In August 1950, a conservative, L. Gomez Castro, became president. Not only did he not summon the parliament by ruling only through decrees, but he even imposed censorship on the press and tried in every way to cancel the opposition. From situation he worsened and Gomez Castro temporarily gave power to Roberto Urdaneta Arbelaez. He made an attempt to pass a new constitution that would give the president full powers, strengthen the executive and proclaim the official state Catholicism.

Liberals, in agreement with the conservatives, ordered Castro to leave office and established a military junta headed by General Gustao Rojas Pinilla, who took the government in his hands but with a dictatorial form. The same general was then elected in August 1954 and as president he governed with increasingly repressive methods.

Following this the liberals allied themselves with the conservatives and prepared a declaration, supported and signed by both Alberto Lleras Camargo and Gornez Castro.
Meanwhile there was a pre-civil war state inside the country which worsened when in May 1957 General Rojas Pinilla was re-elected; there were then street demonstrations, with the military and the clergy with the primate Crisanto Luque at the head; all together they forced the general and the control of the country to resign, passed into the hands of another general Gabriel Paris who immediately called free elections, excluding the military from politics and restored freedom of the press.

The two traditional parties were strengthened by forming an alliance pact (20 July 1957) with the task of governing for 12 years, alternating the presidents and maintaining equality in the two branches of parliament. This pact found full approval with a plebiscite held on December 10 of the same year, in which women voted for the first time and this plebiscite became a constitutional amendment. On 4 May 1958 the liberal Alberto Lleras Camargo was elected for free elections and began his mandate with the abolition of the state of siege, in force since 1949.

During his presidency, Colombia experienced its best period especially for the famous pact with the conservatives for respect for constitutional freedoms. He drew up an economic recovery plan which, meeting general approval, also gained a lot of aid from North Americans. This plan covered agriculture, education, hygiene and industrial development. An agrarian reform was launched and was applied with the right means and the right forms. Many families left the urban areas overcrowded and moved to the lands assigned to them for cultivation. And so the problem of urban housing was also remedied.

But the reform was moving slowly because it had not met the favor of either the left liberals, who considered it inadequate, or the conservatives, who considered it revolutionary. Water supply, public education and the fight against banditry were better. Production and trade had a strong push and also in the field of exports it improved and for the first time cotton was included among the materials that took the ways of abroad. At the end of the presidency of Lleras Camargo (1962) Colombia was always in progress and with excellent future prospects. And, as with the famous pact, which was called “family”, it was the turn of the conservatives, in August 1962 the conservative G. Leon Valencia took office.
But he, not having the skills of his predecessor, was unable to complete the pre-established ten-year plan or the agrarian reform, always opposed, especially from the cross-country skiers. He then tried to raise taxes by causing disapproval of parliament and also raised wages. So that the cost of living increased as well as the collapse of the price of coffee in 1963 made Colombia find itself in the midst of an inflationary situation that provoked demonstrations and unrest in the country severely sedated by General A. Ruiz Novoa, minister of war.

In March 1964 there were legislative elections which recorded a protest abstention of 70% of the electorate. In January 1965 a general strike was proclaimed and as General Ruiz Novoa was suspected of setting up a military coup, he was dismissed on 27 January. All of this naturally led to the distrust of the foreign states which had hitherto supported Colombia’s economic development. To try to improve the fortunes of the country, J. Valejo, finance minister, was called, who launched a series of fortunate measures, thus bringing back the aid of the USA and the World Bank to Colombia. President Valencia succeeded, amid riots and violence,

Then he almost completely cut the banditry and stopped the armed guerrillas of the pro-astronomers. In August 1968, for the first time, a Pope, Paul VI, set foot in Bogota. Absolute primacy of all Latin America.

With the general elections of 1970, the conservative Misael Pastrana Borrero came to the presidency. This election was opposed by the party of General Rojas Pinilla; there were anti-government demonstrations, the University of Bogota was occupied and also some farms.

