By 1796 chaos had broken out in Colombia as the political
scene was a mess and every region was declaring independence from the others. At
the time Spain had little control over the region and couldn't
hold the region together as they had more pressing issues to deal with in Spain
itself. By 1810 France had taken over Spain and Spain's
colonies in the Americas began claiming independence. This included Gran Colombia
in the same year, a region that included Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and Colombia, centered
Despite calls for independence from numerous groups, the people argued over who
actually ruled over the region and the people began fighting over power, leadership,
and more localized independence. This allowed the Spanish
to re-group and attempt to re-gain control over the region. The people finally unified
and defeated the Spanish in 1819 with the help of Simon Bolivar from
The new country of Gran Colombia was centered in Bogota and Bolivar served as the
country's first president. He ruled the country as he led on the battlefields,
with a strong hand and much confidence in his actions. This led to conflicts as
both Venezuela and Ecuador sought
freedom from this country. In 1830 Venezuela gained that independence and shortly
after so too did Ecuador, leading to a change in the country's name to the Republic
of Colombia in 1886.
From the 1830s, the country has been politically divided, at times working together
for progress, while at other times fighting amongst themselves and creating instability.
The arguments included everything from the role of the Catholic Church to political
structure, but for the most part the parties worked together or power shifted from
one party to the next in relative peace. A noticeable exception to this came with
the Thousand Days War, which took place from 1899 to 1902. This was a time in Colombia when the parties and people fought over power,
direction, and control. One of the results of this violence was that
Panama gained independence from Colombia the following year.
Another battle between the people occurred in the 1940s and early 1950s called "La
Violencia." These battles resulted in hundreds of thousands of death and ended
in 1953 with a military coup. Throughout the next decade the military had an active
role in the country's politics in order to ensure stability and their political
agenda. These battles left the country in shambles and it was the new government's
job to pick up the pieces, while trying to re-establish the economy and get it back
on track. It was also during this time that people began looking for a more stable
income as the drug trade grew significantly. This lack of government oversight also
led to the growth of military groups.
Among the insurgency groups in Colombia were the April
19th Movement (M-19), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and FARC. In the late
1970s and early 1980s the government made a very substantial effort to destroy these
groups and did so quite successfully with the help of the military and questionable
actions that many people claim are human rights violations. Battles with the FARC
and M-19 ended briefly in 1984 with a cease fire, but ELN continued the fighting.
The M-19 also continued the fight the following year as they took the Supreme Court
magistrates hostage. Fortunately, most of this violence has since ended as a new
government and constitution were formed in 1991.
By the 1980s the drug cartels had gained much power, wealth, and prominence. These
groups fought each other, the insurgency groups, and the government to maintain
control over the highly profitably drug trade. As these groups became wealthier
and wealthier, they gained more control and began bribing government officials and
essentially created their own armies to protect their drugs and the drug trade.
The power of these drug organizations has greatly decreased since 1993 when the
head of the "Medellin Cartel," Pablo Escobar was killed by the
With a new government and constitution in 1991 and the much maligned drug cartels
in the early 1990s, the government and people are slowly gaining control over their
country. Despite a slow (not an end) to violence, the country is still struggling
in multiple ways, most notably in the economic realm. Unemployment has risen and
the economic situation seems dire as violence is still common and the drug trade
has slowed, but is still a substantial burden on the country.