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Colombia - Acknowledgments

The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of Howard I. Blutstein, J. David Edwards, Kathryn Therese Johnston, David S. McMorris, and James D. Rudolph, who wrote the 1976 edition of Colombia: Country Study. Portions of their work were incorporated into the present volume.

The authors are grateful to individuals in various agencies of the United States government and private institutions who gave their time, research materials, and special knowledge to provide information and perspective. None of these agencies or institutions is in any way responsible for the work of the authors, however.

The authors also wish to thank those who contributed directly to the preparation of the manuscript. These include Richard F. Nyrop, who reviewed all drafts and served as liaison with the sponsoring agency; Mimi Cantwell, Sharon Costello, Deanna D'Errico, Vincent Ercolano, and Sharon Schultz, who edited the chapters; Martha Hopkins, who managed editing and production; and Barbara Edgerton, Janie L. Gilchrist, and Izella Watson, who did the word processing. Andrea T. Merrill performed the final prepublication editorial review, and Shirley Kessell compiled the index. Malinda B. Neale of the Library of Congress Printing and Processing Section performed phototypesetting, under the supervision of Peggy Pixley.

The authors also would like to thank several individuals who provided research support. Arvies J. Staton supplied information on military ranks and insignia, and Susan M. Lender wrote the section on geography in Chapter 2.

Colombia - Preface

Like its predecessor, this study is an attempt to treat in a compact and objective manner the dominant social, political, economic, and military aspects of contemporary Colombia. Sources of information included scholarly books, journals, and monographs; official reports of governments and international organizations; numerous periodicals; and interviews with individuals having special competence in Colombian and Latin American affairs. Measurements are given in the metric system.

Although there are numerous variations, Spanish surnames generally consist of two parts: the patrilineal name followed by the matrilineal. In the instance of Virgilio Barco Vargas, for example, Barco is his father's name and Vargas is his mother's maiden name. In nonformal use, the matrilineal name is often dropped. Thus, after the first mention, just Barco is used.

Colombia - History

THE HISTORY OF COLOMBIA is characterized by the interaction of rival civilian elites. The political elite, which overlaps with social and economic elites, has shown a marked ability to retain the reins of power, effectively excluding other groups and social institutions, such as the masses and the military, from significant participation in or control over the political process. Members of the lower classes have found it difficult, although not impossible, to challenge or join the established elite in the political and economic spheres. Their subordination dates to the rigid colonial social hierarchy that placed the Spanish-born above the nativeborn . Elite control of the military is the result of the "civilian mystique" that developed along with Colombian independence. That mystique has successfully restricted the military to nonpolitical functions, with three exceptions--1830, 1854, and 1953. Thus Colombia has a history rare for Latin America in that the country has been dominated more by civilian than by military rule. Because military forces have been denied political power, the civilian elites have had only themselves, divided into rival groups, to contend with in the political arena.

Some analysts have divided the political elite along economic lines between the landed and the nonlanded. The agricultural export sector, the backbone of the Colombian economy, has supplied the two main economic groups that also have been the most powerful in the political sphere: the landed aristocracy, who are devoted to the large-scale production of agricultural crops, and the merchants, who are engaged in the trade of these export goods and imported consumer goods. Lesser economic groups, such as the emerging manufacturing sector, have allied themselves with one of the two dominant groups, most often the merchants. Differences within the allied groups on issues such as trade created factions within the alliances even before they officially became established political parties. In addition, the nation's economic development opened up new economic opportunities, and new forces increasingly expressed their views through the political factions.

Elite members of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party alternately competed and cooperated with each other throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Often the nature of relations between the two parties depended on whether moderates or extremists dominated the ruling party. During the periods when moderate factions of both parties were in power, the parties were able to work together in coalitions; when extremist factions prevailed, however, conflict often resulted. During the competitive periods, one party usually sought to limit or eliminate the rival party's participation in the political process, attempts that often resulted in political violence. The most notorious of these periods were the War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) and la violencia (1948-66). At the end of these civil wars, the elite inaugurated the cooperative governments of the Period of Reconciliation (1903- 30) and the National Front (1958-74), respectively, the former catalyzed by the Rafael Reyes presidency (1904-09) and the latter by the Gustavo Rojas Pinilla dictatorship (1953-57). The replacement of the discredited extremist factions by the more conciliatory moderate factions in each case made it possible for the two parties to share power and to achieve a consensus on what policies were appropriate for Colombian society at the time.

Although the elite dominated the masses, the different classes were bound to each other through personalistic patron-client relationships, especially in rural areas where peasants relied on the propertied upper class for access to the land they farmed. These patron-client relationships also tied the masses into the political system as the numerical votes or bodies mobilized and controlled by local political bosses. The affiliation adopted by the members of the lower classes was determined largely by the affiliation of their patrons and their families; these affiliations, as much for a party as against the opposing party, became what Robert H. Dix termed "inherited hatreds," elements of one's identity handed down from generation to generation. The emotional bond to the party carried individual members not only to the polls but also into violent conflict with adherents of the opposing party during those times when political conflict could not be controlled. In this way, the peasants and urban masses were recruited by the party elite to participate in the civil wars that riddled the nation's history.

Colombia's economic life has been based consistently on exports of primary goods, especially coffee. In the sixteenth century, the conquistadors and early colonialists, who often exploited Indian and slave labor, mined precious metals and gems for export to Spain under a mercantile system that inhibited the development of domestic industries. Throughout the preindependence and postindependence periods, agriculture on large landholdings, known as latifundios, became the predominant mode of production for export crops such as sugar and tobacco. By the 1860s, coffee had emerged as the key export crop. At the turn of the century, tariffs on coffee exports were the main source of government revenues, and profits from the coffee trade were the major source of investment in the newly emerging industrial sector that was beginning to produce basic consumer goods. Although the industrial sector grew sufficiently to induce urbanization and economic modernization in the first half of the twentieth century, industrial exports remained relatively minor compared with coffee, which in the late 1980s still accounted for almost 60 percent of all export earnings.

Economic modernization, supported by the coffee industry, became significant at the turn of the century. Modernization brought social changes and growing demands that produced various challenges to the dominant position of the traditional elite: the populist movements of the 1940s and 1970s, the military dictatorship of the 1950s, the rise of guerrilla activity in the 1960s through the 1980s, and the emergence of drug traffickers as a major economic and social element in the 1970s and 1980s. The increase in industrialization and the migration of peasants to the cities accelerated the rate of urbanization and the formation of urban working and lower classes. The heightened need for infrastructure, both within a given city and among urban areas, spurred the growing involvement of the state in the economy, especially during the reformist period in the 1930s and 1940s. By the 1980s, the state had become an important investor in and manager of strategic sectors of the economy, such as energy resources, transportation, and communications.

The emergence of the National Front marked a significant break in the traditional political and economic patterns in Colombian society. Interparty conflict receded and was replaced in the 1960s by leftist subversion, which continued through the 1980s. The illicit narcotics industry emerged in the 1970s as a dominant economic force, altering the structure of the national economy and disrupting existing social and political relations. The leadership in both parties proved unable to address inflation, unemployment, and a skewed distribution of income. The post-National Front Liberal tenure bequeathed a triple legacy to the incoming Conservative government in 1982: guerrilla activity, the corruptive drug trade, and an inequitable economy.


The Pre-Columbian Era

Long before the arrival of the first Spanish explorers, Indian groups had settled in the area of present-day Colombia. The Mesoamericans (Indians originally inhabiting Central America), who arrived in approximately 1200 B.C., introduced the cultivation of corn. They were followed by a second wave of Mesoamericans in 500 B.C. Artifacts from a number of distinct cultures, such as those in the areas around San Agustín (in present-day Huila Department), Tierra Dentro (Cauca Department), and Tumaco (Nariño Department), are believed to date from this period. Between 400 and 300 B.C., the Chibchas traveled from Nicaragua and Honduras and reached Colombia, shortly before the Arawaks arrived from other parts of South America, such as Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Near the end of the first millennium A.D., the Caribs migrated from the Caribbean islands. These warlike newcomers supplanted the Chibchas in the lowlands and forced them to move to higher elevations.

By the 1500s, the most advanced of the indigenous peoples were the Chibchas, who were divided into two principal tribes: the Muisca, located in the plateaus of Cundinamarca and Boyacá, and the Tairona, who settled along the northern spur of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (in present-day La Guajira Department). The Muisca were the more prominent of the two groups and based their economy on agriculture, especially the cultivation of corn and potatoes. The Muisca centered their social organization on the cacicazgo, a hereditary form of leadership following matrilineal succession. Two large Muisca confederations existed at the time of the Spanish conquest: Bacatá/Bogotá and Hunsa/Tunja. A chieftain known as a zipa headed Bacatá/Bogotá, whereas a zaque governed Hunsa/Tunja.

The Tairona formed two groups, one in the Caribbean lowlands and the other in the Andean highlands. The lowlands Tairona fished and produced salt, which they traded for cotton cloth and blankets with their counterparts in the highlands. The Tairona of both groups lived in numerous, well-organized towns connected by stone roads.

Colombia - Exploration and Conquest

The group of Spaniards that first came to the New World consisted of conquistadors, administrators, and Roman Catholic clergy. The adventurous conquistadors were risk-taking entrepreneurs, financing their own expeditions in the expectation of being able to get rich quick. The administrators were appointed by and represented the crown in the colonies and sought to maintain the New World colonies as a source of wealth and prestige for the Spanish Empire. The clergy sought to save the souls of the native Indians, and in the process they acquired land and wealth for the church. The conquistadors, who felt they owed nothing to the crown, often came into conflict with the latter's attempts to centralize and strengthen its authority over the colonies.

In what became present-day Colombia, the conquistadors explored and began to settle the coastal areas. The first explorers to round the coast of the Guajira Peninsula and enter Colombian territory were Alonso de Ojeda in 1499 and Rodrigo de Bastidas in 1500. In 1510 Ojeda founded Santa María la Antigua de Darién (present-day Acandí) on the western side of the Golfo de Urabá. Bastidas established Santa Marta in 1525. In 1533 another explorer, Pedro de Heredia, organized Cartagena after pacifying the Indians in the area. These coastal cities served as havens from Indian attacks and as bases for exploratory expeditions into the interior. In addition, Cartagena linked the colonies with the motherland and became a focal point of intercontinental travel.

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, Nikolaus Federmann, and Sebastián de Belalcázar figured prominently in the exploration of the interior. In 1536 Jiménez de Quesada set out in search of a path to Peru. During the course of his journey, he encountered the Muisca in the Sabana de Bogotá and in 1538 founded the city of Santa Fe de Bogotá (present-day Bogotá)--the eventual power center for the colony of New Granada. Federmann explored the eastern plains, crossed the Cordillera Oriental, and arrived at Bogotá in 1539. Traveling northward from Peru, Belalcázar established the cities of Popayán and Santiago de Cali (present-day Cali). Other members of his group traveled northward and founded Cartago and Anserma. In 1539 Belalcázar arrived in Bogotá, where the three conquistadors negotiated the division of the newly explored territory.

The expeditions that these men led provided the basis for the settlement of the highlands interior that played a significant role in the future life of the colony. To an even greater extent than in Peru and New Spain (present-day Mexico), many of the population centers established during the conquest were located in remote intermontane valleys and plateaus. This contributed to New Granada's becoming one of the most isolated of all the colonies of the Spanish Empire in the New World.

Colombia - COLONIAL SOCIETY, 1550-1810

Colonial society relied on "purity of blood" as a basis for stratification. The elites at the top of the social pyramid were peninsulares, persons of Spanish descent born in Spain. Peninsulares held political power and social prestige in the society. Below them were the criollos, those of Spanish descent born in the colonies. This group had limited access to the higher circles of power and status. For generations the criollos accepted a position of inferiority to the peninsulares, but in the late eighteenth century their acquiescence was transformed into a resentment that ultimately led to their fight for independence. Next in importance and the most numerous were the mestizos, persons of mixed Spanish and Indian descent who were free but relegated to positions of low prestige. Most Indians gradually became absorbed linguistically or lost their identity through mixture with other peoples; by the late 1980s, Indians constituted only 1 percent of the Colombian population . Black African slaves and zambos, persons of mixed African and Indian descent, were at the bottom of the social scale and were important only as a source of labor.

Colombia - Colonial Administration

The administrative structure paralleled the social pyramid in that peninsulares appointed by the crown generally controlled the higher jurisdictional levels, and criollos could compete only for the lower posts. Two councils in Spain presided over the colonies. The House of Trade (Casa de Contratación) controlled all overseas trade. The Supreme Council of the Indies (Consejo Supremo de las Indias) centralized the administration of the colonies and had legislative, executive, and judicial functions. As the king delegated increasingly more authority to this council, it effectively became the ruler of the colonies.

The viceroyalty, headed by a viceroy, was the highest authority in the colonies. The next level of jurisdiction was the audiencia, a regional court consisting of various judges and a president. The Real Audiencia de Santa Fe, which presided over present-day Colombia, was instituted in 1550. The audiencia had jurisdiction over the governorships, which in turn controlled the cities. Governors, appointed by the crown, had administrative and judicial functions and, in areas considered dangerous, military duties. Cities, the lowest jurisdictional level, were run by city councils, or cabildos. Cabildos initially were elected by popular vote, but later seats were sold by the crown, and positions on the council thus lost their democratic character. Despite their low position on the administrative pyramid, cabildos had the greatest impact on the day-to-day lives of citizens in the local municipalities.

The cabildos became the first effective agency of civil government, regularizing the processes of government and tempering the authority of the governor, even though their membership was composed of his subordinates. They included a varying number of magistrates or aldermen, depending on the size of the community, and two mayors. The mayors on the cabildo were elected annually and initially acted as judges in courts of first instance with criminal and civil jurisdiction. Appeals from their decisions could be taken to the local governor or to a person functioning as his deputy and finally to the royal court of jurisdiction. During times of crisis, the town citizens of importance might be invited to sit with the cabildo in what was called the open council. By increasing criollo participation in government, the open council contributed to the movement leading to the war for independence.

The royal courts in the colonies, unlike their counterparts in Spain, performed administrative and political as well as judicial functions. The courts were empowered to limit the arbitrary use of power by the viceroy or any subordinate official in the New World. Major courts existed in the higher jurisdictions, such as the viceroyalty; subordinate courts existed at lesser administrative levels. Under the Supreme Council of the Indies, the viceroys, as the direct representatives of the sovereign, exercised royal authority in all civil and military affairs, in the secular aspects of church affairs, and in the supervision of the administration of justice. Subject to the overall supervision of peninsular authorities, the executive officers also exercised a degree of legislative power.

Two additional governmental practices designed to oversee the colonial authorities were the residencia (public judicial inquiry) and the visita (secret investigation). The residencia was performed at the end of an official's term of office by a judge who went to the chief seat of the jurisdiction of the official in question to hear anyone who wished to make charges or to offer testimony concerning the official's performance in office. The visita could take place at any time without warning during an official's tenure and was performed by an inspector who might, in the performance of his task, sit with a court in public hearings.

Colombia - The Colonial Economy

The Spanish system encompassing the audiencia was extractive and exploitative, relying heavily on cheap native labor. Domestic industry was constrained during the colonial period because the audiencia was bound to Spain as part of a mercantile system. Under this arrangement, the colony functioned as the source of primary materials and the consumer of manufactured goods, a trade pattern that tended to enrich the metropolitan power at the expense of the colony.

Because Spaniards came to the New World in search of quick riches in the form of precious metals and jewels, mining for these items became the pillar of the economy for much of the colonial period. Indeed, the extraction of precious metals--such as gold and copper--in the American colonies formed the basis of the crown's economy.

Spain monopolized trade with the colonies. The crown limited authorization for intercontinental trade to Veracruz (in presentday Mexico), Nombre de Dios (in present-day Panama), and Cartagena. Direct trade with other colonies was prohibited; as a result, items from one colony had to be sent to Spain for reshipment to another colony. The crown also established the routes of transport and the number of ships allowed to trade in the colonies. Merchants involved in intercontinental trade had to be Spanish nationals. Finally, the crown circumscribed the type of merchandise that could be traded. The colony could export to Spain only precious metals, gold in particular, and some agricultural products. In return, Spain exported to the colonies most of the agricultural and manufactured goods that the colonies needed for survival. Domestic products supplemented these items only to a minor degree.

Agriculture, which was limited in the 1500s to providing subsistence for colonial settlements and immediate consumption for workers in the mines, became a dynamic enterprise in the 1600s and replaced mining as the core of the Colombian economy by the 1700s. By the end of the 1700s, sugar and tobacco had become important export commodities. The growth in agriculture resulted in part from the increasing exhaustion of mineral and metal resources in the seventeenth century, which caused the crown to reorient its economic policy to stimulate the agricultural sector.

As commercial agriculture became the foundation of the Colombian economy, two dominant forms of agricultural landholdings emerged--the encomienda and the hacienda. These landholdings were distinguishable by the manner in which the landholders obtained labor. The encomienda was a grant of the right to receive the tribute of Indians within a certain boundary. In contrast, the hacienda functioned through a contract arrangement involving the owner--the hacendado--and Indian laborers. Under a typical arrangement, Indians tilled the land a specified number of days per week or per year in exchange for small plots of land.

The encomendero, or recipient of the encomienda, extended privileges to de facto control of the land designated in his grant. In effect, the encomendero was a deputy charged by the crown with responsibility for the support of the Indians and their moral and religious welfare. Assuming that the land and its inhabitants were entirely at its disposal, the monarchy envisioned the encomiendas as a means of administering humane and constructive policies of the government of Spain and protecting the welfare of the Indians. The encomenderos, however, sought to employ the Indians for their own purposes and to maintain their land as hereditary property to be held in perpetuity. Most encomenderos were private adventurers rather than agents of the empire. The remoteness of the encomiendas from the center of government made it possible for the encomenderos to do as they pleased.

Under the influence of church figures such as Bartolomé de las Casas, the crown promulgated the New Laws in 1542 for the administration of the Spanish Empire in America. Designed to remove the abuses connected with encomiendas and to improve the general treatment of Indians, the laws called for strict enforcement of the existing regulations and freedom for the enslaved Indians, who were placed in the category of free subjects of the crown. They further provided that encomiendas would be forfeited if the Indians concerned were mistreated; that the tribute paid by Indians being instructed in religion should be fixed and in no case required in the form of personal service; and that public officials, congregations, hospitals, and monasteries could not hold encomiendas. Additional provisions-- especially resented by the encomenderos--prohibited the employment of Indians in the mines, prevented encomenderos from requiring Indians to carry heavy loads, forbade the granting of any future encomiendas, ordered a reduction in size of existing encomiendas, and terminated the rights of wives and children to inherit encomiendas.

Encomenderos opposed the royal government's attempts to enforce these regulations. A formula was adopted according to which the laws would be "obeyed but not executed." The encomenderos also had the opportunity to send representatives to Spain to seek modifications of the laws-- modifications that the crown eventually granted. The tensions between the royal authority and the colonists in the new empire were never entirely removed.

The institution of the hacienda with its associated mita (ancient tribute) system of labor began in the late sixteenth century. After 1590 the crown started to grant titles of landownership to colonists who paid the crown for the land and reserved the right to use Indian labor on their haciendas. Under an agrarian reform in 1592, the crown established resguardos, or reservations, for the Indians to provide for their subsistence; the resulting concentration of Indians freed up land to be sold to hacendados. The purchase of land as private real estate from the crown led to the development of latifundios.

The new hacendados soon came into conflict with the encomenderos because of the ability of the latter to monopolize Indian labor. The Spanish authorities instituted the mita to resolve this conflict. After 1595 the crown obliged resguardo Indians to contract themselves to neighboring hacendados for a maximum of fifteen days per year. The mitayos (Indians contracted to work) also were contracted for labor as miners in Antioquia, as navigational aides on the Río Magdalena, and as industrial workers in a few rare cases. Although the mitayos were considered free because they were paid a nominal salary, the landowners and other employers overworked them to such an extent that many became seriously ill or died.

Because the mitayos could not survive their working conditions, the crown sought an alternate source of cheap labor through the African slave trade. The crown sold licenses to individuals allowing them to import slaves, primarily through the port at Cartagena. Although the crown initially restricted licenses to Spanish merchants, it eventually opened up the slave trade to foreigners as demand outstripped supply. The mining industry was the first to rely on black slaves, who by the seventeenth century had replaced mitayos in the mines. The mining industry continued to depend on slave labor into the eighteenth century. Despite the decline of the mining industry, slavery remained the key form of labor; from the second half of the seventeenth century through the eighteenth century, plantation-style agriculture rose in prominence and raised the demand for slave labor on sugar plantations and ranches. Minor segments of the economy also supported slavery and used slaves as artisans, domestic servants, and navigational aides.

Slaves had no legal rights in the colonial system. The crown enacted laws to separate the slaves from the Indians so that the two groups would not join against the Spanish and criollo ruling classes. Slaves, however, often revolted against their subhuman living conditions, and many escaped to form palenques (towns) high in the mountains where they could maintain their African customs. These palenques separated themselves from colonial society and thus were among the first towns in Spanish America to be free of Spanish authority. The palenque movement was strongest in the eighteenth century. At this time, there was a crisis in the institution of slavery as it existed in the Spanish colonies. By the end of the 1700s, the high price of slaves along with increasing antislavery sentiment in the colony caused many to view the system as anachronistic; nonetheless, it was not abolished until after independence was achieved.

Colombia - The Colonial Church

The Roman Catholic Church served as both agent and opponent of the colonial government. The church desired a system, supported by the state, within which it might proselytize; at the same time, it opposed many of the secular aims of government that appeared to be in conflict with Christian morality. The church acted to restrain secular excesses and despotism, particularly those of the early conquistadors.

From the outset, the clergy became a vital element of colonial life. Missionaries and conquistadors arrived simultaneously in the New World during the late 1400s. From 1520 to 1550, the church began methodical evangelization among the Indians. The Franciscans, Dominicans, Capuchins (members of the Order of Mercy), and later the Jesuits and Augustinians were all important in the country's colonial history. The first two orders arrived in Bogotá with the first judges: the Franciscans established monasteries in Vélez and <"http://worldfacts.us/Colombia-Cartagena.htm">Cartagena, and the Dominicans established them in Bogotá, Pamplona, and Popayán. In 1534 the church established the dioceses of Santa Marta and Cartagena, and in 1546 it established the diocese of Popayán--the first such dioceses in the New World. The church organized further between 1550 and 1620, creating the diocese of Bogotá in 1562. The Tribunal of the Inquisition, installed in Cartagena in 1611, sought to ensure that African culture did not contaminate Spanish culture in the colonies as a result of the importation of African slaves. The Jesuits, who formally were allowed to enter the colonies in 1604, sought to improve the economic standing of the Indians with whom they worked and established self-sufficient villages for Indians in the eastern plains.

In addition to bringing the Christian religion to the Indians, the church spread the ideas and institutions of Western civilization and had responsibility for establishing and maintaining almost all of the schools of the colonial period. In 1580 a monastery founded the University of General Studies, the first in the territory. The Jesuits established two additional universities in 1622 and 1653.

In its role as the patron of education, the church made an unintended but significant contribution to developing a local spirit of independence among the colonists. Church and state attempted to control the intellectual life of the New World. Throughout the eighteenth century, the church engaged in controversy with the country's leading intellectuals, who were influenced by the political ideas of the Enlightenment in Europe and by the concepts of positivism and empirical scientific investigation. The education system also fostered opposition to Spain's sovereignty over its American empire and provided the groundwork for the intellectuals whose activities the church opposed.

Although the Roman Catholic Church influenced educational and intellectual development in the colonies, the crown ensured its own influence over the colonial church. Several papal bulls in the 1490s and in the first decade of the 1500s strengthened the ability of the Spanish kings to influence church affairs in the New World. In addition, the Holy See granted to the Spanish state the papal rights governing the administration and the personnel of the church and of bishoprics being created in the New World. In addition to common economic interests, this closely bound the church to the state during the colonial period.

Colombia - Developments Leading to Independence

Throughout the colonial period, events in Spain affected the political, economic, and intellectual state of the colonies. One such event was the ascension of the Bourbons to the Spanish throne in 1700. Upon the death of Charles II--the last in the line of the Spanish Hapsburgs--the Austrian Hapsburgs and Charles's nephew Philip of Anjou, a Bourbon and the grandson of French king Louis XIV as well the designated heir to the Spanish throne, contended for the Spanish throne. The War of the Spanish Succession (1702-14) ended in the triumph of the Bourbons over the Austrians, and the Treaty of Utrecht recognized the Bourbon succession in Spain on the condition that Spain and France would never be united under one crown.

Beginning with Philip of Anjou, now known as King Philip V (reigned 1700-46), the Bourbon kings placed themselves in more direct control of their colonies, reducing the power of the Supreme Council of the Indies and abolishing the House of Trade. In 1717 Philip V established the Viceroyalty of New Granada (present-day Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador), and in 1739 Bogotá became its capital. Other Bourbon kings, particularly Charles III (reigned 1759-88), tried to improve the profitability of the American colonies by removing restrictions that had hindered Spain's economic development in the 1500s and 1600s. Such measures included the liberalization of commerce with the colonies and the establishment of additional authorized ports. In 1774 the crown allowed free exchange among the colonies of Peru, New Spain, New Granada, and Guatemala. These reforms allowed the crown control over the de facto trade among the colonies that previously had been illicit. When Charles III declared war on Britain in 1778, he levied taxes on the colonies to fund the war. These fiscal decrees affected imports and exports, the sale of general items--especially tobacco and alcohol--and the production of silver and gold. The crown demanded tribute from Indians and the church and expected the general population to fund the naval fleet that patrolled the Spanish American coast. Excessive and increasing taxation in the late 1700s contributed to the discontent of the criollos with the Spanish administration, which manifested itself in the Comunero Revolt of 1781, the most serious revolt against Spanish authority before the war for independence. The rebellion was a spontaneous but diffuse movement involving many towns. The most important uprising began among artisans and peasants in Socorro (in presentday Santander Department). The imposition of new taxes by the viceroy stimulated the revolt further.

Almost without exception, the rebels expressed their loyalty to the king and the church while calling for a repeal of new taxes and a modification of government monopolies. The rebels succeeded in getting government representatives to abolish the war tax, taxes for the maintenance of the fleet, customhouse permits, and tobacco and playing-card monopolies; to reduce the tribute paid by the Indians and the taxes on liquor, commercial transactions, and salt; and to give preference to those born in the New World for appointments to certain posts. Later, however, government negotiators declared that they had acted under duress and that the viceroy would not honor the agreements. The leaders of the rebellion were subjected to severe punishments, including death for the more prominent among them. The rebels had not sought independence from Spain, but their revolt against the king's administration and administrators, despite protestations of loyalty to the king himself, was not far removed from a fight for independence. In this light, the rebellion was a prelude to the struggle for freedom.

In the late 1700s, the Enlightenment served as a second major influence in the struggle for independence. After the Comunero Revolt, the outlook of the local upper-class and middle-class criollos changed as the ideas of the Enlightenment strengthened their desire to control their own destiny. This movement criticized the traditional patterns of political, economic, and religious institutions and as such was a threat to both the central state and the religious authorities. The North American and French revolutions also contributed intellectual foundations for a new society, as well as examples of the possibilities for change.

A third major event of the late colonial period that may have led to the struggle for independence was the Napoleonic invasion of the early 1800s. In 1807 Napoleon Bonaparte made his brother Joseph the king of Spain, forcing Charles IV to abdicate and his son Ferdinand VII to renounce the throne. In exile, Ferdinand VII organized royalist supporters under the Central Council Junta Central) of Seville, later called the Council of the Regency (Consejo de Regencia). This council constituted a provisional government for Spain and the colonies.

Both Napoleon and the royalists competed for support of Spain's colonists in the New World. Napoleon wrote a liberal constitution for Spain in which he recognized the colonies as having rights equal to those of Spain. In competition for the colonies' loyalties, the Central Council offered them certain privileges, such as participation in Spanish courts. Colonists, however, were not satisfied with the council's measure because of the larger representation accorded the representatives from Spain. Despite conflict with the peninsulares holding colonial authority in the viceroyalty, additional concessions to criollos to win their support resulted in the creation of a criollo governing council in Bogotá on July 20, 1810. The new local government passed reforms favoring power-sharing by the criollos and peninsulares and loosened the economic restrictions previously placed on the colony. Most of the old Spanish laws remained in effect, however. The establishment of other criollo governing councils laid the basis for the first attempts at independence from Spain.

Colombia - THE FOUNDING OF THE NATION, 1810-1903

Even with the initial steps to unify against Spanish authority, the colonial elites argued among themselves. Both before and after the granting of independence, elites disagreed as to whether the national structure should be federalist or centralist. This crucial disagreement, exacerbated by Colombia's extreme regional differences, was the first to separate the political elites into rival groups. The differing opinions of these groups concerning the appropriate relationship between the church and state further emphasized the disagreement. The separate groups followed leaders representing their views and identified with the individuals as much as with the ideologies. By the time of the new nation's foundation, these two groups had become clearly divided and dominated the political scene, excluding others from their competition for control of the country. The force of their ideals carried the nation back and forth between political extremes-- absolute liberty and repression.

Colombia - The Independence Movement

Leaders in the various localities that had formed criollo councils sought to unite the colony of New Granada. From the beginning of their attempts, however, conflict emerged over the form the new government should take. The provincial councils did not want the centralist, authoritarian type of government advocated by the Bogotá council, preferring a federal type of government more in keeping with the liberal principles of the Enlightenment and the example of the North American revolution. This represented the first ideological split between groups of leading criollos. Federalists rallied behind Camilo Torres; Centralists rallied behind Antonio Nariño. To avoid a civil war between the two factions, the provincial councils sent representatives to Bogotá in 1811 to draft a constitution for the territory. In November 1811, a congress was installed, and the provinces formed the United Provinces of New Granada. The federal union consisted of autonomous provinces joined only in common interest; the national army was subordinate to Bogotá.

Starting in 1812, individual provinces began declaring absolute independence from Spain. That year, Simón Bolívar Palacio, considered the liberator of South America, tried for the first time to gain independence for New Granada. The absence of united support from the various provinces, however, frustrated him. Bolívar left New Granada in 1815 and went to Jamaica. The continuing tension between federalist and centralist forces led to a conflict that left New Granada weak and vulnerable to Spain's attempts to reconquer the provinces.

At the time of Bolívar's departure, the independence cause in New Granada was desperate. Ferdinand VII had been restored to the Spanish throne, and Napoleon's forces had withdrawn from Spain. A pacification expedition led by Pablo Morillo on behalf of the king proceeded from present-day Venezuela to Bogotá, and those who laid down their arms and reaffirmed their loyalty to the Spanish crown were pardoned. Morillo also granted freedom to slaves who helped in the reconquest of the colonies. Because of dissension between the upper class and the masses and inept military leadership, Cartagena fell to the royalists by the end of 1815.

In early 1816, Morillo moved to reconquer New Granada and changed his tactics from pardons to terror; Bogotá fell within a few months. Morillo repressed antiroyalists (including executing leaders such as Torres) and installed the Tribunal of Purification, responsible for exiles and prisoners, and the Board of Confiscations. The Ecclesiastical Tribunal, in charge of government relations with the church, imposed military law on priests who were implicated in the subversion. The Spanish reconquest installed a military regime that ruled with violent repression. Rising discontent contributed to a greater radicalization of the independence movement, spreading to sectors of the society, such as the lower classes and slaves, that had not supported the previous attempt at independence. Thus the ground was laid for Bolívar's return and ultimate triumph.

At the end of 1816, Bolívar returned to New Granada, convinced that the war for independence was winnable only with the support of the masses. In the earlier attempt at independence, large segments of the population had been lured to the royalist side by promises such as repartition of land and abolition of slavery. When the masses saw that the promises were unfulfilled, however, they changed their allegiance from Spain to the independence movement.

Two significant military encounters led to the movement's success. After having won a number of victories in a drive from the present-day Venezuelan coast to present-day eastern Colombia via the Río Orinoco, Bolívar gave Francisco de Paula Santander the mission of liberating the Casanare region, where he defeated royalist forces in April 1819. After the decisive defeat of royalist forces at the Battle of Boyacá in August 1819, independence forces entered Bogotá without resistance.

The merchants and landowners who fought against Spain now held political, economic, and social control over the new country that encompompassed present-day Venezuelan, Colombia, and Panana. The first economic reforms that they passed consolidated their position by liberalizing trade, thereby allowing merchandise from Britain (New Granada's major trading partner after Spain) freer entry into the area. As a result, the artisan class and the emerging manufactguring sector, who previously had held only slight economic and political power, now lost stature.

Colombia - Gran Colombia

As victory over Spain became increasingly apparent, leaders from present-day Venezuela, Colombia, and Panana convened a congress in February 1819 in Angostura (present-day Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela) and agreed to unite in a republic to be known as Gran Colombia. After Bolívar was ratified as president in August 1819, he left Santander, his vice president, in charge of Gran Colombia and traveled south to liberate present-day Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. When present-day Ecuador was liberated in 1822, it also joined Gran Colombia. In 1821 the Cúcuta Congress wrote a constitution for the new republic. The Cúcuta political arrangement was highly centralized and provided for a government based on popular representation with a bicameral Congress, a president, and a Supreme Court consisting of five magistrates. The constitution also guaranteed freedom for the children of slaves; freedom of the press; the inviolability of homes, persons, and correspondence; the codification of taxes; protectionist policies toward industry and agriculture; and the abolition of the mita system of labor.

Nonetheless, political rivalries and regional jealousies progressively weakened the authority of the new central state. Venezuelan leaders especially were resentful of being ruled by Santander, a native of present-day Colombia, in the absence of their president and fellow Venezuelan, Bolívar. In 1826 General José Antonio Páez led a Venezuelan revolt against Gran Colombia. Outbreaks and disturbances also occurred elsewhere.

On his return from Peru in 1827, Bolívar was barely able to maintain his personal authority. In April 1828, a general convention was convened in Ocaña to reform the constitution of Cúcuta, but the convention broke up as a result of conflicting positions taken by the followers of Santander and Bolívar. Those backing Santander believed in a liberal, federalist form of government. Bolívar's followers supported a more authoritarian and centralized government, and many, especially those in Bogotá, called on Bolívar to assume national authority until he deemed it wise to convoke a new legislative body to replace Congress.

In August 1828, Bolívar assumed dictatorial powers and attempted to install a constitution that he had developed for Bolivia and Peru. Unpopular with a large portion of the New Grenadine populace, this constitution called for increased central authority and a president-for-life who could also name his own successor. During a constitutional convention held in January 1830, Bolívar resigned as president, naming José Domingo Caicedo as his successor. That same year, the divisive forces at work within the republic achieved a major triumph as the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian portions of the republic seceded.

Colombia - New Granada

New Granada lay in a depressed state after the dissolution of Gran Colombia. None of the country's three principal economic bases--agriculture, ranching, and mining--was healthy. The import trade was limited to a small group, the banking industry was inadequate, and craftsmen and small manufacturers could supply only enough for local consumption. Despite the desire and need for change, New Granada retained slavery, the sales tax, and a state monopoly on the production and trade of tobacco and alcohol. The problems facing the country, the discontent of liberal groups who saw the constitution as being monarchical, and the military's desire for power culminated in the fall of the constitutional order and the installation in 1830 of the eight-month dictatorship of General Rafael Urdaneta. After Bolívar's death in December 1830, however, civilian and military leaders called for the restoration of legitimate authority. Urdaneta was forced to cede power to Caicedo as the legitimate president.

In October 1831, Caicedo convened a commission to write a new constitution for New Granada. Finished in 1832, the new constitution restricted the power of the presidency and expanded the autonomy of the regional administrative subdivisions known as departments (departamentos). Santander assumed the presidency in 1832 and was succeeded in 1837 by his vice president, José Ignacio de Márquez. Personalism and regionalism remained key elements in national politics in a country with small cities, a weak state, and a semifeudal population that was bound to the large landowners in patron-client relationships.

During the Márquez administration, the political divisions in the country reached a breaking point. In 1840 the political ambitions of some department governors, the constitutional weakness of the president, and the suppression of some Roman Catholic monasteries in Pasto combined to ignite a civil war that ended with the victory of the government forces led by General Pedro Alcántara Herrán. This triumph brought Herrán to the presidency with the next election in 1841. In 1843 his administration instituted a new constitution, which stipulated a greater centralization of power.

In 1845 Tomás Ciprianode Mosquera succeeded Herrán. Personalism as an important element in politics abated during his administration. The Mosquera government also saw the economic and political ascendancy of merchants, artisans, and small property owners. Mosquera liberalized trade and set New Granada on the path of exporting primary goods.

The election of General José Hilario López as president in 1849 marked a turning point for Colombia both economically and politically. Capitalism began to replace the old colonial structure, and the ideological differences between the established political parties overshadowed the previous emphasis on personalism. In 1850 the López administration instituted a socalled agrarian reform program and abolished slavery. In order to allow landowners access to more land, the agrarian reform program lifted the restrictions on the sale of resguardo lands; as a result, Indians became displaced from the countryside and moved to the cities, where they provided excess labor. In 1851 the government ended the state monopoly on tobacco cultivation and trade and declared an official separation of church and state. In addition, López took the education system from the hands of the church and subjected parish priests to popular elections.

Colombia - Consolidation of Political Divisions

The ideological split dividing the political elite began in 1810 and became solidified by 1850 after the official establishment of the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal--PL) and the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador--PC), the two parties that continued to dominate Colombian politics in the 1980s. The Liberals were anticolonial and wanted to transform New Granada into a modern nation. Those joining the PL primarily came from the more recently created and ascending classes and included merchants advocating free trade, manufacturers and artisans anxious to increase demand for their products, some small landowners and agriculturists endorsing a liberalization of state monopolies on crops such as tobacco, and slaves seeking their freedom. The Liberals also sought lessened executive power; separation of church and state; freedom of press, education, religion, and business; and elimination of the death penalty.

The Conservatives wanted to preserve the Spanish colonial legacy of Roman Catholicism and authoritarianism. They favored prolonging colonial structures and institutions, upholding the alliance between church and state, continuing slavery, and defending the authoritarian form of government that would eliminate what they saw as excesses of freedom. The PC grouped together slave owners, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and large landholders. Campesinos were divided between the two parties, their loyalties following those of their employers or patrons--often the PC.

In contrast to the unity demonstrated by the PC, the PL developed factions from the start. Although they had most interests in common, the merchants differed from the artisans and manufacturers on the question of trade. Merchants favored free trade of imports and were called golgotas, whereas artisans and manufacturers demanded protectionism to support domestic industry and were known as draconianos.

Colombia - The Federalists

Although divided, the PL soon achieved electoral victories. In the election of 1853, General José María Obando, who had led the revolutionary forces in the 1840 civil war and who was supported by the draconianos and the army, was elected and inaugurated as president. Congress remained in the hands of the golgotas. In May of the same year, Congress adopted the constitution of 1853, which had been written under López. A liberal document, it had significant provisions defining the separation of church and state and freedom of worship and establishing male suffrage. The new constitution also mandated the direct election of the president, members of Congress, magistrates, and governors, and it granted extensive autonomy to the departments.

Despite the victory that the constitution represented for the Liberals, tensions grew between golgota and draconiano forces. When the draconianos found Obando to be compromising with the golgotas, General José María Melo led a coup d'état in April 1854, declared himself dictator, and dissolved Congress. Melo's rule, the only military dictatorship in the nineteenth century, lasted only eight months because he proved unable to consolidate the interests of the draconianos; he was deposed by an alliance of golgotas and Conservatives.

In 1857 PC candidate Mariano Ospina Rodríguez was elected president. The next year, his administration adopted a new constitution, which renamed the country the Grenadine Confederation, replaced the vice president with three designates elected by Congress, and set the presidential term at four years. With the draconiano faction disappearing as a political force, the golgotas took over the PL in opposition to the Conservative Ospina. General Mosquera, the former president and the governor of the department of Cauca, emerged as the most important Liberal figure. A strong advocate of federalism, Mosquera threatened the secession of Cauca in the face of the centralization undertaken by the Conservatives. Mosquera, the golgotas, and their supporters declared a civil war in 1860, resulting in an almost complete obstruction of government.

Because civil disorder prevented elections from being held as scheduled in 1861, Bartolomé Calvo, a Conservative in line for the presidency, assumed the office. In July 1861, Mosquera captured Bogotá, deposed Calvo, and took the title of provisional president of the United States of New Granada and supreme commander of war. A congress of plenipotentiaries chosen by the civil and military leaders of each department met in the capital in September 1861 in response to a call by the provisional government. Meanwhile, the war continued until Mosquera defeated the Conservatives and finally subdued the opposition in Antioquia in October 1862.

Shortly after taking power, Mosquera put the church under secular control and expropriated church lands. The property was not redistributed to the landless, however, but was sold to merchants and landholders in an effort to improve the national fiscal situation, which had been ruined by the war. As a result, the amount of land held under latifundios increased.

In February 1863, a Liberal-only government convention met in Rionegro and enacted the constitution of 1863, which was to last until 1886. The Rionegro constitution renamed the nation the United States of Colombia. All powers not given to the central government were reserved for the states, including the right to engage in the commerce of arms and ammunition. The constitution contained fully defined individual liberties and guarantees as nearly absolute as possible, leaving the federal authority with little room to regulate society. The constitution also guaranteed Colombians the right to profess any religion.

The Rionegro constitution brought little peace to the country. After its enactment and before the next constitutional change, Liberals and Conservatives engaged in some forty local conflicts and several major military struggles. Contention persisted, moreover, between the moderate Liberals in the executive branch and the radical Liberals in the legislature; the latter went so far as to enact a measure prohibiting the central authority from suppressing a revolt against the government of any state or in any way interfering in state affairs. In 1867 the radical Liberals also executed a coup against Mosquera, leading to his imprisonment, trial before the Senate, and exile from the country.

With the fall of Mosquera and the entrenchment of radical Liberals in power, Conservatives found it increasingly difficult to accept the Rionegro constitution. Eventually Conservatives in Tolima and Antioquia took up arms, initiating another civil conflict in 1876. The Liberal national government put down the rebellion, but only with difficulty.

Golgotas controlled the presidency until 1884 and defended the Rionegro constitution's provisions for federalism, absolute liberties, separation of church and state, and the nonintervention of the state in the economy. Their economic policies emphasized the construction of lines of communication, especially railroads and improved roads. These projects did not unify the country and increase internal trade but instead linked the interior with export centers, connecting important cities with river and maritime ports. By allowing easier access to imports, the projects thus favored the merchant class over the national industrialists.

Under the golgota policy of completely free trade, exports became a major element of the country's economy. Three main agricultural exports--tobacco, quinine, and coffee--developed, especially after 1850 when international markets were more favorable and accessible. Nonetheless, all three crops suffered from cyclical periods of high and low demand. By the 1880s, it was clear that tobacco and quinine would not be reliable exports in the long term because of stiff international competition. Coffee also faced competition but nevertheless succeeded in dominating the economy after the 1870s. The coffee merchants used their profits as middlemen to invest in domestic industries, producing goods such as textiles for domestic consumption, particularly in the Medellín area. The emergence of coffee as an important export crop and the investment of profits from the coffee trade into domestic industry were significant steps in the economic development of the country.

Colombia - The Nationalists

It became obvious to many Liberals and Conservatives that the lack of governmental authority stipulated in the Rionegro constitution was allowing the country to run a chaotic course and that the situation needed to be corrected. The Regeneration movement sought a basic shift in Colombia's direction. A key leader of the movement was Rafael Núñez, who was elected president in 1879 and held the office until 1882. Liberals and Conservatives who were disenchanted with the golgota governments joined to form the National Party, a coalition that in February 1884 brought Núñez to the presidency for a second term. The Nationalists authorized Núñez to take steps urgently required to improve economic conditions. As leader of the Regeneration movement, he attempted to reform the constitution with the agreement of all groups. The golgotas, however, were afraid that constitutional change would favor the Conservatives and dissident Liberals at their expense. In 1884 the golgotas in Santander started an armed rebellion, which spread throughout the country. Nationalist forces suppressed the revolution by August 1885, at which time Núñez also declared that the Rionegro constitution had expired.

The most important result of the conflict was the adoption of the Constitution of 1886 by a national council made up of two delegates from each state. The Nationalist leaders believed that ultraliberalism as practiced under the Rionegro constitution was not appropriate to the needs of the country and that a balance was needed between individual liberties and national order. Based on this philosophy, the Constitution of 1886 reversed the federalist trend and brought the country under strong centralist control. The Constitution renamed the country the Republic of Colombia and, with amendments, remained in effect in the late 1980s. The Constitution provides for a national rather than confederate system of government in which the president has more power than the governors, who head departments or two types of national territories known as intendencies (intendencias) and commissaryships (comisarias).

In 1887 Núñez consolidated the position of the church in the country by signing the Concordat of 1887 with the Holy See. Through the concordat, the church regained its autonomy and its previous preferential relationship with the republic. The agreement stipulated the obligatory teaching of Roman Catholicism as part of a child's education and recognized Roman Catholic marriages as the only valid marriages in the country. It also acknowledged Colombia's debt to the Holy See brought on by the uncompensated confiscation of church assets under Mosquera in the 1860s.

Political disorder did not cease with the adoption of the Constitution of 1886. The Nationalists, who had become an extremist branch of the PC after Núñez was elected, were opposed by the Historical Conservatives, the moderate faction of the PC that did not agree with the extent of antiliberalism taken by the new government. The bipartisan opposition of Liberals and Historical Conservatives sought to reform Nationalist economic and political policies through peaceful means. The Nationalists, however, denied the civil rights and political representation of the Liberals because differences of opinion concerning trade policy and the role of the state in society created a gulf between the Nationalists and their opponents. The PL split into Peace and War factions, the former seeking peaceful reform of economic policies and the latter advocating revolution as the only way to win political rights. The Peace faction controlled the party in the capital, whereas the War faction dominated the party in the departments--a response to the violent political exclusion that was characteristic of rural areas and small towns. The War faction staged unsuccessful revolts in 1893 and 1895.

In 1898 Nationalist candidate Manuel Antonio Sanclemente was elected president. In ill health, Sanclemente left much of the governing to his vice president, José Manuel Marroquín. The Sanclemente/Marroquín presidency faced increasing problems as the world price of coffee fell, which, because of reduced customs revenues, left the government bankrupt. The fiscal policy of issuing nonredeemable paper money, which had replaced the gold standard under Núñez, added to the increasing lack of confidence in the government.

In July 1899, in Santander, Liberals again attempted a revolution, known as the War of a Thousand Days. Historical Conservatives eventually cast their allegiance with the Nationalists, whereas the Peace and War factions of the PL remained split, thereby weakening the rebellion. Despite an initial victory in December 1899, the Liberal forces were outnumbered at Palonegro five months later. The defeat left the Liberal army decimated and demoralized and with little chance to succeed. The Liberal army changed its strategy from conventional tactics to guerrilla warfare, thus transforming the war into a desperate struggle that lasted for two more years.

In July 1900, Historical Conservatives, seeking a political solution to the war, supported Marroquín in a coup against Sanclemente. Contrary to what his supporters had expected, Marroquín adopted a hard line against the rebels and refused to negotiate a settlement. In November 1902, the defeated Liberal army negotiated a peace agreement with the government. The war took more than 100,000 lives and left the country devastated.

The War of a Thousand Days left the country too weak to prevent Panama's secession from the republic in 1903. The events leading up to Panama's secession were as much international as domestic. At the turn of the century, the United States recognized the strategic need to have access to a naval route connecting the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, such as a canal in the isthmus. The HayHerrán Treaty of January 1903, which was to have been the basis for allowing the United States canal project to proceed, was rejected by the Colombian Congress. Because the proposed Panamanian route was preferred over the Nicaraguan alternative, the United States encouraged the Panamanian separatist movement, militarily assisted Panama in its movement for independence, and immediately recognized the independent Republic of Panama.


The Reyes Presidency

The devastation that resulted from the War of a Thousand Days discredited the factions of each party that had instigated the conflict. The moderates who assumed power in each party had similar economic interests; they recognized the need for the two parties to reconcile their differences and rule together in peaceful coexistence to ensure the survival of the country and the economy. For the first time in Colombian history, the Liberals and the Conservatives sought to share power rather than exclude the opposition party from it. Although Conservatives were nominally in control during this period, they formed coalition governments incorporating minority Liberals into the cabinet and other important political bodies. Rejecting the practice of excluding the Liberals from political participation, as had been done by the Nationalists, the moderate Conservatives removed the key element that had prompted so much political violence in the past and laid the foundation for economic progress in the country.

At the end of the civil war, the country needed a leader who was strong enough to rebuild the nation after the loss of Panama and the ravages of civil strife. General Rafael Reyes, elected president in 1904 with the support of moderate Conservatives, showed a determination to unify the republic, renew the nation's economy, and prevent any obstacle--constitutional or otherwise-- from standing in his way. Reyes's policies were a contradictory combination of political reconciliation and authoritarianism, which forced minority Liberal representation in government on the elected Conservative majority in Congress. His economic programs included a protectionist trade policy, which represented a major intervention of the state into economic activity. This trade policy encouraged domestic industrial growth, which in turn led to the growth of cities and the need to develop an urban infrastructure.

