Colombia History

Colombia History

Early period until the 15th century

Ceramics found in the region, which are among the oldest in the New World, are estimated to be around 5000 years old. From around 1500 BC existed small principalities in the area of ​​today’s Colombia, which were subjugated by the Inca ruler Rachacutec Yupanqui in the 15th century and incorporated into the Inca empire. This stretched shortly before Christopher Columbus’ arrival in 1498 from Argentina to southern Colombia.

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Colonial period

The colonization of the country by the Spaniards began in 1509 and from the 1930s the Spaniard Gonzalo Jim¨¦nez de Quesada subjected large areas of what is now Colombia. In 1538 he founded the city of Bogot¨¢ with the German Federmann. The new properties were administered from the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru under the name Nueva Granada. In 1717, “New Granada” became an independent viceroyalty, including Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela. In 1801, the natural scientist and geographer Alexander von Humboldt visited Colombia, carried out localization and height measurements, and in his later lectures founded, among other things, modern plant geography and geography.


The end of the colonial period began in 1810 when a revolutionary junta declared independence and the Republic of Greater Colombia was founded after Simon Bol¨ªvar’s victory in 1819. The republic, which initially spanned the entire New Granada region, soon disintegrated. Ecuador and Venezuela became independent and after decades of domestic struggles for a centralized or federalist form of government, the centralists prevailed. In 1863 the United States of Colombia emerged and in 1886 the Republic of Colombia, from which Panama separated in 1903 as an independent state. The reason was the Colombian government’s refusal to build the Panama Canal that the US wanted, and the US then pushed Panama to independence to carry out the project.

20th century to the present

In the 1930s, according to AbbreviationFinder, the Liberals took over the government in Colombia and initiated reforms. Tax, labor and social laws have been revised to address greater rights for the population. But the changes exacerbated the conflict between liberal and conservative-minded people, and in 1948 an open civil war broke out, which cost the lives of around 200,000 people and drove 800,000 from their homeland. General Gustavo Rojas Pnilla took power in 1953, ended the civil war and established a military regime, which was replaced in 1958 by a government of the national front, which consisted equally of conservatives and liberals.

Under the presidencies, which change every four years between conservatives and liberals, mass riots occurred repeatedly from the 1960s due to the social plight of many citizens. Guerrilla movements were founded that brought entire regions under their rule. Terror and counter-terror dominate everyday political life and a financially powerful drug mafia has emerged. Murdered human rights defenders, kidnapped church members, oil pipe attacks: arbitrariness and fear determine everyday life in Colombia. Thousands continue to die each year from either guerrilla terrorism or government forces. The ongoing civil war has now claimed over 200,000 lives and is responsible for almost four million refugees at home and abroad.

In 1982 Belisario Betancur Cuartos became the new head of state of the Conservative Party, followed in 1986 by Barco Vargas of the Liberal Party. However, even these failed to end the guerrilla terror, and in 1989 the liberal presidential candidate fell victim to a murder attack.

In 1990, C¨¦sar Gavir¨ªa Trujillo, who was also liberal, became president and managed to persuade the M-19 guerrilla organization and two other terrorist groups to stop fighting. However, terrorist attacks and kidnapping of the drug mafia increased, causing the country to face a state of emergency. In 1991, a new constitution entered into force that restricted central power and gave provincial governors more power. Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellin drug cartel, volunteered, nearly 1,800 members of the cartel were arrested and numerous drug farms destroyed.

A severe earthquake shook Colombia in 1993, killing over 1,000 people. In the same year, Pablo Escobar, who had escaped a year earlier, was shot when he was arrested. In 1994 Ernesto Samper Pisano became the new president of the Liberal Party, but found himself accused of financing his campaign with illegal drug money. The investigation was stopped when several drug bosses testified for him.

The heads of state of Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Colombia met in April 1998 to organize both closer economic cooperation and a coordinated fight against drug trafficking. In the same year, Andr¨¦s Pastrana became the new president of the Conservative Party. Only very extensive security measures could ensure the regular course of the parliamentary and presidential elections despite attempts to intimidate communist guerrilla organizations.

In 1999 there was another earthquake that cost around 2,000 lives, left thousands homeless and further worsened the economic situation for the population. The clashes between guerrillas and government forces continue with great severity, as do hostages by rebels and right-wing paramilitaries who are fighting and trying to take control of the drug market away from them. In February 2002, the government declared large parts of the demilitarized guerrilla zone in the south a war zone.

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In May 2002, the conservative Alvaro Uribe was elected president; he expanded the army to deal with the conflict with the rebels. Uribe, who was sworn in for a second term in 2006, was successful with this tough policy: the guerrilla organization FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionariasa de Colombia) was significantly weakened and lost over half of its members, as well as several leaders. Probably the most famous hostage of the FARC, the former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, was released in July 2008 after more than six years of imprisonment.

In 2008 Colombia, along with the other eleven independent states of South America, founded the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) based on the model of the European Union. The country is still the world’s leading exporter of heroin and cocaine.

Juan Manuel Santos Calder¨®n has been President of Colombia since August 2010. He is the leader of the right-wing conservative U party (Social de Unidad Nacional). The center-right parties were able to increase their majority in the parliamentary elections in March 2010. The votes were relatively peaceful. Santos’ government has had peace talks with the FARC since November 2012. In the long term, the talks should focus on disarming the rebels and compensating the victims.

Colombia President