Colombian history

Pre-Colombian era

Approximately 10,000 years BC hunter-gatherer societies existed near present-day Bogotá (at El Abra and Tequendama), and they traded with one another and with cultures living in the Magdalena River valley.

Beginning in the first millennium AD, groups of Amerindians developed a political system, the cacicazgo, a pyramidal power structure headed by a cacique.

Within Colombia, the two cultures with the most complex cacicazgo systems were the Tayronas in the Caribbean region, and the Muiscas in the highlands near Bogotá, both of which belonged to the Chibchan language family. The Muisca people had one of the most developed political systems in South America, surpassed only by the Incas.

Extract from Wikipedia.

Colonial times

The territory that became Colombia was first visited by Europeans when the first expedition of Alonso de Ojeda arrived at the Cabo de la Vela in 1499. The Spanish made several attempts to settle along the north coast of today’s Colombia in the early 16th century, but their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. Cartagena was founded on June 1, 1533 by Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia, in the former location of the indigenous Caribbean Calamarí village. Cartegena grew rapidly, fueled first by the gold in the tombs of the Sinú Culture, and later by trade.

The Spanish advance from inland from the Caribbean coast began independently from three different directions, under Jimenéz de Quesáda, Sebastián de Benalcázar (known in Colombia as Belalcázar) and Nikolaus Federmann. Although all three were drawn by the Indian treasures, none intended to reach Muisca territory, where they finally met. In August 1538 Quesáda founded Santa Fe de Bogotá on the site of Muisca village of Bacatá.

In 1549, the institution of the Spanish Royal Audiencia in Bogotá gave that city the status of capital of New Granada, which comprised in large part what is now territory of Colombia. In 1717, the Viceroyalty of New Granada was originally created, and then it was temporarily removed, to finally be reestablished in 1739. The Viceroyalty had Santa Fé de Bogotá as its capital. This Viceroyalty included some other provinces of northwestern South America which had previously been under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalties of New Spain or Peru and correspond mainly to today’s Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. So, Bogotá became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City.

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20th century

The United States of America’s intentions to influence the area (especially the Panama Canal construction and control) led to the separation of the Department of Panama in 1903 and the establishment of it as a nation. The United States paid Colombia $25,000,000 in 1921, seven years after completion of the canal, for redress of President Roosevelt’s role in the creation of Panama, and Colombia recognized Panama under the terms of the Thomson–Urrutia Treaty. Colombia was engulfed in the Year-Long War with Peru over a territorial dispute involving the Amazonas department and its capital Leticia.

Soon after, Colombia achieved some degree of political stability, which was interrupted by a bloody conflict that took place between the late 1940s and the early 1950s, a period known as La Violencia (“The Violence”). Its cause was mainly mounting tensions between the two leading political parties, which subsequently ignited after the assassination of the Liberal presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on 9 April 1948. The ensuing riots in Bogotá, known as El Bogotazo, spread throughout the country and claimed the lives of at least 180,000 Colombians.

Colombia entered the Korean War when Laureano Gómez was elected as President. Colombia was the only Latin American country to join the war in a direct military role. As an ally of the United States, Colombia’s mission was to help win the war effort and broker a lasting peace on the Asian peninsula. Particularly important was the heroic resistance of the Colombian troops at Old Baldy.

From 1953 to 1964 the violence between the two political parties decreased first when Gustavo Rojas deposed the President of Colombia in a coup d’état and negotiated with the guerrillas, and then under the military junta of General Gabriel París Gordillo.

After Rojas’ deposition, the Colombian Conservative Party and Colombian Liberal Party agreed to create the “National Front”, a coalition which would jointly govern the country. Under the deal, the presidency would alternate between conservatives and liberals every 4 years for 16 years; the two parties would have parity in all other elective offices. The National Front ended “La Violencia”, and National Front administrations attempted to institute far-reaching social and economic reforms in cooperation with the Alliance for Progress. In the end, the contradictions between each successive Liberal and Conservative administration made the results decidedly mixed. Despite the progress in certain sectors, many social and political problems continued, and guerrilla groups were formally created such as the FARC, ELN, EPL, MAQL and M-19 to fight the government and political apparatus.

Since the 1960s, the country has suffered from an asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict between the government forces, left-wing guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitaries. The conflict escalated in the 1990s.[28] The conflict in Colombia takes place mainly in remote rural areas or marginalized sectors of very difficult access.

The United States of America has been heavily involved in the conflict since its beginnings, when in the early 1960s the U.S. government pushed the Colombian military to attack peasant self-defense communities in rural Colombia. This was part of the U.S. fight against communism.

On 4 July 1991, a new Constitution was promulgated. The changes generated by the new constitution are viewed as positive by Colombian society.

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Colombian armed conflict

The armed conflict in Colombia is rooted in a combination of causes that are based on the economic, political and social situation in the country 50 years ago. In the early period (1974-1982), guerrilla groups like the FARC, the ELN and others focused on slogan of greater equality through socialism, and they came to have support from some sections of the local population. However, the armed action changed since the mid-1980s when Colombia granted greater political independence and strengthened fiscal policy of local governments, that is why the Colombian Government strengthened its institutional presence in the country. In 1985, the FARC co-created the left-wing Patriotic Union (UP) political party. Eventually, the UP distanced itself from insurgent groups. However, “right-wing paramilitaries apparently linked to the armed forces” committed a mass murder of the party members during the 1980s and 90s.

After the Colombian Government dismantled many of the drug cartels that appeared in the country during the 1980s, left-wing guerrilla groups and rightwing paramilitary organizations resumed some of their drug-trafficking activities and resorted to extortion and kidnapping for financing. These activities led to a loss of support from the local population.

During the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, the government applied more military pressure on the FARC and other outlawed groups. After the offensive, many security indicators improved. Since 2002 the violence decreased significantly, with some paramilitary groups demobilizing as part of a controversial peace process and the guerrillas lost control of much of the territory they had once dominated. Colombia achieved a great decrease in cocaine production, leading White House drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske to announce that Colombia is no longer the world’s biggest producer of cocaine.

In February 2008, millions of Colombians demonstrated against the FARC. 26,648 FARC and ELN combatants have decided to demobilize since 2002. During these years the military forces of the Republic of Colombia managed to be strengthened.

The Peace process in Colombia, 2012 refers to the dialogue between the Colombian government and guerrilla of FARC-EP with the aim to find a political solution to the armed conflict. The Colombian government and rebel groups meet in Cuba. As of November 2013, the talks have represented breakthroughs. The Government also began a process of assistance and reparation for victims of conflict. Recently, U.P. supporters reconstituted the political party, within the process of reconciliation.

According to a study by Colombia’s National Centre for Historical Memory, 220,000 people have died in the conflict between 1958 and 2013, most of them civilians.

Extract from Wikipedia