To ensure the passage of his economic reforms, Reyes greatly strengthened the executive and thereby centralized power. He abolished Congress and replaced it with a National Assembly composed of three representatives from each department, selected by department officials appointed by Reyes. This action ensured the adequate representation of the Liberal support he needed in the legislative branch. This extraconstitutional body was designed to approve his decrees and to pass constitutional amendments. The National Assembly allowed Reyes to implement policies that sometimes were at odds with orthodox economic theory and therefore would not have been tolerated by a Conservative Congress. Through these measures, Reyes established a sound fiscal administration, stabilized the monetary system, initiated a return to the gold standard, restored Colombian credit abroad, attracted foreign capital, improved transportation, encouraged export agriculture, and aided domestic industry. At the same time, however, he aroused a great deal of political opposition.

Reyes realized that the soundest path to economic development-- based on trade and foreign investment--required normalized relations with the United States, an unpopular idea at that time. In 1909 Reyes unsuccessfully tried to force legislative approval of the Thompson-Urrutia Treaty with the United States, which was to reestablish relations with that country and recognize the independence of Panama. The issue of the treaty's ratification, however, provided a focal point for opposition against Reyes, even though the treaty was ratified under a subsequent administration. In June 1909, the Republican Union, a bipartisan group of Liberals and Historical Conservatives who opposed Reyes, won a majority in the congressional elections held to reestablish the Colombian Cngress. In acknowledgment of the political current against him, Reyes secretly resigned later that month and left the country.

Carlos E. Restrepo, a Conservative who had been instrumental in founding the Republican Union, assumed the presidency after Reyes. The Republican Union represented a transformation in Colombian politics. The Liberal merchants and Conservative agriculturists found a common interest in coffee exports, which was quickly beginning to dominate the Colombian economy. Their mutual economic interest allowed the moderate factions of each party to join in a bipartisan coalition that gained political control at the end of the civil war. Although Conservatives retained nominal control of political institutions until 1930, they accepted and applied the principle of Liberal representation and participation in government. Conservative presidents appointed Liberals to their bipartisan cabinets and thus included them in political decision making. Although party conflict and rural unrest remained, the coalitions that the two parties formed provided a basis for political stability.

Colombia - Economic and Social Change

As a result of domestic policies and the international situation, the Colombian economy diversified and developed at the turn of the century. In the early 1900s, the industrial sector became an increasingly important part of the economy. Between 1900 and 1910, textile industries developed in Bello and Medellín, pottery plants in Caldas, and breweries in Itagüi and Bogotá. New economic groups emerged with the development of import substitution industrialization and of a larger financial sector.

During the 1910s and 1920s, the Colombian economy became more integrated into the global financial and commercial markets. Renewed relations with the United States during the administration of Marco Fidel Suárez (1918-21) opened the door for foreign exchange and investment. The United States replaced Britain as Colombia's key financial and commercial partner. Most of the foreign exchange came from the coffee trade, which at this time represented nearly 80 percent of exports. Foreign exchange also came in the form of loans and an indemnity paid by the United States for Colombia's loss of Panama. Money coming into the country was invested in industry, consumption goods, and public works and enterprises. Public works, such as building communication networks, accelerated under the Conservative Pedro Nel Ospina administration (1922-26). Investment in industry came primarily from the private sector, including foreign interests. By 1929 private foreign investment totaled US$400 million, with some US$45 million having been invested by oil companies. The Nel Ospina administration also oversaw the reorganization of the banking and financial sectors, creating the Bank of the Republic (Banco de la República).

The growth in industry and construction, supported by both public and private funds, led to the emergence of a genuine working class that soon learned to unionize. In 1918 Colombia experienced its first major strikes. The union movement also came to be influenced by European syndicalism and socialism; in 1919 the first workers' conference, which was fostered by socialist ideas, was held. These activities were a backdrop to the launching of the Colombian Socialist Party. During the 1920s, the union movement expanded and stimulated the growth of socialist-oriented groups. In 1928 a strike against the United Fruit Company was put down violently by armed forces. In the following year, Congressman Jorge Eliécer Gaitán criticized the rough handling of the strike and became a prominent speaker for the working class.

Growing popular discontent with the Conservative governments and divisions within Conservative ranks eventually resulted in the rise of the PL to power. The growth in the industrial and construction sectors that fueled the union movement also drained the countryside of agricultural workers, encouraging rural workers to petition for higher wages. In 1928 the government began importing food and as a result drew protests from agriculturists. Workers and artisans protested the rise in inflation that resulted from the influx of foreign loans and protectionist trade policies. Social tensions increased throughout the Conservative administration of Abadia Méndez (1926-30) and ultimately led to the fall of the PC after its forty-five years in power. The Liberals gained the upper hand in the political arena and retained it during the fifteen years (1930-45) of global crisis.

Colombia - THE REFORMIST PERIOD, 1930-45

The economic modernization of the early 1900s unleashed social forces that resulted in the emergence of new urban classes. As the traditional elites failed to address the demands made by the new groups, tension was generated. The growing urban electorate tended to favor those politicians who advocated social reforms. The Liberals were better able than the Conservatives to benefit from this development, especially during the first administration of Alfonso López Pumarejo (1934-38). The populist movement of the 1940s, represented by the progressive faction of the PL, attracted the most support, however, and represented a threat to the more conservative traditional elites. For the first time, nonelites had a voice with which to express their interests.

Although a split in the PC over candidates for the 1930 presidential election aided in the ascension of the PL to power, both parties were divided into factions. The PC consisted of moderates (led by Mariano Ospina Pérez and known as ospinistas) who wanted to maintain the status quo and reactionary conservatives (led by Laureano Gómez Castro and known as laureanistas) who favored a restructuring of the state along corporatist lines. The PL also had its moderates who supported the status quo. The second faction of the PL consisted of reformists, who favored controlled social change. These factions represented different socioeconomic groups. In general, reformists included the new financial and capitalist groups. Reactionaries primarily were traditional latifundistas (owners of latifundios). Moderates of both parties tended to have interests that incorporated several economic activities and included groups such as export-oriented latifundistas.

As a result of the Liberal victory, many of the privileges that had been afforded to Conservatives through patronage politics were now denied. Because the president appointed the governors, who in turn appointed the municipal mayors, the transfer of power from the PC to the PL at the presidential level was felt at the municipal level. Because of the change in the political affiliation of the police force, the stricter application of the law was transferred to members of the opposition party. Clashes resulted between partisan groups among the lower classes, who sought either to gain or to maintain their privileges. One such clash involved the peasants, who, amidst the confusion, tried to attain greater control over small plots of land at the expense of members of the opposing party.

The first Liberal president of the twentieth century, Enrique Olaya Herrera (1930-34), was elected at a time when the price of coffee had dropped to about one-third of the 1928 price, loans from United States banks had stopped, and the country was gripped by an economic depression. Olaya endeavored to hold together the moderate Liberals and the moderate Conservatives, some of whom had worked for his election. Although Conservative control of the legislature and concern over the economy constrained Olaya's ability to enact a comprehensive Liberal agenda, he succeeded in carrying out some reforms, notably in education. Nonetheless, some Liberals, disappointed by their party's failure to carry out a "revolution," in 1932 organized a movement called the Revolutionary Leftist National Union (Unión Nacional Izquierdista Revolucionaria--UNIR). The movement came to an end after Gaitán, its leader, returned to the PL in 1935 when the party adopted many of his proposed reforms and offered him a congressional seat.

International disputes also confronted the Olaya administration, one of the most prominent being a boundary conflict with Peru. In 1932 Peruvians occupied Leticia, a Colombian outpost on the Amazon, and hand-to-hand combat ensued between small Colombian and Peruvian forces. The dispute was settled by direct negotiation in 1934, when Peru recognized Colombian sovereignty over the port.

The most important president in the reformist period was Olaya's successor, López Pumarejo. Believing that the reformist faction of the PL had become strong enough to carry out its program, the López Pumarejo administration implemented extensive reforms, principally in agriculture, education, and the tax system. Known as the "Revolution on the March," these reforms included constitutional amendments that guaranteed the state's role in developing the economy of the country and diversifying its exports, authorized the national government to expropriate property for the common good, provided special state protection for labor and the right for labor unions to strike, and stipulated that public assistance was a function of the state. Additional reforms included the strict enforcement of progressive income and inheritance taxes, the guarantee of rights granted to squatters on public and private lands, the reinforcement of credit institutions, and the renewed separation of church and state.

The reforms put in place by the López Pumarejo administration, combined with import substitution policies, helped to accelerate the capitalist development of Colombia. During the López Pumarejo administration, coffee prices and the volume of exports increased. Protectionist measures helped to increase domestic production and enlarge the domestic market. A surge in industrialization began in the 1930s, aided by various external and internal factors. The key external factor was the world economic crisis of the 1930s, which limited the availability of goods to be imported and limited markets for exports. Internal factors included domestic capital accumulation via the tobacco, gold, and coffee trade; the increased buying power of large groups, especially coffee growers; the construction of transportation and communication facilities that unified the internal market; and a continuation of protectionist policies begun by President Reyes in 1904. The increasing emphasis on growing and exporting coffee fostered industrial development and allowed a more equitable distribution of income because more skilled laborers were employed and received higher wages. As a result, the demand for domestically produced consumer goods increased further.

Reforms instituted under López Pumarejo reflected a variety of influences: the Mexican Constitution of 1917, which had set forth provisions relating to social welfare, labor, and government responsibility in education and economics; ideas of change favored by the Peruvian apristas--members of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana-- APRA); and the New Deal policies of United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45). Some Colombian intellectuals had become interested in socialist thought, and the establishment of a liberal republic in Spain during the early 1930s inspired Colombian Liberals.

The Liberals, recognizing the social changes that were under way, identified themselves with the growing demands of the masses. In contrast, the Conservatives favored a minimum of concessions, the greatest possible influence of the church, and continued control of the country by a small upper class; they saw López Pumarejo's policies as communistic. Meanwhile, disagreement over the extent to which Liberal ideology should be applied led to a split between the pro-reform supporters of López Pumarejo and the pro-status quo followers of fellow Liberal Eduardo Santos, owner of the national daily El Tiempo.

In 1938 Santos became president with the support of moderate Liberals and of Conservatives opposed to López Pumarejo's Revolution on the March. Santos retained some of his predecessor's policies, such as protectionism, and oriented his policies toward capitalist industrial and agricultural development. The Santos administration improved the economic capabilities of the country to invest in industry. It also stimulated capital-intensive agriculture to convert traditional latifundios, which relied on cheap labor, into capitalist haciendas, which used advanced technology. The reduced demand for manual labor in the countryside caused many campesinos to migrate to the cities. This urban growth increased both the supply of labor and the demand for consumer goods, further contributing to industrial expansion. Santos also reduced taxes on machinery imports that were needed for industry.

In the later years of his administration, Santos turned his attention to relations with the church and the United States. In 1942 Santos reformed education by removing it from the control of the church. In the same year, he concluded a new agreement with the Vatican, requiring that bishops be Colombian citizens. During World War II, he cooperated with the United States in the defense of the Panama Canal, ousted German nationals from control of Colombia's national airline, and broke diplomatic relations with the Axis governments. His administration also strengthened economic, commercial, and cultural relations with the United States.

Despite opposition from Conservatives, moderate Liberals, and a more progressive Liberal group led by Gaitán, López Pumarejo was elected president for a second term in 1942. He was not as successful in the second term in implementing reform, however, because of strong Conservative opposition and a split in the Liberal organization in Congress. Laureano Gómez exploited the Liberal division by attacking López Pumarejo's foreign policy, including the declaration of war on the Axis Powers in 1943. Other effects of World War II were being felt at this time, including an unbalanced budget, unstable foreign trade, a decline in coffee prices, and an increase in import prices.

Discontent with López Pumarejo increased. Gómez made personal attacks on López Pumarejo and his family that were so inflammatory that Gómez was imprisoned in 1944. This triggered demonstrations and street fighting in Bogotá. In July 1944, during army maneuvers, López Pumarejo and some of his cabinet members were held prisoner for a few days by officers staging an abortive military coup in Pasto. Although most of the military supported the constitutional order, López Pumarejo lost prestige and power. In July 1945, he resigned in favor of his first presidential designate, Alberto Lleras Camargo, a Liberal who had distinguished himself as a writer and government official.

López Pumarejo's resignation resulted in part from pressure by the political and economic forces that he had helped to strengthen through the reforms of his first term. By 1942 a new group of industrialists wished to perpetuate their gains and believed that reform should cease. During López Pumarejo's first term, the interests of industrialists and those of other urban elements frequently coincided--for example, in reducing the power of the church and large landowners and in stimulating economic growth. In his second term, however, critics contended that the social reforms and development policies of the first term no longer were appropriate. Thus, the industrialists, looking for favorable tax policies and protection against the demands of labor, joined with the landowners in resisting reforms. Both groups helped block important portions of López Pumarejo's legislative program, and the reformist trend of the PL was negated by more moderate elements within the party.

Lleras Camargo, who served as provisional president until August 1946, appointed representatives of all parties to his cabinet in an effort to establish a "national union." Nonetheless, his coalition policy was attacked by Gaitán, who had gained considerable support among the masses and among some intellectuals and industrialists. When Gabriel Turbay, a moderate Liberal, won the party's nomination for the 1946 presidential election, Gaitán decided to run independently, and his forces shifted to a more militant stance. This serious split among Liberals resulted in the election of the Conservative candidate, Mariano Ospina Pérez, by a plurality of 42 percent of the electorate.


The transfer of power in 1946 ignited tensions between the two parties, resulting in violent political conflict, particularly in rural areas. The loss of peace foreboded the return to competitive and exclusionary politics, similar to the situation preceding the War of a Thousand Days. In the 1940s and 1950s, however, violence and exclusion more than threatened the political system; they ruptured it. A democratically elected administration became repressive and dictatorial, which led to its overthrow by the sole military coup in the twentieth century. Only by having the reins of power taken from both of their hands did the traditional elites recognize that the most effective way to avoid interparty civil wars and possible military dictatorships was to join forces and restrain their competitive tendencies.

In 1946 Ospina assumed office and was faced with the difficult task of ruling from a minority position, as Liberals had received the majority of all presidential votes and continued to control Congress. Ospina tried to confront this situation by incorporating Liberals into a coalition government. Meanwhile, the level of political rivalry intensified in the countryside, where Conservatives pursued a course of violence in an attempt to consolidate power after sixteen years out of office. Liberals retaliated and, under Gaitán's leadership, became highly mobilized in their demands that the Ospina government confront the social needs of the modernizing and urbanizing nation.

Gaitanism, the populist social movement led by Gaitán as a faction of the PL, increased dramatically between 1946 and 1948. Gaitán supported the democratic rather than the revolutionary path to reforms. By advocating the passage of more socially liberal policies, he appealed to the masses and he united urban workers and campesinos. As the movement grew, observers believed that Gaitán would be elected president, which may have happened had he lived to see the next election.

Liberal victories in the 1947 congressional elections demonstrated the party's strength among the electorate. Ospina became increasingly concerned with retaining Conservative control and provoked Liberals further by resorting frequently to police enforcement of Conservative privileges in the rural areas. The Liberal appointees in his government resigned in protest in March 1948.

Colombia - La Violencia

The following month, the inevitable explosion occurred in the form of the most violent and destructive riot in the country's long history of conflict. On April 9, Gaitán was assassinated at midday in the heart of Bogotá. An angry mob immediately seized and killed the assassin. In the ensuing riot, some 2,000 people were killed, and a large portion of downtown Bogotá was destroyed. The Bogotazo, as the episode came to be called, was an expression of mass social frustration and grief by a people who had lost the man who represented their only potential link to the decision-making process.

Although order was restored in Bogotá and Ospina remained in control, the tempo of rural violence quickened to a state of undeclared civil war known as la violencia. La violencia claimed over 200,000 lives during the next eighteen years, with the bloodiest period occurring between 1948 and 1958. La violencia spread throughout the country, especially in the Andes and the llanos (plains), sparing only the southernmost portion of Nariño and parts of the Caribbean coastal area. An extremely complex phenomenon, la violencia was characterized by both partisan political rivalry and sheer rural banditry. The basic cause of this protracted period of internal disorder, however, was the refusal of successive governments to accede to the people's demands for socioeconomic change.

After the Bogotazo, the Ospina government became more repressive. Ospina banned public meetings in March 1949 and fired all Liberal governors in May. In November of that year, Ospina ordered the army to forcibly close Congress. Rural police forces heightened the effort against belligerents and Liberals, and eventually all Liberals, from the ministerial to the local level, resigned their posts in protest.

In the 1949 presidential election, the Liberals refused to present a candidate; as a result, Gómez, the only Conservative candidate, took office in 1950. Gómez, who had opposed the Ospina administration for its initial complicity with the Liberals, was firmly in control of the party. As leader of the reactionary faction, he preferred authority, hierarchy, and order and was contemptuous of universal suffrage and majority rule. Gómez offered a program that combined traditional Conservative republicanism with the European corporatism of the time. A neofascist constitution drafted under his guidance in 1953 would have enhanced the autonomy of the presidency, expanded the powers of departmental governors, and strengthened the official role of the church in the political system.

Gómez acquired broad powers and curtailed civil liberties in an attempt to confront the mounting violence and the possibility that the Liberals might regain power. Pro-labor laws passed in the 1930s were canceled by executive decree, independent labor unions were struck down, congressional elections were held without opposition, the press was censored, courts were controlled by the executive, and freedom of worship was challenged as mobs attacked Protestant chapels. Gómez directed his repression in particular against the Liberal opposition, which he branded as communist. At the height of the violence, the number of deaths reportedly reached 1,000 per month.

Despite the relative prosperity of the economy--owing largely to expansion of the country's export markets and increased levels of foreign investment--Gómez lost support because of protracted violence and his attacks on moderate Conservatives and on the military establishment. Because of illness, in November 1951 Gómez allowed his first presidential designate, Roberto Urdaneta Arbeláez, to become acting president until Gómez could reassume the presidency. Although Urdaneta followed Gómez's policies, he refused to dismiss General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, whom Gómez suspected of conspiring against the government. When Gómez tried to return to office in June 1953, a coalition consisting of moderate Conservatives who supported Ospina, the PL, and the armed forces deposed him and installed a military government. They viewed such action as the only way to end the violence. Rojas Pinilla, who had led the coup d'état, assumed the presidency.

Colombia - The Rojas Pinilla Dictatorship

Initial response to the coup was enthusiastic and widespread; only the elements at the two extremes of the political spectrum protested the action. Rojas Pinilla's first goal was to end the violence, and to that end he offered amnesty and government aid to those belligerents who would lay down their arms. Thousands complied with the offer, and there was relative calm for several months after the coup. Other immediate steps taken by Rojas Pinilla included the transfer of the National Police to the armed forces in an effort to depoliticize the police, relaxation of press censorship, and release of political prisoners.

The government also started an extensive series of public works projects to construct transportation networks and hospitals and improved the system of credit for small farmers. Rojas Pinilla attempted to respond to demands for social reform through populist measures patterned after the policies of General Juan Domingo Perón (1946-55) in Argentina. The National Social Welfare Service, under the direction of his daughter María Eugenia Rojas de Moreno Díaz, was created to meet the most pressing needs of the poor, and the public works projects began to provide jobs for the masses of urban unemployed. The tax system was restructured to place more of the burden on the elite. Poorly administered, however, these reform programs met with little success. Rojas Pinilla was unable to restructure Colombian society.

Rojas Pinilla attempted to recruit political support from nontraditional sources. He courted the military by raising salaries and constructing lavish officers' clubs, and he counted the church by espousing a "Christian" doctrine as the foundation of his government. Through the creation of a "third force," Rojas Pinilla attempted to fuse the masses of peasants and urban workers into a movement that would counter the elite's traditional domination of the country's politics; however, this served more to anger the elite than to create a populist political base.

Support for the Rojas Pinilla regime faded within the first year. Toward the end of 1953, rural violence was renewed, and Rojas Pinilla undertook strict measures to counter it. Following a substantial increase in police and military budgets, the government assumed a dictatorial and demagogic character. The government reversed its initial social reform measures and relied instead on repression. It tightened press censorship and closed a number of the country's leading newspapers, both Liberal and Conservative. Under a new law, anyone who spoke disrespectfully of the president could be jailed or fined. Many were killed or wounded at the socalled Bull Ring Massacre in February 1956 for failing to cheer Rojas Pinilla sufficiently. The administration became increasingly corrupt, and graft in government circles was rampant. In addition, economic deterioration, triggered by a drop in coffee prices and exacerbated by inflationary government policies, seriously threatened the gains made since World War II. Efforts of government troops to suppress the widespread violence degenerated into an enforcement of the president's tenuous hold on power, and their methods became more brutal. Scorched-earth policies were introduced to confront the 20,000 belligerents estimated to be active in rural areas.

Rojas Pinilla tried to provide a legal facade for his dictatorship. A new constitution (the Constitution of 1886 was abolished in 1954) created a Legislative Assembly composed of fifty-nine Conservatives and thirty-three Liberals, twenty of whom were nominated by the president. The assembly elected Rojas Pinilla to the presidency in 1954 for four years; in 1957 it confirmed him as president until 1962, an action that consolidated mounting opposition to Rojas Pinilla and precipitated his subsequent fall from power.

By early 1957, most organized groups opposed Rojas Pinilla. Liberal and Conservative elites, to whom the populist and demagogic Rojas Pinilla had become a greater threat than their traditional party adversaries, decided to stop feuding and to join forces against the president under the banner of the National Front. Conservative and Liberal leaders had been negotiating an alliance since early 1956. In July 1956, Gómez--in exile in Spain--and Lleras Camargo signed the Declaration of Benidorm, a document that laid the foundation for the future institutionalization of a coalition government. The moderate Conservatives, supporting Rojas Pinilla until 1957, did not join in negotiations with the Liberals until that time.

Although factionalism between moderates and reactionaries slowed the process, all concerned parties signed a final agreement in San Carlos in 1957. Based on the Sitges Agreement signed between the reactionaries and the Liberals in Sitges, Spain, in 1957, the San Carlos Agreement stipulated that a Conservative, either moderate or reactionary, would be the first president under a National Front and that he would be elected by a National Congress previously elected by popular vote. The Sitges and San Carlos agreements, which sought to reduce interparty tensions and provide a basis for power-sharing between the parties, also called for the following: restoration of the Constitution of 1886, which had been abolished by Rojas Pinilla; the alternation of the presidency between the two parties every four years; parity between parties in all legislative bodies; a required two-thirds majority vote for the passage of legislation; the establishment of an administrative career service of neutral parties not subject to partisan appointment; women's suffrage and equal political rights for women; and the devotion of at least 10 percent of the national budget to education.

As the party leaders laid the basis for a coalition government, the tides of discontent turned against Rojas Pinilla. When Rojas Pinilla ordered the arrest of Guillermo León Valencia, a Conservative leader involved in the formation of the National Front, Rojas Pinilla was confronted with student demonstrations, massive strikes, riots, and finally the declared opposition of the church and the defection of top-ranking military officers. In May 1957, faced with a multitude of protesters and top military leaders requesting his resignation, Rojas Pinilla resigned and went into temporary exile in Spain. Power reverted to a five-man junta led by General Gabriel París, who promised the free election of a civilian president in August 1958.

In December 1957, Colombians voted overwhelmingly in a national plebiscite to approve the Sitges and San Carlos agreements as amendments to the Constitution of 1886. Congressional elections were held soon thereafter, with the result that the reactionary Conservatives emerged as the largest faction of the Conservative half of Congress. Gómez vetoed the proposed presidential candidacy of Valencia, who until then had been the strongest Conservative candidate. As a result of this division within the PC, faction leaders agreed to allow a Liberal to be the first president under the National Front and to extend the provision of the coalition government from twelve to sixteen years. These agreements were ratified by Congress as constitutional amendments in 1958. In August of that year, Lleras Camargo, a Liberal, was elected as the first president under the National Front.

Colombia - THE NATIONAL FRONT, 1958-74

The National Front agreement to share power between Liberals and Conservatives was a constructive effort to assuage the interparty strife and distrust that had contributed to both the violence and the collapse of the democratic system. Its inauguration marked the beginning of a gradual decline in the level of confrontation. Nevertheless, the necessity of securing bipartisan support for any policy or action produced several difficulties--most notably, stalemate and inaction in the governmental process, voter apathy, and the exacerbation of factionalism within the two parties--that were to plague National Front administrations.

Colombia - Instituting the Coalition Government

When Lleras Camargo took office in August 1958, he faced not only the problems of rivalry between Liberals and Conservatives but also factional controversies within the two parties. He succeeded, however, in demonstrating that the National Front program could point the way to a restoration of constitutional government. His administration adopted vigorous measures to reduce banditry and rural violence.

Lleras Camargo introduced an austerity program to improve economic conditions, with the result that in 1958 Colombia recorded its most favorable balance of trade in twenty years. The government cut imports, stabilized the peso, and established the National Planning Department. It handled labor troubles with firmness. The Lleras Camargo government also instituted a series of programs to improve the living conditions of the masses, including expansion of the water supply, sewers, housing, and education. An agrarian reform law passed in 1961 provided for a new agency, the Colombian Institute of Agrarian Reform (Instituto Colombiano de Reforma Agraria--Incora). Lleras Camargo's government made only limited progress in land reform, however, in the face of opposition from Liberals, who denounced the plan as inadequate, and from Conservatives, who called it communistic and revolutionary. Nevertheless, at the end of his term in 1962, despite a difficult political situation, Lleras Camargo had done much to stabilize the economy, stimulate increased output of industrial and agricultural products, and bring the people a renewed confidence in the future.

Although he was strongly opposed by Gómez and his supporters among the reactionary Conservatives, Valencia became the next official Conservative candidate of the National Front and was elected for the 1962-66 presidential term. Only half the eligible citizens voted, but Valencia received more than 62 percent of the votes, which perhaps confirmed the voters' belief in the principle of alternating the presidency between the two leading parties. Valencia took only modest steps to continue the programs initiated by his predecessor. He ignored, for example, the National Planning Department and failed to fill vacancies as they occurred. Incora's land reform program also ran into opposition from large landholders. In addition, Valencia's finance minister, Carlos Sanz, devalued the peso and proposed new taxes, thereby arousing the hostility of Congress.

Declining economic conditions contributed to growing social unrest. Increasing prices, the printing of growing quantities of paper money, and a drop in the price of coffee affected the economy adversely and contributed to increased inflation. Drains on the economy were generated by contraband trade with neighboring countries. The equivalent of some US$64 million in foreign loans promised in 1964 had been withheld, and the government was faced with a serious deficit. Rumors of plots against the government circulated, students protesting high prices rioted in Bogotá, and kidnappings occurred frequently. Valencia declared a state of siege in May 1965 and, having lost additional congressional support, was forced to rule by decree. The war minister, General Alberto Ruiz Novoa, succeeded in reducing civil disorders; Ruiz was dismissed in January 1965, however, after he openly criticized the president and made it known that he considered himself a leader who might bring order out of the confusion that plagued the nation.

In mid-1965 the state of siege enabled Valencia and his new finance minister, Joaquín Vallejo, to enact reforms by decree. They raised taxes, collected delinquent taxes, limited imports, and applied other austerity measures. The United States and international lending agencies then agreed to make loans to Colombia with the understanding that the government would take vigorous action to improve its financial situation. Inflation leveled off, and rumors of plots to remove the president died down.

Colombia - Opposition to the National Front

Despite the constitutional amendment stipulating that only the PL and PC were authorized to participate in elections, dissident groups opposing the National Front arrangement formed "movements" to challenge the establishment by presenting candidates under the Liberal and Conservative labels. In 1959 Liberal dissidents formed the Liberal Recovery Movement (Movimiento de Recuperación Liberal)- -subsequently renamed the Liberal Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Liberal--MRL)--under the leadership of Alfonso López Michelsen, son of ex-President López Pumarejo. The more serious challenge to the National Front arrangement came from the populist National Popular Alliance (Alianza Nacional Popular-- Anapo), which was founded in 1961 by Rojas Pinilla after his return from exile. The potential popular support for these dissident movements was manifest in the congressional elections of 1964, when 70 percent of the voters failed to cast ballots and 10 percent voted against Valencia's candidates. Congressional victories by Anapo and MRL reduced Valencia's support in the legislature to a narrow majority.

During the mid-1960s, the embers of la violencia were dying out, but guerrilla activity was increasing. In 1964 the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional--ELN) was formed by students who were disenchanted with the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Colombia (Partido Comunista de Colombia--PCC) and inspired by the Cuban Revolution. The ELN gained its greatest notoriety when Father Camilo Torres, a Roman Catholic priest, joined the guerrilla group in 1966 and was killed in an armed conflict with government forces shortly thereafter. In 1966 another guerrilla movement--the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia--FARC)--began operating and was officially designated as a branch of the PCC.

Carlos Lleras Restrepo, the third president under the National Front, proved to be an effective leader. He was opposed in the 1966 election by the Liberal Anapo candidate, who won almost 30 percent of the vote. Aided by an especially competent group of cabinet members, Lleras Restrepo enacted a number of reforms during his tenure in office. He swiftly announced the creation of a series of presidential task forces to draw up national development plans, which included the establishment of exchange controls to combat the mounting foreign exchange difficulties; an increased state role in economic development; and funding for new housing, infrastructure, and industrial development projects. These proposals drew support from international lending agencies, which helped ease the fiscal problems that had beset the Valencia administration.

The effectiveness of the government was increased by the sweeping constitutional reforms of December 1968, which abolished the requirement of a two-thirds majority for Congress to pass major bills and gave greater authority to the executive in economic decision making. In addition, the reforms provided for the gradual phasing out of the National Front arrangement during the coming decade. Having discarded major obstacles that had stalemated previous National Front administrations, Lleras Restrepo built on the efforts of Lleras Camargo in economic and social reform. The government revised tax laws and rationalized tax collection through more rigid enforcement. Wage and price controls helped stabilize the currency, and inflation was held to a moderate 7 percent per year. The Lleras Restrepo administration improved the balance of payments situation through a program of export diversification, through which exports other than coffee more than doubled between 1966 and 1970. The government reorganized the Ministry of Agriculture and gave it increased resources to finance investments in the agricultural sector. Incora intensified agrarian reform efforts and issued more than 60,000 land titles to tenants and sharecroppers in 1968 and 1969 alone. The creation of the Andean Common Market in 1969 further stimulated economic expansion through the integration of the economies of Colombia and its neighbors.

The policies of the Lleras Restrepo administration resulted in an increased rate of economic growth. Nevertheless, an explosive population increase continued to add some 200,000 young Colombians to the labor force each year, and the problems of poverty and unemployment persisted. A system of family planning was launched, in spite of considerable church opposition, in an attempt to slow the population growth that was largely nullifying the economic gains.

Unrest in the late 1960s assumed a more urban and more nearly class-oriented base as rural and interparty violence receded. Rural disorders declined markedly as a consequence of optimism on the economic front and the capture of some of the most prominent guerrilla leaders. In 1968, however, a new guerrilla group--the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación--EPL)--was formed as the armed branch of the Communist Party of Colombia-- Marxist-Leninist (Partido Comunista de Colombia--MarxistaLeninista --PCC-ML), a pro-Chinese group. In December 1968 Lleras Restrepo lifted the state of siege that had been imposed under Valencia in 1965. Sporadic incidents of violence occurred, however, especially among dissident students and labor union members, and the government reinstated its emergency powers on several occasions.

Dissidence within the PL was lessened through the reintegration of the MRL and its leader, López Michelsen, who came to play a valuable role in the Lleras Restrepo government. In the 1968, congressional elections, those elements of both the PL and PC that supported the National Front arrangement gained a strong majority in the legislature. Voter apathy persisted, however, and less than 40 percent of eligible voters participated.

Under the banner of Anapo, Rojas Pinilla continued his appeal to the urban masses and the peasantry, promising solutions to the problems of unemployment and inflation and advocating free education and health care for the poor. Anapo challenged the National Front by presenting Rojas Pinilla as a Conservative candidate for the presidency in 1970. The election took place in an atmosphere of escalating violence, and the public received with widespread skepticism the official announcement that the Conservative candidate of the National Front, Misael Pastrana Borrero, had won by a narrow margin of 65,000 votes. The outpouring of support for Rojas Pinilla indicated significant voter dissatisfaction with the National Front's response to Colombia's persistent social and economic problems.

Colombia - Dismantling the Coalition Apparatus

Pastrana was the last president to be elected under the provisions of the National Front. In 1970 the government began to dismantle the structure of the National Front in accordance with the 1968 constitutional amendments. The parity provision for elective legislative bodies and the exclusion of nontraditional parties from participation in elections no longer applied on the local level. These changes also went into effect on the national level in 1974, in time for the election of Pastrana's successor.

The liberalization of the political system in effect undercut support for the bipartisan movements that had challenged the traditional parties during the National Front. Although Anapo declared itself an official party in 1971, it declined in popularity and electoral strength. María Eugenia Rojas--the Anapo candidate in the 1974 presidential election--received less than 10 percent of the vote. After General Rojas Pinilla's death in 1975, the party continued to lose strength, eventually allying itself with other marginal movements that, by themselves, drew insignificant results at the polls.

Pastrana termed his administration the "Social Front" and followed most of the policies of his predecessor. In two areas of economic policy, however, he differed: land reform and the status of the construction sector. Pastrana's proposals for land reform included promises of redistribution; however, the large landowners objected to the government's proposal to base taxation on potential rather than actual income from the land. In the course of negotiations between the agricultural interests and the different party factions, productivity replaced redistribution as a priority. The government granted major concessions to the large agriculturists concerning the bases for assessing income and real estate taxes. It also guaranteed that new sources of credit be made available for modernizing the agricultural sector along capitalintensive lines.

In industrial policy, Pastrana selected construction as the "leading sector." The administration advocated public investment in construction projects as the engine of growth for the economy because it created employment and increased income and, by extension, increased demand for domestically produced items. Pastrana also encouraged private investment in the leading sector through the establishment of the Units of Constant Purchasing Power (Unidades de Poder Adquisitivo Constante--UPAC), a system by which an investment not only accrued interest but also was adjusted for inflation. The UPAC system of adjusting for inflation extended to many elements of the economy, including life insurance, wages, and prices. The combination of the UPAC system and the huge investment in construction overstimulated the economy and fueled inflation, which reached 27 percent by 1974.

Guerrilla activity continued during the Pastrana administration. In 1972 another guerrilla group--the 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril--M-19)--emerged. The M-19 took its name from the date on which Rojas Pinilla was narrowly and, in their minds, fraudulently, defeated by Pastrana. Although the M-19 claimed to be the armed branch of Anapo, the Rojas Pinilla organization disavowed any connection to the guerrilla group.


The Erosion of Partisan Affiliations

The PL and PC were weak, divided into factions, and inadequately organized at the end of the existence of the National Front. Because the political parties were not eager to engage in intense competition, Colombia achieved a peaceful transition to an open system. The principle of power-sharing was retained, although a president was allowed to select appointees from whatever sources he chose if the opposition refused to participate in his government.

The experience of the National Front, the lack of organizational efforts by the parties, and the massive migrations from rural to urban areas weakened party affiliations, which also decreased the likelihood of interparty violence. This weakening of party identification emerged as an unforeseen consequence of the nonpartisan structure of the National Front, in which party loyalty was less important than support for a particular faction. In addition, rapid urbanization and industrialization eroded the traditional bases of partisan support because Liberal supporters were transplanted to Conservative communities. The period after the National Front also reflected a growing gap between the issues and agendas of the political elite and the demands, concerns, and expectations of the populace.

The erosion of the bond between the elites and the masses also was manifested in the high rates of electoral abstentionism, rising levels of mass political apathy and cynicism, the emergence of an urban swing vote, and widespread distrust of the nation's political institutions and leadership. The image the masses held of the elite was tarnished by the failure of the elite as a whole to institute promised reforms and by suspected links between some leaders and the drug trade. The traditional mechanisms of political control, such as inherited party affiliation, patrimonialism, and clientelism, lost their effectiveness, especially in the growing urban areas.

The government's failure to accommodate the new social groups and classes that had emerged during Colombia's modernization generated the increasing alienation of the masses from the political leadership and caused some elements among the masses to resort to militancy. Thus, Colombia experienced a radicalization of peasant movements, an increase in urban protests, a growing restlessness within the urban labor movement, and a surge in rural and urban guerrilla activity.

Popular discontent with the government's management of the economy continued despite steady economic growth and high primary export revenues in the mid-1970s. The post-National Front period began in the midst of inflation and unemployment that fueled social unrest and prompted the government to institute unpopular antiinflationary austerity measures. Subsequent moves to increase employment by raising public spending on construction and infrastructure projects did more to augment the national debt than to alleviate the unemployment problem. As the coffee boom receded, growth rates declined steadily through the 1978-82 period. The massive underground economy, fueled by drug trafficking and marijuana cultivation, undermined the government's efforts to control inflation and contributed to the rise of a parallel financial market, placing a large part of the national economy beyond the control of legitimate authority.

Colombia - The Liberal Tenure

The first president elected in the post-National Front period, López Michelsen (1974-78), faced difficult situations in three areas: the economy, the guerrilla movement, and the drug trade. Subsequent governments inherited these same problems. The influx of foreign exchange from the coffee boom and the illicit drug trade created a glut of money in the financial sector that increased the rate of inflation. To counteract this, López Michelsen immediately instituted a stabilization program that included austere measures, such as cutting back on public investment and social welfare programs and tightening credit and raising the interest rate. By declaring a state of economic emergency, López Michelsen was able to pass unpopular yet necessary economic measures without legislative action.

Another key component of López Michelsen's economic policy was designed to improve income distribution. The cornerstone of this effort was the "To Close the Gap" program. This program addressed the rural sector by proposing to increase productivity and employment in the countryside and integrate the rural sector into the monetary market with the support of the Integrated Rural Development program.

The "To Close the Gap" plan had its greatest impact, however temporary, in the tax reform of 1974. The tax reform, instituted two months after López Michelsen took office, made changes in the sales tax, export taxes and incentives, import surcharges, the tax treatment of government agencies, and personal and corporate income taxes. The reform had four general goals: to make the tax system more progressive, to reduce the distorting effects of the tax system on resource allocation, to promote economic stability by increasing revenues on a one-time basis and by enhancing the built- in response of the tax system to growth in the national income, and to simplify tax administration and compliance and thereby reduce evasion and increase yields. The government recorded a short-term fiscal improvement; nevertheless, inflation and a failure to improve administrative procedures allowed for continued large-scale tax evasion and an ultimate drop in revenues.

The austerity that the López Michelsen administration forced on the country had unpopular consequences. Inflation outstripped wage increases, nontraditional exports faced unfavorable trade conditions, and the industrial sector entered into a slump. Students and labor groups engaged in periodic protests and strikes. In October 1976, López Michelsen imposed a state of siege following two months of strikes by social security employees. The continuing discontent with the government erupted again in September 1977 when the four major labor unions joined in a strike to protest the high cost of living. Under the state of siege measures still in effect, the administration declared the strike illegal. Riots following the government's attempt to suppress the strike resulted in twenty deaths. Several cabinet ministers resigned in protest over the way the strike had been handled.

Guerrilla activity resurged during the López Michelsen administration, although some groups actually became less active. The FARC was the most active, operating in rural areas in the departments of Antioquia, Tolima, Magdalena, Boyacá, Caquetá, and Meta. The M-19 kidnapped and held more than 400 people for ransom. The ELN, especially active in southern Bolívar Department, kidnapped several prominent people and ambushed army patrols. The EPL, however, declined in importance after the death of its founder, Pedro León Arboleda, in 1975.

Although López Michelsen did not view drug trafficking as a serious threat at the beginning of his administration, by 1978 he recognized the ruinous impact that the drug industry was having on the political and economic structure of Colombian society. Corruption financed by the drug rings permeated all levels of the political system. Those in office or campaigning for office who spoke out against the major drug traffickers rightfully feared for their lives. In some areas, prominent drug traffickers were so powerful that they were able to get themselves elected to local or state offices.

Although the narcotics industry contributed to a foreign exchange surplus and generated employment, its overall impact was detrimental to the national economy. The influx of dollars contributed to the increase in the money supply and the creation of a parallel economy that competed with the official economy for financial resources. The industry created "boom towns" in rural Colombia that rose and fell within short periods of time. The income provided by the drug industry was used primarily for conspicuous consumption rather than for productive investment. The slash-and-burn method of cultivating marijuana destroyed fertile land that could have been used for legal food production, resulting in both a damaged environment and a national need to import food. The parallel economy contaminated the official economy through the laundering of narcodollars, often through the "side windows" of government banks and the real estate industry. Drug traffickers also purchased legitimate businesses, such as banks, textile mills, and sports teams. The drug traffickers' control over a large portion of the illicit economy and a significant amount of the official economy undercut government efforts at national economic planning. In addition, government efforts to combat drug trafficking drained funds that could have been used more productively elsewhere.

In late 1977, observers mistakenly predicted that the Conservative Belisario Betancur Cuartas would win the 1978 presidential election because of the division of the PL into rival factions that supported Lleras Restrepo and Julio César Turbay Ayala. Turbay became the nominee of the PL after his faction won the most seats in the February 1978 congressional elections. The presidential campaign was largely personalistic in that neither candidate took specific positions on major issues. The candidates differed, however, in their reliance on partisan machinery. Turbay stressed the party connection, whereas Betancur, representing the minority party, claimed to be a candidate of its National Movement (Movimiento Nacional), which joined together Conservatives, dissident Liberals, remnants of Anapo, and members of the Christian Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrática Cristiano-- PSDC). Turbay won the presidential election by a narrow margin; approximately 60 percent of all voters abstained.

The Turbay administration (1978-82) inherited a slightly improved financial situation because the austerity measures instituted under López Michelsen and declining coffee revenues had produced a lower rate of inflation by 1978. Turbay focused his economic policy on reducing unemployment and avoiding an impending recession. A main goal was the decentralization of fiscal resources and the promotion of regional autonomy, which made public investment in infrastructure a priority. His National Integration Plan (Plan de Integración Nacional--PIN) of 1979-82 foresaw growth in public investment to reach 19 percent in real terms. Because government revenues from coffee exports were declining at this time, Turbay had to finance the growth in public spending by turning to foreign loans. The increased public spending thus contributed both to a renewed rise in inflation and to a massive increase in foreign debt. Attempting to avoid a recession, Turbay also encouraged foreign investment in Colombia and promoted domestic investment in labor-intensive industries to reduce high urban unemployment. In spite of increased government spending, Colombia experienced a recession caused by tight credit and high interest rates, a reduction in protectionist tariffs, grants of import licenses for industrial goods, smuggled imports, and a decreased world demand for industrial goods produced in Colombia.

Shortly after taking office, Turbay gave top priority to combating guerrilla activity and narcotics trafficking. Although designed ostensibly to counteract drug trafficking, the institution of a state of siege and the National Security Statute of 1978 substantially enhanced the government's ability to act against guerrillas.

Critics charged that the military and police forces used the security statute to detain indiscriminately "cultural subversives"- -including prominent journalists, artists, and scholars--who were suspected of being associated with left-wing elements. Threats to invoke the security statute in nonpolitical cases, such as protests for a better water supply, suppressed popular unrest. Persons arrested on political charges alleged that the armed forces had resorted to torture during interrogation. Although the government claimed that tough measures were needed to counter leftist subversion, critics asserted that repression resulted from the worsening economic situation. The deteriorating human rights situation drew criticism from leaders of both parties and from international organizations such as Amnesty International. Turbay lifted the state of siege and nullified the security statute in June 1982, shortly before leaving office.

Despite the severe measures taken against leftist subversion, guerrilla activity increased and reached a peak during the Turbay administration. Although the ELN was less active than during the López Michelsen administration, the FARC expanded its operations, especially in Cauca and Caldas departments.

The M-19 emerged as the most active guerrilla group during this period. In January 1979, members of the M-19 tunneled into a military arsenal in Bogotá and took 5,000 guns. Within a few weeks, however, most of the weapons were recovered, and many of the participants were arrested. In October 1979, more than 200 accused M-19 members were brought to trial in Bogotá. The delay of other military trials of M-19 members probably led to the movement's takeover of the embassy of the Dominican Republic in February 1980, in which fourteen diplomats, including the ambassador of the United States, were held hostage. The seizure ended peacefully when the kidnappers received safe conduct out of the city and a promise that the Inter-American Human Rights Commission would be permitted to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. By the end of 1981, the M-19 had shifted from purely urban to mostly rural operations and had formed a tenuous union with the other three guerrilla groups. In March of that year, Turbay proposed--and the Senate approved--a limited four-month amnesty for those guerrillas already detained if a sufficient number in the field were to lay down their arms. A second limited amnesty for those guerrillas who surrendered peacefully was approved for the period from February to June 1982.

Turbay also took a strong stance against drug traffickers. In 1978 the president gave the army a key role in the main operation to control drug trafficking and marijuana cultivation in the department of La Guajira, including allowing a military occupation of the region. Two years later, the government transferred responsibility for the antidrug campaign in La Guajira to units of the National Police. Combined efforts with the United States produced some success; for example, the joint Operation Tiburón, which began in December 1980, resulted in the seizure of more than 2,700 tons of marijuana. Despite some impressive victories, however, the drug traffickers continued to wield increasing economic and political power in the country.

In the early 1980s, evidence came to the fore linking some Colombian drug traffickers with both Cuba and the M-19. In 1982 a federal grand jury in Miami indicted four close aides of Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz on charges of smuggling narcotics into the United States. According to the indictment, the aides assisted the operations of Colombia drug trafficker Jaime Guillot Lara, who, in turn, funneled arms and money on Cuba's behalf to the M-19.

A contradictory episode in the relationship between the guerrillas and the drug trade was the December 1981 founding of the right-wing "paramilitary" group Death to Kidnappers (Muerte a Secuestradores--MAS) by prominent drug lords Carlos Ledher Rivas and Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez. MAS apparently was established to intimidate and punish those guerrilla groups, especially the M-19, that had engaged in the ransom of key members of the drug community in order to finance their operations. MAS subsequently became a death squad, targeting left-wing politicians, students, and party members.

The post-National Front Liberal presidencies proved unable to stem the growth in guerrilla activity and narcotics trafficking. A divided PL thus lost support and the presidency to the PC, effecting a peaceful alternation of power between the two parties. In 1982 the PL presented López Michelsen for reelection, supported by the Turbay faction of the party. Opposing him from the LP was Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento, a member of the Lleras Restrepo faction. In 1979 Galán had formed the New Liberalism Movement (Movimiento Nuevo Liberalismo--MNL) and accused the Turbay-López Michelsen forces of opportunism, clientelism, and corruption. The PC coalesced again behind Betancur and his National Movement. López Michelsen employed the partisan campaign style that Turbay had used in the previous election, counting on the Liberal majority to remain loyal to the party. Betancur retained his minority strategy of stressing coalition over party affiliation and received endorsements from Gloria Eliécer Gaitán, daughter of Jorge Gaitán, and from María Eugenia Rojas. With the voter abstention rate reduced to 54 percent, Betancur won a decisive victory, receiving support from some traditionally Liberal areas. The election represented the first peaceful exchange of power between the two parties since the end of the National Front.

Upon taking office, Betancur confronted the economic and social conditions bequeathed by his predecessors: economic recession, fiscal deficit, foreign debt, inflation, and unemployment. The parallel economy remained a major concern, as did the growing strength of drug traffickers. On the social front, Betancur sought to negotiate a peace with the guerrillas, offering them unconditional amnesty and legitimate participation in the political system.

Colombia - The Society and Its Environment

COLOMBIA IS THE FIFTH LARGEST country in Latin America and has the third largest population (28 million) in the region. Unlike most of its Andean neighbors, Colombia is a nation of cities; almost 70 percent of the people lived in urban areas in the late 1980s. In addition to Bogotá, the capital, which had an estimated population of 5 million in 1988, three other cities had populations of 1 million or more: Cali, Medellín, and Barranquilla. Fourteen other urban centers had populations of between 100,000 and 500,000. More than 100 cities had 10,000 or more inhabitants.

Three-fifths of the country was sparsely populated tropical lowlands and jungle. Ninety-eight percent of the population was concentrated in the interior two-fifths of the national territory-- mainly in the narrow valleys and intermontane basins formed by the three ranges of the Andes Mountains that divide the country from north to south. The dominant language was Spanish, and the vast majority of the people were (at least nominally) Roman Catholic. Seventy percent of the population was of mixed blood; Caucasians, Indians, and blacks accounted for the rest. The country's economic and political elite remained predominantly white, however.

Over the past nearly 500 years, Colombian society has been highly stratified, with a castelike elite, correlation between skin color and class membership, and limited vertical mobility. Modern social structure was the offspring of a colonial society that was rigidly segregated into two groups: the white elite of educated, cultured, rich, and politically powerful persons and the mass of proletarians and peasants. A small middle group, composed of merchants and minor officials, actually belonged with the lower class in terms of powerlessness.

Independence did little to change this configuration, and prestige continued to be determined by birth and landownership. The postindependence period did not encourage a revolutionary change in the stratification system but instead reinforced the status quo. The continuing political anarchy, the difficulty of economic development because of ineffective use of capital and resources, and the lack of an urban labor movement inhibited change throughout the nineteenth century and discouraged the growth of an independent, viable middle class.

The rugged terrain and inadequate transportation system reinforced social and geographic distance, keeping the numerically superior but disunited masses fragmented and powerless. The nascent middle sector lacked a collective consciousness, preferring to identify individually with the upper class. The elite was the only social group with sufficient cohesion to articulate goals and make them known to the rest of the society.

In the twentieth century, the society began to experience change--not so much in values or orientation but in broadening of the economic bases and an expansion of the social classes. Improvements in transportation, communication, and education-- coupled with industrialization and rapid urban growth--opened the society somewhat by expanding economic opportunities. Individuals moved up from the masses into the lower, the middle, and infrequently the upper classes. Nevertheless, the traditional upper class continued to dominate the country by maintaining strict control over forces that encouraged change and by absorbing or coopting other social sectors into the economic and political system. Generally, however, the upper class did not admit these upwardly mobile groups to the inner circle of power cliques and informal social contacts.