The government was forced to proclaim a new state of siege. In 1974 there were subsequent elections which also coincided with the expiration of the “family pact”. The liberal A. Lopez Michelsen was elected. In second place came a conservative and in third, for the first time, a woman ME Rojas de Moreno Diaz, daughter of General Rojas Pinilla. The new president lifted the state of siege, always professed advanced social ideas and, as he was firmly convinced of the goodness of the agrarian reform, he continued the work of his predecessors, tirelessly opposed, in his attempts to progress, by the demagogic movement (ANAPO), headed by General Rojas Pinilla.
Meanwhile, the recession was advancing in Colombia, creating a large number of unemployed people and also many disgruntled farmers. Thus it was that in Colombia the cultivation of cocaine came to life which came to replace traditional crops, consequently generating a huge traffic for the export of this drug, the production of which was mostly managed by the most important exponent: P. Escobar. During the period of maximum diffusion of exports, there were many episodes of violence, corruption and excellent murders in Colombia, especially from 1984 to 1986, when an extradition treaty was still in force with the United States for ‘drug traffickers’.

And even in political life there were violence and assassinations so that from 1985 to 1989 there were about 3,000 members in Colombia of the left-wing UP (Union Popular), eliminated by the extra-institutional right.

Bipartisanship also continued with the division of powers between liberals and conservatives and practically the already known state of siege did not end, despite the general elections of the spring of 1990.

On the trade union level, the masses of peasants and workers never had valid representatives and countless strikes disseminated social life on several occasions.

In this situation, a strong state of urban guerrilla developed which, around 1990, had 56 fronts scattered throughout the national territory. The confusion, too, also created an army of guerrillas parallel to that guaranteed by the state. The weight of the military on politics became even stronger under the presidency of JCTurbay Ayala, who governed until 1982, when the conservative B. Betancur was elected, who, in the following two years, carried out a national pacification plan, reinstating the guerrillas in the regular army with the benefit of a general amnesty. In this regard, a special peace commission was established and a platform for real reforms was studied, especially that of the constitution.

There was therefore a truce during which the guerrilla front split, giving rise to the UP. Not all guerillas accepted the truce and moreover, on a strictly political level, the president never obtained the full support of the parties. So the truce was interrupted after a very short time, the armed struggle returned, and on November 8, 1985 the armed forces attacked the courthouse carrying out a massacre of two hundred people and giving a mortal blow to the image of Betancur, which, unfortunately, eased with the arrival of the huge disaster caused by the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, in which there were 25,000 victims.
In 1966 the liberal V. Ebarco won the elections and, worried by the spread of cocaine production and export, restored extradition with the United States which has always represented the largest drug market.
But the guerrillas continued to claim excellent victims, especially among the presidential candidates.

In 1990 the liberal C. Gaviria Trujillo won the elections and formed a government of national unity, relaunching a peace plan and obtaining consent from the drug traffickers to no longer be extradited to the United States in the event that they had formed with the Colombian authorities.

Throughout 1992 and much of 1993, violent episodes occurred due to both guerrillas and drug traffickers. With the killing of Escobar in December 1993, it was thought to have given the organization a fatal blow. In addition, until February 1994, regular US troops also joined the Colombian army in this fight. The government work was recognized as meritorious by the population who rewarded it by giving the liberals, whose leader E. Samper Pizano in June was elected President of the Republic, in the legislative elections of March 1994. But in the summer of 1995 his figure suffered a drop in prestige because he was accused of having used funds from drug trafficking for his election campaign.


All of this resulted in a freezing of relations with the United States in 1996 which removed Colombia from the list of developing and developing countries for which it was no longer benefited by American or international aid.

Throughout 1997 serious difficulties were accentuated with the stronger than ever guerrilla recovery. Samper, in order to regain American esteem and aid, replaced some officers at the top of the army and police. Taking note of this deliberation, the United States relaxed its rigid position a little and the agreements improved even more when Colombia applied, in December 1997, an amendment to the Constitution which restored the extradition of drug traffickers to the United States.

In March 1998 Colombia was able to regain financial aid. The presidential elections of May-June 1998 registered a wider participation of the voters and were won by A. Pastrana Arango, candidate of the “Conservative Social Party”.

The year 1998 passed between the resumption of guerrilla warfare on the one hand and national peace negotiations on the other, which continued in the spring of 1999.