Colombia Since 1930
Colombia is a large country having 439, 513 sq. miles, more than Texas and California
combined. Population: 1965: 18.1 million. 1995: 35,021,000.
Colombian historians like to say that Colombia was different from
other Latin American countries because it would not endure caudillos in age of caudillos.
Did not have long term dictatorships. It did have a great deal of government instability.
In 1830-1930, it had at least ten large uprisings (some called revolutions) and at least
70 lesser ones. It had 51 presidents and numerous military revolts, but only 9 presidents
were pushed out by force. The rest were persuaded. None were assassinated. Why so many?
Partly because some went away and left caretakers, who often then took full power.
1930-46. Liberals, peacefully took power from the Conservatives but took power in a bad
economic period. Concerned with economic and social reforms. Boundary disputes with
neighbors. New Deal period under Alfonso Lópes Pumarejo (1934-38). His second term,
1942-46, was a mistake and he resigned under pressure.
1946-57. Conservative rule
Mariano Ospina Pérez (1946-50). Fights between left wing and right wing. Wouldn't
allow compromises. Riots in Bogotá (the Bogatazo), which were protests against government
conservative policies, in 1948. During them occurred the assassination of Jorge Eliecer
Gaitán of the leftist UNIR (Unión de Izquierda Revolucionaria). Gaitán had been an
advocate of the banana workers. The Bogatazo marked the beginning of La Violencia, the
long civil war between Conservatives and Liberals.
In the 1949 election, Laureano Gómez, a right wing leader, ran unopposed for the
presidency. The Liberals had split. Gómez personified the clerical-authoritarian
tradition of Spain. He ruled the country with an iron hand, allowing no dissent and no
civil liberties. In June, 1953, a coalition of Liberals and moderate conservatives
1953-57. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. He was the most savage, venal, and incompetent ruler in
the nation's history. He ruled by decree. He was murderous. In February 1956, at a Bogotá
bullring, he had secret agents stationed in the crowd with knives. All those who refused
to applaud the Rojas Pinilla banner when raised were killed. In May 1957, he found it
expedient to resign.
1958-1974. The National Front.
Laureano Gómez (Conservative) and Alberto Lleras Camargo (Liberal) sat down in Spain
to work out a compromise. For sixteen years, the presidency would alternate between a
Liberal and Conservative. National and departmental posts were to be divided the same way.
This arrangement brought an end to La Violencia. However, the country continued to be
plagued by armed bandits, many of whom had originally been fighting for political reasons
but now became bandits.
1958-62. Lleras Camargo became the first president. Started some land reform, housing
developments, and similar liberal measures.
1962-66. Guillermo León Valencia. He was a lackluster and faced the continuance of
problems with bandits left over from La Violencia. His regime suffered from problems with
internal dissension. The leftist Ejército Nacional de Liberación was formed and begins
1966-70. Carlos Lleras Restrepo. He was an economics professor and a belligerent
Liberal. He pushed agrarian reform, housing projects, social welfare, repairing of the
coffee industry, industrialization and economic diversification. In 1967, the EPL
(Ejército de Liberación Popular) was formed and then the leftist Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) is formed.
1970-74. Misael Pastrana Borrero barely won against Rojas Pinilla’s Alianza
Nacional Popular (ANAPO) and two other Conservative candidates. He was a Conservative who
was Jesuit-educated. He was a minority president who had difficulties with Congress and
extremists of the left and right. M-19, a leftist guerrilla, movement is formed.
1974-78. Alfonso López Michelsen. Liberal. Two party system. The Conservatives and the
Liberals to share Cabinet and other appointed positions on a parity basis. López
Michelsen was the son of a former president. Had to declare an economic state of emergency
and us his decree power. His goals included income redistribution, full employment, a
fairer tax structure, curb inflation to 10%.
The contraband and drug trade begins to become an important part of Colombian life and
1978-82. Julio César Turbay Ayala. Liberal.
A few weeks into his administration he established a Security Statute for controlling
social discontent and guerrilla activity bu to no avail. Guerrilla activity and other
forms of unrest continued.
1982-86. Belisario Betancur. Conservative.
Begins negotiations with the leftist guerrillas in an attempt to bring peace.
1986-90. Virgilio Barco. Liberal.
Plagued by guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups, and drug lords. The United
States declares a "war on drugs" and begins sending millions of dollars to
Colombia and other aid to Colombia to no avail. He does achieve the demobilization of the
del M-19 and the EPL during his administration. .
1990-94. César Augusto Gaviria. Liberal.
In an effort to broaden participation in politics and give dissidents a peaceful means
to have their will expressed, the nation held a Constitutional Assembly, which included
members of the M-19 group, in 1990, creating a document that became active in July, 1991.
The new document called for the protection for human rights and established citizens'
rights to social security and health care."
1994-98. Ernesto Samper Pizano. Liberal.
Accused of having accepted money from drug traffickers, he was cleared by the Colombian
Congress, which is party controlled.
1998-2002. Andrés Pastrana Arango. Conservative.
In November, 1998, Pastrana ceded a large area in south central Colombia to FARC's
control. Nevertheless, FARC negotiated with the government only fitfully and continued to
In 2000, Colombia accepted $1.3 billion from the United States as part of the
latter’s Plan Colombia. As part of the Plan, Colombia agreed to accept 500 US
military advisers in its fight against narcotrafficking and guerrillas.