Colombia - GEOGRAPHY

Located in the northwest corner of the South American continent, Colombia encompasses an area of more than 1.1 million square kilometers. It is the only country in South America with both Caribbean (1,760 kilometers) and Pacific coastlines (1,448 kilometers). Colombia also has international borders with five Latin American nations: Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador. There were no major outstanding international boundary problems between Colombia and its neighbors in the late 1980s. All of the borders had long been delineated, and most had been demarcated by surveys and the placement of markers, although tropical jungle terrain and hostile Indians had impeded survey operations in some areas along the borders with Venezuela and Brazil. Colombia and Venezuela did, however, dispute sovereignty over the seabed in the Golfo de Venezuela, an area of potential petroleum wealth.

In addition to its mainland territory, Colombia possesses a number of small islands in both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The combined areas of all these islands do not exceed sixtyfive square kilometers.

In the Caribbean, off the coast of Nicaragua and 640 kilometers from the Colombian coast, Colombian territory includes an archipelago of thirteen small cays grouped around the Isla de San Andrés and the Isla de Providencia. Other small islands, cays, and banks in the same area--which belong to Colombia but also are claimed by Nicaragua--are Isla de Santa Catalina, Cayos de Roncador, Banco de Quita Sueño, Banco de Serrana, and Banco de Serranilla. Several small islands also lie off Colombia's Caribbean coast south of Cartagena. These include the Isla del Rosario, Islas de San Bernardo, and Isla Fuerte.

In the Pacific, Colombian territory encompasses Isla de Malpelo, which lies about 430 kilometers west of Buenaventura. Nearer the coast, a prison colony is located on Isla Gorgona. Isla Gorgonilla lies off the southern shore of Isla Gorgona.

<>Geographic Regions
<>Andean Highlands
Caribbean Lowlands
Pacific Lowlands
Eastern Colombia

Colombia - Geographic Regions

Geographers have devised different ways to divide Colombia into regions. It is most appropriate to divide the country into four geographic regions: the Andean highlands, consisting of the three Andean ranges and intervening valley lowlands; the Caribbean lowlands coastal region; the Pacific lowlands coastal region, separated from the Caribbean lowlands by swamps at the base of the Isthmus of Panama; and eastern Colombia, the great plain that lies to the east of the Andes Mountains.

Colombia - Andean Highlands

Near the Ecuadoran frontier, the Andes Mountains divide into three distinct, roughly parallel chains, called cordilleras, that extend northeastward almost to the Caribbean Sea. Altitudes reach more than 5,700 meters, and mountain peaks are permanently covered with snow. The elevated basins and plateaus of these ranges have a moderate climate that provides pleasant living conditions and in many places enables farmers to harvest twice a year. Torrential rivers on the slopes of the mountains produce a large hydroelectric power potential and add their volume to the navigable rivers in the valleys. In the late 1980s, approximately 78 percent of the country's population lived in the Andean highlands.

The Cordillera Occidental in the west, the Cordillera Central in the center, and the Cordillera Oriental in the east have different characteristics. Geologically, the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Central form the western and eastern sides of a massive crystalline arch that extends from the Caribbean lowlands to the southern border of Ecuador. The Cordillera Oriental, however, is composed of folded stratified rocks overlying a crystalline core.

The Cordillera Occidental is relatively low and is the least populated of the three cordilleras. Summits are only about 3,000 meters above sea level and do not have permanent snows. Few passes exist, although one that is about 1,520 meters above sea level provides the major city of Cali with an outlet to the Pacific Ocean. The relatively low elevation of the cordillera permits dense vegetation, which on the western slopes is truly tropical.

The Cordillera Occidental is separated from the Cordillera Central by the deep rift of the Cauca Valley. The Río Cauca rises within 200 kilometers of the border with Ecuador and flows through some of the best farmland in the country. After the two cordilleras converge, the Cauca Valley becomes a deep gorge all the way to the Caribbean lowlands.

The Cordillera Central is the loftiest of the mountain systems. Its crystalline rocks form an 800-kilometer-long towering wall dotted with snow-covered volcanoes. There are no plateaus in this range and no passes under 3,300 meters. The highest peak in this range, the Nevado del Huila, reaches 5,439 meters above sea level. The second highest peak is a volcano, Nevado del Ruiz, which erupted violently on November 13, 1985. Toward its northern end, this cordillera separates into several branches that descend toward the Caribbean coast.

Between the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera Oriental flows the Río Magdalena. This 1,600-kilometer-long river rises near a point some 180 kilometers north of the border with Ecuador, where the Cordillera Oriental and the Cordillera Central diverge. Its spacious drainage area is fed by numerous mountain torrents originating high in the snowfields. The Río Magdalena is generally navigable from the Caribbean Sea as far as the town of Neiva, deep in the interior, but is interrupted midway by rapids. The valley floor is very deep; nearly 800 kilometers from the river's mouth the elevation is no more than about 300 meters.

In the Cordillera Oriental at elevations between 2,500 and 2,700 meters, three large fertile basins and a number of small ones provide suitable areas for settlement and intensive economic production. In the basin of Cundinamarca, where the Spanish found the Chibcha Indians, the European invaders established the town of Santa Fe de Bogotá (present-day Bogotá) at an elevation of 2,650 meters above sea level.

To the north of Bogotá, in the densely populated basins of Chiquinquira and Boyacá, are fertile fields, rich mines, and large industrial establishments that produce much of the national wealth. Still farther north, where the Cordillera Oriental makes an abrupt turn to the northwest near the border with Venezuela, the highest point of this range, the Sierra Nevada de Cocuy, rises to 5,493 meters above sea level. In the department of Santander, the valleys on the western slopes are more spacious, and agriculture is intensive in the area around Bucaramanga. The northernmost region of the range around Cúcuta is so rugged that historically it has been easier to maintain communications and transportation with Venezuela than with the adjacent parts of Colombia.

Caribbean Lowlands

The Caribbean lowlands consist of all of Colombia north of an imaginary line extending northeastward from the Golfo de Urabá to the Venezuelan frontier at the northern extremity of the Cordillera Oriental. The semiarid Guajira Peninsula, in the extreme north, bears little resemblance to the rest of the region. In the southern part rises the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, an isolated mountain system with peaks reaching heights over 5,700 meters and slopes generally too steep for cultivation.

The Caribbean lowlands region is in roughly the shape of a triangle, the longest side of which is the coastline. Most of the country's commerce moves through Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, and the other ports located along this important coast. Inland from these cities are swamps, hidden streams, and shallow lakes that support banana and cotton plantations, countless small farms, and, in higher places, cattle ranches.

The Caribbean region merges into and is connected with the Andean highlands through the two great river valleys. After the Andean highlands, it is the second most important region in economic activity. Approximately 17 percent of the country's population lived in this region in the late 1980s.

Pacific Lowlands

In the 1980s, only 3 percent of all Colombians resided in the Pacific lowlands, a region of jungle and swamp with considerable but little-exploited potential in minerals and other resources. Buenaventura is the only port of any size on the coast. On the east, the Pacific lowlands are bounded by the Cordillera Occidental, from which numerous streams run. Most of the streams flow westward to the Pacific, but the largest, the navigable Río Atrato, flows northward to the Golfo de Urabá, making the river settlements accessible to the major Atlantic ports and commercially related primarily to the Caribbean lowlands hinterland. To the west of the Río Atrato rises the Serranía de Baudo, an isolated chain of low mountains that occupies a large part of the region. Its highest elevation is less than 1,800 meters, and its vegetation resembles that of the surrounding tropical forest.

The Atrato Swamp--in Chocó Department adjoining the border with Panama--is a deep muck sixty-five kilometers in width that for years has challenged engineers seeking to complete the Pan American Highway. This stretch, near Turbo, where the highway is interrupted is known as the Tapón del Chocó (Chocon Plug). A second major transportation project involving Chocó Department has been proposed. A second interoceanic canal would be constructed by dredging the Río Atrato and other streams and digging short access canals. Completion of either of these projects would do much to transform this somnolent region.

Eastern Colombia

The area east of the Andes includes about 699,300 square kilometers, or three-fifths of the country's total area, but Colombians view it almost as an alien land. The entire area, known as the eastern plains, was home to only 2 percent of the country's population in the late 1980s. The Spanish term for plains (llanos) can be applied only to the open plains in the northern part, particularly the piedmont areas near the Cordillera Oriental, where cattle raising is practiced.

The region is unbroken by highlands except in Meta Department, where the Macarena Sierra, an outlier of the Andes, is of interest to scientists because its vegetation and wildlife are believed to be reminiscent of those that once existed throughout the Andes. Many of the numerous large rivers of eastern Colombia are navigable. The Río Guaviare and the streams to its north flow eastward and drain into the basin of the Río Orinoco, the largest river in Venezuela. Those south of the Río Guaviare flow into the basin of the Amazon. The Río Guaviare divides eastern Colombia into the llanos subregion in the north and the tropical rainforest, or selva, subregion in the south.

Colombia - Climate

The striking variety in temperature and precipitation results principally from differences in elevation. Temperatures range from very hot at sea level to relatively cold at higher elevations but vary little with the season. At Bogotá, for example, the average annual temperature is 15°C, and the difference between the average of the coldest and the warmest months is less than 1°C. More significant, however, is the daily variation in temperature, from 5°C at night to 17°C during the day.

Colombians customarily describe their country in terms of the climatic zones: the area under 900 meters in elevation is called the hot zone (tierra caliente), elevations between 900 and 1,980 meters are the temperate zone (tierra templada), and elevations from 1,980 meters to about 3,500 meters constitute the cold zone (tierra fría). The upper limit of the cold zone marks the tree line and the approximate limit of human habitation. The treeless regions adjacent to the cold zone and extending to approximately 4,500 meters are high, bleak areas (usually referred to as the páramos), above which begins the area of permanent snow (nevado).

About 86 percent of the country's total area lies in the hot zone. Included in the hot zone and interrupting the temperate area of the Andean highlands are the long and narrow extension of the Magdalena Valley and a small extension in the Cauca Valley. Temperatures, depending on elevation, vary between 24°C and 38°C, and there are alternating dry and wet seasons corresponding to summer and winter, respectively. Breezes on the Caribbean coast, however, reduce both heat and precipitation.

Rainfall in the hot zone is heaviest in the Pacific lowlands and in parts of eastern Colombia, where rain is almost a daily occurrence and rain forests predominate. Precipitation exceeds 760 centimeters annually in most of the Pacific lowlands, making this one of the wettest regions in the world; in eastern Colombia, it decreases from 635 centimeters in portions of the Andean piedmont to 254 centimeters eastward. Extensive areas of the Caribbean interior are permanently flooded, more because of poor drainage than because of the moderately heavy precipitation during the rainy season from May through October.

The temperate zone covers about 8 percent of the country. This zone includes the lower slopes of the Cordillera Oriental and the Cordillera Central and most of the intermontane valleys. The important cities of Medellín (1,487 meters) and Cali (1,030 meters) are located in this zone, where rainfall is moderate and the mean annual temperature varies between 19°C and 24°C, depending on the elevation. In the higher elevations of this zone, farmers benefit from two wet and two dry seasons each year; January through March and July through September are the dry seasons.

The cold or cool zone constitutes about 6 percent of the total area, including some of the most densely populated plateaus and terraces of the Colombian Andes; this zone supports about onefourth of the country's total population. The mean temperature ranges between 10°C and 19°C, and the wet seasons occur in April and May and from September to December, as in the high elevations of the temperate zone.

Precipitation is moderate to heavy in most parts of the country; the heavier rainfall occurs in the low-lying hot zone. Considerable variations occur because of local conditions that affect wind currents, however, and areas on the leeward side of the Guajira Peninsula receive generally light rainfall; the annual rainfall of thirty-five centimeters recorded at the Uribia station there is the lowest in Colombia. Considerable year-to-year variations have been recorded, and Colombia sometimes experiences droughts.

Colombia's geographic and climatic variations have combined to produce relatively well-defined "ethnocultural" groups among different regions of the country: the Costeño from the Caribbean coast; the Caucano in the Cauca region and the Pacific coast; the Antioqueño in Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, and Valle del Cauca departments; the Tolimense in Tolima and Huila departments; the Cundiboyacense in the interior departments of Cundinamarca and Boyacá in the Cordillera Oriental; the Santandereano in Norte de Santander and Santander departments; and the Llanero in the eastern plains. Each group had distinctive characteristics, accents, customs, social patterns, and forms of cultural adaptation to climate and topography that differentiates it from other groups. Even with rapid urbanization and modernization, regionalism and regional identification continued to be important reference points, although they were somewhat less prominent in the 1980s than in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Colombia - Population

Population Trends

At the outset of the twentieth century, Colombia's population was approximately 4 million. By 1951 it had grown to more than 12 million. In mid-1988 it had reached an estimated 28 million. Population growth rose from 2 percent annually in the 1940s to a peak of 3.4 percent in the 1950s. It then slowed to the 2 percent rate by the mid-1970s and appeared to have stabilized at that level through the 1980s. Even at this lower rate of growth, however, the population was projected to reach 38 million by the year 2000.

When modern methods of disease control were adopted by an expanding public health system and average income growth began to rise in the late 1940s, the death rate fell rapidly. The birth rate remained at high levels until the early 1970s.

Life expectancy at birth was estimated to have grown steadily from forty-five years in 1951 to fifty-eight years in 1970, whereas the fertility rate remained nearly seven children per woman until the mid-1960s. The resulting rate of natural population increase between the late 1950s and the late 1960s was more than 3 percent annually, one of the highest rates in the world. Despite a net emigration during the 1960s, total population growth remained close to 3 percent through the end of the decade. Fertility began declining sharply in the mid-1960s to about four children per woman in the mid-1970s. The corresponding drop in the birth rate over the same period was among the most dramatic declines experienced in any country. Taking into account net emigration, the World Bank calculated the actual population growth rate at about 2 percent annually in the mid-1970s.

Since 1966 total fertility had fallen by about 45 percent. At the same time, life expectancy at birth had been extended by about 9 percent, whereas the infant mortality rate had dipped by 27 percent. A sharp decline in the dependency ratio also occurred over the same period, primarily the result of the steep decline in the birth rate.

The Colombian experience is remarkable in the abruptness and magnitude of the declines in mortality and fertility, particularly given the absence of radical changes in the social, political, or economic order. Similar declines have taken place in Cuba and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), but only under conditions of drastic regime change.

A variety of factors combined to produce the fertility decline in Colombia. As in most countries, fertility patterns varied widely among Colombian socioeconomic groups. In the late 1960s, for example, Colombian women living in rural areas who had not completed primary education had a total fertility rate of 8 children, compared with 3.4 children for urban women with at least a full primary education. Since the beginning of the steep fertility decline in the early 1960s, substantial shifts have occurred in the socioeconomic composition of Colombia's population. Typically, low-fertility groups, such as better-educated urban women, have increased their share of the population at the expense of high-fertility groups. Thus, even if reproductive patterns within different socioeconomic groups had not changed, the average fertility rate would have declined.

Family planning programs did not initiate the fertility decline because such programs did not begin until after the onset of the rapid fertility decline. Nevertheless, Colombia's well-organized family planning programs helped to keep the growth rate down. Information about and use of contraceptives increased rapidly after 1969, when the government began its support of family planning. In that year, the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal--PL) administration of President Carlos Lleras Restrepo (1966-70) began providing subsidized family planning services in local health centers through the maternal and child health program of the Ministry of Public Health. In 1972 and 1973, the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador--PC) government of Misael Pastrana Borrero (1970-74) extended services to postpartum cases in about ninety hospitals throughout the country. Family planning services were substantially more accessible in urban than rural areas and more widely available through the private sector in urban areas; as much as 50 percent of the services were probably obtained from private entities. The government also subsidized consumers of contraceptives. Between 1969 and 1976, the proportion of women with knowledge of contraceptives rose from 51 percent to 72 percent. By 1976 about 95 percent of married women had this knowledge; 59 percent of married women had put this knowledge to use in 1976--a large jump from 34 percent in 1969.

Despite the dramatic fertility decline, the World Bank emphasized that a considerable gap remained in the 1980s between existing fertility levels and those prevailing in modern industrial societies. Thus, the demographic transition in Colombia was far from complete. The experience of more industrialized countries suggested that eventually fertility would decline to the twochildren level. Whether this occurred quickly (by 2000) or slowly (by 2020) would greatly affect the eventual size of the country's population, the expansion rate of the labor force in the 1990s and beyond, and thus the social overhead investment and fiscal burden that the society would have to underwrite.

<>Urbanization, Migration, and Immigration

Updated population figures for Colombia.

Colombia - Urbanization, Migration, and Immigration

Colombia had one of the highest urbanization rates of any Latin American nation. The proportion of the population living in urban areas increased from 31 percent to nearly 60 percent from 1938 to 1973. Over the 1951 to 1964 period, the rate of urbanization averaged 5.5 percent per year. In the 1980s, however, the rates of both population growth and urbanization fell.

Massive rural-urban migration since the late 1930s was the main factor in increasing the urban share of the population from less than one-third to almost two-thirds in 1982. Urban growth between 1951 and 1973 was dominated by the growth of the four largest cities: Barranquilla, Cali, Medellín, and Bogotá--all of which were already large metropolitan areas of more than 500,000 people in 1951. The share of total population in these four cities nearly quintupled from 5 percent in 1951 to 25 percent in 1973--compared with an increase in the total urban share of less than 50 percent during the same period.

Observers disagreed about whether the growth of these cities, which averaged 5.2 percent a year between 1964 and 1973, persisted into the late 1980s. Since city size determined the allocation of federal funds for various public programs, the controversy was charged with heightened political and economic interest. Preliminary results from a survey of households indicated that the growth rate of Bogotá declined from nearly 6 percent during the 1964-73 period to less than 4 percent between 1973 and 1981.

The decline in the urban growth rate was mainly the result of lower fertility in the more recent period and a higher base size of the cities, rather than a dramatic reduction in the pace of migration. Indeed, it appears that throughout the 1970s the absolute number of persons migrating to urban areas continued to increase. However, after 1979 the slowdown in economic activity, particularly in manufacturing and trade, probably lowered the pace of rural-urban migration somewhat as job opportunities in the cities declined.

Colombia has experienced little foreign influence or immigration. During the colonial period, Spain discouraged the admission of non-Spaniards into the colonies. After independence there were few economic attractions for immigrants. Civil wars were another deterrent. The country generally lacked a clear policy on immigration but never favored it on a large scale. Those who entered from abroad came as individuals or in small family units.

Immigration laws provided for the admission of persons who did not jeopardize the social order for personal, ethnic, or racial reasons. In 1953 the Institute of Land Settlement and Immigration was set up to direct the colonialization of the underdeveloped regions of the country and was given the power to organize immigration for this purpose. After World War II, Colombia encouraged the immigration of skilled technicians, and in 1958 procedures were specified for the admission of refugees. Little was done, however, to implement these measures.

There were several identifiable ethnic groups of foreign origin in Colombia, all of them small. The Jewish population was estimated at 25,000, although in the 1980s many of them emigrated because of widespread kidnapping for ransom. There was a constant trickle of Spanish immigrants, many of them members of the clergy. Residents from the United States were mainly in business or missionary work. Germans, Italians, and Lebanese--usually referred to as Turks (turcos) or Syrians because they came from the Christian Lebanese part of Syria that formerly belonged to Turkey--were active in commerce, particularly in the port cities of Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Buenaventura.

Germans, as well as other foreigners, found acceptance in the upper class and frequently married into the white group. Some Lebanese married into the Guajira Indian tribe, but immigrants generally were most closely associated with the white upper class, which was generally receptive to ties with foreigners.



The population is descended from three racial groups--Indians, blacks, and whites--that have mingled throughout the nearly 500 years of the country's history. No official figures were available, but according to rough estimates in the late 1980s, mestizos (white-Indian mix) constituted approximately 50 percent of the population, whites 25 percent, mulattoes (black-white mix) and zambos (black-Indian mix) 20 percent, blacks 4 percent, and Indians 1 percent.

Recognizing the impossibility of objective racial classification and not wishing to emphasize ethnic or racial differences, the national census dropped references to race after 1918. Nevertheless, most Colombians continued to identify themselves and others according to ancestry, physical appearance, and sociocultural status. Social relations reflected the importance attached to certain characteristics associated with a given racial group. Although these characteristics no longer accurately demarcated distinct social categories, they still helped determine rank in the social hierarchy.

The various groups were found in differing concentrations throughout the nation, largely reflecting the colonial social system. The whites tended to live mainly in the urban centers, particularly in Bogotá and the burgeoning highland cities. The large mestizo population was predominantly a peasant group, concentrated in the highlands where the Spanish conquerors had mixed with the women of Indian chiefdoms. After the 1940s, however, mestizos began moving to the cities, where they became part of the urban working class or urban poor. The black and mulatto populations were also part of this trend but lived mainly along the coasts and in the lowlands.

Descendants of Indians who survived the Spanish conquest were found in scattered groups in remote areas largely outside the national society, such as the higher elevations of the southern highlands, the forests north and west of the cordilleras, the arid Guajira Peninsula, and the vast eastern plains and Amazonian jungles, which had only begun to be penetrated by other groups in the twentieth century. The Indian groups differed from the rest of the nation in major cultural aspects. Although some continued to speak indigenous languages, Spanish, introduced by missionaries, was the predominant language among all but the most isolated groups.

Historical Development

In the first fifty years after the discovery of the Americas, the Spanish began to settle in present-day Colombia, introducing their culture and social system and imposing their values on the African slaves they imported and the indigenous population they conquered. Spanish colonists settled in the Caribbean coastal zones, the highland plateaus, and the areas along the major rivers but were initially unsuccessful in settling Chocó, the eastern plains, and the Amazon Basin. Patterns of colonial settlement were reinforced throughout later periods, leaving frontier areas-- usually less hospitable land--open for settlement by nonwhites-- especially blacks, mulattoes, and retreating Indian tribes.

The Spanish created a hierarchical society in which they occupied the top stratum in terms of prestige, wealth, and power; slaves and Indians occupied the bottom. White skin became synonymous with being Spanish and therefore of high status. Offspring of mixed unions fell somewhere in between, adopting the dominant culture if recognized by their Spanish fathers, remaining on the social periphery if not. As the character and value system of the nation were formed, notions of color, class, and culture merged to elevate whites, subjugate blacks and Indians, and allow upward mobility for mulattoes and mestizos who dissociated themselves from the heritage of their nonwhite ancestors in favor of becoming "Spanish."

Probably more than any other Latin American people, Colombians remained conscious of their Spanish heritage. The persistent supremacy and relative purity of the Spanish heritage was brought about by a combination of factors. The indigenous population was sparse, heterogeneous, and thus relatively easily subdued, driven into less accessible and less desirable areas or absorbed by the Spanish population during the colonial era. Blacks, viewed as slaves until the mid-nineteenth century and as manual laborers thereafter, remained segregated economically, geographically, and socially. Although Indians and blacks outnumbered whites and people of mixed blood in certain regions, they remained minorities without shared identity or cohesion on the national level. The lack of immigrants from other European nations and the emphasis on traditional Spanish institutions--particularly Roman Catholicism-- helped white Colombians retain their Hispanic identification. Finally, a diverse geography and resultant regionalism exacerbated the lack of communal feelings among the masses and provided little basis for national cohesion within any group except the tightly knit white elite.

As Colombian society developed, there was little change in its rigid stratification. Various intellectuals, clergy, and politicians unsuccessfully attempted to debate the status of Indians and blacks and to prevent discrimination against them. Being a recognized member of the national society and thereby eligible for its benefits and a chance at upward mobility required allegiance to a culture and a behavioral pattern based almost entirely on traditional Spanish values. Anything outside this pattern was anomalous and was considered un-Colombian.

Independence did little to alter the colonial framework of the society. In the struggle for independence, the peninsulares (those born in Spain) were backed by Spanish troops, and the criollos (those born in the New World of Spanish descent) were backed by mestizo and mulatto troops; nonetheless, the values and outlooks of the two factions were similar. Many of the peninsulares left after independence, allowing the criollos and some persons of mixed blood to take over their positions in the society. To this extent, the system was opened up to qualified mestizos and mulattoes, but those who moved up did so as individuals whose mobility was based on education, wealth, and culture rather than on a change in the status of their group. No attempt was made to upgrade the status of blacks, who remained on the periphery of the national society, or Indians, who remained almost completely outside it.

Both Indians and blacks continued to reside on the outskirts of national life, as much because of their class and culture as their color. As a group, however, blacks were more integrated into the national society and left a greater mark on it for several reasons. First, they had been a part of Spanish society since the Middle Ages, whereas Indians were relative newcomers. The Spanish had long possessed Africans as personal servants and did not find them as alien as the Indians they encountered in the New World. Moreover, it was more difficult for the blacks to maintain their original culture because, unlike the Indians, they could not remain within their own communities and did not initially have the option of retreating into isolated areas. They did not arrive in and were not grouped into organized social units, and, coming from different areas of Africa, they often did not share the same language or culture. Although slave revolts sometimes occurred, no large community of escaped slaves survived in isolation to preserve its African heritage, as did the Maroons in Jamaica. Finally, despite their position on the bottom rung of the social ladder, black slaves often had close relations--as domestic servants--with Spaniards and were therefore exposed to Spanish culture much more than were the Indians.

Blacks thus became a part, although a peripheral one, of Colombian society from the beginning, learning Spanish and adopting the ways of the Spanish that were permitted them. They thought of themselves as Colombians by the end of the colonial period and felt superior to the Indians, who officially occupied higher status, were nominally free, and were closer in skin color, facial features, and hair texture to the emerging mestizo mix.

The proportion of white ancestry has been an important measure of status for the mixed groups since the colonial era, when each degree of mixture was recognized as a distinct category. The plethora of terms for color still being used in the 1980s reflected the persistence of this colonial pattern and a continuing desire among Colombians to classify each other according to color and social group. A complex racial terminology led to persons of the same class using different terms to define themselves racially. These terms also cut across class lines so that persons at one level defined themselves as being racially similar to those at other levels.

The confusion over classification affected most Colombians because most of them did not define themselves as being white, black, or Indian, which are distinct and mutually exclusive groups, but as belonging to one of the mixed categories. Factors that helped Colombians order their perceptions of color were, in addition to the interplay of biological and social data, geographic residence and membership in a social class. Residence in a region often automatically categorized an individual. For example, blacks and mulattoes were so prevalent in Chocó that the word Chocoano (resident of Chocó) was virtually synonymous with the word black throughout much of Colombia. Whites and mestizos in Chocó were commonly migrants from neighboring Antioquia, so that any light-skinned person might be called an Antioqueño regardless of his or her origin.

Migration and rural or urban residence could also determine a person's status. A dark-skinned mulatto who because of wealth and prestige would be a member of the local elite in a rural area along the coast would not be so considered outside his or her region. Conversely, movement from a larger to a smaller town might enhance an individual's status. Usually the only Colombians whose status was invariable were the national elite, Indians, and blacks.

Perceptions of one's own color and that of others also varied with class membership. A lower-class person in either an urban or a rural area was likely to be more concerned with the daily struggle for survival than with skin color, especially if the person's peers were of a similar racial background. Members of the upper class were equally secure in their status as white Colombians, whether or not they appeared Caucasian to the casual observer, because their status automatically defined them as such. The racial segregation of the polar extremes of the class structure--with virtually no blacks or Indians in the elite and equally few whites in the lower class--reinforced cultural and class distinctions.

It was among the self-conscious, racially mixed members of the middle sectors that color and ethnic designations were critical and likely to contribute to status. All other factors being equal, light-skinned mestizos with straight hair found mobility easier than darker-skinned counterparts. A man, especially a black or mulatto, might improve his social position or that of his children by marrying a lighter-skinned or wealthier woman. Mestizos might place more emphasis on acquiring other accoutrements of whiteness, such as an education, a cultured life-style, or a genteel occupation.

Contemporary Trends

In the late 1980s, whites continued to occupy the highest positions in the government, economy, and society. Most of them resided in the large urban centers, and even those who did not considered themselves urban in orientation. Membership in the white group was usually concomitant with upper- or middle-class values and behavior patterns and adherence to Roman Catholicism and its teachings--in name if not in practice. Whites modeled their life-styles, family patterns, and human relations largely on European and North American norms and in turn dictated them to the rest of society.

The white group usually emphasized racial and cultural purity and wealth derived from property. This emphasis was particularly true in the capital and in the seats of colonial aristocracy, such as Popayán. The exception was in Antioquia Department, where a great deal of miscegenation took place and where social distinctions rested largely on economic achievement rather than ethnic considerations.

Non-Antioqueño whites continued to stress colonial notions of the superiority of mental over manual labor, encouraging genteel remunerative activities derived from owning land or a career in law, medicine, or architecture. Creative or journalistic writing, literary criticism, and university professorship were also considered appropriate careers or sidelines for whites who were financially secure. For those less well off, business, commerce, and industry provided more lucrative, if less traditional, positions.

Although North American cultural influence has grown substantially since the 1950s, whites remained culturally tied to Europe--particularly to France and Spain. Children continued to be sent to Europe and the United States for schooling, to learn languages, and to become cosmopolitan. Only in the twentieth century did white Colombians begin to seriously study nonwhite facets of their country's social system and incorporate them into their scholarly and creative works.

Insistence on racial purity within the white group varied among regions and sometimes was not as important as light skin and an old, respected Spanish surname. In fact, many people who came from families that had been considered white for generations were actually descendants of people of mixed ancestry who purchased certificates of white ancestry from the Spanish crown. Whites did not usually marry dark-skinned individuals, however, unless economic hardship necessitated bringing a wealthy mulatto or mestizo into the family.

From the earliest years of the colonial period, miscegenation among whites, Indians, and blacks occurred so much that people of mixed origin soon came to outnumber all other groups combined. In fact, racial mixing was so great that Colombians usually referred to themselves as a mestizo nation--in this case meaning simply "mixed"--despite the absence of a significant cultural synthesis.

In the mid-1980s, people of mixed origin were found throughout the society--in all classes, occupations, and geographic regions. The status of individuals of mixed blood varied, from those who bordered on being white to those who had recently moved out of marginal status as black or Indian. Probably the only factors that tied the mixed group together were a general recognition that status as a mestizo or mulatto was better than that as an Indian or a black and some feeling of belonging to the national society.

Colombians perceived considerable differences between mestizos and mulattoes. Mestizos found upward mobility easier than mulattoes in most areas, probably because mestizo physical characteristics were more like those of the idealized Colombian: light brown to white skin, straight or wavy hair, and caucasoid facial features. Moreover, once a person was considered mestizo, his cultural identity automatically became that of the dominant white group, whereas mulattos often exhibited black cultural and social traits that made upward social mobility more difficult.

Many blacks left slave status early in Colombian history, becoming part of the free population. Some were awarded freedom by their owners, and some purchased their liberty, but probably the greatest number achieved freedom by escape. There were numerous revolts, particularly in the Cauca Valley and along the Caribbean coast, that liberated many slaves. Those who achieved freedom sometimes moved into Indian communities, and their zambo offspring became part of the indigenous group. Others founded their own settlements. A number of towns, such as Palenque in northern Antioquia Department and Ure in southern Córdoba Department, kept the history of revolt alive in their oral traditions. In the Chocó area, along the Pacific, many of the black communities remained relatively unmixed, probably because there were few whites in the area and the Indians became increasingly resistant to assimilation. In other regions, such as the Magdalena Valley, black communities had considerable white and Indian admixtures.

The distribution of blacks in the 1980s continued to reflect that of the colonial period. The greatest number lived in the lowland areas on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and along the Río Cauca and Río Magdalena. In the Chocó region, they had largely replaced the Indians and, along with mulattoes, constituted 80 percent of the population. On the Caribbean islands of San Andrés and Providencia, which Colombia acquired from Britain at the end of the colonial period, there were several thousand blacks. Despite the length of time during which Colombia had jurisdiction over them, most blacks on these islands retained their Protestant religion, continued to speak English, and regarded themselves as a group distinct from mainland residents.

Descendants of slaves preserved relatively little of their African heritage or identification. Some place-names were derived from African languages, and some traditional musical instruments brought into the country by slaves were used throughout the country. Religion in the black communities remained the most durable link with the African past.

In the 1980s, wholly black communities were disappearing, not only because their residents were moving to the cities but also because the surrounding mestizo and white populations had begun moving into black communities. Eventual absorption into the mixed milieu appeared inevitable in the 1980s. Moreover, as blacks moved into the mainstream of society from its peripheries, they perceived the advantages of better education and jobs. Rather than forming organizations to promote their advancement as a group, blacks concentrated on achieving mobility through individual merit and adaptation to the prevailing system.

When the Spanish arrived in 1499, they found a heterogeneous Indian population that numbered between 1.5 and 2 million, belonged to several hundred tribes, and spoke mutually unintelligible dialects. The complexity of their social organization and technology varied tremendously, from stratified agricultural chiefdoms to tropical farm villages and nomadic hunting and food- gathering groups. Throughout the colonial years, the indigenous population constituted an estimated 50 percent of the total population, but by 1988 it had dropped to roughly 1 percent. About sixty tribes were scattered throughout the departments and national territories.

In the agricultural chiefdoms of the highlands, the Spaniards successfully imposed institutions designed to ensure their control of the Indians and thereby the use of their labor. By the end of the sixteenth century, political and religious administration was organized, and efforts to convert the Indians were well under way. The most important institution that regulated the lives and welfare of the highland Indians was the resguardo (reservation) system of communal landholdings. Under this system, Indians were allowed to use the land but could not sell it.

Similar in some respects to the Indian reservation system of the United States, the resguardo system lasted with some changes into the late twentieth century and was an enduring link between the government and the remaining highland tribes. As land pressures increased, however, encroachment of white settlers onto resguardo lands accelerated, often without opposition from the government. The struggle of the Indians on these lands to protect their holdings from neighboring landlords continued into the late 1980s. Nevertheless, the Virgilio Barco Vargas administration (1986- ) created new resguardos, including one in Guainía Commissaryship, and reconstituted others.

The highland Indian communities have been the subject of most Indian legislation since the 1940s. The National Indian Institute was originally founded in 1943 as a private body. It was later attached to the National University of Colombia (Universidad Nacional de Colombia--UNC) and eventually became an advisory body to the Directorate of Indian Reservations within the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. The institute was reorganized in 1958 to include representatives of several ministries concerned with Indians, as well as members of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology. Division of the resguardos was immediately suspended, as far as possible, and a new program of community development directed at the incorporation of the Indians into the national society was begun.

In 1960 the Directorate of Indian Reservations was reorganized and became the Division of Indian Affairs; together with the National Indian Institute it was transferred to the Ministry of Government. The Division of Indian Affairs carried out its programs and policies through eight regional commissions for Indian welfare and protection. The location of the commissions corresponded to the resguardo zones and in general to areas inhabited by Indians who were already somewhat integrated into the national system.

In contrast to the highlands, the lowlands were less densely populated at the time of the conquest, and the natives possessed a simpler culture than the highland tribes. The tropical forest areas were inhabited by farmers whose slash-and-burn agriculture limited the size of settlements to 100 or 200 persons. Most of these tribes lived along rivers and depended partially on fishing for subsistence. Indians of the eastern savannas and the Amazon Basin were nomadic, traveling in small hunting and gathering bands and frequently living along rivers. When the Spanish arrived, many lowland groups retreated to areas that were less accessible or attractive to the Spanish. These nomadic tribes and forest dwellers fared better than their highland counterparts in maintaining independence from the Spanish because of their simpler, more mobile, and more self-sufficient lifestyle. Their contacts with outsiders were generally limited to missionaries.

In the past, the government generally had not attempted to legislate in matters affecting the forest Indians. During the colonial period, Roman Catholic missions were granted jurisdiction over the lowland tribes. With the financial support of the government, a series of agreements with the Holy See from 1887 to 1953 entrusted the evangelization and education of these Indians to the missions. The missions were coordinated with the government's Division of Indian Affairs through a representative in the National Indian Institute. In 1960 the secretary of the institute became the chief of the Section of Indian Protection in the Ministry of Government and was responsible for the Indians of the nation's peripheral regions. Barco's resguardo initiative affected forest tribes as well as highland tribes.

Although all tribes in Colombia had had some contact with outsiders, the degree and effect varied considerably. Some tribes, such as the Maku, Chiricoa, Tunebo, and others from Amazonas Commissaryship, remained very primitive nomadic hunting and fishing groups. Others had begun to cultivate such crops as cacao, sugarcane, corn, and bananas. Some of the most successful tribes developed effective methods of raising cattle. Nonetheless, it was difficult for Indians to retain land that they traditionally held, especially in the highlands, where the competition for cultivable land was keenest.

In the 1980s, there was considerable disagreement in Colombia over the number of remaining Indians, their concentrations, and their relationship to the national society. Some Colombian scholars argued against integrating Indians, contending that the indigenous peoples had as much right as any other element of the society to survive intact under government protection. However, this protection was only partial. The government lacked a comprehensive policy, and what legislation did exist seemed oriented toward assimilating the Indians. Other factors pointing toward gradual absorption of the Indians were expansion of colonization into Indian territories, government plans for the development of natural resources in Indian areas, and the Indians' increased contact with and integration into the national system through economic inducement.


The structure of Colombian society in the 1980s--strongly influenced by traditions inherited from sixteenth-century Spain-- was highly stratified, having well-defined class membership, pronounced status differences, and limited vertical social mobility. The urban sector was characterized by a more flexible social system, a growing middle class, and greater participation of the population in national politics. Rural society in all but a few regions was organized in rigidly hierarchical structures in which change of status was very difficult. Only in the coffee-growing departments of Caldas and Antioquia were there sizable segments of the population exhibiting the traits of a rural middle class.

In the 1980s, social scientists continued to disagree about the definition of class in Colombia, the composition and relative importance of the middle class, the role of the upper class in the larger society, and the degree to which the society was evolving into a more open system. It was difficult to speak of social class per se because class implied feelings of cohesion and exclusiveness vis-à-vis other classes--characteristics that did not uniformly apply to status groups in Colombia. This class consciousness among persons with similar economic, occupational, and sociological interests was found only at the highest stratum of society in Colombia.

Four classes and their relative proportions could be distinguished in the mid-1980s: upper class, 5 percent; middle class, 20 percent; lower class, 50 percent; and the masses, 25 percent. There were also two important transitional subdivisions: the new rich, who constituted perhaps 3 percent of the total and were tenuously members of the upper class; and the upper lower class, organized blue-collar workers, and poorer white-collar workers, who made up about 15 percent of the total.

Classes were distinguished by occupation, life-style, income, family background, education, and power. Within each of the classes, there were numerous subtle gradations in status. Colombians tended to be extremely status-conscious, and class membership was an important aspect of social life because it regulated the interaction of groups and individuals. Social class boundaries were far more flexible in the city than in the countryside, but consciousness of status and class distinctions continued to permeate social life in both sectors.

<>Upper Class
<>Middle Class
<>The Lower Class and the Masses

Colombia - Upper Class

The upper class comprised two interrelated groups, the traditional landed elite and the new rich, who owed their status primarily to successful entrepreneurship. The former continued to base its elite status on distinguished lineage and a respected family name, together known as abolengo, and on the ownership of large tracts of land. It frequently provided personnel for the highest offices in the government, the church, and the military. Abolengo remained virtually the sole determinant of upper-class membership in rural communities and in some traditionally oriented cities, such as Popayán. In larger cities and in areas accessible to its influence, however, wealth was probably equally or more important in determining elite status. In urban areas, a person's family history was frequently not as significant as the financial ability to maintain the life-style that had come to be associated with the social elite.

The traditional elite continually lost individual members to the middle class, either through the gradual loss of inherited wealth or through the division of estates among many heirs. In the past, however, and even in the 1980s, displacement of families was kept to a minimum because of the custom of mutual aid among relatives. If one branch of an elite family suffered financial difficulties, friends and relatives rallied to its support, helping children to obtain the customary good education and enabling the family to maintain a facade of well-being.

In the modern urban industrial communities, however, the financial climate had become more demanding as ever-increasing emphasis was placed on wealth and its display as a criterion of high status. The decline in extended-family cohesion and the dispersal of relatives that accompanied urbanization made it even less likely that an elite family would feel obligated to sustain all of its members at the accustomed level. Thus, many of these persons were forced to accept middle-class employment and living standards and might even fall into the lower class.

The newer members of the upper class were generally thought to be in a transitional state from the middle to the upper class. They had acquired economic and social success through entrepreneurial skills in banking, commerce, and industry. Some of the representatives of this group were self-made men, often mestizos, who had worked their way up the social ladder from the middle class. Others were European immigrants or their descendants who had been successful in the business community.

Some observers believed that the new rich constituted a lower sector of the upper class because they lacked the lineage, cultivation, and landowning tradition of the old elite. Although the new rich often regarded themselves as equal to the elite, they were not so considered by the rest of society. The barriers between these two groups were dissolving, however, at least in the major urban centers, where changing social standards, intermarriage, and shared political interests tended to overrule tradition.

Further linkages between the traditional elite and the new rich were provided by the many persons who had roots in both groups. Although the entrepreneurial upper class was sometimes regarded as entirely of recent origin, many of its members had aristocratic forebears and had long been recognized as part of the traditional elite. Because of the declining productivity of traditional agriculture and the increased opportunity for investment in industry, business, and commercial farming, the sons of large landowners had been among the first to enter these new areas of economic endeavor during the 1920s.

Education was traditionally correlated with upper-class membership. Upper-class children received the best education in the most prestigious schools, beginning at one of the exclusive private schools and ending with a degree from one of the country's wellknown universities. Intellectual and professional careers, particularly in law, medicine, and journalism, were preferred by sons of the elite. It was not unusual for a member of this class to obtain an advanced degree and take a position as a university professor for several years before entering high government office or assuming a managerial position in a family enterprise.

The upper class was very successful in maintaining exclusiveness and controlling change through a system of informal decision-making groups called roscas--the name of a twisted pastry. These informal groups existed at different levels and across different spheres and were linked hierarchically by personal relationships. Their composition varied according to level-- municipal, departmental, or national--but each group tried to include at least one powerful person from every sphere. A rosca was a vitally important system in both the social and the political context because it was at this level of interaction that most political decisions were made and careers determined. Only when a man was a member of such a group could he consider himself a member of the upper-middle or upper class.

Roscas linked influential individuals and institutions in such a way that an important university, a commercial bank, an investment bank, an association of industries, and agricultural interests might all be coordinated and controlled by a few persons. Several competing groups in an area often bargained and traded favors among themselves. A casual observer might not recognize the linkages within such groups until he began to do business in the area or needed something done in an official capacity. Colombians moving up the social ladder became increasingly aware of the importance of such groups.

Colombia - Middle Class

The emergence in the twentieth century of a fairly large middle class paralleled the development of urban society and of the modern institutions of government, education, and social services. Although Colombia had always had a small element of self-employed shopkeepers, clerks, and overseers, they had been limited in number and had no sense of shared identity.

Most of the modern middle class had developed since the 1920s. As a class, the various middle groups distinguished themselves from other members of society by regular employment in occupations that generally did not qualify them for membership in the elite.

The nucleus of the middle class was in the most highly industrialized urbanized areas--the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, and Cundinamarca--where institutional changes had been most pronounced. These areas had the highest percentage of people employed in professions, government, business, and trade--all predominantly middle-class occupations.

The middle class owed its heterogeneity to its late development and continued expansion. It consisted of self-employed small businessmen, professionals, salaried employees (including office workers), other white-collar personnel, and some members of organized labor. The expansion of the government bureaucracy provided a number of positions for the middle class. Teachers were usually included in the middle class, as were most military officers, most of the clergy, and some intellectuals, artists, journalists, and musicians.

Owners of medium-sized farms, primarily in the agricultural departments of Caldas and Antioquia, made up most of the rural middle class. They derived the greatest benefits from governmental efforts at agricultural credit, technical training, community development, and expanded primary education. In addition, they possessed a relatively modern outlook in contrast to other farmers in more remote areas who had accumulated enough wealth to be placed at the top of the middle class but preferred a modified peasant existence and traditional outlook.

The diversity of the middle class, which placed some of its members scarcely above the lower class in life-style and income and others on the lower edge of the upper class, was striking. Infinite status gradations characterized the internal structure of this class. However, by linking several of the most important status or prestige factors, the middle sector can be divided into two main parts: an upper middle class and a lower segment in transition from the lower class. The sectors were differentiated primarily on the basis of the attitudes and values they held and on their origin in the social system.

The upper middle class gradually merged into the elite class and was composed primarily of professionals, medium-sized landowners, entrepreneurs, managerial personnel, and some government bureaucrats. Some of these were descendants of the traditional elite who had fallen on the social scale and clung to the illusion of their families' former status. They often did not consider themselves members of the middle group and continually attempted to regain a place in the upper class by modeling their manners, behavior, and attitudes on those of the elite.

The members of the upper middle class tended to share a concern for culture and outward appearance, exhibited by conspicuous consumption. Standards of social behavior were stringently observed, and active support was given, particularly by women, to the Roman Catholic Church and numerous religious associations. The completion of academic secondary school was considered essential for the child of upper-middle-class parents, and a university degree was becoming increasingly necessary. Whereas membership in the elite was still determined primarily by family background and values, upper-middle-class status was largely determined by a good secondary education.

The lower middle class, constituting the bulk of the middle class, came primarily from upwardly mobile members of the lower class. A large number were clerks or small shopkeepers. Many had only a precarious hold on middle-class status and tended to be less concerned with imitating upper-class culture and behavior than with making enough money to sustain a middle-class life-style. Families at this level tended to be just as concerned as those at higher social levels with giving their children an education. Many hoped to send at least one of their children through a university, regardless of the financial burden.

Colombia - The Lower Class and the Masses

The lower class and the masses together constituted the largest sector of rural and urban society--about 75 percent. The line between the lower class and the masses was fine; it was based more on an increased awareness of the social, economic, and political systems among members of the lower class than on any other criterion. Those at the upper levels of the lower class--organized labor, small farmers, merchants, and some white-collar workers-- were in a transitional stage and possessed some attributes of middle-class status.

The lower class was more politically aware than the masses, although the levels of participation were uniformly low. Feelings of common identity were generally lacking among groups in the lower class, although class consciousness existed within such groups as organized labor and landowning campesinos. Generally, members of the lower class were regularly employed with some degree of security, although they were frequently unskilled and unorganized. Included in this category were domestic servants, construction workers, taxi drivers, barbers, repairmen, and small shopkeepers. The rural lower class included small independent landholders, called minifundistas, and even some day workers, sharecroppers, and tenant farmers, who provided some security for their families.

In contrast, the masses were composed of the illiterate and the impoverished who lived on the margin of subsistence and possessed little or no security, skill, or stable employment. They included Indians and blacks as well as many other dark-skinned persons. They resided on the sociopolitical periphery of the society and maintained their traditional way of life; most of their energies were consumed in the struggle for survival. Although the masses possessed some political potential and some awareness of the political system, they lacked an effective, evaluative understanding of it as well as sufficient class cohesion to articulate their desires.

At the top of the lower-class hierarchy and merging into the middle class were the regularly employed industrial workers. Often distinguished from white-collar employees only by their blue-collar occupations, unionized factory workers received relatively high wages and were protected by labor legislation. They were better organized than other employed members of the lower class and were sometimes able to exert a degree of pressure on employers and political parties to obtain their demands. In general, they were conservative politically and opposed government initiatives to change the status quo. This conservatism existed because, despite their stability relative to other members of the lower class, their status in the society was fairly tenuous, resting solely on maintenance of their occupation. Loss of job would seriously impair a factory worker's ability to maintain his status.

Social life in the lower class was less structured and more informal than in the middle and upper classes. There was less restraint and concern with the rigid standards of behavior that regulated the social activities of those higher on the social scale. Participation in religious activities, particularly celebrations of saints' days and festivals, was an important part of social life, as were spontaneous neighborhood and family gatherings.

The rapid growth of the urban sector since the 1940s resulted primarily from the influx of migrants from the countryside. Agricultural workers continued to leave the rural areas and come to the towns and cities, hoping to improve their way of life. Most were uneducated--at best barely literate--and unskilled, two attributes that considerably limited their prospects for employment and their ability to adjust to urban life. Consequently, there was a high rate of unemployment and underemployment in this migrant population, particularly among the men. Women often found jobs as domestic servants or cooks, but the continued flood of unskilled labor into the cities made it increasingly difficult for men to find even the most menial jobs.

Movement to the city did little to change the relative social status or way of life of most migrants, who merely exchanged rural unemployment and poverty for the same conditions in an urban environment. Many became residents of the shantytowns that surrounded the larger cities. Housing in a lower-class barrio was frequently no more than a shack without running water and often without electricity, not too different from what the migrant had left behind.

Despite the apparent hopelessness of the migrant's condition, there was the expectation of some future improvement, if not in his own life at least in that of his children. One survey taken in a lower-class community in a larger city found that parents believed that the future would be better for their children. Usually this belief was tied to the greater availability of education and the other institutions of urban life. Migrants perceived themselves as closer to the mainstream of national life with a greater chance of becoming economically, socially, and politically a part of it than those who remained in the countryside.

In the mid-1980s, the rural lower class was outnumbered by the urban lower class. Migration had rapidly reversed the traditional balance; the proportion of the rural population continued to decline steadily as it had since the 1920s. In the past, the lower class was primarily an agricultural sector, its position in society dictated by dependence on the land. Whether minifundista, semipermanent squatter, sharecropper, tenant farmer, or day laborer, the campesino's small parcel of land or lack of land kept him at a near-subsistence level of existence for generations. There were slight distinctions among the various groups making up the rural lower class: generally, the living standard of the minifundista, squatter, and tenant farmer was somewhat higher than that of the sharecropper, who in turn lived a little better than the landless day laborer.

Colombia - FAMILY LIFE

In the 1980s, there were continued signs of change in the traditional norms and patterns of family life, resulting from the high rate of rural-to-urban migration, the growth of urban industrial centers, and accompanying socioeconomic developments. The decline of the patriarchal extended-family structure was apparent in urban society, as increased geographic and social mobility weakened kinship ties and extended greater independence to young people. Families at the bottom of the social ladder were adversely affected by geographic dislocation and were increasingly less cohesive. They continued to be characterized by a large number of consensual unions and mother-centered households.

Traditional elements of trust and mutual dependence among relatives, no matter how distant the relationship, were still strong. The already large circle of kin relationships was extended through the institution of compadrazgo, a complex form of ritual kinship. Ties with relatives and compadres (godparents) continued to be important in political and business activities and provided the low-status person with a wide circle of mutual assistance.

The nuclear family unit continued to be authoritarian, patriarchal, and patrilineal. Legal reforms had extended equal civil and property rights to women, but tradition dominated malefemale relations, and roles and responsibilities in marriage were still relatively clear-cut. In the lower class, in which the father was frequently not a permanent member of the household, the mother often assumed the role of chief authority and family head, but in all other cases the father unquestionably occupied this position. Within the household, the wife was considered the father's deputy and the chief administrator of domestic activities. Her first duty was to bear and raise children. She was also expected to keep the household running smoothly and efficiently. In her relations with her husband, she traditionally was supposed to be deferential, thinking of his wishes and needs before considering her own.

Men of the upper and middle class had always been paternal and protective toward their dependents and tried to shelter their wives and children from undesirable outside influences. The activities of women were severely circumscribed because of the male concern with protecting the honor and virtue of the wife and unmarried daughters. Women in the upper and middle classes traditionally were not permitted to do work outside the home except for volunteer work. The social life of women in the upper and middle classes, particularly of unmarried girls, was limited to the home, the school, the church, and well-chaperoned parties and dances.

The lower-class or lower-middle-class woman was under far fewer restrictions than her upper-class counterpart. Formal chaperonage had always been impossible to maintain because of family instability, economic need, and the frequent absence of the husband and father and because moral standards differed somewhat from those of the upper social levels. The lower-class woman usually had to be employed and contribute her salary to the family's subsistence or work in the fields beside her male relatives. Her economic contribution gave her a degree of equality and, combined with the matrilocality of lower-class life, i.e., the fact that a husband tended to live with his wife's family, limited the husband's and father's control over her.

There were increasing exceptions in urban society to the traditional concept of a woman's role. Many women in the upper social levels were well educated, and some pursued careers in such fields as the arts, social welfare, and education. Colombian women were also considered among the most politically active in Latin America. Many of them held high elective or appointive offices. At the same time, women who engaged in these activities were considered exceptional. Most upper-class and upper-middle-class women did not work after marriage but devoted themselves to their homes, families, and church groups.

The Roman Catholic Church was the single most important force affecting marriage and family life. Nearly all formal marriages took place within the church, and most other turning points in the life of the individual family member were marked by religious rites. The Concordat of 1887 with the Holy See was replaced in 1973 by a new agreement, which opened the way for increased acceptance of civil marriages. After decades of debate, a divorce law permitting the dissolution of civil marriages was passed in the mid-1970s. In the late 1980s, however, the debate over divorce for Catholic marriages continued unresolved.

Moreover, regardless of the increasing acceptability of civil weddings, most middle-class and upper-class families still tried to provide their children with the most elaborate church wedding they could afford. In the lower class, consensual union, in which both the religious and the civil marriage ceremonies are foregone, was common. In rural communities with traditional lower-class standards, formal marriage was regarded as neither important nor essential. Despite the efforts of the church to encourage legal marriage within the lower class, people in this group generally regarded Catholic marriage as a heavy social and economic burden. At the same time, however, Catholic marriage was recognized as the ideal and the preferred legal, social, and sexual basis of the family. Although other kinds of union were more prevalent within the lower class, Catholic marriage often connoted superior social status and prestige. In contemplating religious marriage, both men and women might consider carefully the heavy costs involved against the prestige that would be gained.

Some Colombians, especially those in the middle class, regarded marriage as one of the best means of facilitating upward social mobility. At the same time, however, members of the upper class were generally reluctant to marry persons of lower social position. With the increasing independence of young people and the declining authority of the family, marriages between relatives had become less common, but intermarriage between families of similar aristocratic background was a custom that few young people chose to disregard.


The question of who has benefited from economic growth has been the subject of considerable controversy in Colombia. In the opinion of some observers, growth during the 1970s worsened the skewed distribution of income. The World Bank, in contrast, has concluded that the real incomes of the poorest workers improved significantly during the 1970s.

Data from a variety of sources suggest that there was a redistribution of income toward the two extremes of the population during the 1970s. Income growth was faster for those groups at both the top and the bottom of the income distribution ladder. By contrast, all the evidence suggests that the middle class, which did well in the 1960s, lost ground in the 1970s. For the poor, increased employment of females and other secondary workers at higher wage rates explained most of the improvements; for the rich, the higher income of the head of the household accounted for the betterment.

Agricultural workers and small landholders made up the majority of the poor in Colombia in the late 1980s, although this proportion was decreasing. The urban poor consisted mainly of persons without primary education, who with their numerous children were grouped in large households where few of the members worked. The poorest households were often headed by a single parent--typically a woman. Those who worked were concentrated in domestic service, construction, manufacturing, and retail trade. The wages of the rural and urban poor stagnated until the mid-1970s, improved significantly in the latter half of the decade, but then deteriorated somewhat in the mid-1980s. Real earnings, however, improved more than the wage rates in view of greatly increased employment among household members, which was more significant in urban locations that had greater opportunities for female employment. The income per member of poor urban families also was likely to have benefited from the decline in fertility in urban areas.

Relative wages in low-paid occupations tended to converge over the 1970s. Those paid the least at the beginning of the decade gained, the better-paid semiskilled workers faced stagnant or falling wages, and higher-paid workers suffered substantial setbacks. Important factors contributing to the improvement in the lot of the poor included rapidly expanding educational opportunities since the early 1950s, reinforced by population, nutrition, and related social policies since the late 1960s. Strongly complementary was the employment boom of the 1970s that enabled increasing numbers of women and other "secondary" workers in the poorer households to find jobs, significantly increasing household incomes.

The economic positions of the higher-income group apparently also improved substantially during the 1970s. Rapid economic growth in this period provided ample opportunities for raising entrepreneurial profits, and substantial real interest rates were available to owners of capital. The decade also witnessed booming markets in coffee, emeralds, urban residential housing, and illegal trade.

By contrast, persons in the intermediate range of the income distribution fared poorly. This situation was caused in part by the surging supply of educated workers during the 1970s.

Colombia - Rural Wages

Agricultural wages remained stagnant in real terms during the 1935-64 period, and in 1964 they were only 90 percent of the wages of unskilled construction workers and about 33 percent of those of blue-collar industrial workers. Except for a small increase in the early 1960s, real wages in agriculture changed little until the mid-1970s, when they increased substantially until 1980.

In contrast to the dampening effect of a labor surplus in the 1960s, the employment boom of the 1970s began to raise agricultural wages. The introduction of the caturra variety of coffee during the 1970s led to large-scale replanting and land preparation for new plantations, which, combined with the boom in marijuana production and cocaine processing, greatly increased labor demand in rural areas. Rapidly growing urban employment in this period also pulled agricultural workers into the urban economy, thus creating increasing labor scarcity in rural areas. Agricultural labor productivity over the 1974-79 period was estimated to have grown at roughly 3.7 percent per year, providing much of the basis for rising real wages. The booming terms of trade for coffee producers were also captured to some extent by workers in agriculture. In addition, the rise in the real minimum wage beginning in 1973 may also have been a contributing factor. The stagnation in the agricultural real wage after 1978 reflected the substantially slower growth in the sector and the economy during this period.

Colombia - Urban Wages

In spite of some modest and erratic improvements in the mid1960s , and again during the early 1970s, real wages for unskilled construction workers in Bogotá increased by less than 10 percent during the 1960-77 period as a whole. From 1977 to 1979, however, they increased appreciably, although other data suggest that these gains may have been lost between 1978 and 1981.

The wages of blue-collar workers in manufacturing jumped abruptly between 1960 and 1963, accompanied by a smaller increase for white-collar workers. During the remainder of the 1960s, wages for both types of workers showed modest gains, followed by a loss of these gains during the 1970-76 period and then an upturn until the end of the decade. Relative to their real wages at the beginning of the 1970s, both blue- and white-collar workers were earning at a lower rate in 1981. If fringe benefits are taken into account, their situation appears to have improved during 1964-70 more than at other times and deteriorated less during 1970-76. Over the long term, the pattern showed cyclical fluctuations around a flat trend.

Data confirm the sluggish growth of wages and total earnings of manufacturing workers since the late 1970s. The resulting view that the working class suffered, however, fails to distinguish among groups within the working class. Even in manufacturing, the poorer, unskilled worker did better than white-collar or skilled workers. Moreover, wages and total earnings increased faster in smaller enterprises. Despite the rapid per capita income growth during the 1970s, the income of persons with jobs did not increase much, and those who were better off at the beginning of the decade fared even worse; conversely, those who had minimal remuneration at the beginning of the decade significantly improved their situation.

In summary, according to the evidence from occupational data, during the 1970s poor agricultural workers and small farmers increased their shares of national income. Among urban workers, the poor and the unskilled did better than those employed in skilled or formal-sector occupations. Consumption of luxuries indicated substantial improvements in the position of the rich relative to the middle class. But the share of income going to the middle class fell.


In 1988 most Colombians enjoyed significantly better health care and nutrition than previous generations. The country had risen from the ranks of the poorest nations in Latin America during the 1950s and 1960s to an intermediate status in the 1980s, according to health indicators. These improvements were the result of rapid socioeconomic modernization, which was accompanied by improvements in education and working conditions; greater access to urban health care facilities, running water, and sewerage systems; and more modern attitudes toward sexuality, medicine, disease prevention, nutrition, and exercise. There were also explicit state policies designed to improve access to and availability of health care and medical services. In the 1970s and 1980s, Colombia developed a public and private infrastructure of hospitals and other health care facilities, a widespread network of medical schools, and a specialized set of institutions responsible for formulating and handling public policy in the health sector.

Despite general improvement, the benefits of better health care in 1988 were not evenly distributed among the different strata and regions of Colombian society. Urban areas, the upper and middle classes, blue-collar workers, and the central Andean region enjoyed above-average health conditions. In contrast, the rural and urban poor suffered from higher mortality and morbidity rates because of inadequate or inaccessible medical services, housing, and food. In the late 1980s, Colombian health policy makers were faced with the task of improving services to the least-favored segments of society, while improving the quality and overall performance of the national health care system.

Colombia - General Indicators of Health

Colombia's leading health indicators indicated consistent improvement over the long term. During the 1950s, life expectancy at birth was under fifty years for the average citizen. In 1988 this indicator had reached approximately sixty-eight years for females and sixty-four years for males. The estimated life expectancy range for the rural population was 10 percent to 30 percent below the national average, varying regionally. In the eastern plains, the Amazon Basin, the southern rural Caribbean coastal region, and especially in the southern and northern Pacific coast, the rate of improvement in life expectancy was substantially lower than the national average; in some of the poorest areas, no perceptible change had occurred between the 1950s and the 1980s.

Higher life expectancies were closely correlated with the "spatial" distribution of the population. The higher the level of urbanization, the greater the average life expectancy. The five major cities--with nearly 30 percent of the population--in the early 1980s reported average life expectancies nearly 10 percent above the national average. Analysts anticipated that projected increases in urbanization in the 1990s would have a positive impact on the life expectancy of the nation as a whole.

In 1984 analysts estimated Colombia's infant mortality rate at 52 per 1,000 live births. The annual rate of decrease fluctuated between 2.4 percent and 2.9 percent during the 1950-84 period, peaking during the second half of the 1970s. Some observers suggested that this pattern was closely associated with greater public expenditures for nutrition and basic care for pregnant women and newborns in rural areas.

Despite these improvements, Colombia's infant mortality indicators were among the poorest of the major Latin American countries. Colombia's figure stood substantially above these countries' norm of 42.8 per 1,000 live births and was more than 200 percent greater than the lowest level recorded for national infant mortality in the region (19.5 per 1,000 live births) during the first half of the 1980s.

Moreover, complementary data suggested that infants and children were the least protected segment of the population. Although Colombia's death rate declined 51 percent from 1970 to 1985, infant mortality diminished only 19.8 percent over the same period. Indeed, despite the gradual improvement of infant health indicators, the benefits of better medical care and living conditions were strongly concentrated in the upper levels of the age pyramid. Infant death rates also were higher in rural areas. Moreover, maternal mortality was high by Latin American standards. Between 20 and 30 percent of maternal deaths were related to complications arising from induced abortion, the vast majority of them performed outside the formal medical system because of legal, cultural, and religious sanctions.

Nutrition in Colombian society improved significantly after the 1950s. The average nutrient and caloric intake improved in quality and quantity, as did the performance of the main indicators of nutritional status, such as height, weight, and malnutritionrelated mortality and morbidity. The improvements resulted from increased agricultural productivity in the early 1970s, modernization of eating habits, higher levels of nutritional awareness, and explicit public policies supporting nutritional programs aimed at the poorest segments of society.

In the 1980s, the health and hazard causes for death were, to a significant degree, considered preventable, treatable, or curable. Most infant and child deaths were linked to diarrheal diseases, digestive tract infections, nutritional disorders, and complications related to immunizable viruses. Many adult deaths resulted from "social pathologies," including homicide and accidents. In addition, as their society aged, Colombians were exhibiting a surge in diseases common to the industrialized world, such as coronary and heart disorders, hypertension-related illnesses, and cancer.

One-fifth of all infant and child deaths (zero to four years of age) resulted from diarrheal and infectious digestive disorders accompanied by the inevitable dehydration complications. These diseases were associated with poor sanitation and living conditions, malnutrition, and lack of parental nutritional awareness. Another fifth of infant mortality originated in complications associated with delivery and birth. This mortality reflected the low level of basic health care for rural pregnant women, which was also associated with high levels of maternal mortality. Respiratory diseases caused another fifth of the deaths in children under four.

Violent criminal attacks and homicide--referred to in Colombia as "blood deaths"--accounted for 45 percent of deaths in persons between fifteen and forty-four years of age. The high rate of homicide and violent deaths was associated with the structural problems of poor law enforcement, high levels of social and political violence, and criminal activities related to narcotics production and distribution. The impact of violence was exacerbated by a health care system that was designed to handle "normal" or "formal" health disorders and not well suited for emergency medical care. Colombians considered the poor quality of emergency treatment as one of the major flaws of their nation's health care system.

The major causes of death for those over forty-four years of age were coronary and heart degenerative disorders, cancer, and cerebrovascular diseases. Diet--composed of sugars, starches, salted food, and fats high in cholesterol--along with the prevalence of smoking and alcohol consumption contributed to the unusually high incidence of these maladies.

In the early 1980s, the most prevalent illnesses striking Colombians were respiratory infections, ophthalmological and vision problems, digestive tract parasitic diseases, acute upper respiratory tract infections, peripheral vascular problems such as varicose veins, and malnutrition disorders. Over 14.2 million cases of individual illness were attributed to these diseases.

In the 1980s, the duality of the Colombian health profile was also present in the social and regional distribution of morbidity. The poorest segments and regions suffered the most from preventable and curable causes, such as gastrointestinal disorders and certain types of respiratory ailments, whereas the incidence of the degenerative and chronic diseases--typical of urban dwellers and higher-income earners--was relatively low in comparison. Tropical diseases continued to be endemic to certain areas of the country. Because of the acceleration of migratory flows to the unexplored tropical hinterland, diseases such as malaria, dengue, and yellow fever were increasing. Malaria affected approximately 15 percent of the population--equivalent to roughly one-half of all rural inhabitants.

In the late 1980s, geriatric issues increasingly challenged the country's health care system. The combination of increasing life expectancy, reduction of fertility rates, and diminishing mortality rates produced an older society. Those persons over forty-five increased from 13.5 percent of the population in the mid-1960s to 17 percent in the late 1980s. In absolute terms, this trend meant that more than 4.6 million people in 1990 would enter a period of life characterized by major health concerns related to chronic, catastrophic, and degenerative diseases. The proportional increase in these types of ailments demanded a specific framework for health care, medical technology, and professional specialization that was not widely available in the public health system.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was another major health challenge in the late 1980s. Like many other less-developed countries, Colombia was sluggish in tackling the issue of AIDS within its borders and recognizing it as a potentially disastrous health threat. The cultural environment--strongly influenced by traditional values toward sexuality, virility, and homosexuality-- slowed public debate, distorted factual information about the incidence and spread of the virus, and inhibited the formulation of policy and preventive guidelines. In the first quarter of 1988, the official number of confirmed cases of AIDS was fifty-nine. By April that figure had to be revised upward to 153 confirmed cases.

Some sources contended, however, that this dramatic increase showed only a fraction of the total cases. New projections in 1988 suggested that there were 7,650 AIDS carriers. Of that total, 2 percent suffered the terminal stages of the disease, 25 percent were experiencing related opportunistic illnesses, and the remaining 73 percent were in the asymptomatic stage. A doubling of the total number of positive carriers was expected to occur within six months to one year because of the high levels of underreporting, the weakness of preventive measures, and the high incidence of carriers among female prostitutes.

The high cost of health care for AIDS victims would seriously strain the already scarce resources available to treat other diseases. Analysts believed that major funding and resources would not be channeled into the fight against AIDS. As of 1988, the Colombian government had taken few steps beyond attempting to protect the national blood supply.

Colombia - The Politics of Health: Priorities, Institutions, and Public Policy

During colonial times and the first century following independence, health care in Colombia consisted of services provided by traditional healers and private physicians trained first in Europe and later in national medical schools. The physicians served the elite and practiced curative medicine exclusively. Health care of the indigent, orphans, and the mentally ill was at first the domain of charity institutions, largely run by the Roman Catholic Church. As the population increased, orphanages, shelters, and municipal and community hospitals, usually staffed by religious orders, emerged throughout the country. Political pressures and local initiative, rather than assessment of regional needs, determined the size and kind of health facilities built and operated. Therefore, the distribution of hospital beds and services in the country was haphazard. With the advent of modern high-cost technology, this approach led to wasteful duplication of services and a major escalation in investment and operating costs.

The government initiated official action in the health field in 1913. The Ministry of Public Health, largely as it exists today, was established in 1953. Government programs were initially small, geared exclusively to the control of communicable diseases by reducing environmental hazards, providing water and sewerage facilities, and controlling garbage disposal. Vaccination campaigns were attempted, as was the isolation of patients with contagious diseases. At first, there was no relationship between these government activities and hospital care. Rural health care was virtually nonexistent, and reliance on traditional practitioners was almost universal until the 1950s.

In 1945 the National Provident Fund (Caja Nacional de Provisión--Cajanal) was created to provide prepaid health services and other benefits to government employees. In 1946 the Institute for Social Insurance (Instituto para Seguros Sociales--ISS) was organized under the Ministry of Labor to provide life and disability insurance, a pension plan, and a health program for employees in the modern private subsector. The ISS health system grew rapidly and independently of both municipal hospitals and the Ministry of Public Health. Subsequently, many smaller prepaid health programs were organized for railroad and telecommunications workers, the police, the armed forces, and other employees either not protected by the ISS or Cajanal or dissatisfied with the services. In the late 1980s, about 200 of these social security and family welfare funds existed.

The health sector was divided into three main subsectors: the government--consisting of the Ministry of Public Health, its five autonomous specialized agencies, and the Department of Health Services (Servicio Seccional de Salud--SSS); the social security subsector--comprising the ISS for private employees, Cajanal for public employees, and the smaller funds for specific population groups; and the private sector. Lacking coordination, these subsectors evolved along divergent paths.

Beginning in the late 1960s, the ministry's programs focused on extending coverage to persons not protected by organized health services. Priority was given to rural areas, poor marginal urban populations, and maternal and child health care. Primary health care, largely provided by paramedical personnel, was the principal instrument for achieving this objective.

A major review of the health sector by the government in 1974 led to the development of the National Health System, designed to provide adequate health care to all Colombians. Health was also viewed as a major component in integrated development efforts in the 1970s and early 1980s. These efforts, which received substantial support from the World Bank and other international agencies operating in Colombia, attempted to enhance productivity, income, and living standards of "viable" and "stable" peasant communities with small- and medium-sized farms. Good results and continued multilateral financing guaranteed its survival for more than a decade.

The 1979-82 National Integration Plan (Plan de Integración Nacional--PIN), as the national government's development plan was called, continued to emphasize expanding health coverage to the most vulnerable groups (mothers and children under five) and areas (rural and urban squatter settlements), recognizing the disparities in health status among regions and population subgroups. The National Health System was viewed as the major instrument to achieve the goal, and increased coordination among the Ministry of Public Health, the ISS, the social security funds, and family welfare funds was emphasized. Specific coverage targets were identified, including immunization of 80 percent of infants and 100 percent of children under five years; piped water and sewerage to 78 percent of the urban population and 79 percent of the nondispersed rural population; and a 15 percent increase in prenatal care. The ultimate goals were to reduce infant mortality by 15 percent, child mortality by 25 percent, and various kinds of morbidity by given percentages.

In 1981 the government established the Plan to Accelerate Health Development, based on grouping the SSS into six nuclei led by the six most developed departments. These departments would help their less-well-favored neighboring departments and national territories with technical assistance, coordination, data processing and monitoring services, supervision, and evaluation of programs. The central nucleus in Bogotá was to oversee and to develop the norms of the system.

In the late 1980s, the Barco administration implemented two other major social programs with both a direct and an indirect impact on health care for the poorest groups in society. The programs were the National Rehabilitation Plan, actually initiated by the Belisario Betancur Cuartas administration (1982-86) to shift public expenditures to the most remote and least-developed rural zones of the country, where guerrilla groups maintained strongholds, and the National Plan for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty, which focused on reducing urban poverty by 80 percent among those persons below the level of extreme poverty. Like the programs of the 1970s and early 1980s, these two new programs consisted of food subsidies, primary health care, communal education, locally constructed small public works projects for transportation, schools, and health care centers. In contrast with the earlier effort, however, Barco hoped for improved delivery of services through better coordination of different government agencies.

The private sector also acquired some paragovernmental functions in relation to health care. The Family Compensation Funds, or Cajas, were governmentally mandated, private sector institutions that held a percentage of the total salary paid by a firm to its workers and used it to provide cash subsidies and different types of services to affiliated workers. Some of the largest Cajas developed hospitals, pharmacies, dental units, general medical consultation services, and outpatient health care centers for children and nonworking spouses. Cajas were legally barred from duplicating the work of other governmental institutions, such as the ISS. This unorthodox model could be considered a private component of the urban social security system, managed jointly by unions or workers, firm owners, and the government.

Another key paragovernmental private health care provider was the National Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia--Fedecafe). Fedecafe collected and managed the taxes originating from coffee exports, using the money both to stabilize and protect the coffee industry and to improve living conditions in the coffee regions of the country. In the central Andean region--the core of the coffee economy--Fedecafe was a major provider of basic health care, sanitation, access to clean water, nutritional education, immunization, and dental services.

Except for extensive support by the international system, the provision of health care was a relatively low priority for the Colombian political establishment in the 1970s and 1980s. In political electoral terms, there was no clear constituency for national health care. Those sectors lacking health care and risk protection were usually the poorest groups in society, the least organized, and the weakest in political influence. In addition, other groups, including public employees, transportation workers, oil workers, private employees, and middle-class professionals, struggled independently and autonomously to develop some form of health care and risk protection.

The health sector was perceived implicitly by politicians as a legitimate part of the "spoils" of office (botín burocrático) because of its relatively high employment capacity for political appointees. Traditionally, with some significant exceptions, the Ministry of Public Health and its regional division were "assigned" to politicians; that is, they were effectively outside the control of national planning officials and programs. Indeed, the financial sources that supported departmental health services--the lottery and state taxes on alcoholic beverages--were periodically shaken by revelations of political corruption and reckless management.

Compared with other ministries and given the magnitude of its task, the Ministry of Public Health was woefully underfunded. The ministry's expenditures as a share of the national product had decreased since the late 1960s, and by the mid-1980s they were at approximately 0.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Since the late 1960s, with the exception of the period of the Alfonso López Michelsen administration (1974-78), the share of the health sector in total central government expenditures had declined. In fact, the fiscal adjustments in late 1984 and 1985-- necessitated by the global recession and Colombia's ensuing trade and national account deficits--cut heavily into social expenditures, especially health and education. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of public health care beds were not operating in 1985 because of inadequate funding. Another symptom of the low priority given to health care services was its relative share of foreign earnings. Total foreign currency commitments for the health sector in Colombia in the 1973- 82 period amounted only to US$402 million.

Considerable institutional overlap and bureaucratic inefficiency and uncertainty characterized the ministry's specialized institutions. Both the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Municipal Development supported local investments in water and sewerage systems in small- and medium- sized towns. In 1988 the latter institute was being dismantled and its functions transferred to the Central Mortgage Bank, the Malaria Eradication Service, and the Cancer Institute. In addition, ministry units were autonomous. Although some coordination at the operational level occurred, each institution generally developed its own policies and programs.

Colombia - National Health Care System

In the late 1980s, the national public health care infrastructure was built around a network of approximately 640 hospitals classified as local (73 percent), regional (17 percent), specialized (8 percent), and university (2 percent) hospitals. There were 35,000 beds in the public sector of the system, excluding those available at health care centers and basic care units.

The other three major components of the health care infrastructure were the ISS, the paragovernmental social security institutions, and the private sector. The ISS and related organizations managed approximately 6,500 beds (13 percent); paragovernmental social security institutions handled around 2,300 (4 percent); and the private sector--one of the most dynamic components of the system--had reached 8,000 beds (15 percent). The total availability of hospital beds amounted to only approximately 51,800--a figure that was equivalent to a ratio of 1.9 beds per 1,000 citizens. This ratio was less than half of the capacity for the health sectors of Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, or even Brazil and not far from the performance of the most underdeveloped countries in the region.

Nevertheless, approximately 80 percent of the population had access to some form of medical and health care services. The national public health system offered coverage to 46 percent of the population, the private sector to 16 percent, the ISS system to 12 percent, and other social security organizations to 6 percent. The remaining 20 percent lacked formal health care coverage and had access only sporadically to professional medical consultation. Furthermore, a considerable proportion of the 12.7 million people served by the national public health system did not have real access to modern forms of diagnosis and treatment.

Urban and rural residents experienced significant differences in access to health care. The coverage in the three largest cities- -Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali--was almost 95 percent. At the rural level, the best services were delivered by the departments in the coffee-growing areas. At the bottom of the scale--in terms of quality and coverage--were the rural areas in the non-Andean regions as well as the marginal neighborhoods in medium-sized and small cities.

In 1985 the country had an estimated 20,500 physicians. Thus, Colombia had almost one physician for every 1,300 inhabitants, a good ratio by international standards. The data were misleading, however, in terms of the real availability of medical care for the population. Almost 70 percent of physicians were located in the twenty-five major cities, which together contained only 45 percent of the population. The problem with professional nursing care was even worse. There was an even greater urban concentration of nurse professionals than of physicians.

The medical doctor was a very important social actor in Colombian history. The doctor's status in the community usually gave him or her responsibilities that went far beyond health and healing, such as acting as mediator of disputes and electoral power broker. The social reputation and political power of physicians normally was accompanied by above-average economic rewards, thus creating a very attractive professional path for social mobility. Socially, the title of "doctor" was highly desirable and was a goal for the youth of middle-class families that could afford the high cost of this type of education.

Despite a doubling in the number of medical schools between the early 1970s and the late 1980s, university facilities were not able to cope with the huge demand for medical education. In addition, although many medical graduates had not been absorbed by the health system, they were generally not willing to move into the nonurban areas where they were most desperately needed. The high cost of medical education--considered as an investment with unusually high expectations for return--discouraged physicians from considering voluntary moves to areas in need that offered considerably less profitability.

Colombia - Social Security

Social security in Colombia, as in most of Latin America, developed in response to various pressure groups. Like most economic benefits in Colombia, social security came first to those groups that had political and economic strength. The military formed the first health security program in 1843, followed by other privileged public sector employee groups, notably members of Congress and the judiciary. Industrial laborers and other private sector workers attained basic coverage in 1946, but many others were still without any type of health or income security benefit in the late 1980s.

The social security system in the late 1980s was divided into three types of programs. The private sector, including both bluecollar workers and management, was covered in part by the ISS, which included 70 percent of insured workers. The public sector program covered 7 percent of insured employees nationwide and was administered by Cajanal. The remaining 23 percent of covered private workers belonged to one of 300 small insurance funds operating at the national, departmental, or municipal levels.

The social security program comprised three types of coverage: health insurance provided for medical and hospital coverage; the pension system made disability, old age, and death payments; and the family allowance program granted income maintenance for families earning substandard salaries. The family allowance program was the only standardized insurance scheme in the social security system. Health coverage and pensions, by contrast, varied significantly among public sector employees, workers covered by the ISS, and employees belonging to smaller funds.

Public employee benefits far exceeded those of private sector workers. Government workers could retire ten years earlier than private workers, and their pensions averaged 66 percent higher than those paid to members of the ISS. The military was an extreme example of this inequity; their pensions surpassed private worker retirement annuities by 150 percent. Government workers also enjoyed superior health facilities and benefits, as compared with workers in the private sector.

Insurance premium payments, although similar in form among the various providers, were as inequitable as the benefits received. In all cases, social security was financed by employee and employer contributions, as well as state subsidies. Private coverage through the ISS required a joint contribution by employee and employer of between 15 and 20 percent of the premium, and an additional 4 percent contribution was made by the employer for the family allowances fund. The lowest premiums paid, by contrast, were those of the public sector Cajanal program, in which workers contributed between 4 and 12 percent of the premiums and health and pension funds were fully subsidized by the state.

In addition to the fragmented, inequitable payment and benefits programs, the social security system's greatest failing was its low coverage of the population. Colombia ranked thirteenth among nineteen Latin American countries in social security coverage of the population; only 16 percent of the population was covered by a social insurance fund in 1985. Moreover, the programs failed to cover the neediest members of society, including women, children, and low-income male workers.

The social security system was also one of the most expensive in Latin America. In 1984 approximately 2.6 percent of GDP went to health care and pension programs. The World Bank estimated that extension of coverage at that level to the entire population would require the equivalent of 23 percent of GDP. Furthermore, state subsidization of public programs, particularly Cajanal, was excessive and varied from 60 percent to nearly 90 percent of the costs. According to experts, Cajanal operated an intolerably large deficit in the mid-1980s. The lack of a coordinated, consistent management and administrative system was largely responsible for many of these cost overruns, as well as the high level of premiums paid by the state.

Colombia - RELIGION

In the late 1980s, Colombia remained an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country. More than 95 percent of the population had been baptized in the Catholic Church, and the Colombian variant was widely renowned as one of the most conservative and traditional in Latin America. Colombians were among the most devout of Latin American Catholics. The church as an institution was authoritarian and paternalistic and had traditionally been associated with elite structures in the society.

The Concordat of 1973 defined relations between the Colombian government and the Vatican. The concordat replaced the clause in the Constitution of 1886 that had established the Catholic Church as the official religion with one stating that "Roman Catholicism is the religion of the great majority of Colombians." The concordat also altered the church's position on three major issues: the mission territories, education, and marriage. First, the mission territories--lands with Indian populations--ceased to be enclaves where Catholic missionaries had greater jurisdiction than the government over schools, health, and other services; by agreement the vast network of schools and social services was eventually to be transferred to the government. Second, the church surrendered its right to censor public university texts and enforce the use of the Catholic catechism in public schools. Under the new concordat, the church retained the right to run only its own schools and universities, and even these had to follow government guidelines. Finally, Colombians were allowed to contract civil marriages without abjuring the Catholic faith. The civil validity of church weddings was also recognized, although all marriages were also to be recorded on the civil registry. Catholic marriages, however, could only be dissolved through arbitration in a church court.

Despite these changes, the tenacity of custom and the church's traditional position as a moral and social arbiter ensured its continued strong presence in national life. The parish church still was recognized as the center of nearly every community, and the local priest was often the major figure of authority and leadership. Moreover, most priests were native Colombians, in sharp contrast to the dependence on foreign clergy generally prevalent in Latin America. Approximately 95 percent of diocesan priests and 65 percent of priests belonging to religious orders were Colombians. Since independence, all but four bishops have been Colombian.

In comparison with Catholicism, other religions continued to play a small role in the 1980s. The Protestant population numbered roughly 200,000; Jews were far less numerous, having only a few small congregations in larger cities. In the past, restrictive immigration policy kept most non-Catholics from entering the country. Although Protestant missionaries had been officially allowed to proselytize since the 1930s, they often met with opposition from members of the Catholic clergy and laity. NonCatholics are guaranteed freedom of worship under the Constitution, however.

Few of the indigenous religions encountered by the Spaniards survived. In the 1980s, the Indians of the highlands were at least nominally Catholic, and only a few tribes in the most isolated regions continued in their traditional beliefs. The nation's black population also was nominally Catholic, although vestiges of African religion and beliefs survived in some communities. The black population on Isla de San Andrés and Isla de Providencia was Protestant, however, having originally been colonized by Britain.

<>The Church in Society
<>Trends Within the Church since the 1940s

Colombia - The Church in Society

The influence of the church varied in different regions of the country and among different social groups, but it was felt everywhere and was rarely questioned. The population in general continued to attach great importance to observance of the formal acts of Catholicism. The rate of attendance at mass was high, particularly among women, who generally took the practice of religion more seriously than men. Church attendance also served traditionally to attest to a woman's general virtue. In some urban parishes, more than 85 percent of the Catholics attended mass. Some cities or regions were noted throughout the country for their religious observance. The people of Antioquia Department, for example, were reputed to be particularly devout Catholics, and the Indians of the southern highlands and residents of Popayán were recognized for their regular attendance at mass and traditional observance of holy days, especially during Holy Week.

To the average Colombian, such primary rites of the church as baptism, first communion, marriage, and extreme unction marked the main turning points in the life cycle and identified him or her as a social being. The Catholic faith was felt to be a part of a person's cultural heritage passed on like language and became an integral part of a person's being.

Members of the upper class and the upper middle class frequently had close personal relations with members of the religious hierarchy. Most of the clergy and nearly all prelates were of upper-class or middle-class origin and therefore shared the interests and attitudes of these groups and felt the closest affinity with them. The upper social levels supported Catholic charities with time and money and provided most of the membership of lay religious associations.

Religious beliefs and practices in the rural peasant communities reflected centuries of geographic isolation and a lack of formal religious training. People in these areas were said to be more devout than those in the cities, but their Catholicism was often very different from that of the urban upper and middle classes. Fusion of Catholic practices and beliefs with indigenous, African, and sixteenth-century Spanish ones was widespread in the countryside. Traces of the rural folk religions also were found in urban lower-class communities, particularly those with many rural migrants.

Most people in rural villages were careful to fulfill what they considered to be their religious obligations to protect themselves from supernatural punishment or to secure blessings from one of the saints. The Virgin Mary and the saints were deeply revered by most people. The saints, especially one's patron saint, were considered to be more accessible than God and sometimes willing to intervene in the individual's temporal affairs.

The mass, the sacraments, religious processions, and objects of religious veneration were shared by nearly all Colombians. Holy day celebrations, particularly the fiestas honoring a community's patron saint, were events of great significance, not only in the religious life of the people but also as elements of social cohesion that united members of the community in a common bond.

Critics within the church contended, however, that this emphasis on the ritual aspects of the faith masked serious deficiencies in the exercise of that faith. In their view, Catholicism had a limited impact on the personal lives of the laity. Many couples had chosen alternatives to a Catholic wedding, such as consensual union or a civil ceremony. In addition, many Catholics lacked even an elementary grounding in church doctrine. Critics also argued that Colombia's ratio of priests to inhabitants--one to 4,000, one of the best in Latin America--was highly misleading. Like most elites, clerics gravitated toward urban areas. In contrast, many rural churches lacked priests for extended periods of time.

Despite these deficiencies, the church continued to exercise considerable influence in a number of areas, including education, social welfare, and union organization. Catholic control over education in Colombia was the strongest in Latin America and even greater than its official powers suggested. The church had its own Secretariat of Education, which maintained two research organizations, a literacy program reaching thousands of rural Colombians, and more than 3,500 schools and universities. With a total enrollment of nearly 300,000 students in the 1970s, the church system was estimated to include over 85 percent of the students in preschool, 20 percent of those in the primary grades, more than 50 percent of those in secondary school, and almost 40 percent of those in universities. Church institutions of higher education were among the most highly respected in the nation, and religious courses played an important part in a student's curriculum.

In 1944 the Episcopal Conference established Catholic Social Action, or simply Catholic Action, a loose collection of programs for social and educational development. Some of the programs for Catholic Action were begun by the hierarchy, whereas others, such as Popular Cultural Action (Acción Cultural Popular--Acpo), a program involving specialized education programs for peasants, were initiated by individual priests and later adopted by the hierarchy. Acpo was best known for its literacy programs, which were conducted through Radio Sutatenza. Most of Acpo's budget was financed by the church, but some assistance was received from the government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In 1988 the government negotiated a buy-out of Radio Sutatenza, which became part of the state education system.

The church-operated research institutes were founded in the 1960s to conduct socioeconomic studies and act as advisers to the hierarchy. The Center for Research and Social Action (Centro de Investigación y Acción Social--CIAS), subsequently renamed the Center for Research and Popular Education (Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular--Cinep), was run by Jesuits, and the Colombian Institute of Social Development (Instituto Colombiano de Desarrollo Social--Icodes) was staffed by diocesan priests. Both had done studies on housing and population problems, church-sponsored development programs, and land reform, and both were well respected for the quality and reliability of their studies.

Although education was still the most important area of church activity in the mid-1980s, mission activity and social welfare were also major efforts. In the early 1980s, about 1,100 charitable institutions were run by the church, including orphanages, hospitals, and leprosariums. Other welfare institutions were staffed by nuns whose orders were reimbursed by the government. Because of its involvement with the mission territories, the church was also represented in the National Indian Institute. Although the government was slowly taking over the functions of the church in the Indian territories, the church continued to play an important role there.

Two important social welfare programs were Colombian Charity (Caritas Colombiana) and Communal Action (Acción Comunal). Colombiana Charity was set up to coordinate the welfare work of various Catholic institutions. To most Colombians, it was identified with the distribution of agricultural surpluses, shoes, and clothing to the poor. Communal Action, a community development program established by the government in 1958, had significant input from the church at the local level. Priests served as key organizers in Communal Action groups, trying to educate rural Colombians in self-help methods.

The church had been involved with labor organizations since the middle of the nineteenth century, when it was instrumental in the formation of various economic and political pressure groups and later of craft unions. As Liberal-backed unions and communism began to be more influential within the working class during the 1940s, the church moved to increase its own influence. Moving to counteract the Liberal and leftist-oriented Confederation of Colombian Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Colombianos--CTC), several Jesuits helped to form a labor union inspired by Catholic social doctrine, the Union of Colombian Workers (Unión de Trabajadores Colombianos--UTC).

Responding to the need to organize and maintain the loyalty of the campesinos as well as to supply the UTC with badly needed leverage in its battle with the CTC, the church organized the National Agrarian Federation (Federación Agraria Nacional--Fanal) in 1946. Although not as successful as other rural organizations, Fanal was fairly important in rural land invasions in the 1960s, and it was not unusual to find invasions led by priests.

Colombia - Trends Within the Church since the 1940s

The church's involvement in such activities as social welfare and union organization flowed in part from changes in Colombian society beginning in the 1940s. Of equal importance was the process of renewal that characterized the worldwide Roman Catholic Church in the early 1960s. Both Pope John XXIII (1958-63) and Pope Paul VI (1963-78) issued a series of encyclicals that were unequaled in their efforts to modernize the church as an institution and modify its role in society. These encyclicals stressed the government's obligation to reduce socioeconomic inequalities and the church's obligation to take a leading role in reform.

Although the papal encyclicals pointed the Colombian episcopate in the direction of change, it was not until the 1968 Latin American Bishops Conference (Conferencia Episcopal Latinoamericana- -Celam) in Medellín that these proposed reforms were brought home in the form of a declaration specifically involving Latin America. The core concepts developed during the Medellín conference were the conflict between the "haves" and "have-nots," the need for fundamental institutional reforms, and social action as the key means of Christian influence in the world. The conclusions of the Medellín conference gave the Latin American church the necessary mandate to implement social justice and church reform.

In accordance with the thrust of the Medellín conference, the Colombian bishops endorsed the call for social action. Unlike other Latin American colleagues, however, the Colombian bishops shied away from some of the more dramatic aspects of Medellín. They did not, for example, accept Medellín's view that institutionalized violence characterized Latin American societies. Unable to change the shape of the Medellín documents, the Colombians published a dissenting treatise in the secular press.

The bishops' inability to agree on an approach to social reform and to implement it through strong and effective leadership increased the fragmentation within the church in Colombia and the controversy surrounding the latter's role. Some of the problems developed over organizational rather than ideological disagreements between groups fighting for the same resources or powerful positions. The insufficient economic base and the lack of qualified personnel further limited developmental efforts. Consequently, only development programs operating in strongly Catholic areas had substantial success. Competition among upwardly mobile priests for the attention of the local bishop also detracted from reform and tended to promote those priests eager to conform to the status quo.

Frustration over the lack of dynamic leadership caused some priests to strike out on their own. The first to do so was Camilo Torres, an upper-class Colombian who left the priesthood to become a guerrilla. Torres was killed in 1966, less than six months after he joined the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional--ELN), thus becoming the first so-called martyr of the Catholic left in Latin America. He became a symbol for many leftists with his commitment to radical change through violence.

In the late 1960s, many Colombian clergymen, encouraged by Torres's example, were determined to work for social change. Except for Gerardo Valencia Cano, bishop of Buenaventura, none of the episcopate supported their work. Spurned by the hierarchy, the group attempted to develop a power base strong enough to break the religious and secular hold of the elite. Basing their platforms on Marxist concepts, they began to hold protest demonstrations to rally support against the hierarchy and to promote programs of radical social change.

In spite of the rejection of the Medellín conclusions by the majority of Colombian bishops, the activists led by Bishop Valencia became the first group in Latin America to issue a manifesto and a platform for social reform based on the resolutions of the Medellín conference. Meeting in 1968 and taking the name Golconda Group-- "Golconda" after the farmhouse where they first met--the group led the revolutionary wing of the Colombian church until early 1970. The Golconda Group elaborated an anticapitalist, anti-imperialist stance and a platform that included recourse to violence under certain conditions. By advocating violence, however, the group touched a sensitive nerve among Colombians and undercut potential support from many progressive Catholics who were ready to promote change.

The Golconda Group became involved in political as well as social issues and encouraged the Colombian people to boycott the elections of 1970 and thereby refuse to give a democratic stamp to either of the official parties. This antagonistic attitude toward the government led to charges of communist sympathies and to the eventual repression and imprisonment of members of the movement. Because the group was small and radical and because government and ecclesiastical opposition was effectively organized against it, it was short lived. After several members were imprisoned on the eve of its third annual meeting in early 1970, the Golconda Group ceased to exist as a single organization, although individuals continued to use its name. Despite the fact that their efforts to effect sweeping social changes were not successful, members of the Golconda Group came to be considered forerunners of the controversial liberation theology movement among the Catholic clergy elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere.

After the demise of the Golconda Group, radical activity remained largely diffuse and ineffective, appearing to have subsided. Bishop Valencia was killed in an airplane crash in February 1972, and with his death the radical clerics lost their only supporter among the hierarchy. Other groups were formed, and support grew for the radical wing of the church, but no group was as dynamic or controversial as the Golconda Group had been.

The lack of active commitment on the part of the bishops had several effects. On the one hand, the weakness of the hierarchy's approval and/or disapproval of radical clergy led to confusion in the public interpretation of Catholic social ideology among Colombians. On the other hand, the lack of protection against government repression convinced many that the official church was not genuinely interested in change. Finally, the national effort at socioeconomic development was hampered because, without consensus, the impact of the church on reform remained piecemeal.

The explanation for the Colombian church's relatively undynamic nature rested primarily with the distinctive political context within which the church operated. The church had become most prominent in those countries of Latin America where a repressive political context simplified options and displaced ordinary social pressures and where the episcopal leadership--more often than not impelled by lower-level activism within the church--was willing to commit the institution to an active role in public conflict. Neither of these conditions existed in Colombia after the Medellín conference.

The Colombian church functioned within a relatively open, competitive political system. Despite continuing high levels of violence, Colombia's political context allowed some play of social and political forces, keeping open channels that when closed in other societies displaced pressures onto the church. The political system showed at least some responsiveness to changing demands and was accompanied by considerable economic success. The nation's imperfect, oligarchical democracy, muddling as usual through a series of crises, did not offer a target to justify violent corrective action. No convincing case had been made by anyone-- whether militants in the church or the secular left more generally- -that gathered significant popular support behind armed overthrow of the regime.

The absence of a repressive political context limited the political role of the Colombian church. Indeed, after the 1960s the church's ability to shape the outcome of political issues declined substantially. Nor did the church use its teaching authority compellingly enough to affect clearly the broader agenda of social choices. Its negative pleas--for example, against birth control and political violence--were notably ineffective.

The one way in which the church may have been important politically was in upholding the legitimacy of Colombia's oligarchical democracy. It came to this position in the mid-1950s, after having been long divided over identification with the Conservative Party. The horrifying spectacle of la violencia (1948-66) and the affronts of Gustavo Rojas Pinilla led the church hierarchy to endorse his overthrow and the subsequent regime of the National Front. It consistently defended the National Front regime and its less formally consociational successor against critics in the church itself and in society in general.

Has this church legitimation of the existing political system made a difference? Colombia's oligarchical democracy survived, against many predictions and in contrast to the civilian politics of many other countries. The continuing support of the institutional church was one potential explanation. A long line of "rebel priests" and nuns, beginning with Torres in the mid-1960s, believed that the church's legitimation of established politics was both morally wrong and politically important. They frequently suggested that the church's support was crucial to the status quo.

The recent past, however, did not bear out this assertion in any clear way. The church had demonstrated a potential negative power to topple a regime (for example, in helping bring down Rojas Pinilla in 1957). From that, however, the weight of its positive support, as distinguished from its neutrality, could only be indirectly inferred. If progressive activists had been able to move the institutional church into a militant, liberationist position against the regime, they would undoubtedly have threatened the regime's foundations. In addition, if they had even won enough support for the church to have publicly divided internally over the legitimacy of the regime, they would have deeply shaken the regime's stability. However, neither development occurred.

Colombia - EDUCATION

The education sector has grown explosively at all levels since the early 1960s. By 1987 primary-school enrollment had more than doubled, secondary-school enrollment had grown sixfold, and university enrollments had increased fifteen times. The literacy rate was approximately 88 percent in 1987. Private schools accounted for 15 percent of the enrollments at the primary level, 40 percent at the secondary-school level, and 60 percent at the university level. But the principal reason for the rapid expansion of the education system was the massive increase in public outlays for education.

Government funding for education increased fivefold in real terms between 1966 and 1986. In 1987 federal education expenditures represented between a quarter and a third of the national budget. The country's rapid urbanization fostered the overall expansion of education from the 1960s through the late 1980s. Various modifications in national legislation regulating education increased national government responsibility in education financing. Among the key modifications were the nationalization laws that in 1960 transferred financial responsibility for primary education to the national government and in 1975 did the same for secondary education. In addition, mechanisms for revenue-sharing between the regions and the national government were developed. Despite considerable progress, however, major disparities in education quality persisted among social classes and regions, as well as between the public and private sectors and between rural and urban areas.

<>Historical Background
<>Administration and Finance
<>Primary Education
<>Secondary and University Education

Colombia - EDUCATION - Historical Background

Until well after the achievement of independence early in the nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church remained the principal authority in the sphere of education. The first schools were established by the church during the sixteenth century, and in the seventeenth century the sons of Spanish settlers received schooling in the first seminaries. Two universities were founded by the church before 1700, and, although the eighteenth century saw the emergence of some secular influence in education, an effort to found a public university was abandoned because of clerical opposition.

After the achievement of independence, the government's control over the school system increased progressively, and ever-larger numbers of students attended public schools. Nevertheless, the traditionally dominant role played by the church in education profoundly influenced the role played by education in society and probably contributed to a reluctance to change educational institutions. Observers of Colombian education repeatedly pointed out that far from furthering social mobility, the system reinforced social stratification.

Primary education served as an instrument of mobility to some extent because it raised the level of literacy and thus enabled many people to enter the mainstream of national life. In urban localities, it also enabled workers to find better-paying jobs and thus to raise their standard of living, if not their social status. In the countryside, however, schooling was of little value. In general, a vicious circle existed in which a low technological level in agriculture and a low educational level mutually reinforced each other.

In the past, education above the primary level perpetuated the class system because of the near absence of schools of any kind in rural localities, the unavailability of enough secondary schools to accommodate many of the qualified applicants, and the disproportionate acceptance of students from the more prosperous upper-class families. In addition, above the primary level, tuition was charged in public as well as in private schools. This cost, plus the cost of books, supplies, and school uniforms, placed secondary schooling beyond the means of most working-class families. Rural and small-city parents also had to bear the frequently prohibitive costs of transportation and room and board. Private secondary education prospered through its ability to cater to the needs of the elite. The Ministry of Education in a 1966 report criticized the secondary schools for accentuating social differences rather than encouraging vertical social mobility. The children of the poor were unable to enter the best schools offering an academic education, and the few secondary agricultural and other vocational schools available to them tended to discourage upward mobility. The ministry's report added that for most students the principal reason for completing secondary or higher studies was the social status conferred.

In Colombia, as in most other Latin American countries, a distinction was drawn between the academic and the vocational secondary school, and working-class as well as elite families much preferred the former. The distinction was so sharp that, although it was possible in some instances for vocational graduates to go on to universities, the term secondary was customarily applied only to the academic schools. The faster growth of the already much larger academic school enrollment during the 1960s and 1970s reflected a continued disregard for manual labor and a continued tendency to attach little social value even to the highest of manual skills. The largest vocational enrollments were in the commercial institutions teaching white-collar skills.

Until after World War II, a university education was the exclusive province of the country's elite. But after many new universities were established and their enrollment growth exceeded that at other levels of education, the universities lost something of their exclusive character.

Colombia - EDUCATION - Administration and Finance

In the 1980s, the national government continued to bear the primary responsibility for public and private education. The authority was extended downward from the president to the minister of education and by delegation to the secretaries of education in the departments, the national territories, and the large municipalities that maintained their own school systems. It extended also to several decentralized institutions concerned with education matters.

There were various kinds of schools. At all levels of schooling, the central government operated a small system of national schools ranging from preschool units in major urban centers to the massive UNC in Bogotá. Only in Caquetá Department, however, were national schools in a majority. Most of the schools were maintained by the departments and the national territories, and many were maintained by municipalities with populations of more than 100,000. Because schools in the national system were large and well known and their teaching staffs were in a favored position, analysts often overemphasized their numerical importance.

The private sector of education was made up of schools operated by the Roman Catholic Church, schools operated by other religious denominations, private schools, and cooperative schools operated by communities. Catholic schools predominated.

The Constitution guarantees freedom for private ownership and operation of schools in the private sector. However, they had to be licensed, meet public-school standards, and generally use the public curriculum, and they were subject to supervision by the public inspection system. Private institutions administered by foreign organizations could use the language of the home country for instruction, but they had to employ Colombian teachers to conduct classes in the Spanish language on the country's history and geography. Catholic schools used texts prepared by Catholic publishers adapted under government order to conform to the prescribed official program of study. The Colombian government relied heavily on the private school system, and it financially supported institutions that provided scholarships to children from poorer families.

In the 1980s, the administration of the education system involved an interplay between forces of central control and forces of regional decentralization in which political considerations had an important part. This interplay had existed for many years, and the complexity of the issues involved was perhaps best exemplified by the issuance in 1968 of a decree establishing the system of Regional Educational Funds (Fondos Educativos Regionales--FER) as a many-faceted attack on the country's educational problems. Theoretically, the public education system had been a unit in which the Ministry of Education set down patterns and rules and coordinated and supervised the day-to-day administration provided at the regional levels. In practice, a kind of anarchy had developed, in which the departmental and municipal systems had operated with a degree of de facto autonomy that prevented the central authority from effectively using the material and human resources theoretically at its command.

The FER program sought to remedy this situation by establishing a relationship between the Ministry of Education and the regional school systems in which the amount of money assigned to each regional system and the manner in which it was to be spent were determined by contract. To administer the FER program and to provide a direct line of communication between the national and departmental levels, delegates were named by the minister of education to oversee the FER programs and to cooperate with the regional secretaries of education in administering the local education systems. Because the delegates were to reside in the departmental capitals and devote their attention exclusively to the departmental and municipal school systems in a particular area, the Ministry of Education maintained that the change was one of decentralization. In fact, it was the exact opposite.

Before the end of 1969, contracts had been signed by each of the departmental governors. The most significant portion of each contract was a section requiring that the department establish a special bank account to receive the monthly national contributions. If the terms of the contract were violated or if during any month the corresponding regional contributions to the education fund were not deposited, the contract would be suspended, and any unexpended funds would be returnable to the national government. Although this was the only sanction set forth in the contract, it was a highly potent one.

The FER system achieved mixed results. The varying degrees of noncompliance resulted from and illustrated the problems that had plagued the country's education system in the past and continued to disturb it into the 1980s. The root causes were intense regionalism and the politicization of the local systems.

The presence of the delegate as the representative of the control authority was frequently resented. What the central authority wanted did not always meet regional needs. The regional delegate could work only through the regional secretary of education, who was not an educator and who was not concerned primarily with education. In addition, the regional delegate was responsible not to the minister of education but to the governor of the department, who was in turn responsible to one of the two major political parties.

Although the education sector grew continually after the 1930s, the most rapid changes occurred after the 1960s. Colombia began to move toward a long-standing educational goal, equal access to primary education for all sectors of society. In 1987 about 90 percent of the children between seven (the age established for obligatory primary school attendance) and eleven years of age attended primary school in urban areas. In many rural areas, however, the number was often below 70 percent, and in some areas it even dipped below 50 percent in 1988.

The educational levels of the population improved in tandem with the country's economic growth. Around 30 percent of the twelve-year-old population went to secondary school in 1985, in contrast to only roughly 8 percent in 1951. Nevertheless, percentages were much lower in the rural areas because there were few secondary schools. Moreover, 80 percent of all university students attended classes in just five cities.

In quantitative terms, the performance of Colombia's education sector has been impressive. Although increases in the number of young people entering the school system have remained constant-- roughly 3 percent annually throughout the 1970s and 1980s--the system not only has kept pace with population growth but also has increased its rate of absorption of students. In absolute figures, one of the most difficult tasks for the public primary schools was the absorption of 2 million new students in less than twenty years. This growth was particularly remarkable, given that the system had less than 1.5 million students in 1960. But this accelerated growth was achieved at the cost of a decline in the quality of public education because it focused largely on the increased availability of classrooms and teachers without taking into account the need for supplying other critical resources.

Colombia - Primary Education

The constant efforts to improve the coverage provided by public primary schools produced remarkable results. The fact that 90 percent of the children in the appropriate age-groups in urban areas and nearly 70 percent of children in rural areas attended primary school indicated that further expansion would require carefully developed regional strategies rather than a broadbrush approach.

This requirement was especially true of the ten-year old-age- group, which had not increased in the 1980s and was projected to grow by a mere 1 percent during the 1990s. Because many urban areas had achieved very high coverage levels, further expansion of the primary system was not needed. Substantial differences in enrollment rates among departments were directly correlated with levels of urbanization, although there were also other intervening variables: size of age-groups, population growth rates, and migratory patterns.

Although quality education was a difficult and subjective concept, many indicators suggested that there was substantial room for improvement. Rates of attrition had decreased, and rates of graduation had improved since the 1960s. The repetition rate had also gone down slightly. Nevertheless, only 62 percent of those students who entered primary schools in urban areas finished sixth grade, and in rural areas the rate was just 18 percent. In the departments, the variations were quite large, ranging from 34 percent to 81 percent in urban areas and from 9 percent to 41 percent in rural areas. The grade repetition rates were uniform by region but still quite high, ranging from 20 percent in the first grade to 7 percent in the fifth. Students in urban areas completed an average of 3.7 primary-school grades, whereas those in rural zones completed an average of only 1.7 grades.

The low quality of education was one of the reasons for the high rates of student attrition and the major reason for the high rate of grade repetition. To improve the quality of education, in 1985 the Plan of Curriculum Revision was approved after years of testing. But up until 1988, it had been implemented only partially because of administrative and financial problems.

Levels of teacher preparation have improved gradually since the 1960s. In the 1960s, 11 percent of primary teachers had only primary-school education or less; in the 1980s, only 1 percent fell into this category. In 1960 only 2 percent of primary teachers had any postsecondary education. In the 1980s, the corresponding figure was 13 percent.

A 1983 law stipulated that 1 percent of the education budget be targeted for the purchase of textbooks, but the law was not applied. In practice, the availability of materials was a function of the goodwill and financial situation of the individual teacher and the community in which he or she worked.

Thus, despite relatively better-qualified teachers and more classrooms, other ingredients essential for high-quality teaching were unavailable. Teacher orientation, teacher assistance, and administration of the system had degenerated dramatically, leaving many schoolteachers frustrated and demoralized.

Colombia - Secondary and University Education

Secondary education, concentrated in the principal urban areas, evolved much as had primary education in urban areas but remained virtually nonexistent in the countryside. Increases in coverage at the secondary level occurred in response to increased demand, but 40 percent of all secondary enrollment and 60 percent of higher education still were absorbed by the private sector.

Inefficiency and low quality were also major problems in Colombia's secondary schools, although to a lesser degree than at the primary level. At the secondary-school level, 55 percent of all teachers had completed university studies, students used modern learning aids in class, and teaching materials of high quality were generally available.

The technical education sector, except for the so-called commercial branch, was relatively small and expensive in Colombia. Seventy-six percent of students were enrolled in regular academic schools. Another 12 percent were enrolled in commercial schools. Since 1970 the National Institutes of Diversified Intermediate Education (Institutos Nacionales de Educación Media Diversificada-- INEM) have taken on increasing importance, as has the National Apprenticeship Service (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje--Sena), which was charged with financial responsibility for the formal technical schools, has received significant backing from both the public and private sectors, and has proved quite successful. In 1987 some 15 percent of the urban work force was estimated to have attended Sena counseling. The technical education sector also included normal schools, which were charged with preparing primaryschool teachers, but these schools were heavily criticized for inflexible, irrelevant curriculum and poor quality.

Higher education had expanded more than the other two levels of the system. This expansion was especially true in private institutions. There were few reliable data on the quality of higher education except in those universities that maintained high entrance requirements. Most of these were concentrated in Bogotá and a few other principal cities. Nonetheless, observers agreed that the rapid expansion of higher education had in general occurred at the expense of quality. It was common to find professors working part time in several institutions and students attending only night courses. In most universities, there was a notable imbalance between the development needs of the country and the areas of specialization offered and a virtual absence of scientific and technological research. The frequent suspension of classes as a result of student strikes was a constant problem until early in the 1980s, when strike activity dropped substantially in most universities. In the 1970s, however, the best public universities were closed at least half the time because of student strikes.

Various studies of the education system in Colombia have demonstrated its highly stratified character. A disproportionate number of secondary-school students came from the upper-income brackets, and higher education further amplified this socioeconomic bias, even though all public universities and many private ones had adopted admission requirements based solely on academic performance. The bias in favor of higher-income students was slightly higher in private than in public institutions.


In the 1980s, Colombia achieved international notoriety as a major narcotics trafficking center. Nonetheless, the country's involvement with drugs was rooted farther back in history. As in Bolivia and Peru, although on a smaller scale, Colombia's indigenous populations had grown and chewed coca for thousands of years. Marijuana cultivation, in contrast, was a much more recent phenomenon. It arrived in Colombia along the Caribbean coast via Panama during the first decade of the twentieth century. By the 1930s, limited cultivation had begun among the Costeño black population centered on Barranquilla; urban criminals there routinely smoked marijuana. During World War II, experiments with hemp cultivation designed to increase fiber production for the war effort substantially expanded its cultivation.

The real takeoff of Colombian marijuana production began in the mid- and late 1960s as a result of the growing demand generated by the United States market. By the early 1970s, Colombia had emerged as a major United States supplier, although most of the market remained in the hands of Mexican traffickers. When in the early 1970s the United States tightened up drug enforcement along the United States-Mexican border and the Mexican state launched a major drive against its domestic producers, the epicenter of marijuana production in the hemisphere rapidly shifted to Colombia, especially to the Guajira Peninsula and the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. By the end of the decade, Colombia accounted for about 70 percent of the marijuana reaching the United States from abroad. Between 30,000 and 50,000 small farmers along Colombia's Caribbean coast came to depend directly on marijuana cultivation for their livelihood, while at least another 50,000 Colombians--including seasonal pickers, transporters, guards, and bankers--made a living from it.

The trade proved to be an important source of new wealth for the Caribbean coast, providing the population with income, comforts, and a degree of economic stability that they had never before enjoyed. The Caribbean port cities of Barranquilla, Santa Marta, and Riohacha, in particular, experienced unprecedented prosperity. At the same time, however, the Guajira Peninsula experienced a dramatic upsurge in drug-related violence and a concomitant disintegration of local police and judicial institutions as the result of corruption and bribery. Local food production declined as tens of thousands of hectares were converted to marijuana cultivation. Farmers engaged in growing traditional crops such as bananas found labor more expensive and in short supply. Inflation was stimulated, especially in land markets, as drug barons bid up prices. Many legitimate businesses, including banks, hotels, airlines, restaurants, and casinos, were bought up by the mafiosos and used for laundering illicit profits.

The Colombian cocaine trade followed in the footsteps of the marijuana traffickers. In the late 1960s, a relatively small cocaine smuggling network, largely under the control of exile Cuban criminal organizations based in Miami, sprang up. Coca was cultivated in small plots by Paez Indians in the San Jorge Valley in the department of Cauca in southwestern Colombia and in the Cordillera Occidental. Smuggling was carried out largely by individual carriers, or "mules," who transported a few kilograms at a time using commercial airlines.

In the early 1970s, as demand for cocaine expanded rapidly in the United States, the limited raw coca supplies produced in Colombia were augmented with coca paste imported from Bolivia and Peru, refined in "kitchen laboratories" in Colombia, and smuggled into the United States. The 1973 Chilean military coup that deposed President Salvador Allende Gossens also proved to be a severe blow to the Chilean criminal gangs involved in the cocaine trade in that country. When the military government of General Agusto Pinochet Ugarte clamped down, many Chilean "chemists" fled Chile and ended up swelling the ranks of the nascent smuggling and refining networks in Colombia and Miami. In addition, two Colombians--Carlos Lehder Rivas and Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez--worked with the Medellín criminal networks in the mid-1970s to transform the cocaine transportation system from small-time mule activities into huge airlift operations.

By late 1977, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had opened a file under the name "Medellín Trafficking Syndicate." Violence was an integral part of the operations of the Medellín syndicate from the start. As the organization grew in size, power, and wealth, it also grew in ruthlessness and violence. After first establishing their dominance on the South American side of the market, in 1978 and 1979 the Medellín drug bosses turned their attention to control of wholesale distribution in the United States. Thus began a period of violence in South Florida known as "the Cocaine Wars." It peaked in 1981 with a reported 101 drug- related murders in that year.

As the violence subsided in late 1981 and afterward, what emerged was a loosely organized criminal organization known as the Medellín Cartel. In effect, by installing their own middlemen in Miami, the Colombians "forward integrated" their operations and thus were able to capture additional profits. By reinvesting their profits in the business, they were able to expand and streamline production in Colombia and farther south in the Andes. They also purchased bigger and better airplanes and boats for transporting drugs, purchased more sophisticated electronic communications devices and radar to escape detection, and paid huge sums in bribes for protection to law enforcement officials in Colombia, the United States, and elsewhere.

By the early 1980s, the marijuana traffic was already being eclipsed by the cocaine trade in terms of the wealth and power associated with it. Cocaine also generated criminal organizations that were more profitable, more vertically integrated, more hierarchical in structure, and more ruthless in their systematic use of bribery, intimidation, and assassination than the marijuana traffickers. Although Colombia had long been accustomed to extraordinarily high levels of violence, the rise of the drug mafia provoked a qualitative change. Relying on paid assassins, locally known as sicarios, Colombia's drug lords not only fought among themselves but also launched a systematic campaign of murder and intimidation against Colombia's government authorities intent upon extraditing them to the United States. In the process, they effectively paralyzed the country's system of justice and drove scores of prominent Colombians from all walks of life out of the country and into self-imposed exile. They also contributed significantly to the "devaluation" of life throughout Colombia and converted murder and brutality into a regular source of income for some sectors of society.

Unlike marijuana money, which was concentrated along the Caribbean coast, cocaine money made its way into the major metropolitan areas, especially Barranquilla, Medellín, Cali, and, to a lesser extent, Bogotá. Along with their enormous economic power, the drug lords reached out for a larger quota of political power. Several, like Lehder, bought interests in local radio stations and newspapers. Others, like Pablo Escobar Gavíria, sought to create patron-client followings in the cities by handing out cash to the poor, building low-income housing in the slums, or purchasing sports teams and constructing sports stadiums. A number contributed to political campaigns. Lehder went so far as to create his own Latino Nationalist Party and to publicize his hybrid political ideology (a combination of Colombian and Latin American nationalism, leavened with elements of fascism) through his newspaper, Quindio Libre. In 1982 Escobar was actually elected as an alternate congressman on a Liberal Party slate in his home department of Antioquia.

In addition to corrupting the political and economic systems, narcotics trafficking generated a growing domestic drug problem. In the early 1980s, there developed among Colombian youths a widespread addiction to basuco. A highly contaminated, addictive, and damaging form of cocaine normally smoked with marijuana or tobacco, basuco was dumped by the cocaine smugglers on the Colombian market because it was not of "export" quality. Sold cheap, it soon became more popular in many cities than marijuana, leaving hundreds of thousands of addicts in its wake, many suffering from permanent nervous disorders.

Colombia - The Economy

DESPITE GROWING POLITICAL and drug-related violence, Colombia's economy retained its essentially capitalist, free-market orientation in the 1980s. The nation's strong public sector continued its commitment to liberalized trade and investment relations with foreign countries, and it worked toward development of a national economic program that would eradicate extreme poverty. This was accomplished, in part, by joint efforts involving both private business concerns and government agencies. The government continued to depend on entrepreneurial efforts and private capital (both foreign and domestic) as the sources of economic growth and limited its domestic role to coordinating fiscal and monetary policy, providing for public sector and infrastructure development, and establishing a political environment conducive to investment and industrial development.

Colombia's economic growth in the late 1980s resulted from the prudent development and use of the nation's economic endowments, as well as the existence of highly favorable external circumstances. The country enjoyed an abundance of natural resources and land, a skilled work force, healthy levels of investment and savings, and modern agricultural, manufacturing, construction, and service sectors. Rebounding international markets and the 1986 coffee boom also had an important effect on Colombia's growth in the late 1980s.

Colombia's collective economic attributes defined a middleincome developing country that had a strong and diverse resource base, as well as assorted production capabilities grounded in industry, manufacturing, agriculture, and various services. Services (including finance, transport, communications, trade, and public administration) accounted for almost 51 percent of the gross domestic product in 1987, agriculture almost 21 percent, industry over 25 percent, and mining and energy about 3 percent. In 1988 analysts contended that the Colombian economy could grow at an annual rate of 4 to 5 percent until at least the early 1990s, limited only by the ability of entrepreneurs, planners, and policy makers to employ the country's vast resources. Because of its high levels of foreign exchange earnings from coffee, petroleum, and mining, Colombia also was expected to remain among the more solvent of the Third World debtor states.

Despite the economic situation's many positive aspects, three fundamental problems remained in the late 1980s. First, despite sustained growth levels similar to those of other middleand upper-middle-income developing countries, Colombia had a highly skewed distribution of income and a relatively low per capita income. Indeed, in the late 1980s the economy appeared to become even more concentrated with the rewards of production remaining predominantly in the hands of a minority. Second, Colombia experienced chronic inflation and unemployment throughout the 1980s. Despite growth in manufacturing and mining, as well as continued support from more traditional sectors such as agriculture, the economy seemed unable to absorb enough workers to push unemployment below 10 percent.

Finally, the infamous drug trade, which was partially responsible for Colombia's economic growth during the 1970s and 1980s, caused numerous socioeconomic problems, not the least of which was that the political and economic power of narcotics traffickers rivaled that of the national government. Among other effects, the drug trade skewed income patterns in certain areas associated with cocaine and marijuana trafficking, which exacerbated inflation because of a steady influx of United States dollars, and disproportionately expanded the financial, real estate, and construction industries because of their capacity to absorb laundered money. The drug trade also spread corruption and violence through much of society, particularly the public sector, exacerbating economic and social problems.


Colombia first became an exporting region in the sixteenth century, under the Spanish system of mercantilism. Spanish imperial rule defined much of Colombia's social and economic development. The colony became an exporter of raw materials, particularly precious metals, to the mother country. With its colonial status came a highly structured socioeconomic system based on slavery, indentured servitude, and limited foreign contact. Colombia's modern economy, based on coffee and other agricultural exports, did not emerge until well after independence (1810), when local entrepreneurs were free to capitalize on world markets other than Spain.

Although colonialism fostered minimal domestic economic growth, small entrepreneurial efforts began to take shape, so that by the nineteenth century, well-defined economic enterprises were under way. The economy at that time was based primarily on mining, agriculture, and cattle raising, with contributions also made by local artisans and merchants.

Socioeconomic changes proceeded slowly; the economy existed essentially as a loosely related group of regional producers rather than as a national entity. Land and wealth were still the privilege of a minority. Forced labor continued in the mines, and various exploitative labor arrangements existed on the haciendas, such as sharecropping, renting, and low-wage labor. In each case, those owning the land benefited excessively, whereas those working the land remained impoverished.

The late nineteenth century witnessed the development of tobacco and coffee export industries, which greatly enlarged the merchant class and led to population expansion and the growth of cities. Wealth was concentrated in agriculture and commerce, two sectors that focused on opening channels to world markets, a process that continued slowly but steadily throughout the nineteenth century.

Following the War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902), Colombia experienced a coffee boom that catapulted the country into the modern period, bringing the attendant benefits of transportation (railroads) and communications infrastructure and the first major attempts at manufacturing. The period 1905-15 has been described as the most significant growth phase in Colombian history, characterized by an expansion of exports and government revenues, as well as an overall rise in the gross domestic product (GDP). Coffee contributed most to trade, growing from only 7 percent of total exports in the 1870s to nearly 75 percent by the mid-1920s. Unprecedented amounts of foreign capital found their way into both private investment and public works during this period as a result of the strong performance of coffee and other exports.

Despite the outward signs of growth, serious flaws remained in the Colombian economic system. The benefits of economic growth accrued disproportionately to the export sector, cities, and manufacturing groups, with perhaps as much as 70 percent of the population receiving little or no benefit from this period of expansion. Skewed income patterns would continue throughout the twentieth century, as manufacturing and services developed and became significant parts of the national economy.

The rapid growth and development of the economy in the early twentieth century helped prepare Colombia for the economic problems that accompanied the Great Depression of 1929. Colombia continued to produce raw materials, and although coffee prices collapsed during the depression, output continued to expand. Nonetheless, social and economic improvements remained uneven. Wages for agricultural laborers remained low, whereas other workers, notably urban employees, received large salary increases.

The expansion of the coffee industry laid the groundwork for national economic integration after World War II. During the course of the postwar expansion, Colombia underwent a distinct transformation. Before the 1950s, because of the steep terrain and a relatively primitive transportation network, Colombia's manufacturing sector was dominated by local industries that were only loosely linked to other regional businesses. National development proceeded from improved transportation facilities, financed directly and indirectly by the coffee industry. Greater economic integration soon became evident with the heavier concentration of industry and population in the six largest cities. Coffee's success, therefore, was ultimately responsible for a reliable transportation network that hastened urbanization and industrialization.

In addition to coffee production, economic expansion of both the noncoffee industrial sector and the service sector was accomplished in two distinct stages. From 1950 until 1967, Colombia followed a well-defined program of import substitution industrialization, with most manufacturing start-ups directed toward domestic consumption that previously had been satisfied by imports. After 1967 planners in both government and industry shifted the economic strategy to export promotion, emphasizing nontraditional exports, such as clothing and other manufactured consumables, in addition to processed coffee.

From 1967 to 1980, the Colombian economy, and particularly the coffee industry, experienced sustained growth. GDP grew at an average annual rate of over 5 percent during this period, supported by an expanded labor force, increased labor productivity, and accelerated investment. Strong export earnings and a large increase in foreign exchange reserves were the most noticeable results of this economic expansion.

Despite the successes of the 1970s, the national economy began to flounder in the early 1980s. This was largely because the global recession that began in 1981 caused demand in external markets to fall precipitously.

The combination of domestic economic achievements in the 1970s and generous foreign aid, however, placed Colombia in a relatively favorable position to ride out the global recession, especially in comparison with other Latin American states. Drawing down foreign exchange reserves (20 percent in 1982 and 50 percent in 1983) to compensate for both trade and national account imbalances minimized the financial and social consequences of the recession. In contrast, other Latin American nations, facing similar deficits, borrowed heavily from both private financial and multilateral development institutions, which forced them to restrict government spending severely. In addition to the large foreign reserves, external assistance in the form of grants and concessional loans further relieved stress on Colombia's international and domestic finances. Throughout most of the 1980s, Colombia ranked among the leading recipients of World Bank loans, as well as direct assistance from the United States. Although this aid allowed Colombia to maintain a relatively higher rate of GDP growth than the rest of Latin America, aggregate production remained depressed.

By the late 1980s, Colombia's short-term economic outlook had become more promising, in large part because of an unusual confluence of circumstances that occurred in 1986. That year, a coffee production boom in Colombia coincided with a poor harvest in Brazil and rising international prices. The overall effect was a stronger national economy, which benefited most sectors and classes. GDP grew by 4.5 percent in 1987, thanks in part to a particularly strong contribution by the construction industry. For the near future, analysts predicted continued growth and stability. Nevertheless, Colombian planners advocated diversification of the economy to reduce its dependence on coffee, so that future downswings in the industry would not have equally severe consequences.


Economic Growth

Following the global economic downturn of the early 1980s, Colombia's economy began to grow at a respectable level in 1984. Economic growth occurred in all sectors, with the volatility of the coffee market determining the relative strength of each. During the 1980-85 period, for example, generally low commodity prices forced domestic public and private consumption to lead the economic expansion, admittedly at a low level. By contrast, during the 1986 boom, coffee earnings rose more than 60 percent, which encouraged increased saving and improved public finances.

Nontraditional exports--including textiles, coal, oil, and noncoffee agricultural products--also contributed to economic growth. Output by this group rose by an average of 10 percent during the 1983-86 period and, depending on the relative contribution of the coffee industry, was responsible for a large portion of GDP. In 1987 nontraditional export revenues exceeded earnings from coffee, with oil earnings reaching US$1.1 billion, an increase of 66 percent over the previous year.

By the late 1980s, per capita income--another telling measure of growth--had improved only slightly for the past three decades and remained at a level below that of most of Colombia's neighbors. Per capita income in 1986 was approximately US$1,330, which placed Colombia tenth among the nineteen Latin American countries. Real change in per capita GDP had consistently lagged behind change in aggregate GDP by two percentage points since 1982 and was actually negative for 1982 and 1983.

Despite indications of solid performance in aggregate terms, individual social and economic indicators suggested that Colombia was still a society of numerous disparities. Colombia in reality did not distribute the fruits of economic production more equitably in 1986 than it had fifty years earlier. In the 1980s, as much as 70 percent of income went to only 20 percent of the population, and three-quarters of all Colombians were classified as members of the lower class and the masses. Furthermore, per capita income in agrarian areas was only half the national average.

Although workers made gains in the 1970s, improvements in income distribution that occurred at that time were lost during the 1980s. Despite government efforts to improve education, health services, and aggregate output, Colombia may have actually experienced a widening of the income gap. Inequalities inherent in fast growth strategies (such as capital-intensive industrialization), continued rural-to-urban migration (which swelled the urban labor market), and the effects of the global recession were cited as the major reasons for the downturn.

In the 1980s, ownership of land, financial resources, and productive assets remained highly skewed. One percent of all shareholders controlled 50 to 80 percent of all stock issued. Debt was also distributed unevenly; only 1 percent of all debtors held 50 percent of all outstanding loans. Furthermore, industrial and agricultural wealth tended to overlap, so that most financial and economic assets were concentrated in the same hands.

Other indicators of social well-being, such as literacy and education, closely followed income patterns. Government estimates in 1987 suggested that although the nationwide illiteracy rate was only 12 percent, it ranged from a low of 5.7 percent of those at the upper-income level to nearly 30 percent of those in the lowerincome bracket. Illiteracy was most common in rural areas.

Colombia - Inflation and Unemployment

High inflation and unemployment also confronted Colombia in the late 1980s. Although Colombia was able to avoid the hyperinflation characteristic of Argentina and Brazil in the 1980s, persistent annual increases in the consumer price index (CPI) of 20 to 25 percent had been evident since the mid-1970s.

Higher coffee revenues in the 1970s caused rapid increases in demand and costs, which boosted inflation. This occurred at a time when the Third World was also experiencing rising oil prices. As the economy entered the 1981-85 recession, accelerated deficit spending by the government continued to fuel inflation. By the early 1980s, Colombia had entered a period of rising prices combined with economic stagnation. The rapid growth of the money supply and frequent devaluations of the peso also fed inflation in the 1980s.

The annual inflation rate dipped below 20 percent in 1983 for the first time in more than a decade, only to surge upward again in 1985. In 1986 government efforts to control public debt and funnel windfall proceeds from that year's coffee boom into the public sector may have eased inflationary pressures, but the CPI nevertheless rose by 21 percent.

Inflation was estimated at 25 percent in 1987, fueled by price increases in domestically produced items, including housing, food, and clothing. In the case of food prices, shortfalls in domestic production shot prices upward, increasing dependence on more expensive foreign foodstuffs. A price-indexed minimum wage and market adjustments throughout the wage structure also contributed to inflation. In 1987 the minimum wage rose by 24 percent, nearly equaling the price increases for the year.

The large number of United States dollars that entered Colombia illegally because of the drug trade also contributed to inflationary pressures by raising the overall level of demand. Estimates varied as to the relative importance of the drug trade, but most observers believed that it may have accounted for as much as 25 to 30 percent of total inflation in the 1980s.

Government efforts to ameliorate the effects of inflation proved relatively unsuccessful because of the combined effects of wage indexing, drug money, and volatile prices, which prompted economists to forecast inflation rates above 20 percent into the 1990s. Furthermore, it appeared that the government was reconciled to this level of inflation and would likely give priority to other economic problems.

Rising unemployment was also part of the economic malaise of the early 1980s. Although the economic boom of the 1970s had caused some researchers to conclude that unemployment would not be a serious problem in the 1980s, the Colombian unemployment rate rose steadily from 8.4 percent in 1981 to 14.9 percent by June 1986. The trend was finally reversed in 1987, as all sectors of the economy began to expand following the 1986 coffee boom. Unemployment fell to 12 percent in 1987, the lowest level since 1982, and continued to decline in early 1988. Although a welcome sign, this reduction reconfirmed Colombia's continued dependence on coffee.

Unemployment was driven by numerous variables besides the level of economic output. These determinants included demographic changes, migration patterns, education and experience levels, the relative costs of labor and capital, wage rates, and the segmentation of the labor market. Collectively, these factors pointed to a fundamental change in the nature of employment since the turn of the century.

Colombia's demographic makeup changed substantially after the 1940s. Although birth rates declined steadily (the population grew only 2 percent in 1986), the labor force expanded rapidly. By 1985 the size of the economically active population had reached 11.3 million people, or 38 percent of the population. This represented an average annual growth rate of 3.9 percent from 1973 to 1985, with women and youths accounting for most of the increase.

By 1985 one-third of the labor force consisted of women, many of whom were housewives who had recently entered the job market because of the attractive wages. Studies suggested that this addition to the work force accounted for much of the increase in family income among the very poor.

The rise in the number of adolescent workers constituted the other significant demographic development. Because there was an influx of relatively uneducated and unskilled young workers into the labor market, many youths found it impossible to gain employment. The unemployment rate was highest in the fifteen to nineteen age-group, reaching 30 percent by 1986. Planners hoped that this situation would correct itself as demographic trends changed in the 1990s and as government efforts to keep young people in school longer began to have an effect.

Internal migration trends also affected the urban labor market. By the late 1980s, Colombia had become a predominantly urban society, with over two-thirds of the population residing in cities. In contrast, as recently as the 1950s the population had been concentrated principally in rural areas.

Shifts in employment activity over time made these rural-to- urban migration patterns evident. As the country became more urbanized, it also became less dependent on the agricultural sector for employment. In 1938 nearly 60 percent of the population worked in agriculture and resided in rural areas. By 1984, however, only a third of the labor force was engaged in agricultural activity; most workers were employed in services, commerce, manufacturing, and construction.

Wage levels and type of employment also depended on education. Improvements in education occurred at all levels after 1951, when 42 percent of the labor force was uneducated and only 50 percent and 7 percent, respectively, had finished primary and secondary school. By 1978 only 16 percent of the work force was considered uneducated; 55 percent had finished primary school, and 24 percent had graduated from a secondary program. Most of the urban unemployed, however, continued to be rural migrants and others having little or no formal education.

Local business costs also affected employment levels. In a broad sense, Colombian capital and labor could be easily substituted for each other; consequently, the manufacturing sector inclined toward a capital-intensive export strategy in the late 1960s. As a result, fewer workers were employed in this sector than might have been the case had a more labor-intensive approach been taken.

The cost of labor was relatively high in Colombia. This resulted, in part, from social legislation and demands made by unions, including minimum wage requirements and nonwage compensation such as severance and vacation pay, pensions, and disability allowances. Some economists also argued that government subsidies designed to encourage investment actually placed the marginal and relative costs of capital at below-market rates and at levels significantly lower than the cost of labor for many businesses. This situation appeared unlikely to change without some type of government initiative.

Of increasing interest in the labor market was the level of segmentation, which could be conceptually represented by dividing the work force into two categories--the formal and informal sectors. The formal sector, or traditional labor market, is easily identified in national employment data. The informal sector, by contrast, is a segregated portion of the employment market characterized by a lack of formal record keeping and by small enterprises that employ little capital and only a few, if any, usually undereducated employees. Many economists believed that the informal sector constituted as much as half of the labor force in the 1980s, including many peasants and other workers engaged in drug production and trafficking. The informal sector played an important role in absorbing unskilled workers who would otherwise have remained unemployed; the nature of this sector, however, dictated that wages remain well below those of the formal sector, and other nonwage compensation, such as paid leave or insurance, was unavailable to the workers. Those engaged in the drug business were the exception. They usually earned wages or salaries in excess of what their skills would bring in the formal employment market.

In 1987 government estimates indicated an expansion of the informal sector in major urban centers, probably as a result of high unemployment. The size and profitability of the informal sector, therefore, appeared to be inversely related to the prospects of the formal labor market.

Colombia - The Labor Movement

The labor movement, although rich in history, has been criticized by analysts for its inability to develop effective representation for the Colombian worker. Scholars have variously described organized labor as weak, nonradical, nonoppositional, and as virtually co-opted by the national government. Although prominent at times, unions lacked the strong adversarial presence characteristic of organized workers' groups in other Latin American countries. Historically, Colombia's worker groups formed unions to attain political goals but failed to coalesce into enduring collective bargaining units. Nevertheless, the labor movement did express itself clearly through strikes, sit-ins, and other forms of work stoppage and contributed directly to the long-term development of society by bringing workers into the political process.

The first workers' group was formed in 1857. Known as the Bogotá Artisans Society (Sociedad de Artesanos de Bogotá), it represented a reaction to liberal economic reforms bent on opening the Colombian economy to free trade. It functioned primarily as a medium for local artisans to vent their political displeasure over the new competitiveness of the economy, rather than as a forum for grievances concerning workers' rights.

Societies that followed in the nineteenth century were similarly nonconfrontational and served as foci for achieving mutually beneficial goals--such as establishing joint savings and insurance schemes--rather than as means of presenting collective bargaining demands. Although some attempts were made to improve wages and working conditions, a genuine workers' movement did not emerge until the end of World War I.

The earliest episodes of violent confrontation between workers and management centered on the foreign enclave industries of oil and banana exportation. The most noted job action occurred at the United Fruit Company's Santa Marta complex, where in November 1928 railroad, banana, port, and field workers went on strike to force changes in wages, hours, and nonwage compensation. This attempt to win resolution of grievances unsuccessfully aired ten years earlier was marked by the violent deaths of about 1,000 people, as the government intervened repressively on the side of the United Fruit Company. The banana and oil industries elected to retrench, however, rather than face continued worker unrest. Colombia's labor issues thereafter were fought over more vigorously in the domestically owned coffee industry and eventually in the urban industrial sector.

In 1930 the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal--PL) was elected for the first time in decades. Its victory was directly associated with the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador--PC) government's handling of the United Fruit Company strike. This political transition was one of the most important in Colombian history. It signaled the end of a government policy designed to repress labor's efforts and the beginning of the PL's pragmatic and conciliatory philosophy of selectively meeting labor's demands to bring its political leadership, including members of the Communist Party of Colombia (Partido Comunista de Colombia--PCC), into the Liberal fold.

During the 1930s and early 1940s, coffee workers enjoyed numerous small successes. They gained control over small parcels of land for their own cultivation, improved labor contracts on large estates, and received legal permission to organize. These victories were won through both individual and collective efforts. The perceived successes of the coffee workers, however, were a disincentive to their greater participation in the national labor movement, which diminished the long-term political power of the unions. Nonetheless, the urban work force was determined to establish an institutionalized labor movement and set about integrating some of the unions that had already formed.

The 1930s and 1940s saw the growth of unions nationwide; labor supported the PL, which, in turn, created an environment conducive to labor's participation in politics. Labor interests were partially consolidated in 1935 with the creation of the Confederation of Colombian Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Colombianos--CTC), which represented the first successful attempt at uniting smaller unions from various professions into a collective political organization. The CTC was leftist by definition, but the reformist policies of the Liberal government allowed for a lengthy and mutually beneficial relationship. What labor failed to realize, however, was that by aligning itself with a single political party, it would suffer the consequence of the inevitable change of power.

The heyday of the labor movement was clearly over by the mid- 1940s. Expressly anticommunist, postwar conservatism turned on the labor movement, and the split and eventual fall of the PL in the 1946 elections eliminated labor's influence on national government. The rising PC also provided a means to express the ruling class's growing fear of what it perceived as an increasingly radical labor movement. Soon, even the moderate middle sectors of society turned away from the movement. The CTC's new impotence was made evident by a string of unsuccessful strikes in the mid-1940s.

Taking advantage of the weakened state of the CTC, the Roman Catholic Church established the Union of Colombian Workers (Unión de Trabajadores Colombianos--UTC) in June 1946. It immediately attracted many members--some from the ranks of the CTC and others from small unions, particularly industry groups--that had not been enticed to join the leftist CTC. Both industrialists and the Conservative government supported the UTC, largely because it did not represent a threat to the political and economic elite. The subsequent period of labor repression and co-optation by the government served to eliminate radical elements of the movement while taming the less militant segments. During the period known as la violencia (1948-66), organized union labor was effectively dead; it had no means of articulating its interests, and the chaotic nature of society at that time delayed further coalition for at least ten years.

The near anarchy that followed the 1948 assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a member of Congress who had long been a champion of the disadvantaged, had a different although equally demoralizing effect on rural workers. The plight of smallholder coffee farmers worsened rapidly, and many of them fled the countryside in the face of widespread violence. This served to consolidate landholdings in rural areas, as well as drive large numbers of unskilled rural laborers into the hands of the UTC. Collectively, labor emerged from the 1950s demoralized and virtually without political power. The UTC, which at this point commanded the majority of organized labor and the diminished rural groups, had no political means of effecting even the slightest changes and was without an advocate in national government.

After 1960 two more labor federations surfaced: the Trade Union Confederation of Colombian Workers (Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores de Colombia--CSTC), formally recognized by the government in 1964, and the General Confederation of Workers (Confederación General de Trabajadores--CGT), created in 1975. The CSTC, which was aligned with the Colombian Communists, and the CGT, which was affiliated with the Christian Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrática Cristiano--PSDC), accounted for a combined total of 20 percent of the unionized work force. Neither union had a strong political role, however, under the National Front, which served to unify all significant political interest groups within a shared two-party structure from 1958 to 1974. There was no apparent need to incorporate labor as a political ally. Additionally, during the National Front period the CTC and UTC faced numerous internal problems, which caused many individual unions to withdraw from the larger federations.

Regardless of political setbacks, the labor movement was not totally ineffective. Various groups engineered successful strikes in the 1970s and 1980s. Bolstered by leftist leadership, the weakened status of the CTC and the UTC, and the economic austerity measures of the government of Belisario Betancur Cuartas (1982-86), labor groups coalesced in 1986 in a fashion reminiscent of the 1930s. A majority of the independent unions and those affiliated with the CSTC joined forces in September 1986 to form the United Workers Central Organization (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores-- CUT). Analysts estimated that this body included 75 percent of the organized work force, the majority of whom were no longer willing to accept an acquiescent platform. The CUT also emerged as a major voice against organized violence and served as a catalyst for uniting other labor elements. It was not, however, timid about organizing strikes, and key industries reacted to CUT initiatives by meeting many of its demands rather than face prolonged confrontation.

By the late 1980s, the confederated labor movement appeared to be playing a larger role in representing workers' rights, as well as focusing on major political issues. Although it seemed unlikely that a collaborative effort similar to the one struck with the Liberal administrations of the 1930s would again be possible, the CUT was reshaping organized labor into a stronger bargaining movement.

The early months of 1988 were rife with strikes by workers in the banana, banking, cement, public service, and other industries. The most common demands centered on protection for union leaders, who were the targets of right-wing assassins, and cost-of-living adjustments in wages. Despite their growing hostility toward management, the CUT and other union groups refrained from openly defiant stands against the government. Nevertheless, observers believed that the extent to which the government would tolerate a more active labor movement depended on whether or not the unions seriously threatened the economic and political interests of the elite, as well as the degree to which they contributed to the persistent problem of organized violence in the country.


The economy in the late 1980s was predominantly a capitalistoriented free-market system, requiring a minimum of state interference in its overall operation. Nonetheless, the president had the authority to take corrective action on a number of levels, as well as the constitutionally guaranteed right to determine the general direction of economic and social development.

Historically, government intervention in the economy took the form of preferential treatment for a particular sector, such as the creation of protective barriers to promote import substitution industrialization, and cooperative ventures undertaken with the private sector, chiefly to develop energy resources. The government also supported the promotion of exports through financial guarantees and the management of exchange rates, price supports, and fiscal and monetary policies. The government generally did not subscribe to a heavy regulatory policy but did manage some enterprises either directly or as joint ventures with private firms. Since 1950 one of the most visible examples of government intervention had been the sector-specific economic development planning advocated by particular administrations.

The Constitution of 1886 and its subsequent amendments provide the legal justification for strong executive authority. Although Congress is granted powers to establish guidelines for economic development, legislative control of economic policy faded during the dictatorship of Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (1953-57). The National Front governments that followed further consolidated economic planning within the executive office, an effort that culminated in the Social Development Plan of 1961-70.

Executive dominance of economic policy making was further reinforced by the 1968 amendments to the Constitution, which limit congressional authority to various checks on executive programs. These amendments charge the president with general control over economic policy, which may be altered only with a two-thirds vote of Congress. This power extends to public and private investment initiatives, the allocation of public resources, and tax policy. Any congressional changes in budgetary matters are referred to the finance minister for final arbitration. Congress retains authority to approve the president's development plan, however. In the event that Congress does not act on this plan, the president may proceed by decree. Nonetheless, congressional efforts to control economic policy have, at times, impeded implementation of economic plans. In 1974, for example, Congress refused to act on the "Four Strategies" plan of President Misael Pastrana Borrero (1970-74), forcing the executive branch to act by decree to implement what were technically illegal policies. Congress immediately challenged the president on legal grounds, with subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court again favoring executive supremacy. This allowed carefully structured programs to be planned, funded, and implemented virtually without congressional approval. Congress, however, continued to find ways to frustrate executive policy.

Congressional authority to influence executive economic policy making carried over to the administration of Alfonso López Michelsen (1974-78), as legislators attempted to loosen the grip of the executive branch's strong hand. López Michelsen's plan, dubbed "To Close the Gap," was designed to increase funding for more equitable social development by altering the tax code. Congress again refused to act, which contributed to the plan's eventual failure. Although López Michelsen went so far as to declare a state of economic emergency, he never succeeded in implementing a comprehensive economic reform package.

The constitutional Reform of 1979 slightly reduced executive control of the economy. President Julio César Turbay Ayala (1978- 82) had only recently been inaugurated, and his long career in the legislature convinced him of the need to curb executive authority over the economy. Furthermore, efforts to regain any control of economic policy would receive the support of both Liberal and Conservative legislators.

The 1979 reform authorized congressional intervention under specified circumstances and called for the president to submit a national development plan to Congress for its approval. If Congress failed to act on the plan within 100 days, however, the president could proceed without further delay. Although the executive branch basically retained power over economic planning, the mechanisms for a coordinated legislative response were in place.

Executive goals for national economic development were clearly defined in the next three administrations. The Turbay and Betancur administrations chose to emphasize development of energy resources and transportation networks, as well as overall economic stability. This trend, however, was altered in 1986 when a new president, Virgilio Barco Vargas, stressed economic reform.

Barco outlined his major economic development goals in the Social Economic Plan, 1987-90. The administration turned its attention to the social needs of the poor, embarking on a program designed to direct public funds to the basic health, education, and welfare needs of the lower class. The overall strategy consisted of three plans to manage broad social issues. The Plan for the Eradication of Absolute Poverty concentrated on social and health improvements, including the upgrading or installation of sewage, water, power, health, and education facilities. The plan also outlined a strategy to reduce the vast housing shortage affecting every Colombian city. The National Rehabilitation Plan focused on development of smaller regional urban centers, and the Plan for Comprehensive Peasant Development concentrated on improving market and production capabilities for some 4 million smallholder farmers.

Planners counted on continued annual economic growth of 5 percent to provide the revenue necessary for the overall plan's implementation. Given sufficient resources, they assumed that prudent management of macroeconomic policy would allow the goals to be met. Two years into his administration, economic indicators pointed to the success of Barco's plan. Despite some partisan resistance in Congress, coordinated fiscal and monetary policies were implemented that directed economic and financial resources toward desired ends. The combined objectives of macroeconomic policy and the development plan seemed closely linked, so that success of the first implied completion of the second.

Colombia - Fiscal and Monetary Policy

To realize the ambitious goals of his economic program, Barco initiated coordinated fiscal and monetary policies that he hoped would influence major macroeconomic variables, including GDP, interest rates, and price levels. His primary goals included reducing real interest rates to encourage business investment and economic expansion, stabilizing the inflation rate at 20 to 25 percent, and redirecting public resources to help the poor.

The administration embarked upon a restrictive fiscal scheme designed to reduce deficit spending. Whereas the previous administration's annual deficits averaged nearly 5 percent of GDP, the Barco plan called for reducing deficit spending to less than 3 percent of GDP. To meet his spending goals, Barco counted on solid growth of GDP as well as a new budget approach that would redirect funds away from infrastructure to social programs. The tax burden was also shifted slightly from businesses to individuals. Planners had anticipated that the combined effects would allow the administration to meet spending levels within deficit guidelines, but by early 1988 it appeared that the deficits would exceed initial estimates.

One of the first steps taken by the Barco administration to implement the deficit reduction policy was to alter the tax structure. Principal changes included reducing the corporate tax rate to 30 percent of revenues, eliminating double taxation, phasing out tax deductions related to inflation adjustments, and increasing personal income taxes. The government assumed that an energized business sector would bring growth to other areas of the economy.

The Barco administration outlined a strict budget to curtail deficits. Preliminary estimates of the 1988 budget indicated that income tax and indirect taxes, such as customs, gasoline, and sales duties, would be the primary revenue sources. Additional income, constituting 20 to 30 percent of total revenue, would be earned from capital receipts, including long-term debt, and various nontax income. Expenditure targets were more difficult to meet; approximately 57 percent of all expenses were absorbed by operational expenditures of the government with 29 percent allocated to foreign and domestic debt service and 14 percent to public investment. This deviated from initial budget projections, which had indicated slightly higher allocations to debt service and public investment. Seventy-five percent of the deficit was to be financed from domestic sources; the remainder was to be financed from foreign borrowing.

Although expenses exceeded budget projections, revenues often failed to meet expectations as well. For example, President Barco inherited a budget of dwindling revenues, reflecting in part the reduction in gross tax receipts consistent with the economic downturn earlier in the 1980s. Colombia's public finances depended on coffee taxes, including a value-added tax on coffee exports, customs duties, and profits from central bank exchange operations, all of which suffered in the mid-1980s. In 1986, however, receipts rebounded sharply because of the coffee boom, which yielded greater import receipts based on additional sales abroad. Publicly managed enterprises that operated at a loss also contributed to budget deficits. Improving management and budgetary control in these organizations was outlined as another specific way to reduce public costs.

Like the budget process, public investment was seen by the Barco administration as an important means by which to re-order priorities. In the early 1980s, for example, at least 55 percent of all public investment funds had gone to physical infrastructure, with the sole exception of 1982, when 43 percent of public investment was so allocated. Money was concentrated in power, transportation, and communications projects, in that order. Social infrastructure, including water, education, and health projects, absorbed 7 to 13 percent of public investment during these years, with 10 to 25 percent going to the productive sector, primarily to expand agriculture and mining. Any remaining funds went unallocated until the next fiscal year.

By contrast, the Barco government planned to change the composition of public investment by increasing the allotment to the social sector while reducing funds previously directed toward physical infrastructure projects. This was consistent with his administration's long-term goal of alleviating poverty so that social discontent and widespread violence might be defused. By early 1988, however, the fiscal deficit exceeded earlier estimates, which forced the government to reduce some of the planned increases in social programs in order to meet other obligations, such as interest payments on the national debt.

The Barco government also adjusted monetary policies to meet program goals. Monetary policy was coordinated under the Monetary Board (Junta Monetaria), which by the 1980s had responsibility for policy development; specific directives were carried out by the Bank of the Republic (Banco de la República). As the central bank, the Bank of the Republic issued currency, sold or purchased securities in the open market, set reserve requirements for the banking system, and acted as the "lender of last resort." In 1986 the government also controlled Colombia's money through numerous public sector saving institutions responsible for funneling credit to specialized projects such as housing and agricultural development.

The government implemented monetary policy by traditional methods, such as adjusting lending rates to banks, controlling monetary growth, setting reserve requirements, and determining exchange rate policy in the belief that, under certain circumstances, inflation and interest rates could be controlled. The Barco government, however, demonstrated a clear preference for allowing the money supply and interest rates to float relatively freely, provided that prices remained within certain broad limits.

Government bodies sometimes have intervened in money markets, however, in an attempt to influence price levels. Fearing that the money supply's relatively quick expansion in 1987 would be too inflationary, the government chose to raise reserve requirements. By early 1988, this tactic was considered inadequate, and the central bank turned to open market operations to reduce the money supply.

Managing exchange rates was another form of monetary control, and it too contributed to economic expansion. The Barco administration continued with the "crawling peg" devaluation system begun in 1967. This policy succeeded in keeping prices of Colombian goods attractively low in the external market. It also drove the prices of imported goods up, improving the trade balance and foreign exchange reserves.

By early 1988, the Barco administration's moderate approach toward economic management appeared to be working. A cautious fiscal policy combined with a free monetary policy seemed to help real interest rates fall from about 10 percent in 1985 to a little over 5 percent in 1987. Private investment grew during this same period from slightly less than 8 percent to over 10 percent of GDP, with aggregate economic growth reaching an average of approximately 5 percent for the two-year period. Inflation remained within the prescribed 20 to 25 percent range.

Colombia, however, was a relatively small economy by world standards, and its interest rates tended to follow those of the major world economies. Because global interest rates also fell during the late 1980s, it was likely that any success attributed to Colombia's macroeconomic policies in meeting stabilization and growth goals was assisted, at least in part, by similar trends in the international economy.


Agriculture has been an important part of the Colombian economy since colonial times. With the establishment of the tobacco and coffee industries in the nineteenth century, agriculture's role in economic development was assured. Since then, agriculture has provided food both for domestic consumption and as a source of export revenue.

Its historical significance notwithstanding, agriculture began to grow more slowly than the rest of the economy by 1960. Although GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent from 1960 to 1982, agricultural output increased by only 4.1 percent, indicating, among other things, the increasing importance of manufacturing and service sectors.

Although agricultural production increased only slightly after 1982, the sector continued as the foundation of the economy, accounting for nearly 21 percent of GDP in 1987 and nearly 68 percent of all export revenue in 1986. Numerous factors--including low world commodity prices, increasing input costs, poor weather, inadequate investment, and greater regional competition for export markets--contributed to sluggish agricultural development in the 1980s.

Colombia is known for its mountainous terrain, but the country's diverse topography and climate allow the cultivation of a variety of crops. From the Caribbean lowlands where banana plantations are prominent, to the Andean highlands, which favor coffee production, Colombians have been able to produce a variety of agricultural products. These production efforts, however, required only a small fraction of the total land area available for farming. Of Colombia's nearly 115 million hectares, 13 percent of the total was considered arable, and only 27 percent of that amount was under cultivation. About 20 percent of all cultivated land was dedicated to coffee.

Cattle-raising areas stretched from the Andean highlands into the eastern plains. These areas constituted nearly 17 percent of Colombia's total land. Forty percent of the land on which cattle were raised also supported some type of short-term or subsistence agriculture. Forests covered 68 percent of the country; 15 percent of this land also was considered arable.

Land tenure patterns had remained remarkably unchanged since the initiation of agrarian reform efforts in the 1930s. In 1961 the government created the national land reform agency, Incora. Despite success in retitling land during its first ten years of operation, Incora had a minimal impact on land distribution. Problems such as inadequate provision of investment credit and agricultural inputs further impeded Incora's efforts.

Because of the earnest but unsuccessful efforts of several administrations to implement a comprehensive land reform program, landholding remained highly concentrated. The national agricultural census of 1971--the most recent as of mid-1988--indicated that the largest 10 percent of all farms, including ranches, encompassed 80 percent of the farmland.

Both public and private funds contributed to investments used to provide agricultural infrastructure, inputs, and technology. After 1970 there was a distinct trend toward a gradual reduction of public expenditures and a compensating increase in private investment. The private sector, considered well managed and capable of expanding agricultural output, was responsible for more than 90 percent of current expenditures and assumed most of the responsibility for research, training, credit, processing, and marketing activities.

Producer groups were the major force behind private sector coordination of agricultural policies and programs. The larger producer organizations provided research and statistical support, lobbying programs, and other services to influence agricultural policy. Fedecafe, the largest and most powerful agricultural organization, represented some 300,000 coffee producers in the mid1980s . Fedecafe exceeded normal association boundaries by inviting public officials to hold seats on the board of directors, receiving public funds, and taking on projects normally associated with the public sector, such as developing infrastructure, promoting balanced economic growth, and setting government coffee policies.

Other significant agricultural producer associations included the Federation of Rice Growers (Federación Nacional de Arroceros-- Fedearroz), the National Federation of Oil Palm Growers (Federación de Cultivadores de Palma Africana--Fedepalma), the Colombian Association of Flower Producers (Asociación Colombiana de Productores de Flores--Ascolflores), and the Colombian Association of Seed Producers (Asociación Colombiana de Productores de Semillas--Acosemilla). These organizations individually represented between 55 and 100 percent of their respective constituencies.

<>Forestry and Fishing

Colombia - Crops

Colombia produced a variety of crops for both export and domestic consumption; in the late 1980s, many had yields above regional and international levels because of the technological advances in production. Improvements in fertilizer, seeds, and machinery were particularly effective in enhancing yields for export crops such as coffee, rice, sugarcane, and potatoes.

Many domestically consumed crops did not perform as well as export crops, however, largely because they were produced on small plots using traditional farming techniques and were cultivated without the benefit of modern agricultural inputs. Colombia lacked the market incentives to provide these improved inputs for many consumable crops, a situation that contributed to lower output and a higher agricultural import bill.

Coffee remained Colombia's primary export crop throughout the 1980s. The entire industry, including processing and transporting, accounted for about 8 percent of GDP, contributed 12 percent of government revenues, and generated approximately 50 percent of foreign exchange. Coffee provided a livelihood for more than 300,000 farmers, and over 2 million jobs were linked to some stage of coffee production.

Despite stagnating or slightly declining output during the mid1980s , Colombia ranked second in world production of coffee, surpassed only by Brazil. Known for the mild arabica coffee grown in the temperate central highlands, the Colombian coffee crop often commanded above-average prices in the market place. Because coffee is a tree crop grown on rough, steep terrain, harvesting remained a labor-intensive process, and most coffee farms were still small, occupying an average of fewer than six hectares of land.

Bananas were second to coffee in economic importance. Concentrated on the southern Caribbean coast around the Golfo de Urabá, production took place on both large plantations for export and small plots for domestic consumption. Banana production grew at relatively high rates in the early 1970s, only to slow later because of the reduced competitiveness of Colombian banana prices. Production again rose in the mid-1980s as domestic prices moved toward lower international levels.

Cut flowers, including carnations, chrysanthemums, dahlias, and roses, became a significant export crop in the late 1970s and in 1986 earned US$155 million in revenue. Singled out as the definitive example of Colombia's diversification strategy, the Colombian flower industry became the second largest in the world, surpassed only by that of the Netherlands. The principal markets were the United States, which purchased more than 80 percent of Colombia's flowers, and Western Europe.

In 1987 there were more than 250 farms dedicated to producing cut flowers; the average size was about eight hectares. Because producing cut flowers was a labor-intensive process and amenable to the temperate mountain valley areas surrounding Bogotá and Medellín, the cut flower industry operated year round, providing jobs to more than 70,000 workers. Related industries, such as air transport and packaging, also benefited from the development of cut flower exports.

Other important export crops included sugarcane and cotton. Sugarcane was grown on large estates in valleys and other lowerlying areas, principally in southwestern Colombia's department of Cauca. Production remained relatively steady throughout the 1980s, taking advantage of the area's temperate climate and even pattern of rainfall. The sugarcane industry was regarded as well managed and produced yields well above regional and world standards.

Cotton production developed, among other reasons, to provide the textile industry with raw materials. Both large and small cotton farms were found along the economically expanding Caribbean coast. After a substantial drop in the early 1980s, production surged again in the late 1980s because of increased land cultivation and improved yields. An additional 65,000 hectares of cotton--representing a two-thirds increase in total land cultivation--were sown in 1987 in anticipation of higher international prices.

Food production for domestic consumption represented the other major agricultural endeavor and included staple crops such as rice, beans, cassava, potatoes, barley, corn, and wheat. Although Colombia had long sought self-sufficiency in food production, certain cereals, particularly corn and barley, were produced inefficiently and were not competitive with imports. Despite government intervention to improve the yields of these crops, planners doubted that production inefficiencies could be eliminated by the early 1990s.

Corn, a staple of the Colombian diet and the most widely grown subsistence crop in the 1980s, flourished on steep slopes as well as on level ground. Although wheat and barley were also adaptable to highland areas, production costs often exceeded market prices, causing output to vary greatly from year to year. Other foods grown for consumption included tubers (such as potatoes and cassava) and beans, which were often planted together in subsistence or smallfarm operations. Dietary requirements also were met with numerous types of indigenous fruits.

A discussion of the agricultural sector would be incomplete without mention of illegal crop production. In the late 1980s, cannabis flourished in Colombia's fertile northeastern mountain areas, and coca was grown in the more secluded portions of the Amazon Basin. The production of marijuana and cocaine from these plants had long been associated with the Colombian economy.

The United States Department of State estimated that approximately 13,000 hectares of land were devoted to cannabis production in 1986, an increase of 62 percent over the previous year. The average yield per hectare was 1.1 tons, or potentially 14,100 tons nationwide. Despite government attempts to eradicate marijuana cultivation, growers continued to produce it in vast quantities, moving into areas not traditionally associated with cannabis production, such as Antioquia in central Colombia and areas near the Panamanian border.

Like Bolivia and Peru, Colombia was a major cultivator of coca. Total land area devoted to coca production increased 60 percent from 1983 to 1986, reaching 25,000 hectares. Cultivation occurred largely in secluded areas and employed small quantities of land, usually less than two hectares per parcel, which made detection difficult. Each hectare could produce an estimated 1.6 kilograms of cocaine base. Total annual production in 1986 was estimated at twenty-seven tons.

Colombia's reputation as a global drug center rested primarily on its capacity to process coca into cocaine and distribute it worldwide, rather than on production of the coca leaf itself. In the 1980s, Colombia processed and shipped an estimated 75 percent of all South American cocaine destined for the United States, most of which was transported by ship and airplane from Colombia to Florida.

Colombia - Livestock

The Colombian cattle industry expanded in the late 1980s from producing meat and dairy products to supporting a growing leather business. There were more than 150,000 cattle ranches, two-thirds of which were under 250 hectares in size. They were located in the Caribbean coast departments of Bolívar, Córdoba, Magdalena, and Atlántico, as well as in the eastern plains departments of Boyacá and Meta and the intendancy of Arauca.

In the 1980s, Colombia ranked fourth among Latin American countries in cattle raising, with an average annual herd size of 20 to 24 million cattle. This placed Colombia behind Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, which had herds of 95 million, 54 million, and 33 million, respectively. Herd size had been relatively stable since 1970.

Fifteen percent of the cattle were raised for dairy purposes and the remainder for meat. Beef production stagnated and then declined slightly through the 1980s. Total beef output fell from 627,000 tons in 1983 to 620,000 tons in 1985 because of declining prices and lower profit margins. Milk output reached nearly 3 million liters in 1985.

In contrast to beef production, the leather industry grew rapidly in the late 1980s. Leather output rose by 26 percent in 1986; more than 300 enterprises, each employing at least ten workers, consumed nearly 1,400 tons of cattle hides valued at US$9.2 million. In 1986 the total value of finished goods--luggage, footwear, and other accessories--reached US$87.2 million.

Poultry and sheep constituted the largest share of Colombia's livestock business. Poultry was the fastest growing nonbeef sector. The total number of chickens grew from 68 million in 1980 to 85 million in 1985, largely because of modernization completed in the late 1970s. From 1976 until 1985, sheep herds grew from approximately 2 million to 2.7 million; the wool produced was considered of inferior quality, however, and generally was not used in the textile industry, except for local consumption.

Colombia - Forestry and Fishing

Numerous types of tropical forests covered Colombia; most, however, remained unexploited for commercial use. In the late 1980s, commercially viable forest tracts may have covered as much as 78 million hectares, with between 500,000 and 1 million hectares logged each year. Although more than 1,000 types of tree grew in Colombia, only 30 types had commercial value. Replanting occurred infrequently, and in the late 1980s only one hectare in ten received any type of restoration treatment, largely because of poor government regulation of the logging industry.

Colombia produced wood in the late 1980s for construction and crafts and also supplied fuel wood and wood pulp for heating and printing. Lumber production was, however, a minor industry in Colombia, limited in part by the country's terrain.

The vast Amazon region of southeastern Colombia was one of the most heavily wooded areas in the country. Large-scale logging had not yet been very successful, however, because of the low value attached to most tropical woods and because usable trees grew among less valuable ones. Nonetheless, because of the development of new processes to make cardboard and other stiff paper products from some tropical trees, such as the cecropia, loggers became more interested in opening new areas of the Amazon for logging in the late 1980s. Once initially logged, these areas could then be replanted with a single type of tree for future exploitation.

Colombia still supported only a fledgling fishing industry despite long coastlines on two oceans and extensive inland river and lake networks. In 1984 approximately 100,000 tons of fish were caught, more than half from freshwater inland sources. The fishing industry constituted less than 1 percent of GDP and did not meet the domestic demand for fish. Commercial fishing for export was restricted to small businesses pursuing shrimp and oysters. Most canned commercial fish, such as tuna and sardines, were consumed domestically.

Despite its lack of development, ocean fishing represented one of the most promising industries in Colombia. The government targeted Buenaventura, a large port on the Pacific coast, for expanded facilities to support both domestic and foreign fishing vessels. Planned development included the addition of docks, refrigerated storage facilities, and canning and oil-processing plants. The potential ocean catch was estimated to be as large as 240,000 tons, or ten times the amount of fish caught in 1986.


Mining in Colombia began in the 1500s. Although significant in the colonial economy, it never commanded a large portion of Colombia's GDP in modern times. With the discovery and exploitation of large coal reserves, however, the role of mining in the national economy expanded in the late 1980s. Precious metal and stone mining was still carried out in the late 1980s. Gold was the most important metal in terms of short-term revenues. Other important metals included platinum and silver, which were extracted in much smaller quantities. Colombia also produced 95 percent of the world's emeralds.

Other metals common to Colombia included nickel, small amounts of iron ore, copper, and bauxite. Nickel deposits, estimated at 25 million tons, were exploited through a joint venture program between the government and a subsidiary of Shell Oil Company. Nonmetallic mining produced salt, limestone, sulfur, gypsum, dolomite, barite, feldspar, clay, magnetite, mica, talcum, and marble. Despite the variety of minerals available for exploitation, Colombia still had to import substances such as iron, copper, and aluminum to meet its industrial needs.

Government efforts to expand mining in Colombia were needed to encourage private sector investment. In the late 1980s, much of Colombia remained inadequately charted, and reserve estimates were considered only marginally reliable. The government set a policy of developing infrastructure (roads, electricity, and communications), providing technical assistance, and encouraging sound credit and legal policies to minimize problems with land titling. Through joint ventures and the promotion of small mining companies, government officials believed that the mining sector could contribute more to national employment, income, and wealth.


Colombia - Coal

In the late 1980s, much of Colombia's mining future rested with coal deposits. Estimates of reserves ranged from 16 to 40 billion tons in 1987, considered indisputably the largest in Latin America. Coal reserves existed throughout much of the country, from the Andean highlands to the Caribbean coast. Only 20 percent of the known coal reserves, however, had been surveyed by 1987.

Among the many areas where coal was found were the Caribbean lowlands department of La Guajira and the Andean highlands departments of Cundinamarca, Santander, and Antioquia. Although all these areas produced coal in 1987, most Colombian coal was extracted from the El Cerrejón field in La Guajira Department.

El Cerrejón was discovered in 1882, explored in 1950, and brought on line for production in 1985. The project was divided into the northern, central, and southern zones; the northern zone was given priority for production because of its estimated 3 billion tons of high-grade recoverable reserves. El Cerrejón was organized as a joint venture between the Colombian government and a subsidiary of Exxon known as International Resources.

To promote the exploitation of Colombia's vast coal reserves, Carbocol was created in 1976. Formed as a commercial company of the state, Carbocol was placed under the Ministry of Mines and Energy and initially capitalized with US$10.6 million. Carbocol sold shares to other government agencies; majority ownership rested with the Export Promotion Fund (Fondo de Promoción de Exportaciones-- Proexpo) and the Colombian Petroleum Enterprise (Empresa Colombiana de Petróleos--Ecopetrol). Investment in Carbocol grew rapidly in its first decade of operation, reaching US$347 million by 1985.

Carbocol managed all facets of the coal business from exploration and mining to marketing and sales, both locally and abroad. Carbocol's primary goal--to make Colombian coal a permanent competitive commodity in the international market--proved difficult because of low international prices for coal in the 1980s. Nonetheless, Carbocol continued to assist the coal industry by attempting to reduce production costs, developing strategies to expand exports, and creating opportunities for both domestic and foreign capital investment in the industry.

In the late 1980s, Colombia's coal was consumed both at home (40 percent of mined coal) and abroad (60 percent). The generation of electricity accounted for about a third of domestic coal use, but this use was not expected to grow, given the completion of hydroelectric projects. Industrial use, which accounted for twothirds of the domestic consumption of coal, was the most likely area for internal growth. Low international prices threatened further development of the industry because it could not attract long-term investment funds. Nevertheless, industry analysts expected this situation to change in the 1990s because of an anticipated increase in international demand for coal, allowing a competitive return on investment for Colombian coal projects.

In the short term, however, financial problems required that the coal industry solicit support from government agencies operating the oil industry. Ecopetrol's convertible assets permitted government planners to sell shares of El Cerrejón to Ecopetrol in order to inject money into the cash-poor project. This allowed the government to retain half-ownership of the industry rather than lose control of the coal program by selling equity shares to private investors.

Colombia - Petroleum

Colombia achieved oil self-sufficiency for the first time in the early 1970s, only to require imports again by 1976. Despite low international prices during most of the 1980s, Colombia continued with exploration and reattained self-sufficiency in 1986. At that time, analysts believed that known reserves would provide for selfsufficiency until 1994. The government sought to extend this period by encouraging joint ventures between public agencies and private drilling companies. Estimates of total reserves as of late 1986 ranged as high as 1.9 million barrels. Analysts believed that the eastern plains (llanos) held 59 percent of these reserves and that 38 percent was located in the department of Magdalena in northern Colombia. The intendancy of Putumayo in southwestern Colombia and the department of Norte de Santander in northeastern Colombia were thought to hold the remaining 3 percent.

Through 1987 crude oil production increased each year in the 1980s, reaching 400,000 barrels per day by 1987. The largest field, Cravo Norte, produced 150,000 barrels per day in 1986 and accounted for most of the increased output for that year, allowing Colombia to become an oil exporter again. Secondary recovery methods in the older oil fields, some of which dated back to 1918, enhanced production. Crude exports reached 16.5 million barrels in 1986; industry analysts speculated that they would triple in 1987.

In 1986 there were 3,658 oil wells in Colombia, 2,770 of which were producing. Although the majority belonged to Ecopetrol, many of the newer projects were joint ventures with private foreign firms. The quality of oil varied from very heavy, sludge-like crude, used only for asphalt and related products, to very light, high-quality crude that was easily refined into gasoline and other fuel products.

Colombia had four refineries producing for domestic and export markets. In 1987 two refineries--located in Barrancabermeja and Cartagena--accounted for virtually all of Colombia's crude oil distillation capacity of 226,000 barrels per day (bpd). The Barrancabermeja plant was new and was considered among the most sophisticated and productive refineries in the world, capable of processing 150,000 bpd. The Cartagena plant had a refining capacity of 70,000 bpd. Two other refineries--the Norte de Santander and Putumayo refineries--had a combined capacity of only 6,000 bpd.

Besides production and refinery capacity, Colombia boasted more than 8,300 kilometers of oil pipeline in 1987. This network connected producing areas in the eastern plains, including Cravo Norte, to the Barrancabermeja refinery. After the pipeline network suffered continued attack from guerrilla groups in the late 1980s, Ecopetrol assumed control of all pipeline operations.

Oil fields also produced natural gas, which was used to help Colombia meet its goal of energy self-sufficiency. Reserves were estimated at 1.3 trillion cubic meters in 1986, most of which was located in La Guajira Department. A total of 4.1 billion cubic meters was marketed in 1986, primarily as an alternative energy source to oil.

Colombia - INDUSTRY

Colombia's industrial sector--including manufacturing, assembly, and construction--was mostly developed after World War I using resources accumulated by the coffee and tobacco industries in the nineteenth century. Industry grew slowly but steadily up to the 1970s, then declined until the mid-1980s. Initial manufacturing efforts followed the import substitution industrialization model prevalent throughout Latin America during the Great Depression. Production focused on meeting domestic demand previously met by imports and emphasized consumer rather than capital goods. Because it delayed intensive industrialization until the 1950s and was a relatively open society politically and economically, Colombia did not suffer as severely from the negative protectionist effects usually associated with the import substitution strategy of national development.

By the late 1960s, however, protectionist policies had caused balance of payments problems, forcing policy makers to opt for an export promotion strategy. Industry responded by developing both consumer and capital goods industries, although emphasis was still placed on consumer goods. Particularly from 1967 to 1975, the success of the industrial sector resulted from the combined efforts of entrepreneurs and government planners. Private business leaders accepted the export promotion strategy as a way to expand output, and government officials devised a comprehensive plan to help Colombia compete in external markets.

Two policy decisions critical to the development of an exportoriented industrial sector were the creation of Proexpo and the adoption of a "crawling peg" exchange rate system. In the first case, Proexpo effectively marketed Colombian exports to the outside world. The second strategy proved even more effective at making Colombian exports more attractive. By constantly devaluing the peso against major traded currencies, the government ensured competitive prices for Colombian goods abroad.

The result of this coordinated economic strategy was a substantial increase in industrial output, which peaked in 1976 at 24.2 percent of GDP. The success of the export strategy was evident in the value of manufactured goods sent abroad, which rose from 8 percent of total exports in 1967 to 28 percent in 1975. Although it appeared that this coordinated approach had changed the nature of Colombia's economy, its success was questioned when growth halted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The downturn once again demonstrated Colombia's dependence on the international coffee market.

From 1976 to 1983, Colombia went through a phase of deindustrialization in which manufactured output fell to 21 percent of GDP, the equivalent in real terms of production in 1970. Manufactured exports as a percentage of total exports also fell dramatically, attaining only a 15 percent share of total exports in 1983. Many variables--including the dependence on domestic demand and production of consumer goods, failure to diversify, insufficient investment, and public sector (tax) policies-- contributed to the decline. The crucial factors, however, were the appreciating exchange rate and the reallocation of economic resources to the agricultural sector that occurred during the coffee boom.

In the late 1970s, Colombia experienced what some analysts refer to as "Dutch disease," in which a boom in the primary export market adversely affects other sectors of the economy. Production and export of coffee reacted to market incentives in the late 1970s, nearly doubling output and sales from 1967 levels. The export boom generated a large increase in foreign exchange, which had the effect of increasing the value of the peso and the price of domestic goods. This caused Colombian manufactured products to become less competitive in world markets, a decline that lasted until 1984.

Recognizing the problems brought on by "Dutch disease," the government took direct action to mitigate adverse effects when the next coffee boom began in 1986. A windfall tax on coffee receipts restrained domestic spending and purchases of exports. Domestic price increases that would have accompanied an influx of foreign cash failed to materialize. The fact that "Dutch disease" did not recur and the manufacturing sector expanded in 1987 indicated the apparent success of the government's strategy.

In 1984 the industrial sector experienced real growth for the first time since 1980. Although analysts expected production to grow slowly following the coffee boom of the late 1970s and the subsequent global recession, government programs supporting a coordinated industrial policy once again emphasized diversification and growth through exports, which brought renewed life to Colombia's industry in the late 1980s.

In 1987 manufacturing grew more than 7 percent; it constituted 21.7 percent of GDP and employed about 35 percent of the urban labor force. Output still favored consumer goods, which composed 50 percent of total production. Intermediate and capital goods represented 37 percent and 13 percent of manufactured products, respectively. Despite increased industrial output, Colombia still imported many industrial goods because of its inability to produce competitively many manufactured items it needed to sustain economic growth. This suggested that a number of areas might be ripe for industrial expansion, particularly if Colombia could increase its capital goods production.

Colombia's industrial core developed around four urban areas: Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla. More peripheral industrial centers emerged in the departments of Boyacá, Magdalena, Nariño, and Santander. These areas became more dependent on exportbased production and were the sites of numerous small and mediumsized firms that sprouted in the late 1970s.

The industrial sector in the late 1980s had a broad structure consisting of large conglomerates engaged in massive projects for the production of oil, food, ceramic products, building materials, beverages, clothing, machines, and tools, as well as smaller cottage industries competitive in the manufacture of wooden furniture, leather goods, and footwear. Although labor productivity and profits tended to be higher in the larger industries, the small and medium-sized factories continued to play an important role in industrial development. In 1986 they accounted for 36 percent of manufacturing production and employed 51 percent of the industrial labor force.

Food, beverages, textiles, and chemicals contributed the largest shares of GDP from the manufacturing sector. Total value added by this group constituted 52 percent of manufactured output. After consumable products, chemicals were the most important industrial products in the mid-1980s. In addition to pure chemical products, such as acids and petrochemicals, Colombia produced numerous chemical derivatives, such as fertilizers, insecticides, detergents, and paint, used in other sectors of the economy. Colombia also ventured into automotive assembly and had plants affiliated with Mazda, Chrysler, and Renault, as well as motorcycle firms attached to Japanese multinational companies such as Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, and Kawasaki.

The manufacturing sector also supported the relatively small but vital construction industry. Colombia produced metal, cement, wood products, plastic, and steel in increasing amounts in the late 1980s. Construction itself accounted for nearly 4 percent of GDP and 6 percent of the work force. Public sector emphasis on transportation infrastructure and low-income housing encouraged construction in the early 1980s; the Barco administration decided to continue this emphasis in 1987.


Colombia - Banking

Financial services, a large and important component of the service sector, included private financial institutions that facilitated business and individual loans, as well as public institutions that directed funds to socially desirable activities that might not meet the credit requirements of private banks. The government played a major role in the financial sector because of the unwillingness of banks to make long-term loan commitments to riskier programs, such as coal development, and because of the necessity for periodic public intervention to stabilize financial markets. Although the banking system grew in the 1960s and 1970s and was considered relatively modern, it entered a period of deep crisis in 1982, which forced the government to redefine the basic structure of the private financial system.

One problem was the banking sector's concentration of ownership in the hands of a few large conglomerates. This reduced competition and made lending a precariously balanced game in which funds were shuttled among the larger institutions.

The economic downturn of the early 1980s also threatened the profitability of banking. Colombian financial institutions came under increasing pressure as the 1981 recession induced retrenchment of the manufacturing sector. This, in turn, caused a sharp rise in loan defaults. Real interest rates at the time averaged 10 to 12 percent, which exacerbated the payment problems of indebted companies. The number of loans considered unlikely to be collected as a percentage of the lending portfolio increased from 5.6 percent in 1982 to 11.3 percent in 1984. Foreign interests in Colombian banks also began to withdraw capital rather than deposit it, which further drained reserves necessary to meet regulatory requirements. Subsequent bank failures and nationalizations resulted in a decline in public confidence and led to massive government intervention.

In an effort to increase liquidity, the government reduced reserve requirements for certain types of deposits and shifted public funds into the financial system. In 1985 the government created the Financial Institutions Guarantee Fund (Fondo de Garantías de Instituciones Financieras) as the authority responsible for intervening in or recapitalizing, if necessary, financial institutions on the brink of bankruptcy. Despite these efforts, the government was forced to nationalize banks as they approached insolvency. Eighty percent of the Colombian financial industry had come under government control through this mean by the mid-1980s.

Notwithstanding increased government supervision, a large infusion of public capital, and improved economic conditions, the remaining private financial institutions continued to flounder in the late 1980s. Because of high inflation and unstable real interest rates, most depositors placed their money in readily accessible accounts such as checking accounts or short-term certificates of deposit. This constrained lending strategies, because larger portions of loan portfolios now had to be constructed with short-term arrangements in mind. Much of the longterm credit for mortgages and business investment had to be secured through the central bank or any one of the many government-operated development funds.

By 1988 the financial sector's problems appeared to go beyond a difficulty with short-term liquidity. Ownership remained highly concentrated, and inflation continued to increase the cost of transactions. An inadequate capital base, gross management inefficiencies, and high operating costs were other persistent problems. Loan defaults also occurred at alarming rates. To compensate, the government provided credit directly through public financial institutions financed with public funds or by forced investment from businesses and pension funds. These financial entities included the Institute of Industrial Development (Instituto de Fomento Industrial--IFI), the Land Credit Institute, and the Agrarian Bank; they served the long-term credit needs of industry, urban housing, agriculture, and other special interest groups.

Despite continuing doubts about the soundness of Colombia's banks, there were some signs that the financial sector was becoming more stable in 1988. Market interest rates began to fall, and the government used forced investment less frequently to attract lending funds. In addition, financial authorities planned to strengthen both the financial sector and the stock market by selling shares of the expropriated banks to small and medium-sized investors.

In 1988 the government announced plans to reprivatize the banking sector, beginning with the sale of the Bank of Bogotá (Banco de Bogotá). The government authorized the central bank to extend credits to the public that could be used to purchase shares of the expropriated bank. Restrictions were placed on the sale of the bank to avoid the ownership and management problems that had contributed to the institution's failure. Specifically, none of the previous owners were permitted to purchase bank shares, and no individual or family could acquire more than 3 percent or 10 percent, respectively, of any one bank. Authorities hoped that these measures would lead to other bank sales and return stability to a sector that was vital to the development of the national economy.

Colombia - Tourism

Tourism, normally a vital component of the service sector-- particularly for a country as diverse culturally, geographically, and historically as Colombia--did not contribute significantly to economic growth. Although Colombia had attractive, modern hotels in the capital city and other major metropolitan centers and offered natural attractions such as the Caribbean coastline, remote jungles, and steep mountain ranges, persistent reports of kidnappings, assassinations, drug-related violence, and guerrilla activities diminished tourist interest in Colombia, even though foreigners generally were not the targets of this violence. The government did not actively pursue tourism.

The cost of Colombia's poor image was made evident by statistics. In 1978 more than 826,000 tourists contributed US$328.5 million to Colombia's foreign exchange earnings. By 1984 tourist arrivals had dropped to about 715,000 and had rendered only US$231 million in foreign exchange. The prospects for expanded tourist receipts, despite enormous potential, were dismal under the social conditions prevailing in the late 1980s. Analysts did not expect violence to subside, and as a result they did not believe that tourism would recover significantly.

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In the late 1980s, because its economy remained highly dependent on the outside world, Colombia conducted its foreign economic relations on several levels. In addition to the dynamic trade links long established with the developed world, Colombia also sought foreign investment and economic assistance. To achieve these goals, Colombia gradually opened its economy to the outside world, particularly after 1967, in order to integrate foreign markets, technology, and capital with its diversifying and expanding economic efforts at home.

In the pursuit of economic liberalization, Colombia forged strong bilateral relations with both developing and industrialized countries. Colombia maintained trade relations with numerous industrialized nations, including the United States, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), the Netherlands, Canada, and Britain. Economic arrangements with developing countries, by contrast, were important but constituted a much smaller portion of Colombia's trade.

In addition to bilateral trade agreements, Colombia also participated in several organizations dedicated to improving trade among regional members. As one of the original signatories to the Latin American Integration Association (Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración--Aladi), formerly the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA), Colombia supported early attempts to develop a common market in Latin America. Although no more than 8 percent of trade among its members could be attributed to Aladi, integration efforts were an important aspect of both political and economic relations in Colombia and Latin America. Colombia was also a signatory, in 1969, to the Cartagena Agreement, which established the Andean Common Market (Ancom), also known as the Andean Group (Grupo Andino). Formed as a reaction to LAFTA's poor performance, the Andean Group was particularly important to Colombia because most of the nation's subregional trade in Latin American was with its northern neighbors.

The Andean Group was created to encourage greater economic cooperation within the region; although problems arose among member countries, it continued to operate with the full support of its constituency in the late 1980s. Commerce orchestrated by Andean Group agreements, however, amounted to no more than 5 percent of the combined trade of the group's members at that time. Colombia was the group's largest trading partner.

In addition to regional trade groups, Colombia was a member of all United Nations (UN) organizations, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Moreover, Colombia participated in concessional trade arrangements, such as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) offered by the United States.

As a leading exporter of coffee, Colombia supported the provisions for coffee trade outlined in the International Coffee Agreement (ICA). Originally struck in the early 1960s, the agreement had nearly seventy-five signatories by the mid-1980s, one-third of which were importing countries. The goals of the agreement included stabilizing world coffee prices and ensuring that a steady supply was available to consuming nations. In an international environment emphasizing free trade, however, the provisions for fixed prices and export quotas came under attack in the late 1980s. By the end of 1987, importing countries led by the United States had decided against extending the agreement, preferring to let international markets set the prices and quantities of coffee sold in the world. Despite this setback, the exporting countries argued that the ICA had been beneficial to all parties for twenty-five years and lobbied for the agreement's resurrection.

Colombia also offered free-trade zones and continued to expand them after they were introduced in 1964. Numerous parts of the country provided facilities for transshipment, assembly, packaging, or sampling of goods. Goods that were then sold in Colombian markets were treated as normal imports, whereas those that continued on to markets outside Colombia traveled free of any government duty or regulation. To encourage foreign participation, these zones also provided exchange rate incentives, allowed free repatriation of profits for the foreign investors, and granted preferential rates on utility use. In 1988 free-trade zones were operated as autonomous organizations under the stewardship of the Ministry of Economic Development. They were located in Barranquilla, Buenaventura, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Palmasca, and Santa Marta.

In addition to trade, Colombia nurtured foreign investment. The Andean Group's adoption of Decision 220 in 1987 further loosened foreign investment regulations, allowing greater freedom for the repatriation of profits, a higher percentage of foreign ownership, and investment in a wider variety of firms. In 1986 there were more than 700 foreign firms operating in Colombia, totaling US$2.7 billion in investment. Approximately 85 percent were concentrated in mining and manufacturing. Government efforts were directed toward attracting capital for export industries that would maximize the use of local materials and labor. Additionally, the government was courting foreign banks as potential investors in the restructured financial sector and hoped to bring in more capital for the highly promising petroleum industry.

The United States accounted for two-thirds of all foreign investment in 1986; it was followed by Western Europe with 21 percent, the Caribbean and Latin America with 9 percent, Canada with 2 percent, and the rest of the world with 1 percent. United States interests included manufacturing, such as affiliates of General Motors, International Business Machines, Union Carbide, and Goodyear; pulp and paper producers, such as W.R. Grace and International Paper; and food-processing companies, such as Borden and R.J. Reynolds, in addition to mining and petroleum companies.

In the 1980s, Colombia continued to be a major recipient of foreign economic aid and assistance. In 1949 it became the first Latin American country to receive a World Bank mission dedicated to analyzing its foreign assistance needs for development. As a member of the World Bank group of lending agencies, as well as the IDB, Colombia had consistently received financing for the development of infrastructure, public services, and other areas often neglected by capital allocated on purely economic grounds. Nearly 40 percent of Colombia's outstanding public debt in 1986 was in the form of longterm credits from the World Bank and IDB, totaling US$3.8 billion.

Bilateral aid and concessional loans also played an important role in financing Colombia's economic development. In 1986 total outstanding loans to government development agencies, such as the United States Agency for International Development and the United States Export-Import Bank, amounted to US$2.4 billion. Approximately 50 percent was owed to the United States, 18 percent to Japan, 9 percent to West Germany, and 23 percent to numerous other donors. Since the 1940s, Colombia had consistently ranked among the top Latin American countries in terms of subsidies provided by the United States; total value of development assistance, food aid, and other economic support was US$1.5 billion as of 1987. Most of that assistance had been terminated by 1978, however. Since that time, Colombia had not received significant amounts of development assistance from the United States.

Foreign Trade

Colombia's foreign trade regime underwent numerous changes after it began to flourish around the turn of the century. Following a period of high coffee exports that continued through the 1920s, Colombia enacted strict foreign exchange provisions and instituted a restrictive trade program to stimulate economic growth during the Great Depression, when global markets dried up. This was a common response by Latin American nations during the Great Depression; in Colombia's case, the extent to which these controls were loosened or tightened depended largely on the prevailing price of coffee and the country's willingness to expand coffee exports for higher returns.

In the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II, Colombia employed protectionist trade policies in full force as part of an import substitution industrialization strategy. From 1950 to 1967, Colombia implemented a sophisticated system of exchange rate controls, tariffs, quotas, and licensing designed to shelter the fledgling industrial sector from foreign competition, a technique that was still espoused by a minority of industrialists in the 1980s. This policy served to restrict the importation of manufactured goods that competed with Colombian-made products; however, the undervalued peso penalized the agricultural sector by reducing coffee revenues. Because Colombia required expensive capital goods to build its industrial base, cheap coffee, which was the main source of funds for the purchase of foreign goods, eventually induced serious balance of payments problems.

Besides financial problems, import substitution industrialization caused inefficiencies in Colombia's manufacturing sector, inhibited the efficient allocation of resources, employed fewer workers than export industries, and further skewed the distribution of income. Collectively, these difficulties forced Colombia to change its economic course; policymakers shifted from import substitution industrialization to export promotion with the reforms of 1967. The economy was redirected toward producing for export markets in order to solve the problems created under import substitution industrialization. Because opening the economy to international markets fostered greater competition from abroad, economic planners expected a more efficient manufacturing sector to emerge as it responded to stronger market forces. A crucial element of this strategy was the adoption of a "crawling peg" exchange rate system.

The results of the market-oriented policies were quickly realized: export manufacturing became the fastest growing sector, which, in turn, encouraged employment growth, the diversification of markets and products, and the overall expansion of the economy in the 1970s. This continued until the late 1970s, when the expansion in coffee production devastated manufacturing by reallocating resources to the agricultural sector and by overvaluing the peso.

The fall in manufacturing exports, the subsequent decline in coffee prices, and the global recession of the early 1980s once again caused balance of payments problems for the government, which reinstated import controls in 1983 to prevent the draining of foreign exchange reserves. The economy did not begin to recover until 1984, when policies were adopted that were aimed at reemphasizing international competitiveness and a diversified export structure. The more open trade polices were approached timidly at first for fear that the manufacturing sector would not recover at a sufficient rate, rekindling trade imbalances and capital flight. Between 1984 and 1986, however, nontraditional exports grew at a healthy pace.

Despite the existence of a few remaining import controls in 1987, policymakers, business leaders, and international consultants agreed that the economy's growth was linked to increased international competitiveness in industry, mining, and agriculture. Programs were in place in 1988 under the Barco government to phase out the final deterrents to free trade, and Colombia approached the 1990s with a firm commitment to open international economic relations.

In the late 1980s, Colombia's exports were still based on natural resources, with coffee and petroleum the two largest foreign exchange earners. Crude and refined petroleum products represented 12 percent of total exports in 1986; the Colombian Foreign Trade Institute (Instituto Colombiano de Comercio Exterior--Incomex) reported that petroleum and its derivatives were the fastest growing export commodities in 1987.

In addition to legal exports, the shipment of marijuana and processed cocaine abroad had an important effect on Colombian trade. Colombia was the largest supplier of illegal drugs in Latin America in the 1980s, although estimates of the value of these drugs varied tremendously. From 1981 to 1986, annual receipts from the drug trade ranged from US$1 billion to US$4 billion. The actual amount of money that was laundered back into the economy each year, however, was much lower; estimates varied from US$200,000 to more than US$1 billion. Regardless of the precise dollar figure, most analysts agreed that drug money had a significant effect on foreign exchange reserves. Many believed that narcotics accounted for as much as the equivalent of 50 percent of officially recorded exports. Although the drug trade was highly lucrative, the government made significant efforts to restrain the production and export of this dangerous contraband.

Colombia - Government and Politics

SEVERAL FEATURES DISTINGUISH Colombia's political system from that of other Latin American nations. Colombia has a long history of party politics, usually fair and regular elections, and respect for political and civil rights. Two traditional parties--the Liberals and the Conservatives--have competed for power since the midnineteenth century and have rotated frequently as the governing party. Colombia's armed forces have seized power on only three occasions--1830, 1854, and 1953--far less often than in most Latin American countries. The 1953 coup took place, moreover, only after the two parties--unable to maintain a minimum of public order-- supported military intervention. Colombia's conservative Roman Catholic Church traditionally has been more influential than the military in electing presidents and influencing elections and the political socialization of Colombians.

Some analysts of Colombian political affairs have noted that in the 1980s the military gradually began to assume a larger decisionmaking role, owing to the inability of the civilian governments to resolve critical situations, such as the sixty-one-day terrorist occupation of the Dominican Republic embassy in 1980. The military had become somewhat more assertive in national security decision making as a result of the growing and more unified guerrilla insurgency and increasing terrorism of drug traffickers (narcotraficantes). Nevertheless, Colombia's long tradition of military subordination to civilian authority did not appear to be in jeopardy in late 1988. When military leaders attempted to challenge civilian authority on several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, the incumbent president dismissed them.

A contradictory feature of Colombia's long democratic tradition is its high level of political violence (six interparty wars in the nineteenth century and two in the twentieth century). An estimated 100,000 Colombians died in the War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902), and 200,000 died in the more recent period of interparty civil war called la violencia, which lasted from 1948 to 1966. According to Colombian Ministry of National Defense statistics, an additional 70,000 people had died in other political violence, mainly guerrilla insurgencies, by August 1984. This violence included left-wing insurgency and terrorism, right-wing paramilitary activity, and narcoterrorism. For most of the fortyyear period following the 1948 Bogotazo (the riot following the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, in which 2,000 were killed), Colombia lived under a constitutionally authorized state of siege (estatuto de seguridad) invoked to deal with civil disturbances, insurgency, and terrorism. In mid-1988 many Colombian academics who studied killings by drug smugglers, guerrillas, death squads, and common criminals believed that the government was losing control over the country's rampaging violence. They noted that even if the guerrillas laid down their arms, violence by narcotics traffickers, death squads, and common criminals would continue unabated.

Scholars, such as Robert H. Dix, have attributed the nation's violent legacy in part to the elitist nature of the political system. The members of this traditional elite have competed bitterly, and sometimes violently, for control of the government through the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, which changed its name to the Social Conservative Party in July 1987. These parties cooperated with each other only when the position of the upper class seemed threatened. Unlike their counterparts in other Latin American countries, Colombia's Christian democratic, social democratic, and Marxist parties were always weak and insignificant. Constitutional amendments and the evolution of Colombia's political culture reinforced its highly centralized and elitist governmental system. The elites managed to retain control over the political system by co-opting representatives of the middle class, labor, and the peasantry.

A number of Colombianists also contended that the traditional parties had impeded modernization. The fact that the guerrilla movement was still strong in the late 1980s, after four decades of "armed struggle," manifested to some scholars the elitist nature of Colombian politics. For Bruce Michael Bagley, the guerrilla insurgency was only the most visible "dimension of a far deeper problem confronting the Colombian political system: the progressive erosion of the regime's legitimacy" as a result of its failure "to institutionalize mechanisms of political participation." Bagley also saw the legitimacy problem reflected in rising levels of voter abstention and mass political apathy and cynicism, as well as declining rates of voter identification with either of the traditional parties and the emergence of an urban swing vote. This view notwithstanding, since the mid-1960s the elites dominating the two-party system usually have accommodated gradual change in order to preserve stability. For example, Colombia took a major step toward breaking with its elitist political tradition and modernizing the country's political structures by holding its first direct, popular elections for mayors in early 1988.

Although some political accommodation had occured, the Colombian government has been less successful in reducing economic inequality. During the 1980s, approximately 20 percent of the population controlled 70 percent of income. Rural poverty was particularly pronounced, with per capita income barely reaching half the national average. Analysts generally believed that these economic factors helped spawn political violence.



Constitutional Development

Since declaring its independence from Spain in 1810, Colombia has had ten constitutions, the last of which--adopted in 1886-- established the present-day unitary republic. These constitutions addressed three important issues: the division of powers, the strength of the chief executive, and the role of the Roman Catholic Church. The issue of a strong central government versus a decentralized federal system was especially important in the nation's constitutional development. The unitary constitutions of 1821 and 1830--inspired by President Simón Bolívar Palacio--gave considerable power to the central government at the expense of the departmental governments. Between these Bolivarian constitutions and the 1886 version, however, three additional federal constitutions granted significant powers to administrative subdivisions known as departments (departamentos) and provided for the election of departmental assemblies.

In settling the federal-unitary debate, the 1886 Constitution specifies that sovereignty resides in the nation, which provides guarantees of civil liberties. These include freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, press, and education, as well as the rights to strike, petition the government, and own property within limits imposed by the common welfare. (The 1853 constitution already had abolished slavery, instituted trial by jury, and enlarged the franchise to include all male citizens over the age of twenty-one.) The Constitution, by noting that labor is a social obligation-- protected by the state--guarantees the right to strike, except in the public service. The Constitution, as amended, also gives all citizens a legal right to vote if they are at least eighteen years old, have a citizenship card, and are registered to vote. The Constitution prohibits members of the armed forces on active duty, members of the National Police, and individuals legally deprived of their political rights from participating in any political activities, including voting. Individuals holding administrative positions in the government also are barred from political activities, although they can vote.

A second constitutional issue has been the strength of the chief executive's office, especially the presidential use of emergency powers to deal with civil disorders. The 1821 constitution authorized the president to appoint all governmental officials at both the national and the local levels. The 1830 constitution further strengthened executive powers by creating the Public Ministry, which enabled the president to supervise judicial affairs. The 1832 and 1840 constitutions allowed the president to assume additional powers during a national emergency. The federal constitutions of 1853 and 1863, however, limited presidential control by granting many powers to the territorial departments, by allowing offices to be filled by election rather than appointment, and by depriving the president of authority to assume additional emergency powers. The 1886 Constitution establishes three branches of government--the executive, legislature, and judiciary--with separation of powers and checks and balances. Nonetheless, policy- making authority rests almost exclusively with the executive branch of government, specifically with a president who is both with chief executive and head of state.

The 1886 Constitution restored strong executive powers primarily through the president's ability to invoke a state of siege under Article 121 and a state of emergency (estatuto de emergencia) under Article 122. The president may declare a state of siege for all or part of the republic in the event of foreign war or domestic disturbance. Such a declaration, however, requires the signatures of all of the government's thirteen ministers. A 1961 constitutional amendment also requires that Congress remain in permanent session during a state of siege, although it may not contravene the president's decrees. Under a state of siege, a president may issue decrees having the same force as legislation and may suspend laws incompatible with maintaining public order or waging war.

The relationship of the Roman Catholic Church to the state was a third constitutional issue. The 1832 and 1840 constitutions had affirmed the extraordinary position of the Roman Catholic Church. In contrast, the 1853 and 1863 constitutions, which guaranteed religious freedom and prohibited religious bodies from owning real estate, abolished the church's privileged status. The 1886 Constitution, as amended, guarantees freedom of religion and conscience but affords the Catholic faith preferential treatment. Article 53 authorizes the government to conclude agreements with the Holy See regulating functions between the state and the Roman Catholic Church on the "bases of reciprocal deference and mutual respect." The preamble to the amendments adopted by a national plebiscite in 1957 also notes the privileged position of the Roman Catholic Church, stating that the "Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Religion is that of the nation" and as such is to be "protected" and "respected" by the public powers of the state. Nevertheless, Article 54 of the Constitution prohibits Catholic priests from holding public office in areas other than education or charity.

The Constitution has undergone extensive and frequent amendments, the most significant of which included legislative acts in 1910, 1936, 1945, 1959, and 1968; a national plebiscite and legislative decrees in 1957; and economic reform in 1979. The amendment process was relatively simple, which may explain why it was used so extensively. Congress initially passed an amendment by adopting an act in two consecutive sessions, the first time by simple majority and the second by a two-thirds majority. The 1936 amendment requires a majority of those present and voting in the first session of the bicameral Congress and a majority of the total membership of both houses in the second session.

Amendments adopted in December 1968 reaffirm a president's ability to declare a state of emergency and allow the executive to intervene selectively in specific areas of the economy to prevent crises or facilitate development plans. A president must obtain the consent of the ministers before making such a declaration and specify, in advance, a time period not to exceed ninety days. It may be called only to deal with a specific economic or social crisis, during which the president is limited to issuing decrees dealing with the problem named in the announcement of the state of emergency. The president may also use these emergency measures to raise revenue, adopt short-term economic plans, or override any of the semiautonomous government agencies involved in the crisis.

The most important constitutional amendments resulted from the Sitges Agreement and the subsequent San Carlos Agreement, drawn up by Liberal and Conservative leaders together at meetings in 1957. These amendments were designed to impose bipartisan, noncompetitive rule for a sixteen- year period lasting until 1974. In May 1957, the two rival parties had united in the National Front coalition, which was envisioned as a bipartisan way to end la violencia and dictatorial rule. With the backing of the military, the National Front displaced the repressive regime of General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (June 1953-May 1957). Although the military continued in power for a one-year transition period, the constitutional framework for a new governing system was institutionalized when the Colombian people overwhelmingly ratified the Sitges and San Carlos agreements in a national plebiscite in December 1957. The two parties governed jointly under the bipartisan National Front system from 1958 until 1974.

The 1957 amendments essentially changed the nature of the government from a competitive system characterized by intense party loyalties and political violence to a coalition government in which the two major parties shared power. The first three National Front presidents succeeded in keeping the peace between the parties and in committing the country to far-reaching social and economic reforms. By the mid-1960s, la violencia had been reduced largely to banditry and an incipient guerrilla movement. In addition to ending la violencia, the National Front provided security and stability for the governmental system. The old patterns of blind partisanship and interparty hostilities declined markedly and were replaced with dialogue among leaders of the two parties.

Under the 1957 amendments, the National Front mandated three principles of government. First, it alternated the presidency between the two parties in regular elections held every four years (alternación). Second, it provided for parity (paridad) in elective and appointive positions at all levels of government, including cabinet and Supreme Court (Corte Suprema) positions not falling under the civil service, as well as the election of equal numbers of party members to local, departmental, and national assemblies. And third, it required that all legislation be passed by a two-thirds majority in Congress. The 1957 amendments also give women the same political rights as men, including the right to vote.

The 1968 constitutional reforms provided for a carefully measured transition from the National Front to traditional two- party competition. They also provided some measure of recognition for minority parties that previously were prohibited from participating in the government. The 1968 amendments additionally allowed for the "dismantling" (desmonte) of the National Front coalition arrangement by increasing executive powers in economic, social, and development matters.

The constitutional changes, particularly the abolition of the two-thirds majority requirement in both houses of Congress for the passage of major legislation, also affected the powers of Congress and its relationship with the president. Henceforth, the executive could more easily attain adoption of its legislative programs, although Congress could approve, delay, or veto an executive branch initiative. Other congressional changes included the creation of a special committee to deal with economic and social development plans; the extension of a representative's term from two to four years; and the adoption of amendments dealing with matters such as the length of sessions, meeting times, and the size of quorums. The 1968 reforms also ended, beginning in 1970, the parity requirement for legislative seats at the municipal and departmental levels.

Although the Sitges and San Carlos agreements' provisions for alternating the presidency and maintaining party parity in Congress ended in 1974 when both parties ran candidates for the presidency, parity in the bureaucracy continued for another four years. Beginning in 1978, presidents could select their cabinets and appoint other officials without consideration for party parity. Nevertheless, cabinet positions continued to be divided on the basis of Article 120 of the Constitution, which requires the president to give "adequate and equitable representation" in governmental positions to the major party not controlling the presidency. Liberal president Julio César Turbay Ayala, who took office in 1978, and Conservative president Belisario Betancur Cuartas--elected in 1982--both gave half of their cabinet positions to rival party members. Although the practice ended after President Virgilio Barco Vargas assumed office in August 1986, another president could decide to revive it.

The 1968 amendments led to other important changes in the governmental system, such as widening the scope of governmental authority, particularly in the area of the economy. The revised Article 32 guarantees free enterprise and private initiative but puts the state "in charge of the general direction of the economy." This amendment allows the government to intervene in the production, distribution, utilization, and consumption of goods and services in a manner responsive to economic planning for integral development. It also authorizes the government to promote development and organize the economy, including controlling wages and salaries in both the public and the private sectors.

In 1988 the provisions of the 1886 Constitution, as amended, still governed Colombia. That February, however, President Barco responded to a wave of attacks by drug traffickers and guerrillas by launching an effort to rewrite the Constitution and make it a more effective weapon in the fight against violence. He also wanted to streamline the state to permit authorities to better deal with political and drug-related crimes. The leaders of various political parties and factions signed a political agreement, called the Nariño House Accord (Acuerdo Casa de Nariño), that signaled a consensus on the need to hold a national plebiscite on October 9, 1988, on the institutional reforms proposed by Barco. In announcing the agreement, Barco singled out as major problems the eroded faith in judges, the decreased credibility of Congress, and people's loss of hope about public administration. A national plebiscite had not been held in Colombia since 1957, when a constitutional provision banned referenda as a means of reforming the Constitution on major social, political, and economic issues.

Municipal elections held in March 1988 determined the party composition of a fifty-member panel, called the Institutional Readjustment Commission, whose purpose was to ask voters to approve constitutional changes in the planned October plebiscite. The Nariño House Accord was suspended in April 1988, however, as a result of a decision by the Council of State (Consejo de Estado)-- the highest court on constitutional and administrative matters-- that the holding of a plebiscite would have raised a constitutional problem. According to the ruling, only Congress may revise the Constitution (a procedure that takes two years).

<>The President
<>The Legislature
<>The Judiciary
<>Public Administration
<>Local Government
<>The Electoral System

Colombia - The President

The president is elected every four years by direct popular vote and is constitutionally prohibited from seeking consecutive terms. A former president may, however, run again for the presidency after sitting out one term. The president must be a native-born Colombian at least fifty-five years of age and in full possession of his or her political rights. The Constitution also requires the president to have had previous service as a congressional or cabinet member, governor, or government official; as a university professor for five years; or as a practicing member of a liberal profession requiring a university degree.

As chief of state, the president oversees the executive branch of government, consisting of a thirteen-member cabinet, various administrative agencies, a developing bureaucracy, and more than 100 semiautonomous or decentralized agencies, institutes, and corporations, generally known as institutos decentralizados. These appointive powers allow the president to select the cabinet and the chiefs of all the administrative agencies without the approval of either house of Congress. Under Colombia's unitary system of government, the president also appoints and may remove the governors of the twenty-three territorial departments and the heads of the nine national territories (territorios). Unlike the departments, which have limited self-government, the national capital controls the territories directly through presidentially appointed officials.

Presidentially appointed commissions--composed of government, party, and interest group representatives--occasionally played an important role in policy making in the executive branch. Their findings were usually highly respected and often turned into pending legislation. Development-oriented and well-qualified technocrats (técnicos)--such as economists, agronomists, and engineers--also strengthened the executive branch in the 1980s by staffing important decentralized government agencies. These included the National Planning Department (Departamento Nacional de Planeación), Monetary Board (Junta Monetaria), and the Colombian Institute of Agrarian Reform (Instituto Colombiano de Reforma Agraria--Incora). The expertise provided the president and his cabinet by the technocrats moderated the influence of powerful interest groups and enabled the chief executive to develop complex legislation. Although the semiautonomous or decentralized agencies extended the influence of the executive into most areas of society, they had gained substantial independence by the 1980s. The larger and more skilled staffs and international funding sources of many agencies, along with the inability of ministers to supervise closely the agencies under their purview, contributed to this independence.

In addition to administrative powers, the chief executive had considerable legislative authority. During normal times, the president may promulgate decrees with the force of law called decree-laws (decreto-leyes). Congress may also delegate the president authority to decree regulations in a particular area or on a pressing matter. For example, in 1964 the president, at the request of Congress, reorganized the courts and the judicial processes. Many of the president's legislative powers are derived from his constitutional authority to direct economic policy, draw up a budget, and submit economic development plans to Congress. After deciding on a policy initiative, the president normally asks a minister to prepare the specific legislative proposal. The legislature may reduce the president's proposed budget, but it may not add to it without the executive's consent. The Constitution also allows a president to declare certain matters "urgent," thereby requiring priority congressional attention (Article 91), and permits the cabinet ministers to participate in congressional debates (Article 134).

The Constitution obliges the president, as commander in chief of the armed forces and the National Police, to maintain law and order, defend the nation, and deal with domestic disturbances. The president may declare war with the consent of the Senate or, in the event of invasion, without such consent. The president is responsible for making peace, negotiating and ratifying peace treaties, and, also with the consent of Congress, making treaties with other nations.

Although the aforementioned Article 121 and Article 122 give the president considerable powers to deal with internal conflict or war through a declaration of a state of siege or emergency, the judiciary limited their use in the late 1980s. Exasperated by these restraints, President Barco complained in an address to the nation in January 1988 that the Supreme Court had issued a series of rulings that had "virtually eliminated the practical side of the state of siege." He noted that the court had declared unconstitutional at least ten state of siege decrees issued by the government. According to one ruling, the president may not invoke Article 122 without having specific and clear authorization in the laws, the Constitution, or people's rights. Another ruling emphasized that the president may not use the state of siege power if the government's objectives can be obtained with the existing laws. Furthermore, the court insisted that the government may not use Article 121 to rule in socioeconomic matters if the crisis can be dealt with under Article 122.

Although presidential powers in Colombia greatly exceeded those of Congress or the judiciary, they were not without political or social restraints as well. Presidents needed to deal with and maintain the support of the nation's politically conscious elites. Lacking a single autonomous power base, such as a mass party or military control, the president had to be responsive to an array of competing economic, social, religious, and political elites.

In the temporary or permanent absence or incapacity of the president, a presidential designate (primer designado) serves as acting president. The presidential designate, appointed every two years by Congress, receives no salary and has no executive function but may hold other public or private positions while serving as designate. In case of the president's resignation or permanent incapacity, the acting president must call new elections within three months. Should Congress fail to elect a designate, the foreign minister becomes responsible for acting as president in case of the incapacity, absence, death, or resignation of the president.

After the president, cabinet ministers were the next most powerful individuals in the government in the late 1980s. Each minister directed a particular ministry and various subordinate decentralized agencies and institutes. Nevertheless, Colombia's tradition of allowing yearly reshuffles of the cabinet hampered governmental performance.

Certain ministries had more status or importance than others, although their relative standing was not clear cut. The Ministry of Government was perhaps the most powerful. The minister of government exercised considerable authority over elections, consulted with the president on the selection of departmental governors, and acted as a liaison between the governors and the executive branch. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs probably ranked second in importance, not only because its head had a central role in conducting the nation's foreign relations but also because the incumbent was third in the line of succession to the presidency.

Other important and powerful ministries were the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Finance. The minister of national defense directed the armed forces and National Police, which in addition to their other duties were charged with maintaining public order during a state of siege. The Ministry of Justice had risen in influence by the mid-1980s as a result of the increased importance in United States-Colombian relations of the prosecution and extradition of narcotics traffickers. The Ministry of Finance has been consistently significant because of its responsibility for economic affairs. As economic planning became more important, this ministry's powers increased proportionately.

Colombia - The Legislature

The Constitution grants certain legislative powers to Congress in general, divides other powers between the two houses, and apportions others between Congress and the president. Legislative authority is vested in the bicameral Congress, consisting of the Senate (Senado), with 114 members, and the House of Representatives (Cámara), with 199 members. Each house has a president who is elected for sixty days. Congress convenes annually from July 20 through December 16, but the president may call it into special session at other times. The Constitution requires that Congress be called into session during a state of siege and after a state of emergency is declared.

Both houses of Congress have joint responsibility for initiating, amending, interpreting, and repealing legislation; inaugurating the president and selecting the presidential designate; selecting the membership of the Supreme Court; changing the boundaries of the territories, creating new departments, granting special powers to the departmental legislatures, and moving the location of the national capital; supervising the civil service and creating new positions in it; and setting national revenues, providing for payment of the national debt, and determining the nation's currency.

The House of Representatives chooses the attorney general from a list of nominees provided by the president, selects the comptroller general, supervises the budgetary and treasury general accounts, and initiates all legislation dealing with taxation. The Senate tries officials impeached by the House of Representatives, accepts the resignation of the president and the presidential designate, grants the president permission to leave the country temporarily, approves appointments of high-ranking military officers, and authorizes presidential declarations of war and the movement of foreign troops through the country.

Members of Congress are elected for four-year terms at the same time as the president, or within a few months of his election. They may be reelected indefinitely. House members must be at least twenty-five years old, and Senate members must be at least thirty. All members of Congress must be in full possession of their political rights. Members have parliamentary immunity and may not be arrested or prosecuted without the permission of the house in which they serve.

All the members of Congress are elected from the territorial departments and national territories on a proportional basis. Each department and national territory has two senators, plus an additional one for each 200,000 inhabitants. A minimum of two House members also are elected from each department, and national territory, plus an additional one for each 100,000 people. For every congressman elected, a congressional alternate (suplente) also is selected to serve as a department or national territory's representative in the absence of the congressman. Although geographically representative, congressmen-- as members of the upper middle class or the elite--have been unrepresentative of Colombian society.

High rates of turnover and absenteeism and a weak committee system were among the persistent problems that hindered congressional effectiveness. Congressional turnover was always high, ranging from 60 to 80 percent; few congressmen returned for a consecutive term, and even fewer served three terms. Absenteeism also was a chronic problem. Even with the alternate system, absenteeism was quite high, with an average of less than 75 percent of congressmen or their alternates present during voting, even on the most important issues. Absenteeism prevented Congress from approving many of Barco's proposals during the 1987 legislative session. Moreover, party discipline in both houses was weak, as evidenced by the numerous dissident factions within Congress. In 1988 a majority of congressmen belonged to Barco's Liberal Party (Partido Liberal--PL), but Barco was unable to control factional struggles in Congress. A Colombian political scientist described the situation as "parliamentary anarchy." Former President Misael Pastrana Borrero (1970-74) of the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador--PC), blamed the problem in Congress on Barco's failure to mobilize support for his program among his party's legislative majority. The committee system further weakened congressional effectiveness. The size of the eight existing committees varied, but they were usually large, met rarely, and made no use of subcommittees.

Committee chairmanships rotated, with a new chairman elected every month. The chairman's powers were limited essentially to presiding. After a congressman or government minister introduced a bill in either chamber, the congressional leadership referred it to one of the eight standing committees. If approved by the committee, it was reported back for a second reading to a plenary session of the house of origin, where a member of the committee guided it through debate. If approved by the full membership, the bill was forwarded to the other house, where it underwent the same process. Conference committees composed of members of both houses resolved legislative differences between the two houses.

Its formal powers notwithstanding, Congress lacked a dynamic legislative and policy-making role in the late 1980s. It did not initiate important legislation; rather, the executive, parties, or bureaucracy took the initiative in preparing legislation. Congress affected policy making only by delaying or modifying legislation. Nevertheless, Congress was not completely without power. Its power of interpellation allowed it to question cabinet members and public officials on the manner of implementing legislation. The congressional "watchdog" function served as a check against excesses by government agencies and the executive branch.

Furthermore, Congress exercised purview over the Public Ministry by appointing its director, the attorney general. Although lacking cabinet status, the attorney general was an important official with broad powers of intervention in the nation's political processes. The attorney general's ministry consisted of the prosecuting attorneys of the district superior, circuit, and lower courts. Public Ministry officials supervised the conduct of public employees and prosecuted those accused of crimes.

Colombia's Congress traditionally has been one of Latin America's most independent bodies vis-à-vis the executive. Beginning in the early 1980s, Congress assumed a somewhat more active role in policy making. For example, in 1984 it refused to participate in the National Dialogue that the Betancur government had pledged to hold with the country's guerrilla groups. Leaders of the Senate and House sent a message to President Betancur, stating that "Congress is the natural stage for solving the country's problems."

Occasionally, when Congress blocked proposals introduced by the executive, former presidents and other party chiefs convened a summit-style meeting among government officials and thereby resolved the policy issue. These meetings usually included the president and leaders of key political or congressional factions or interest groups opposing the legislation.

Colombia - The Judiciary

The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, under which are the district superior, circuit, municipal, and lower courts, and the Council of State, which supervises a system of administrative courts that scrutinize acts and decrees issued by executive and decentralized agencies. The executive branch exercises some control over the judicial process through the Ministry of Justice and the Council of State. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for administering aspects of the legal and judicial system, such as the actual operation of the courts and penal system.

The Supreme Court is organized into four chambers dealing with civil, criminal, and labor appeals and with constitutional procedure. The first three chambers sit together as a Plenary Committee to resolve particularly important matters and government business. The Plenary Court's constitutional mandate grants it the authority to try high government officials for misconduct or violation of the laws, to deal with legal matters concerning foreign governments, and to address other cases assigned by law to the Supreme Court. It also rules on the constitutionality of legislation under Article 90, which permits the president to challenge the constitutionality of a law, and Article 124, whereby any citizen may claim that a conflict exists between legislation and the Constitution.

The Senate and the House of Representatives each appoints onehalf of the twenty-four-member Supreme Court from a list of nominees submitted by the president. Appointments are for life. The Supreme Court selects the members of the district superior courts, who, in turn, select magistrates for the lesser judicial positions in their districts. District magistrates serve five-year terms and may be reappointed indefinitely. Congress may remove from office a judge considered to be unfit because of conduct or age.

The Council of State has two functions. First, it acts as an advisory board to the president by drafting bills and codes concerned with administration and even by proposing legislative reforms in this area. Second, it acts as the supreme administrative tribunal, presiding over a hierarchy of courts that hears complaints against the government and public officials. With its power of judicial review over the constitutionality of administrative codes, decrees, and legislation, the Council of State is given equal rank with the Supreme Court in the judicial structure. Half of the Council of State's ten members are elected biannually for four-year terms from a list submitted to Congress by the president.

The country is divided into judicial districts, each of which has a superior court of three or more judges. District superior courts supervise the lower municipal, circuit, juvenile, and specialized courts. The lower courts are distributed on a departmental basis. At the lower levels, the court system still tended to be overburdened and slow in the late 1980s; juries were used infrequently. The Constitution also establishes one administrative court for each department to hear complaints brought by individuals against officials of the executive branch and the public service. These courts are part of an administrative hierarchy headed by the Council of State.

Public Ministry attorneys have the same rank, receive the same compensation, and must have the same qualifications as the magistrates before whom they practice. Although not formally part of the judiciary, Public Ministry officials are empowered to enforce the execution of laws, judicial decisions, and administrative orders. The attorney general selects lower court prosecuting attorneys from lists of nominees prepared by the prosecuting attorneys of the district superior courts. The president selects the latter attorneys from a list submitted by the attorney general.

By the late 1980s, a loose coalition of about twenty Medellínbased cocaine-trafficking families or syndicates, known collectively as the Medellín Cartel, had demoralized Colombia's judicial sector with narcotics-related corruption and had virtually paralyzed it with a campaign of terrorism and intimidation. Operating with considerable impunity, the Colombian drug barons arranged for the murders of more than fifty magistrates, including a dozen Supreme Court judges, between 1981 and 1988. The Extraditables (Los Extraditables), the name adopted by the cartel drug lords, also financed the assassination by hired killers (sicarios) of government judicial officials who favored compliance with the bilateral Extradition Treaty Between Colombia and the United States, signed by both countries in 1979. The drug traffickers feared extradition to the United States, where they were more likely to be convicted. Their victims included Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, assassinated on April 30, 1984; Lara Bonilla's successor as justice minister and ambassador to Hungary Enrique Parejo González, seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in Budapest in December 1986; and Attorney General Carlos Mauro Hoyos Jiménez, assassinated in Medellín on January 25, 1988.

On December 12, 1986, the Plenary Committee of the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional Law 27 of 1980, which approved the already ratified 1979 extradition treaty between Colombia and the United States. The ruling broke with a seventy-year majority opinion that a law approving an international treaty could not be subjected to constitutional revision. Other judicial decisions favorable to the cartel--such as the release from jail in 1987 of Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, two leading cocaine traffickers--suggested that the drug dealers had succeeded in either bribing or intimidating many key judges, from the Supreme Court down to the local tribunals. Indeed, a document found in an army search in Medellín in January 1988 revealed that since early 1986 bribes of over US$1 million had been paid to officials of the foreign affairs and justice ministries (including judges), to the military, and to politicians to guarantee Ochoa's freedom. In a further concession to terrorism, the Supreme Court in June 1987 declared that Decree 750 of 1987 was unconstitutional. That decree had created the three-member Special Tribunal of Criminal Proceedings (Tribunal Especial de Instrucción Criminal) for the purpose of investigating politically significant assassinations causing social unrest or trauma. To fill the resulting gap, the Barco government turned to a small cadre of "specialized judges" that was established in 1984 to deal with terrorist crimes, including kidnaping, with the support of forensic experts of the Directorate of the Judicial Police and Investigation, commonly referred to as the Judicial Police.

Colombia - Public Administration

Before 1957 the administrative system was a spoils system in which patronage served to reward political followers and public resources were used to promote party loyalties. Each time a party fell from power, the bureaucracy had to be totally revamped. The absence of any career civil servants or public service ethic was not conducive to policy continuity and long-term planning.

The creation of the National Front in 1958 led to the establishment of a public service-oriented bureaucracy. According to the amendments approved by the 1957 plebiscite, party affiliations are not to be considered in the hiring, firing, and promotion of career administrators, and government leaders are obliged to follow civil service norms passed by Congress in dealing with administrative personnel. Although career bureaucrats retain the right to vote, they are not to engage in any other political activity.

To implement the amendments, the government enacted a career civil service law in 1958 and put it into effect by executive decree (Law Number 19) in 1960. Law Number 19 and subsequent decrees established the Commission of Administrative Reform to study ways to reorganize the executive branch and the National Civil Service Commission to centralize the government's personnel policies by establishing a professional civil service through oral and written examinations. It also created the Higher School of Public Administration (Escuela Superior de Administración Pública-- ESAP) to train middle- and upper-level bureaucrats by offering a four-year college program, as well as graduate courses in public administration, urban planning, international relations, and other fields relevant to government service.

Law Number 19 also sought to complement the civil service by developing national planning and long-term programs through the creation of the National Council for Economic Policy and Planning (Consejo Nacional de Política Económica y Planificación--CNPEP) and the Administrative Department of Planning and Technical Services (Departamento Administrativo de Planificación y Servicios Técnicos- -DAPST). The DAPST's mission was to formulate long-term development plans and create long-range programs of public investment. These administrative reforms created the conditions for developing a technically competent bureaucracy and served to standardize procedures, elevate the role of planning, and provide some administrative consistency.

Additional reforms in 1968 made various personnel offices of the ministries and agencies responsible for developing a career service (carrera administrativa) and allowed government employees to apply for competitive positions in the civil service. The career civil service system remained, however, highly partisan and small; by 1970 career service employees numbered only 18,000. In the mid-1980s, civil service employees still constituted only about 15 percent of the bureaucracy; the rest were patronage appointees. The sizable bureaucracy existed primarily to provide educated young people with socially prestigious and relatively well-paying jobs. It remained generally overstaffed, inefficient, and partisan, with appointments frequently made on the basis of political patronage, private influence, connections (palancas), or nepotism.

In addition to the various governmental reforms, the technical development of the small, professional, and public-service oriented segment of the civil service was furthered by the proliferation of decentralized agencies and the assistance of international and foreign agencies in supplying training and expertise. This group was able to legitimize planning, develop long-term programs, generate some grass-roots support, and occasionally minimize conflicts involved in administering programs. Three kinds of semiautonomous or decentralized agencies existed: the independents, such as Incora; the government-operated and government-controlled public enterprises, such as the Coffee Bank; and the mixed enterprises, which were financed and controlled by a combination of public and private sources. The proliferation and independence of these agencies during the 1960s and early 1970s, however, inhibited governmental coordination. Although a ministry or government department directed each agency, the large number of agencies limited the degree of control actually exercised by the executive branch.

Colombia - Local Government

The unitary nature of the governmental system relegated local governments to the status of implementors with quite limited policy-making authority. As of 1988, Colombia was divided into the Special District (Distrito Especial) of Bogotá, twenty-three departments, and nine national territories, which were comparable in area to the departments but were sparsely populated. Unlike the departments, the number and size of the national territories were subject to administrative change. Although presidential appointees headed departments and national territories, national territories usually were managed from the national capital because of their small populations and minor economic importance. The national territories consisted of four intendencies (intendencias) and five lower-ranking commissaryships (comisarias).

The president names department governors for an indefinite term. Until 1978 these appointments were made strictly on the basis of party parity, and some modified forms of parity were maintained until Barco took office in 1986. The governor is responsible only to the national government for the handling of departmental affairs and is bound to obey and enforce orders issued by the national government. The governor also issues decrees, appoints and removes departmental officials (except mayors), and assists in the judicial administration of the department, protecting and supervising public establishments and overruling unconstitutional acts of mayors and municipal councils. Although the departments had little actual self-government, they had local legislatures, or assemblies, that assisted the governors. The departmental assemblies met annually for a two-month session.

Within each department and national territory, the lowest level of local government was the municipality, of which there were at least 915. A mayor (alcalde), who was responsible to the departmental governor, directed a municipality. Until March 1988-- when mayors were elected popularly for the first time--governors appointed mayors and rotated them frequently, without consideration for their local roots.

Popularly elected councils (juntas)--elected to two-year terms--assisted the mayors in planning public works projects. The councils' functions and powers were so limited, however, that they often did not even bother to meet. Unofficially, most municipalities were subdivided into zones (corregimientos), each supervised by an official known as a corregidor, who lacked official status but nevertheless performed a variety of judicial and police duties.

Indian reservations (resguardos) were the only other official administrative subdivisions besides municipalities with legal status. Specific laws and locally elected authorities governed the reservations, which operated as corporate communities occupying assigned geographical areas. The Indian authorities governed through a council (cabildo), which was elected popularly and met regularly. Although legally entitled to all rights and privileges of full citizenship, Indian rights groups frequently complained of being forced off contested land by armed thugs hired by landowners. Consequently, in the mid-1984 to 1987 period, the Quintín Lamé Command staged numerous land occupations. Indian groups also sought to promote local improvements through community action, public education, and legal aid.

Prior to the March 1988 municipal elections, most major decisions regarding governmental matters in a municipality were made at the departmental level, or at least had to have the approval of the departmental governor. For example, the governor had to approve property and market taxes levied by municipalities. Because of the limited income raised by the municipalities, funds to provide for utilities and other public services also came from the departmental and national governments. Even these funds tended to be used inefficiently and for political purposes as a result of the extensive political patronage by local bosses (gamonales). In the mid-1980s, a "national civic movement" became increasingly militant in its strike tactics and emerged as a significant force for change at the local level. As a result of the first popular election of mayors in March 1988, the municipalities presumably gained a voice in decision-making processes affecting them.

Beginning with the March 1988 elections, mayors were elected for two-year terms, with the exception of the mayor of Bogotá, who was elected to serve a four-year term. The bill approving direct election of mayors posed a challenge to the traditional strongholds of political bosses, who could no longer use political patronage to fill these positions. The municipal appointments had long provided a spoils system, especially for the majority Liberal Party, which strongly opposed the bill. A poll taken in late 1984 showed that 96 percent of the municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants had a Liberal majority. Although the Liberals maintained their overall dominance in the March 1988 municipal elections, the Conservatives won in the two largest cities: Bogotá and Medellín.

Colombia - The Electoral System

In order to vote, a citizen must register at the municipal level. In the late 1980s, voting requirements were not strict, but registration was still difficult and confusing, especially for those who had moved, as a result of complicated residency requirements. Individuals voted at places designated by the municipal registrar on the basis of their identification numbers. Therefore, the many citizens who had moved to another neighborhood, town, or city had to return to their original place of registration in order to cast a ballot.

Presidential elections in Colombia are held by direct popular vote every four years in April of even-numbered years. A plurality is sufficient to elect a president. Congressional elections also take place every four years. Beginning in 1978, they have been held two or three months prior to the presidential ballot and conducted in accordance with a system of proportional representation. Colombian political observers commonly viewed congressional and local government elections as primaries for the forthcoming presidential vote. The candidate whose supporters won the largest number of seats usually became the party's presidential nominee.

Elections for the delegates to the departmental and municipal assemblies are held every two years. In presidential voting years, they are conducted shortly after the presidential elections. In nonpresidential voting years, they serve as mid-term elections (mitacas).

An electoral committee composed of two members from each party supervises the municipal ballot at each polling place. This committee reports the results to the municipal registrar's office, which then forwards them to the national registrar's office. The vote count is also overseen by a guarantees tribunal appointed by the president and consisting of the minister of government, the minister of communications, the national civic registrar, the national director of criminal rehabilitation, the director general of the National Police, and delegates from the political party leadership.

High voter abstention rates have been the norm in Colombia since universal male suffrage was adopted in the 1930s. This pattern was particularly evident in elections under the National Front agreement. Voter participation declined from 69 percent of those eligible to vote in the 1958 presidential elections to 37 percent in the 1966 elections. In the crucial 1974 elections--when both parties fielded candidates for the presidency for the first time in over thirty years--only 45 percent of those eligible voted. Despite the end of the National Front, only 20 percent of the voters went to the polls in the 1976 elections, when the voting age was lowered from twenty-one to eighteen. Colombian leftist observers argued that the 1978 abstention rate of 39 percent clearly reflected widespread rejection of the traditional parties, despite the renewal of interparty competition. Scholars also attributed Colombia's traditionally high abstention rates to apathy, to noncompulsory voting, and to bureaucratic obstacles, such as inconvenient residency requirements.

Voter participation in presidential elections showed relative increases in the 1980s. About half of the electorate participated in the 1982 and 1986 presidential elections. Although 61 percent of voters participated in the 1986 municipal elections, only 48 percent cast their ballots in the March 1988 local voting. By the mid-1980s, the highest abstention rates in urban areas were among the poor, who had tended not to be affiliated with either major party.


Traditional Parties

Since the mid-nineteenth century, the most consistent features of Colombia's political system have been the elitism and dualism of party politics. Elites from the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal--PL) and the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador--PC), which in 1987 changed its name to the Social Conservative Party (Partido Social Conservador--PSC), have dominated the nation's political institutions. Consequently, the majority of Colombians had little input in the political process and decision making. The formation of the life-long party loyalties and enmities of most Colombians traditionally began at an early age. Campesinos adopted the party affiliations of their master or patron (patrón). Being a Liberal or a Conservative was part of one's family heritage and everyday existence. During the period of la violencia, party membership was sufficient reason to kill or be killed. Families, communities, and regions have identified with one or the other party. The PL traditionally dominated, the main exception being the period of Conservative hegemony from 1886 to 1930. For most of the twentieth century, the Conservatives have been able to gain power only when the Liberal vote was split.

Until the 1957 Sitges and San Carlos agreements, the parties had consistently used the perquisites of government to create and maintain popular support through a patronage relationship with members. The party that won an election rewarded party members by appointing them to public positions or by funding special projects. The party in power controlled the national budget, government jobs, and most of the economy. The party out of power did not necessarily lose support, however, because unemployed members in need of assistance often had nowhere else to go other than to the local party boss, who was usually a large landowner.

The cohesiveness of Colombia's nineteenth-century-style parties depended more on traditional patron-client ties than on elaborate organization. Party structures were complex, informal, and weakly institutionalized, extending vertically from the national to the local level. The two parties were multiclass (policlasista) alliances traditionally capable of high levels of mobilization at election time. Nevertheless, they were not genuinely mass parties that served to integrate individuals and groups into the politics of the nation. Members of the elite held all national leadership positions. The Liberals and Conservatives have continued to shape the traditional pyramidal structure of Colombian society as a whole by thwarting the emergence of modern parties organized around common socioeconomic interests.

Support for the two parties stemmed from traditional loyalties and identifications, rather than organizational activity and ideological or class differences, and required mobilization at the local level. In the larger cities, the parties were detached from any popular base. As a result, opinion polls indicated that party identification in the larger cities was beginning to diminish in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The two major parties were confederations based on regional party organizations headed by, and dependent on, the gamonales, who acquired their positions through birth or connections with the wealthy and prestigious families that made up the national party leadership. Although the gamonales retained their positions through personal loyalties, their role diminished somewhat as the country became more urban and literate. Nevertheless, local leaders acted as power brokers by trading votes and electoral support for programs from the national government.

The highly personalized nature of Colombia's political culture resulted from the patronage and brokerage patterns that were dependent on the subordination and loyalty of the lower classes. The elites felt that government leadership should be the prerogative of a paternalistic upper class, whose members made decisions and cared for the nation and its people. Within these elites, loyalties were as much to one's class as to the nation. Acceptance of paternalism by the lower classes, however, eroded further in the 1970s.

The political parties reinforced the traditional attitudes by demanding and receiving intense loyalty from their members in exchange for favors granted by the parties and party leaders. The National Front modernized the party system by institutionalizing elections, a mass base, and special representation for youth, women, and labor. Nevertheless, the front merely limited the traditional aspects of party structure, such as the gamonales and personal ties. Observers noted that the National Front arrangement closed off access to political power to all the forces not aligned with the traditional bipartisan structure.

Despite their similar moderate and elitist orientations, ideological differences existed between the Liberal and Conservative parties. The Liberal Party was oriented toward urban areas, industrialization, and labor; it was also more pro-welfare state and anticlerical, and less private property-oriented than the Conservative Party. The latter had its greatest support in rural areas and favored the military, large landowners, and the Roman Catholic Church. The Liberals traditionally carried almost all of Colombia's significant cities, although the Conservatives' percentage of the urban vote increased in the 1980s. Until the May 1986 elections, the notable exception was the Conservative and industrial department of Antioquia. Another exception was Bogotá in the 1978 presidential election, when Betancur, a Conservative, won a plurality in that city.

In general, each party had interests and support among groups and classes associated with the other. The memberships of both parties included merchants, landowners, professionals, peasants, artisans, and workers. Interparty differences were largely personal, political, and pragmatic. For example, Liberal Party membership was more upwardly mobile than that of the urban Conservative members traditionally derived from old families of high social status. Of the two parties, the Conservatives had a more effective hierarchical structure at the regional and municipal levels.

<>Minor Third Parties
<>Post-National Front Political Developments
<>Interest Groups
<>The Military
<>The Church
<>Economic Associations
<>Labor Unions
<>News Media

Colombia - Factionalism

The far from monolithic Liberal and Conservative parties were divided internally on the basis of personal and regional rivalries as well as issues. By limiting interparty competition for patronage, the National Front arrangement gave momentum to the already strong tendency toward intraparty factionalism. Factions usually were highly structured and headed by a former president or potential presidential candidate. At the departmental level, dissident factions as well as party directorates often put up their own slates of candidates for legislative elections.

Colombia's traditional party factions posed a reformist, as opposed to a revolutionary, challenge to the social and political order. Colombianists have noted that factionalism actually helped to perpetuate the two-party system by serving as a de facto substitute for a more fragmented multiparty system. The factions did not evolve into new parties because the loyalties of dissidents remained ultimately with their original party. Nevertheless, factionalism in the ruling party tended to diminish the president's ability to command party loyalty while in office. Competition among factions was most pronounced at election time, when a split in the party in power traditionally provided the opportunity for the other party to win.

In the 1980s, factional rivalry continued to weaken the Conservatives. Two main factions have been active since the 1940s. One--the pastranistas-ospinistas--was named after Pastrana and the late Mariano Ospina Pérez (president 1946-50). Its members also were known as unionistas (unionists). The other faction--the alvaristas--was named after Alvaro Gómez Hurtado, son of the late Laureano Gómez Castro (president 1950-53), a Conservative hard-liner who was widely blamed for the sectarianism that led to the bloodshed of la violencia. The pastranistas-ospinistas were allied to industrialists in Antioquia Department and to the coffee sector, whereas the alvaristas were closer to farmers in the Caribbean coast departments.

In the 1980s, the Liberals also were divided into two main factions: the New Liberalism Movement (Movimiento Nuevo Liberalismo--MNL), established in 1979, and the majority official wing (oficialistas). Each ran its own candidates in the 1982 and 1986 presidential elections, as well as separate legislative slates in the 1982 and 1984 congressional elections. The MNL, which won only 8 percent in the 1986 congressional and local government elections, was more technocratically oriented and concerned with promoting the role of the state in economic development and social reform. Its base of support was mainly among the urban middle class, especially in Bogotá. The broadly based official wing relied more on traditional patron-client ties and partisan appeals to mobilize support. In May 1988, the MNL's head, Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento, signed an agreement with the PL to carry out joint activities to support fully President Barco's government. Under the agreement, the MNL would continue to be a PL faction, but it would cancel its legal registration with the electoral authorities on August 6, 1988, and attend the PL's national convention in Cartagena.

Colombia - Minor Third Parties

Although the amendments creating the National Front limited participation in the political process to the PC and the PL, minor parties were able to participate by filing as dissident factions of the two main parties. The two-party system notwithstanding, all parties were free to raise funds, field candidates, hold public meetings, have access to the media, and publish their own newspapers. Smaller parties, which were generally class oriented and ideological, fielded candidates at all levels and usually were represented in Congress, departmental assemblies, and city councils. Nevertheless, with the exception of the populist National Popular Alliance (Alianza Nacional Popular--Anapo; created in 1961 by Rojas Pinilla) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, these small parties had few members and little impact on the political system.

Although the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Colombia (Partido Comunista de Colombia--PCC) regained its legal status in 1957 after having been outlawed by Rojas Pinilla, the party did not contest elections during the National Front. Beginning in the mid-1970s, however, the PCC ran candidates in various legislative elections, as well as joint presidential candidates in alliance with other leftist groups. In 1974 the PCC, some Anapo dissidents, and other minor parties on the far left combined in the National Opposition Union (Unión Nacional de Oposición--UNO), but their candidate for president received less than 3 percent of the total vote.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia--FARC), the guerrilla arm of the PCC, sought to make its presence felt in the political process through a legal political party called the Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica--UP), which the FARC founded in May 1985 after signing a cease-fire agreement with the government. In addition to representing the FARC, the UP coalition included the PCC and other leftist groups. Using the UP as its political front, the FARC participated in the March 1986 local government and departmental assembly elections. The UP's main reform proposal was the opening of Colombia's tightly controlled two-party system to accept the UP as a third contender for political power. The UP received only 1.4 percent of the vote in the elections, instead of an expected 5 percent. Nevertheless, as a result of the elections the UP could boast 14 congressional seats, including one in the Senate, and more than 250 departmental and municipal positions.

The UP's presidential candidate in the election of May 25, 1986, Jaime Pardo Leal--a lawyer and president of the National Court Workers Union (Unión Nacional de Trabajadores de las Cortes-- UNTC)--placed third with about 350,000 votes, or 4.5 percent of the total vote, winning Guaviare Commissaryship. Although it was the left's greatest electoral victory in Colombia's history, observers suspected that the FARC's use of terrorist tactics--such as kidnapping, extortion, blackmail, and assassination--intimidated many voters into voting for the UP. The UP made some gains in the March 1988 elections, but it won only 14 out of 1,008 mayoralties, considerably fewer than expected. The UP victories, which theoretically gave the UP legal jurisdiction over the armed forces and police in those districts, were in regions where the FARC was active.

The UP itself was a prime target of unidentified "paramilitary" groups. The UP claimed that by mid-1988 some 550 UP members, including Pardo Leal and 4 congressmen, had been murdered since the party's founding in 1985. In the six months preceding the March 1988 elections, gunmen reportedly murdered more than 100 of the UP's candidates for local office. According to the Barco government's investigation, a major drug trafficker, José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha ("the Mexican"), sponsored Pardo Leal's assassination, which took place on October 11, 1987. The PCC weekly, La Voz, published documents that allegedly revealed ties between Rodríguez and members of the armed forces, and it suggested that the military was linked to Pardo Leal's murder. In an April 1988 report on Colombia, Amnesty International charged the Colombian government and military with carrying out "a deliberate policy of political murder," not only of UP members but of anyone suspected of being a subversive. The Colombian government strenuously denied this charge.

Another minor party was the Christian Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrática Cristiano--PSDC), founded in May 1959 and composed mainly of students and a few workers. The reformist PSDC identified itself with the Christian democratic movements that had become political forces in other parts of Latin America. The PSDC candidate for president in 1974 received fewer than 16,000 votes, however. In 1982 the PSDC supported Betancur's candidacy.

Colombia - Post-National Front Political Developments

With the return to normal interparty competition in the April 1974 presidential elections and the 1976 local elections, the PL's popular superiority enabled it to capture the presidency, a large working majority in Congress, and majorities in many of the departmental assemblies and municipal councils. Alfonso López Michelsen--the PL candidate in the 1974 presidential elections and the son of former President Alfonso López Pumarejo (in office 1934- 38 and 1942-45)--won with 55 percent of the popular vote, easily defeating Conservative candidate Gómez Hurtado.

Despite a low voter turnout of 34 percent in the February 1978 congressional elections, the Liberals and Conservatives maintained their total dominance, winning 305 of the 311 congressional seats. The PL again won majorities in both houses. The PL supporters of Julio César Turbay, who was closely linked to López Michelsen (1974-78), received more than 1.5 million votes, as compared with 800,000 for supporters of Carlos Lleras Restrepo, a highly respected former Liberal president (in office 1966-70). Turbay narrowly defeated the Conservative candidate Betancur in the June 1978 presidential elections, in which only 39 percent of the electorate voted. Turbay was elected president with 49.5 percent of the vote, as compared with Betancur's 46.6 percent. Thus, the second post-National Front president was also a Liberal who had the backing of his predecessor. In the National Front tradition, however, Turbay appointed five Conservatives to his thirteen-member cabinet.

Shortly after taking office in August 1978, Turbay was faced with the most serious guerrilla threat in decades. He strengthened his state of siege powers by decreeing the harsh National Security Statute, giving the police and military greater authority to deal with the growing domestic social unrest and political violence. The Turbay government used this statute to help minimize the security threats posed by the guerrilla and terrorist groups. The human rights situation deteriorated seriously, however, and armed opposition mounted dramatically.

Although the Liberals maintained majorities in both houses in the March 1982 congressional elections, Betancur won the presidency in May 1982, owing to growing dissatisfaction with the eight years of Liberal rule, a split within the majority PL between two candidates, and Conservative backing of his candidacy. The PL division allowed for the first Conservative victory in fully competitive presidential elections since 1946. Defeating López Michelsen by almost 400,000 votes, Betancur garnered 46.5 percent of the vote, with 54 percent of the electorate abstaining.

A militant follower of Laureano Gómez's ultra-right wing of the PC in the 1950s and early 1960s, Betancur moved to the political center after Gómez died in 1965. He first ran for president in 1970 as an independent Conservative and again in 1978 as a moderate reformer. He ran in the 1978 elections as a candidate of the National Movement (Movimiento Nacional), consisting of Conservatives, dissident Liberals, Christian Social Democrats, and remnants of Anapo. Betancur owed his decisive 1982 victory for the National Movement in part to the support of the alvarista and pastranista-ospinista factions of the PC, as well as of independent Christian democratic and Liberal voters, especially among the urban poor and working class in the large cities. López Michelsen, one of the two PL candidates, had called for rescinding the constitutional clause on coalition governments so that the two traditional parties could compete with each other more effectively. For the first time in Colombia's electoral history, modern campaign techniques prevailed over the traditional reliance on party machinery and the informal patronage and brokerage system.

During his four-year term, Betancur's highest domestic priority was to pacify Colombia's four main guerrilla groups. His approach to dealing with the escalating political violence differed profoundly from that pursued by his hard-line predecessor. After his inauguration in August 1982, Betancur called for a democratic opening (abertura democrática), an end to Turbay's repressive policies, a truce with the guerrilla groups, and an unconditional general amnesty for the guerrillas. By August 1984, the Betancur government's peace commission had reached short-term accords with most of the major guerrilla groups, with the main exception of the pro-Cuban National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional--ELN). In June 1985, however, the peace process began to unravel when the 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril--M-19) resumed fighting, followed by other groups. Only the FARC agreed to renew its truce, although not all of its guerrilla fronts complied.

Despite his more open, informal, and honest leadership style--a sharp contrast with that of the more pompous and tradition-bound Turbay--Betancur's popularity declined markedly because of persistent problems with inflation and deficits. This made it difficult to finance the ambitious social, political, and electoral reforms that he had promised. In the 1984 mid-term elections, the Conservatives received only 42 percent of the vote, which was about their usual proportion, and the Liberals received 58 percent. Betancur's policy toward the guerrillas was a principal factor in undermining confidence in him among many military, economic, and political leaders, including Conservative congressmen. The M-19 dealt Betancur's prestige and his strategy of national pacification a severe blow by seizing the Palace of Justice, which housed the Supreme Court and Council of State, in early November 1985. The M- 19's action reinforced a widely held view among Colombians that Betancur had ceded too much to the guerrillas in his quest for peace. Betancur's handling of the courthouse takeover polarized public opinion within all sectors. It also generated Colombian criticism of Betancur's role within the Contadora group of Latin American countries seeking to negotiate a peace settlement in Central America, particularly after the M-19 arms used in the takeover were traced to Nicaragua.

The decisive campaign issue leading up to the congressional and local government elections in March 1986 and the presidential elections in May 1986 was the candidates' positions regarding public order. Even with half of Colombia's 14 million voters abstaining, the congressional elections held on March 9, 1986, produced a record voter turnout. The poll amounted to a vote of no- confidence for the lame-duck Betancur administration, which received only 37.4 percent of the vote. The opposition PL swept 48.7 percent of the vote, including Bogotá, thereby giving the party a majority in both houses.

In the May 1986 presidential election, PL candidate Virgilio Barco, a close associate of Turbay, won a landslide victory over Gómez Hurtado, the Conservative candidate. Barco received the largest mandate in Colombia's history, with 58 percent (4.1 million) of the vote, as compared with Gómez's 36 percent (2.5 million). Barco won in twenty-one of Colombia's twenty-three departments, even taking the Conservative stronghold of Antioquia Department. As a former minister of agriculture (1962-64) and mayor of Bogotá (1966-69), Barco had gained a reputation as a skillful public administrator. His election was helped not only by endorsements from four former Liberal presidents--Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46; 1958-62), Lleras Restrepo, López Michelsen, and Turbay--but also by fears of a spread in public violence following Betancur's failure to pacify the country's guerrilla movements and his liberal reforms of the penal system.

On assuming office on August 7, 1986, Barco confirmed his intention to end the thirty-year-old tradition of coalition governments by establishing a one-party government (gobierno de partido). He believed that the sharing of cabinet seats and other government posts under the old National Front arrangement stifled democracy by excluding other groups and making it difficult to distinguish the policies of the two main parties. Barco favored a more conventional system in which the winning party governed and the losing party served as a genuine opposition. Although Barco offered the Conservatives three cabinet positions in his administration in accordance with Article 120 of the Constitution, Conservative patriarch and former President Pastrana declined the token participation in order to "revitalize" the party's identity. The Conservatives declared themselves in "reflective opposition" to the Barco administration. Thus, Barco's Council of Ministers was the first one-party cabinet in almost three decades.

Barco outlined a program to end guerrilla violence and crime through social reforms, a reduction in poverty, and an effective judiciary. He inherited Betancur's battered peace initiative, which Barco perceived to be fatally flawed, and began his mandate with the country still under a state of siege. Although the Barco administration committed itself to the peace process initiated by Betancur, Barco deemphasized dialogue with the guerrillas and--in October 1987--centralized the peace program in his office by making his new peace commission--the Permanent Advisory Council on Political Rehabilitation, Reconciliation, and Normalization--an intergovernmental body. Government talks with the FARC made little progress, however, owing to the FARC's unwillingness to disarm and its continued guerrilla and terrorist attacks.

By the end of Barco's first year in office, analysts were criticizing him for being indecisive, too low key, and inaccessible. Barco reportedly communicated mostly with his closest advisers, consulting infrequently with his ministers. His controversial effort to make the political system more competitive floundered from the start. Despite the novel existence of a 'purely' opposition party and the Conservatives' efforts to create an effective opposition, the two parties had few ideological and political differences. Consequently, instead of a system of checks and balances, the government--in the opinion of analysts--was experiencing administrative chaos. Pro-Barco critics accused the Conservatives of impeding congressional action and harassing the executive branch over the performance of various ministers, instead of offering clear-cut alternatives to the government's program. They also scolded the Liberals for failing to take advantage of their electoral majority to govern the country forcefully and to carry out needed social reforms. The broader effects included deterioration of the peace process and increasing polarization and confrontation between the army and the guerrillas, with both getting stronger.

Although the Liberals won a majority of the votes in the March elections, the opposition Social Conservative Party (Partido Social Conservador--PSC) won an important victory over the governing PL by taking the mayoralties of Colombia's two largest cities: Bogotá and Medellín. Andrés Pastrana, the son of former President Misael Pastrana, became Bogotá's mayor, Colombia's second most important political position. Pastrana had been trailing in published voter polls until he was kidnapped in January, reportedly by drug dealers. The kidnapping of another top politician, the PSC's Alvaro Gómez, on May 29 pushed Colombian politics into a crisis. Gómez had been actively pressuring the ruling PL to give the military more power to combat the growing guerrilla threat. During the two months that the M-19 held Gómez, political analysts noted the polarizing effect the abduction was having on Colombians.

By early 1988, as the security situation continued to deteriorate nationwide, Barco came under increasing pressure to return to a national governing coalition similar to the old National Front. Politicians and diplomats in Bogotá reportedly believed that such an arrangement was needed to reassert legitimate authority and reach new accords on some basic issues, including new approaches to the guerrilla groups, cocaine traffickers (the Medellín and Cali cartels), and relations with the United States.

In May 1988, Barco and the PL leadership reached an agreement on a legislative agenda for constitutional and institutional reform. The reform package, consisting of about thirty-five bills, was designed to modernize the state in areas such as administration of justice, legislative efficiency, streamlining of public administration, and the state of siege provision in the Constitution (Article 121). The latter would be divided into three phases to be invoked gradually, depending on the national crisis situation. Each phase would call for different, measured responses by the state. Other measures called for the formation of a constitutional court to rule on the validity of treaties; another would restrict the attorney general's office to ruling only on human rights matters; and others would give constititional status to the protection of human rights, provide for mandatory voting and voter registration, and legalize the use of the plebiscite vote to consult the voters on key issues.

Colombia - Interest Groups

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church and the armed forces have played an important role in Colombia's political system. Numerous Colombianists, such as Jonathan Hartlyn, have observed that the most powerful interest group in the 1980s was a small, informal elite composed of business, political, religious, and some military leaders. Some have argued that these power brokers effectively usurped power from Congress and the president by making the decisions--sometimes at informal meetings held in private homes--about what policies or laws should be implemented prior to final action by the legislature.

Observers have contended that the two main parties and the two most powerful interest groups--the armed forces and the Roman Catholic Church--traditionally have co-opted emerging sectors of Colombian society, thereby limiting the development and influence of other potential interest groups. For example, the Roman Catholic Church and the political parties created the two major labor unions at a time when labor was beginning to develop strength. They also established government-sponsored community action programs when the lower classes were beginning to develop some political awareness. The government also contained increasingly militant workers, peasants, and students through co-optation and intimidation. Economic groups, such as associations of farmers and industrialists, began to proliferate and become highly visible in the 1960s and 1970s, but their influence in decision making in the 1980s remained clear.

In the 1980s, the Medellín Cartel's kingpins were increasingly competing with the influence of the traditional interest groups through bribery and assassination of government officials. In addition, the cartel was using assassination to intimidate one legitimate interest group, the news media. Former President Betancur described the cartel's underground empire as "an organization stronger than the state." With estimated revenues of US$8 billion in 1987, the cartel was a power unto itself. It demonstrated its financial power when, at a meeting with Colombian government officials in Panama in 1984, its chiefs offered to pay off Colombia's national debt and terminate their involvement in the drug trade. The traffickers demanded in exchange that the Colombian government refuse to extradite them to the United States and permit them to invest their profits, deposited in foreign banks, in Colombian enterprises. The government, political elites, and public categorically rejected this offer.

As justice minister in late 1985, Enrique Parejo stated that "There is not a single Colombian institution that has not been affected in some way . . . by the illegal activities of the drug traffic." Colombian officials released drug boss Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez from prison twice during the 1986-88 period. The second time Ochoa was arrested, in November 1987, the cartel threatened to "eliminate Colombian political leaders one by one" if he were extradited to the United States under a 1984 request. Thirty-nine days later, he was released from Bogotá's La Picota Prison. In late January 1988, the cartel assassinated Attorney General Mauro, who had begun investigating the Ochoa release, during a visit to Medellín.

Until the mid-1980s, the influence of Colombia's cocaine billionaires and marijuana millionaires extended from high society in Bogotá to many cities and towns, where they were often popular figures in certain neighborhoods for providing jobs and financing soccer teams, athletic facilities, public housing projects, and disaster relief efforts. The public began to regard the drug lords negatively, however, after Lara Bonilla was assassinated in 1984 and after the problem of cocaine addiction in Colombia became widespread in the mid-1980s. The results of the March 1988 mayoral elections--in which two strongly antidrug candidates, Pastrana and Juan Gómez Martínez, were elected as mayors of Bogotá and Medellín, respectively--reflected a growing antidrug sentiment among Colombians. Their elections prompted the military, in subsequent weeks, to mount numerous aggressive raids on suspected strongholds of cartel kingpins, including Pablo Escobar Gavíria and Gonzalo Rodríguez.

Colombia - The Military

Colombia has not had a long history of military coups. Its armed forces seized power from civilians only three times in the nation's history: in 1830, 1854, and 1953. The only instance of military control lasting longer than one year was the Rojas Pinilla dictatorship. After his ouster in 1957, the military held power for one year. Subsequently, the military served as the mainstay of the political and economic elites. Although the Constitution does not stipulate that the minister of national defense should belong to the military, army generals have held this portfolio since the beginning of the National Front. The defense minister was not obliged to tender his resignation in a cabinet reshuffle, unless specifically requested to do so by the president. Specific constitutional and legislative provisions, however, limited the political involvement of the military. The traditional absence of high-ranking military officers from the elite also helped to explain the military's subordination to civil authority. Held in low regard by the elites and expected to be deferential to them, military officers traditionally came from the middle class.

Beginning in the 1960s, the armed forces attempted to increase their prestige and self-esteem by improving their competence and professionalism. The nonpartisan professional reputation that the military had begun to build, however, was damaged in the 1980s by accusations of human rights abuses and narcotics-related corruption among officers.

In 1988 mounting violence reportedly had forced the armed forces to install military governors in certain departments, presumably with the president's concurrence. In an unusually blunt public statement, General Manuel Jaime Guerrero Paz, commander general of the military forces, stated in a radio interview in April 1988 that Colombia should not hold dialogues with the guerrilla groups and drug traffickers because of their lack of sincerity.

Colombian presidents occasionally disciplined members of the armed forces who violated the constitutional and legislative proscriptions against involvement in political matters. On three occasions--1965, 1969, and 1984--presidents removed military commanders who appeared to challenge civilian authority. In 1965 President Guillermo León Valencia reluctantly dismissed his minister of war, General Alberto Ruiz Novoa, for his public criticism of the government and ruling class and his advocacy of "structural changes" and a more autonomous role for the armed forces in the socioeconomic development process. In February 1969, President Lleras Restrepo summarily removed the army commander, General Guillermo Pinzón Caicedo, for his article in a military journal criticizing civilian interference in the military budget. In early 1984, President Betancur replaced the army commander, Fernando Landazábal Reyes, after the general challenged the authority of the official peace commission to reach an agreement with the guerrilla organizations. Betancur reminded the National Security Council that the constitutional role of the armed forces was "nondeliberative." The military acquiesced in these presidential actions with little or no overt negative reaction.

Betancur angered the military, however, with his policy of negotiating truces with the guerrilla organizations. Consequently, when M-19 commandos seized the Palace of Justice in Bogotá in early November 1985, Betancur had too little credit left with the military to order it to negotiate with the terrorists. He therefore apparently did not object when the military took immediate counteraction by laying siege to the building with hundreds of troops, backed by heavy artillery.

Colombia - The Church

Colombia's Roman Catholic Church traditionally was one of the most orthodox, conservative, and powerful in Latin America. In the late 1980s, it retained influence within the PSC and kept close relations with the Union of Colombian Workers (Unión de Trabajadores Colombianos--UTC) and the National Agrarian Federation (Federación Agraria Nacional--Fanal), a rural labor organization organized by the UTC and Jesuits in 1946. The church also played a major role in the country's education system and had an impact on most charitable activities. Members of the clergy sat on the boards of directors of many government agencies. The church was further integrated into, or at least close to, the nation's decision-making elite because of the upper-class and upper-middle-class background of the church hierarchy. Nonetheless, the increasing secularization of Colombian society since the 1960s had produced a considerable erosion of the church's political power.

Colombia - Economic Associations

By the 1980s, a wide variety of economic associations (gremios) existed in such areas as agriculture, banking, commerce, construction, and insurance. They seldom initiated policy changes, but they often tried to amend or defeat legislation proposed by the executive; they also resorted to court challenges to delay or impede implementation. The largest gremios exercised significant influence on governmental leaders and had elaborate, well-staffed organizations with departmental and local affiliates. These associations included the National Association of Manufacturers (Asociación Nacional de Industriales--ANDI), the National Federation of Merchants (Federación Nacional de Comerciantes--Fenalco), the National Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia--Fedecafe), and the Colombian Popular Association of Small Manufacturers (Asociación Colombiana Popular de Industriales--Acopi).

A strong advocate of free enterprise, ANDI was composed of more than 500 of the largest industrial enterprises; its members were high in social and economic status, exercising influence not only on the economy but on politics and education as well. Fenalco supported much the same policies as ANDI and, like ANDI, was wealthy and well organized. Fedecafe, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving Colombia's coffee cultivation and raising the living standards of its coffee growers, was particularly influential in setting and administering the nation's official coffee policy. The government delegated Fedecafe total responsibility for coffee policy, including quality control of exports and all other matters related to the coffee sector. ANDI, Fenalco, and Fedecafe were effective not only because they were able to influence the initiation and outcome of legislation and executive decrees affecting the economy but also had close ties to most of the government's finance and development ministers and both major parties.

Acopi was not quite as influential, wealthy, and homogeneous in its membership as the larger associations, but it shared their general orientation. Acopi's influence derived largely from the connections some members had with government leaders. Acopi's greatest efforts were directed at reducing taxes on imports, finished products, and raw materials.

Large landowners traditionally had an important influence on the politics of the nation because of their membership in the elite, their relations with the political parties, and their great wealth. Despite the emergence of nonelite agricultural organizations in the 1970s, the large landholders still exercised considerable political power. For example, they waged an effective battle against the implementation of comprehensive agrarian reform. The most important of the nonelite interest groups in the agricultural sector was the National Association of Peasant Land Users (Asociación Nacional de Usarios Campesinos--ANUC), a loose confederation of local peasant organizations who owned, rented, or sharecropped small plots of land. This well-organized, militant association--numbering over 1 million members by the early 1970s-- represented a majority of the nation's peasants. The ANUC mobilized and radicalized the peasants to such an extent that other unions opposed it. Some ANUC leaders were arrested for alleged links with guerrilla groups. As a result of these pressures, the ANUC splintered and lost its cohesiveness. Although it remained ineffective and disorganized in the early 1980s, the ANUC continued to receive government subsidies, and members its served on various government boards.

In the National Front tradition, interest groups generally appointed equal numbers of representatives of the Liberal and Conservative party directorates on their boards of directors. Because the lobbying efforts of the interest associations focused mainly on the executive branch, the leadership of the larger groups also included representatives of government ministries. The government relied on some of the interest associations to act as agents of the state in establishing and enforcing commodity prices or collecting export taxes on products such as coffee. Representatives of banking, industrial, and agricultural interests were included in some government agencies, such as the National Council for Social and Economic Policy (Consejo Nacional de Política Económica y Social--Conpes), which directed the nation's finances. Although contact with Congress was minimal, the boards of directors also usually included representatives of Congress or legislative posts at the departmental or local levels.

One group with a potential to become a political force in Colombia was a growing, mostly urban middle class that constituted about 20 percent of the population in the mid-1980s and included professionals, white-collar employees in the public and private sectors, and small businessmen. Pressured by inflation and cuts in government budgets, members of this relatively unorganized group have attempted to make themselves felt in numerous strikes by their unionized members since the mid-1970s.

Colombia - Labor Unions

Unlike other countries in the region, such as Argentina and Chile, the Colombian labor movement did not have a long history of militant confrontation. The main exception was in the 1920s, when Colombia experienced sustained, violent labor revolts, including strikes against the United Fruit Company. In addition to being moderate, fragmented, and closely allied with the traditional parties or the Roman Catholic Church, the labor movement never has accounted for more than one-third of the organized labor force, which itself represented only about onefifth of the total labor force. In 1988 an estimated 12 percent of Colombia's economically active population was unionized. Elements of the labor movement increasingly resorted to strikes and demonstrations in the 1980s, but these generally were resolved by concessions on both sides.

The labor unions sometimes had an impact on policy through the use of strike tactics. Persistent inflation, charges of government corruption, and high unemployment accounted for the increase in labor militancy in the mid-1970s. Nevertheless, by the 1970s labor legislation had developed in such a manner as to afford the government a large measure of control over the labor movement. Legislation gave priority to company-level unions by requiring them to bargain at the company level, rather than at the industry level. It limited the right to strike to forty days for most workers and for state employees, and it empowered the government to impose cooling-off periods and arbitration of disputes. Labor's links to government were limited to a few union representatives who served on special boards or commissions formed to resolve crisis situations or to propose policies. Unions also received sizable government subsidies. Unlike the producers' associations, the union leadership bodies did not include government officials.

In August 1986, the leftist union movement took a significant step toward unity by forming the United Workers Central Organization (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores--CUT), which grouped the Trade Union Confederation of Colombian Workers (Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores de Colombia--CSTC), members of the traditional PL and PC confederations, and nonaffiliated unions. Although not officially a member of the Soviet-controlled World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), the CUT was strongly influenced by its pro-Moscow communist component and retained close ties to the international communist labor movement. The CUT's call for a national one-day general strike on October 13, 1987, to protest an alleged lack of government action to control the death squads met with a large response as teachers, transport workers, public employees, and members of the judiciary stopped work.

Colombia - Students

As in the rest of Latin America, students had a tradition of political activism in Colombia. Nevertheless, their importance in Colombian politics was marginal until the "days of May" in 1957 when their protest demonstrations and efforts to enforce a civic strike played a key role in the overthrow of the Rojas Pinilla regime. Subsequently, their protests often centered on university issues but also included domestic concerns, such as increases in bus fares, and on international themes, especially antiimperialism . Although the students occasionally aligned themselves with other groups, such as labor, in seeking to promote reforms, most often they were unable to coordinate their activities or to create a powerful national organization. Government repression and division within the Colombian left, which affected student groups as well, inhibited the formation of a unified national student movement in Colombia during the 1970s and much of the 1980s. Political activism was most pronounced among university students, primarily at the National University of Colombia (Universidad Nacional de Colombia--UNC) in Bogotá but also at the universities of Valle, Antioquia, Cauca, and Los Andes. Repression of students in the 1980s was not so severe as in the 1970s, when many students saw no alternative to joining the guerrilla ranks. In May 1984, however, the UNC's Bogotá branch closed its doors to some 20,000 students following a protest in which security forces shot 10 students.

The principal problems facing the public universities in 1987 included financial crises, deteriorating academic quality, and a lack of cohesive government policy toward state institutions. A national congress, held by about 3,000 university and high school delegates in Bogotá in May 1987, and massive student rallies in the preceding months reflected continued student discontent.

Colombia - News Media

Freedom of the press and broadcasting were deeply rooted cultural traditions in Colombia. Governments generally respected constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of speech and the press. One exception was the Rojas Pinilla regime, which suspended them. As a result of the interparty political conflict that characterized Colombia through much of the twentieth century, civilian governments also frequently censored the opposition press, either through harassment by political activists or through government-issued state of siege decrees. Nevertheless, in the 1980-88 period, freedom of speech and the press were respected.

In 1987 all newspapers, other than the official government organ, Diario Oficial, were privately owned and under no governmental restraints. The press published a wide variety of political views and often vigorously criticized the government and its leaders. Almost all news outlets were affiliated--officially or semiofficially--with either the Liberal or Conservative party. The urban middle and upper classes, for whom the press was a vital instrument of influence, purchased most newspapers. Traditionally, newspapers were the most credible sources of political information, as well as the major organs of political debate. In contrast, Colombians viewed radio and television as primarily entertainment or cultural media. Nevertheless, some journalists used the press as a vehicle to political power. For example, television journalist Andrés Pastrana was elected mayor of Bogotá in 1988.

Colombian journalists were generally well trained, and the top columnists had sophisticated worldviews. At least five daily newspapers, as well as a number of weekly news magazines, served Bogotá. Two morning newspapers, El Espectador and El Tiempo, each had circulations of over 200,000 on weekdays in the late 1980s. The Sunday circulation of El Tiempo reached 350,000. Although both were affiliated with the PL, El Espectador tended to support the New Liberalism Movement faction of the party. El Tiempo, one of Latin America's leading dailies, provided comprehensive and sophisticated coverage of international news. The small El Siglo and businessoriented La República were both affiliated with the Conservatives. El Siglo represented the party's right wing. Its editor, Alvaro Gómez, a kidnap victim himself, took a highprofile stand against drug traffickers and Marxist guerrillas. A new afternoon daily, 5 P.M., appeared in Bogotá in the mid1980s , with an independent and nonpartisan orientation. In August 1988, former President Misael Pastrana Borrero launched a Bogotá daily, La Prensa, in an apparent attempt to compete with El Tiempo and El Espectador and to consolidate his control over the Social Conservatives.

Colombia had more than forty regional newspapers, including several with a daily circulation of more than 100,000 copies. The newspaper with the largest circulation outside the capital was Medellín's conservative El Colombiano (123,700). Both El Colombiano and Cali's El Occidente (53,000) took strong antidrug stances. El Colombiano's editor, Juan Gómez Martínez, was elected mayor of Medellín in the March 1988 elections. The most widely read weekly general news magazines in Colombia were Cromos (65,000), Semana (40,000), the Conservative Guión (35,000), and the Liberal Nueva Frontera (20,000), all published in Bogotá.

Colombia had a flourishing and modern printing and publishing industry in the 1980s. In the 1983-87 period, Colombia led Latin America in the export of Spanish-language publications, ranking second only to Spain. In 1986 Colombia sold more than US$59 million in books and other publications to thirty-two countries; this was double the 1979 sales. A relatively small group of five printers and ten publishers spearheaded the export drive. The Andean Common Market (Ancom), also known as the Andean Group (Grupo Andino)-- primarily Venezuela--accounted for 55.3 percent of Colombia's exports of printed material and remained the industry's principal market. The Hispanic population in the United States absorbed about 20 percent of Colombia's publishing exports in 1986. Of the 1,100 entities in Colombia dedicated to publishing, about 400 were large scale. The two leading Colombian publishers were Editorial Oveja Negra and Carvajal.

The state regulated the broadcast media. The Telecommunications Division of the Ministry of Communications administered and controlled radio and television broadcasting. The government-run television and broadcasting network, the National Institute of Radio and Television (Instituto Nacional de Radio y Televisión-- Inravisión), controlled three television stations: two commercial and one educational. A semiautonomous agency administered by a board of directors appointed by the president, Inravisión leased time to private companies and also transmitted as National Radio and Television of Colombia (Radiotelevisora Nacional de Colombia-- RNC) and National Radio Station (Radio Cadena Nacional--RCN). Colombia's largest and most influential radio station, Colombian Radio Station (Cadena Radial Colombiano--Caracol), was pro-Liberal, whereas RCN was pro-Conservative. The state imposed some guidelines to ensure equal time for political candidates. For example, the government ensured that each of four announced candidates running in the 1986 presidential campaign received equal time for a series of national television appearances. Beginning in 1987, all legally registered political parties had access by law to national television; a different party was allotted ten minutes of time each week night, under an alphabetical rotation system.

The state reserved the right, in effect, to censor the telecommunications media in a national emergency. A press law, in effect since 1959, provided for freedom of the press in time of internal peace. This freedom, however, had to be balanced by a sense of responsibility to help maintain tranquillity. The law provided for the prohibition of news threatening national security and for censorship before publication during times of crisis. In issuing a decree on terrorism in January 1988, President Barco noted the state's constitutional right to control telecommunications media if considered necessary to reestablish public order in a crisis. That month Barco also announced the Statute for the Defense of Democracy and the amendment of habeas corpus procedures. The statute caused general concern within the media that the new measures could lead to press censorship. El Tiempo editorialized, however, that the statute should have been even stiffer.

In addition to the statutory regulations, an unofficial regulatory apparatus--consisting of political parties and economic interest groups, including financial conglomerates and drug traffickers--exerted strong pressure on the news media. For example, a powerful financial conglomerate, the Great Colombian Group (Grupo Grancolombiano), reportedly waged a campaign of intimidation in the early 1980s against El Espectador by withholding advertising in retaliation for reporters' probes into its business practices. Drug traffickers took more drastic measures to intimidate the press. For example, in 1983 a newspaper journalist in Buenaventura was machine gunned to death after he had written a series of reports accusing officials of involvement with drug trafficking. His editor also was assassinated that year. Hitmen hired by the Medellín Cartel assassinated El Espectador's nationally recognized director, Guillermo Cano, in December 1986, shortly after his newspaper published a series of reports on the cartel. In October 1987, columnist Daniel Samper Pizano of El Tiempo fled the country after his name appeared on a death list. Drug traffickers assassinated approximately thirty journalists between 1983 and 1987. They were also blamed for kidnapping television journalist Andrés Pastrana in early 1988.

The media themselves have exercised self-restraint in times of crisis. For example, in response to M-19 demands for publicity in exchange for releasing Alvaro Gómez, the owners and directors of Colombia's major news media collectively agreed in July 1988 to exercise self-censorship when reporting on terrorist acts. They banned the transmission of all texts, interviews, and contacts with "kidnappers and terrorists" and with the kidnap victims.


For much of the nation's history, Colombians focused more consistently on domestic issues and political personalities than on world affairs. In the nineteenth century, Colombia limited its involvement in foreign affairs to sporadic border disputes with immediate neighbors (Venezuela, Panama, Peru, and Brazil). Colombia and Venezuela began disputing boundaries after the breakup of Gran Colombia (Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador) in 1830. This territorial issue continued to cause friction between the two nations into the twentieth century. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the secession of Panama from Colombia in 1903 was a major source of friction in Colombia-United States relations. Colombia's boundary with Peru was settled initially in 1922, but problems developed again in 1932 when Peru seized an area around Leticia in the Amazon Basin that both nations claimed. A League of Nations commission resolved the conflict in 1934, however, by suggesting a resolution that returned the disputed area to Colombia. Brazil and Colombia reached agreement on a border dispute in 1928.

Colombia broadened its foreign policy after World War II, becoming active among the Latin American states and small powers in general. It was an important participant in the 1945 San Francisco Conference creating the United Nations (UN) and was a leading opponent of the big-power veto in the Security Council. Colombia argued successfully for a primary role for regional organizations, whose recognition was secured under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Colombia also played an important role in creating the Organization of American States (OAS) in Bogotá in 1948. Former Colombian president Lleras Camargo was the OAS's first secretary general (1948-54).

Nevertheless, even in the post-World War II era, Colombia continued to view foreign policy within a limited context. Whenever Colombia initiated international actions, they were usually meant to complement more important national goals and were seen as extensions of domestic policy. After World War II, Colombia's foreign policy emphasized economic relations and support for collective security through the OAS and the UN. Accordingly, Colombia pursued only limited objectives in bilateral international security and global politics, usually preferring multilateral diplomatic approaches. Colombia's approach to security issues has been characterized by a willingness to settle disputes peacefully through recourse to international law and regional and international security organizations.

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Colombia - Relations with the United States

Although Colombia and the United States had cordial and friendly relations during the nineteenth century, relations were strained during the first two decades of the twentieth century as a result of the involvement of President Theodore Roosevelt's administration in the Panama revolt. Despite the diplomatic strain, economic ties with the United States were of great importance to Colombia even in the early twentieth century. The United States was the major market for Colombia's leading export and source of revenue: coffee.

In the early 1920s, Colombian president Marco Fidel Suárez (in office 1918-21) advocated a doctrine called Res Pice Polum (Follow the North Star), which linked Colombia's destiny to that of the "North Star," the United States, through geography, trade, and democracy. Colombia's powerful coffee exporters were particularly fond of the doctrine. Enrique Olaya Herrera, Colombia's first Liberal president of the century (in office 1930-34), reaffirmed the Northern Star doctrine, but Colombia did not fully embrace it until the nation enthusiastically received United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy.

A United States agreement to provide a military training mission and a 1940 bilateral trade agreement strengthened pre-World War II relations between Bogotá and Washington. Colombia's position as a close ally of the United States became evident during World War II. Although Bogotá's commitment to the Allied cause did not entail the sending of troops, Colombia's strategic position near the Caribbean and the Panama Canal and its pro-United States stance within the region were helpful to the Allied nations.

Colombia's relations with the United States were somewhat strained during the late 1940s and throughout most of the 1950s because of the pro-Catholic Conservative government's persecution of the nation's few Protestants, who were also PL members, during the early years of la violencia and the dangers posed by the internal disorders to United States nationals living in Colombia. Nevertheless, Colombia's partnership with the United States prompted it to contribute troops to the UN Peacekeeping Force in the Korean War (1950-53). Colombia also provided the only Latin American troops to the UN Emergency Force in the Suez conflict (1956-58).

Colombia became one of the largest recipients of United States assistance in Latin America during the 1960s and early 1970s. Much of the United States aid was designed to enable Colombia to ease its external balance of payments problems while increasing its internal economic development through industrialization, as well as agrarian and social reforms. Nonetheless, Colombia failed to implement significant reforms. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Colombian policy makers had become disenchanted with the Alliance for Progress--a program, conceived during the administration of President John F. Kennedy, that called for extensive United States financial assistance to Latin America as well as Latin American support for social change measures, such as agrarian reform--and with United States economic assistance in general. Many felt that Colombia's economic dependence on the United States had only increased. By 1975, however, the United States was purchasing only 28 percent of Colombia's exports, as compared with 40 to 65 percent during the 1960s. In 1985 the United States accounted for 33 percent of Colombian exports and 35 percent of Colombian imports.

Although Colombia voted fairly consistently with the United States in international security forums, such as the UN General Assembly and Security Council, its willingness to follow the lead of the United States within the inter-American system had become less pronounced by the mid-1970s. In 1975 President López Michelsen resumed diplomatic relations with Cuba. He also refused further American economic assistance to Colombia and terminated funding from the United States Agency for International Development, complaining that his nation's unhealthy economic dependency resulted from foreign aid. Other indicators of López Michelsen's independent stance included his refusal to condemn Cuban intervention in the Angolan civil war, his willingness to recognize the new Marxist government in Angola, and his support for Panama in its desire to negotiate a new canal treaty with the United States.

During the first half of his administration, President Turbay continued Colombia's policy of nonalignment. He demonstrated the nation's foreign policy independence in 1979 when his foreign minister, along with the foreign ministers of other Andean countries, recognized Nicaragua's Sandinista guerrillas as a belligerent force.

The Turbay government retreated from its nonaligned policy course, however, after becoming concerned about the ideological direction of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, Nicaragua's territorial claims to Caribbean islands long held by Colombia, and Cuba's support of the M-19 in early 1981. Turbay reestablished close relations with the United States. A fervent anticommunist, he became the most outspoken Latin American leader affirming the thesis of United States president Ronald Reagan that Cuba and Nicaragua were the principal sources of subversion and domestic unrest in Latin America. Bogotá suspended diplomatic relations with Havana after the government of Fidel Castro Ruz admitted that it had supported M-19 guerrilla activities. The Turbay government condemned the rebel movement in El Salvador, strongly criticized the joint declaration by France and Mexico in 1981 that called for a negotiated settlement of the Salvadoran insurgency, and strongly supported the provisional government in El Salvador headed by José Napoleón Duarte Fuentes in 1981 and 1982. During the 1982 South Atlantic War between Argentina and Britain in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, the Turbay government, along with the United States, abstained on the key OAS vote to invoke the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty). After the war, Colombia remained one of the few Latin American countries still willing to participate with the United States in joint naval maneuvers in the Caribbean. Colombia also sent troops to the Sinai in 1982 as part of the UN Peacekeeping Force required by the 1979 Treaty of Peace Between Egypt and Israel.

Turbay's good relations with Washington contributed to the resolution of a longstanding territorial problem between the two countries: the status of three small, uninhabited outcroppings of coral banks and cays in the Caribbean. Under the Quita Sueño Treaty, signed on September 8, 1972, the United States renounced all claims to the banks and cays--Banco de Quita Sueño, Cayos de Roncador, Banco de Serrana--without prejudicing the claims of third parties. The United States Senate, however, did not ratify the treaty until 1981. In the meantime, the new Sandinista government-- emboldened by the extended delay--revived Nicaragua's longstanding claim in December 1979 over the reefs, as well as the San Andrés and Providencia archipelago, located about 640 kilometers northwest of Colombia's Caribbean coast. To emphasize its claimed sovereignty over the Isla de San Andrés, Colombia began building up a naval presence on the island, including an arsenal of Exocet missiles.

During his campaign for president in 1982, Betancur gave no indication that he intended to transform Colombia's foreign policy. His only foreign policy statement was a promise, which he made repeatedly, that he would not normalize relations with Cuba. Shortly after assuming the presidency, however, Betancur steered Colombia away from support of the Reagan administration's Latin American policies and toward a nonaligned stance. Betancur reversed Turbay's anti-Argentine position on the South Atlantic War and called for greater solidarity between Latin America and the Third World. In 1983 Colombia, with the sponsorship of Cuba and Panama, joined the Nonaligned Movement, then headed by Castro.

Betancur also urged an end to all foreign intervention in Central America in order to prevent the region from becoming a zone of East-West conflict. At the same time, he was critical of what he viewed as United States attempts to isolate Cuba and Nicaragua from peace efforts in the region, its growing "protectionist" trade policies, its unwillingness to increase its contributions to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and its failure to do more to reduce the North American demand for drugs. Confronted with Colombia's financial problems, however, by 1985 Betancur had abandoned his nationalistic rhetoric on the debt and drug issues, adopted strict austerity measures to deal with his government's financial crisis, and cooperated more closely with the United States in the antidrug trafficking campaign. As a result, the United States supported Colombia's debt renegotiations with the IMF and the World Bank.

In his first year of office, Barco adopted a more pragmatic approach to foreign relations, returning Colombia to a lower profile in international politics. Colombia was fourth among the Nonaligned Movement's 100 members in voting with United States positions in international forums. Colombian-United States relations in the late 1980s were regarded as generally excellent, with minor differences confined to Colombia's antidrug trafficking efforts, its support of the August 1987 Central American Peace Agreement initiated by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sánchez, negotiations of new coffee and textile agreements, and Bogotá's refusal to condemn Cuba for its human rights violations.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Colombia's standing as the major source of illegal cocaine and marijuana smuggled into the United States plagued relations between these two countries. Although the bilateral Extradition Treaty Between Colombia and the United States, signed by both countries in 1979, and US$26 million in United States aid helped to produce what Washington considered to be a model antinarcotics program, Betancur initially refused to extradite Colombians as a matter of principle. By mid-term, however, he changed his position after becoming alarmed over the implications for Colombia's political stability of the increasing narcotics-related corruption and drug abuse among Colombian youth and the Medellín Cartel's assassination of Justice Minister Lara Bonilla. In May 1984, following the murder of the strongly antidrug minister, Betancur launched a "war without quarter" against the cartel and began extraditing drug traffickers to the United States. During the November 1984 to June 1987 period, Colombia extradited thirteen nationals--including cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder Rivas-- and three foreigners to the United States. (A United States jury convicted Lehder in May 1988 of massive drug trafficking.)

In a major setback for the antidrug effort, however, the Colombian Supreme Court in June 1987 declared unconstitutional a law ratifying the United States-Colombian extradition treaty. United States authorities had more than seventy extradition cases still pending, including requests for the three principal members of the Medellín Cartel still at large (Escobar, Ochoa, and Rodríguez). The annulment of the extradition treaty resulted from a ruling of the Supreme Court in December 1986 invalidating the treaty's enabling legislation. New enabling legislation signed by President Barco worked only until February 17, 1987, when the eight-member criminal chamber of the Supreme Court refused to rule on an extradition because the treaty was not in force. After the Council of State argued otherwise, the Supreme Court ruled on the matter, voiding the enabling legislation on June 25, 1987. Consequently, the only course left open to the Barco administration was to resubmit the enabling legislation to Congress, which was not eager to act, being caught in the same world of threats and bribes.

The extradition issue came to a head after Ochoa was released from prison on December 30, 1987, prompting the United States to protest. The United States endorsed the Colombian Supreme Court's suggestion that extradition decisions could be made directly by the Colombian government, thereby bypassing the court, under an 1888 treaty between the two countries. Barco's justice minister argued, however, that the old treaty was revoked by the 1979 treaty. In any event, in early May 1988 the Supreme Court rejected the use of existing laws to send more drug traffickers to the United States for trial. The Council of State thereupon suspended the issuing of warrants for the arrests--for the purpose of extradition--of cartel leaders, beginning with Escobar. Consequently, for future extraditions, the Colombian government will have to seek approval through Congress for a new law to validate the 1979 extradition treaty, or dispense with the treaty altogether in order to use the 1933 multilateral Montevideo Convention as the basis for extradition.

Colombia - Relations with Latin America

Traditionally, Colombia's diplomatic and economic interests in the rest of Latin America were limited mainly to its neighboring rival, Venezuela. Colombia did not begin to identify with and pay more attention to other Latin American countries and to the English-speaking Caribbean until the mid-1970s. Although Colombia's internal violence in the 1950s soured its relations with its neighbors, the nation's regional relations became largely congenial and its trade ties prospered with the creation of the National Front in 1957.

As a result of Colombia's commitment to subregional economic integration during the 1960s, it began to perceive economic relations largely in Latin American or Andean terms and no longer simply followed United States leadership in regional and economic security relations. In 1969 Colombia signed the Cartagena Agreement establishing the Andean Group.

Within a few years after the signing of the agreement, however, Colombia encountered difficulties in its relations with the Amdeam Group nations as a result of domestic politics. By the mid-1970s, Colombian policy makers--concerned that the nation was giving up more than it was receiving in tariff reductions--began to lose enthusiasm for the Andean Group. They continued to favor subregional economic integration, however, and Colombia's economic relations with the rest of Latin America increased considerably after the creation of the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA) and the Andean Group. Like most other Latin American countries, Colombia joined the Latin American Economic System (Sistema Económica Latinoamericana--SELA), which was created in 1975 to promote regional cooperation on trade and other economic matters. On July 3, 1978, Colombia joined seven other Latin American countries in signing the Amazon Pact, a Brazilian initiative designed to coordinate the joint development of the Amazon Basin. Colombia also joined LAFTA's successor, the Latin American Integration Association (Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración--Aladi), created in 1980 to reduce trade barriers among Andean countries and coordinate economic policies.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Colombia also sought to develop a regional leadership role for itself by increasing its influence in the Caribbean. Colombia first joined the Caribbean Development Bank and then began expanding its trade with Caribbean countries. Nonetheless, Mexico and Venezuela remained Colombia's only significant trading partners in the Caribbean Basin region.

The Betancur administration placed a somewhat higher priority on relations with Central America. Colombia traditionally had very little experience in or contact with nearby Central America, but Colombians' awareness of the region increased considerably during the Betancur administration. In pursuit of Betancur's key foreign policy objective--peace in Central America--Colombia joined with Mexico, Venezuela, and Panama in January 1983 to form the Contadora Group. Betancur had proposed the Contadora initiative for three main reasons: he believed that it was consonant with Colombia's tradition of multilateral diplomacy, that Nicaragua had a right to self-determination, and that the United States should not intervene militarily and unilaterally in Nicaragua.

Betancur took an active role in other regional or interAmerican forums. Serving as mediator between Latin debtor nations and creditor countries, he hosted a key meeting of representatives from eleven Latin American countries at Cartagena in June 1984 to discuss ways to obtain softer repayment terms on the region's US$350 billion foreign debt. As president of a country with a relatively small and well-balanced debt, Betancur counseled moderation on debt issues, advising the governments to increase incentives for foreign investment to reduce dependence on foreign credits instead of forming a "debtors' cartel." Betancur remained within the mainstream of Latin American foreign policy in his approach to other issues of general regional concern. In addition to supporting Argentina in the South Atlantic War, he supported Bolivia's aspirations for territorial access to the Pacific Ocean and to Belize's guaranteed territorial integrity.

Betancur came under heavy criticism in Colombia for his higher profile in Western Hemisphere politics, particularly his mediation attempts in Central American political conflicts, at the expense of domestic issues. Betancur became less sympathetic toward Nicaragua as a result of its alleged involvement in supporting the M-19's Palace of Justice takeover in November 1985 and Managua's surprise renewal, in April 1986, of its territorial claim to Isla de San Andrés and Isla de Providencia. Although the islands had been under Colombian rule for generations, Nicaragua claimed in a press conference that the 1928 Barcenas-Esguerra Treaty recognizing Colombian sovereignty over the island territories was invalid because Nicaragua signed it at a time when United States troops occupied the country.

Barco had campaigned on a platform promising a lower profile for Colombia in the Contadora peace process and greater attention to Colombia's relations with its immediate neighbors. Accordingly, after taking office, Barco reduced Colombia's involvement in Contadora and Nonaligned Movement activities. He continued, however, to develop Colombia's bilateral relations in Latin America.

Although Colombia's relations with Venezuela have been more extensive than with any other state in the region, border disputes and territorial differences often caused those relations to be tense and acrimonious. During the Lleras Restrepo presidency in the late 1960s, Colombia attempted to negotiate contracts with foreign oil companies to do offshore exploratory drilling on the continental shelf of the Golfo de Venezuela, which may contain up to 10 billion barrels of petroleum. Caracas protested that the gulf was an inland waterway whose waters were "traditionally and historically Venezuelan." Both nations tacitly agreed in 1971 to suspend exploratory operations in the area until final agreement was reached. Nevertheless, the issue subsequently heated up again. At Venezuela's urging, talks to establish stricter boundary limits began in 1979. Several shooting incidents in the gulf in the 1981- 86 period led both countries to mobilize troops along the border and engage in a minor arms race. Despite a series of talks on the issue held between the Colombian and Venezuelan foreign ministers in 1986, little progress was made toward agreement. Barco hoped to submit the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, but the Venezuelan government of President Jaime Lusinchi opposed outside mediation.

The already tense relations between Colombia and Venezuela flared up again in mid-August 1987, when the Lusinchi government claimed that a Colombian warship had penetrated Venezuelan territorial waters. Both sides immediately increased their military presence in the border area, but Colombia was far outmatched by Venezuela. The Colombian defense ministry's request to Congress in September 1987 to quadruple the military budget to US$2.5 billion appeared to be related in part to the border dispute.

Additional border problems included the approximately 1 million illegal or undocumented Colombians who had entered Venezuela since the 1950s, cross-border guerrilla attacks by Colombian rebel groups, and drug trafficking. In 1988 Colombian peasant migrants outnumbered Venezuelans by fifteen to one in some border areas. Venezuelans generally had a low regard for the Colombian immigrants, whereas the Colombians resented the free-spending Venezuelans. These Colombians--seeking security, jobs, and higher wages--worked as domestics and in other menial positions shunned by Venezuelans. Although many Colombians remained in Venezuela, others crossed the border illegally to work seasonally, returning home every year with their earnings. This migration contributed to the large volume of illegal and contraband trade that flourished in the border regions.

Barco proposed a broad dialogue with Venezuela in August 1987 to encompass border issues such as contraband and the narcotics trade. In January 1988, Venezuela called for joint action with Colombia to control the growing activities of Colombian drug traffickers and leftist guerrillas along and inside Venezuela's western borders. The Venezuelan proposal was prompted in part by a surge of kidnappings of Venezuelan ranchers by Colombian guerrillas, who held their hostages for ransom on the Colombian side of the border. Venezuela was also concerned about Colombian drug traffickers who had begun developing Venezuela as an important transshipment point for cocaine en route to the United States or Western Europe.

Colombia - Relations with World Organizations

Colombia has been an active member of the UN since the organization was founded. It belonged to numerous UN organizations, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Under the National Front governments, Colombia became a major recipient of funds and programs from international bodies, such as the IDB, IMF, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and International Labour Organisation (ILO). Colombia preferred to handle security and global matters through the international forums provided by the UN General Assembly and Security Council. Pursuing a somewhat independent course, Colombia became a respected voice in the General Assembly and other international arenas on matters of international law. It played an active role in the various UN conferences on the law of the sea. In late 1975, it became the first nation to call on the General Assembly for a legal definition of outer space and geostationary orbits, arguing that nations have "inalienable and untransferable" sovereign rights to the airspace directly above them, including the geostationary orbit.

Betancur also played a role in improving international trade conditions for developing countries through the International Coffee Agreement (which he helped to renegotiate in 1983), UNCTAD, Aladi, and the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (Consejo Interamericano Económico y Social--CIAES). Other international organizations to which Colombia belonged in the late 1980s included the World Bank and International the Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat), the Washington-based communications consortium.

Colombia - Relations with Communist Countries

Throughout the post-World War II period, Colombia's international stance was based on consistent support of the United States against the Soviet Union and its allies. Colombia severed relations with the Soviet Union in the wake of the 1948 Bogotazo, amid accusations of Soviet complicity in the rioting. After reestablishing relations with the Soviet Union in 1968, Colombia made various commercial, scientific, and educational agreements with the Soviet Union and its allies. In early 1976, Colombia and the Soviet Union signed the Commercial Cooperation Treaty.

Colombia's relations with the communist nations of Africa and Asia were limited primarily to concern over these nations as economic competitors in the production of such primary commodities as coffee. For example, Colombia's relations with Angola during its civil war in late 1975 and early 1976 were influenced by the importance of coffee to both countries. President López Michelsen refused to condemn Cuba's involvement in the Angolan civil war and in 1976 recognized the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Liberação de Angola--MPLA) as that nation's government in order to maintain the good relations that both countries enjoyed as coffee exporters. Bogotá's relations with China remained cordial in 1988, but trade between the two countries was negligible.

Colombia's relations with Cuba have been strained since Castro seized power in 1959. From the early 1960s, when it helped to establish the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional--ELN), Cuba supported Colombian guerrilla groups. Colombia actively supported OAS sanctions against Cuba in 1962 and the expulsion of Cuba from the OAS in 1964. Bogotá reestablished full diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1975, after the OAS reversed its policy of isolating the Castro government. Bilateral relations again declined, however, after the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua in mid-1979 when Castro renewed Cuba's support for insurgency in Latin America. During Turbay's administration, Colombia actively opposed Cuba by blocking Havana's attempts to secure a UN Security Council seat. In 1981, after Cuba admitted supporting a failed M-19 attempt to launch a rural insurgency, the Turbay administration broke diplomatic relations with Havana. In late 1987, an official Colombian commission recommended that the country renew diplomatic relations with Cuba but "without haste."

Colombia - Relations with Other Nations

Bilateral relations with nations outside the Western Hemisphere were almost solely based on trade and other economic dealings. Largely as a result of imports from Colombia by the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), European Economic Community countries accounted for about a quarter of Colombia's primary export markets in 1985. Colombia's relations with West European countries in the late 1980s continued to be mainly pragmatic and trade oriented. Spain, though not a major importer of Colombian goods, continued to maintain cultural and historic ties with Colombia. The influence of France has been second only to that of Spain on Colombia's European-oriented culture. Portugal's relations with Colombia also were important because of the similarity of the goods that Portugal and its former African colonies produced.

Colombia also maintained trade relations with Asian countries, especially Japan, which accounted for 4 percent of Colombia's exports and 10.4 percent of its imports in 1985. In September 1987, Barco met with President Chun Doo Hwan of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and made public a communiqué concerning economic and technological exchange agreements, including a commitment to expand trade in natural resources.

Colombia's relations with Israel were strengthened by a trade accord signed by the two countries in April 1988 in which Israel agreed to purchase 2 million tons of Colombian coal during the 1988-91 period. In exchange, Colombia committed itself to buying fourteen Israeli-made Kfir combat jets costing US$60 million. The United States Department of State unofficially approved the sale of the Kfir (jets powered with American-made engines) in 1987.

Colombia - Foreign Policy Decision Making

Under Colombia's Constitution, the president and the rest of the executive branch of government have almost exclusive jurisdictional responsibility for the conduct of foreign relations. The president--charged with formulating and executing foreign policy--clearly was the single most important player in the late 1980s. Despite the existence of committees on foreign relations in both houses, Congress had little role in making foreign policy.

Colombia's foreign policy has shifted frequently as a result of the president's key role and the fact that the nation's presidents have changed every four years. The president appoints and removes cabinet members, chooses diplomats to represent Colombia, and receives foreign diplomats and other representatives. In his responsibility "to direct diplomatic and commercial relations," the president also concludes treaties and conventions with other states, subject to the approval of Congress. The Senate must approve declarations of war made by the president, who controls and directs the armed forces, but he could wage a war without the consent of the Senate if it were urgent to repel a foreign invasion.

The primary agency charged with conducting foreign relations under the president's direction was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Within the foreign service, two positions were almost as important as that of the minister because of their prestige and value in furthering a political career. One was that of ambassador to the United States, a post considered to be one of the stepping stones to the presidency. Presidents López Michelsen, Turbay, and Barco all served as ambassadors to the United States. The other was that of ambassador to the Holy See. The role of the Roman Catholic Church in the life of the nation meant that this ambassador occupied a position of particular prestige and some importance.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not have exclusive responsibility for carrying out Colombia's foreign policies, however. Beginning in the 1960s, foreign policy also was influenced and developed by the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Finance, a variety of semiautonomous government agencies, and economic interest groups. Of the latter, the most important probably was Fedecafe, which maintained its own representatives in various foreign countries to manage Colombia's coffee exports for the government.

The Colombian military also played a key role in determining the nation's foreign policies in incidents involving border disputes or foreign support of domestic subversive groups. For example, the military pressed the Turbay government into suspending diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1981 after Cuba admitted its involvement in an M-19 guerrilla operation in southern Colombia. In 1983, days before President Betancur was to issue an official invitation to Castro to visit Colombia, General Gustavo Matamoros, the Colombian minister of national defense, declared that restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba was a "moral impossibility." Having already defied the military with his peace overtures to, and general amnesty for, the guerrilla groups, Betancur subsequently dropped his plans for rapprochement with Cuba.

Colombia - Bibliography

Arizmendi Posada, Ignacio. Gobernantes Colombianos,
     1819-1983. (2d ed.) Bogotá: Interprint Editores, 1983.

Arrubla, Mario (ed.). Colombia Hoy. Bogotá: Siglo
     Veintiuno Editores de Colombia, 1978.

Bagley, Bruce Michael. "Colombian Politics: Crisis or Continuity,"
     Current History, 86, No. 516, January 1987, 21-24,

Bagley, Bruce Michael, Francisco E. Thoumi, and Juan Gabriel
     Tokatlian (eds.). State and Society in Contemporary
     Colombia: Beyond the National Front. Boulder, Colorado:
     Westview Press, 1986.

Bejarano, Jesús Antonio. "Industrialización y Política Económica,
     1950-1976." Pages 221-70 in Mario Arrubla (ed.), Colombia
     Hoy. Bogotá: Siglo Veintiuno Editores de Colombia, 1978.

Bergquist, Charles W. Coffee and Conflict in Colombia,
     1886-1910. Durham: Duke University Press, 1978.

Berry, R. Albert, Ronald G. Hellman, and Mauricio Solaún (eds.).
     Politics of Compromise: Coalition Government in
     Colombia. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books,

Buy, François. La Colombie Moderne: Terre d'Espérance.
     Paris: Centre d'Etudes Contemporaines, 1968.

Craig, Richard B. "Colombian Narcotics and United States-Colombian
     Relations," Journal of Interamerican Studies and World
     Affairs, 23, No. 3, August 1981, 243-70.

------. "Illicit Drug Traffic: Implications for South American
     Source Countries," Journal of Interamerican Studies and
     World Affairs, 29, No. 3, Summer 1987, 1-32.

Dix, Robert H. The Politics of Colombia. (Politics in
     Latin America: A Hoover Institution Series.) New York:
     Praeger, 1987.

------. "The Varieties of Populism: The Case of Colombia,"
     Western Political Quarterly, 31, No. 3, September
     1978, 334-51.

Gillis, Malcolm, and Charles E. McLure, Jr. "Taxation and Income
     Distribution: The Colombian Tax Reform of 1974," Journal
     of Development Economics, 5, No. 3, September 1978, 233-

Hartlyn, Jonathan. "Colombia: Old Problems, New Opportunities,"
     Current History, 82, No. 468, February 1983, 62-65,

Holt, Pat M. Colombia Today--And Tomorrow. (Praeger
     Contemporary World Series, No. 12.) New York: Praeger, 1964.

Hunter, John M. "Colombia: A Tarnished Showcase," Current
     History, 51, No. 303, November 1966, 276-83, 309.

Kline, Harvey F. "Colombia: Modified Two-Party and Elitist
     Politics." Pages 249-69 in Howard J. Wiarda and Harvey F.
     Kline (eds.), Latin American Politics and
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------. Colombia: Portrait of Unity and Diversity.
     Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1983.

Lernoux, Penny. "State of Siege: Colombia's Slide into
     Dictatorship," Nation, 229, No. 9, September 29,
     1979, 264-67.

McGreevey, William Paul. An Economic History of Colombia,
     1845-1930. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

------. "The Transition to Economic Growth in Colombia." Pages
     23-81 in Roberto Cortes Conde and Shane J. Hunt (eds.),
     The Latin American Economies: Growth and the Export
     Sector, 1880-1930. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1985.

Martz, John D. Colombia: A Contemporary Political Survey.
     Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962.
     Reprint. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1975.

Mora, Carlos A., Margarita Peña, and Patricia Pinilla. Historia
     de Colombia. Bogotá: Editorial Norma, 1977.

"News from Latin America: Colombia--the Crisis Looms," Comercio
     Exterior de Mexico [Mexico City], 27, No. 5, May 1981,

Ocampo, José Antonio. Colombia y la Economía Mundial,
     1830-1910. Bogotá: Siglo Veintiuno Editores de Colombia,

Peeler, John A. "Colombian Parties and Political Development: A
     Reassessment," Journal of Interamerican Studies and World
     Affairs, 18, No. 2, May 1976, 203-24.

Ruhl, J. Mark. "An Alternative to the Bureaucratic-Authoritarian
     Regime: The Case of Colombian Modernization," Inter-
     American Economic Affairs, 35, No. 2, Autumn 1981, 43-69.

------. "Civil-Military Relations in Colombia: A Societal
     Explanation," Journal of Interamerican Studies and World
     Affairs, 23, No. 2, May 1981, 123-46.

------. "Party System in Crisis? An Analysis of Colombia's 1978
     Elections," Inter-American Economic Affairs, 32, No.
     4, Winter 1978, 29-45.

Sanders, Thomas G. Colombian Politics in 1982. (American
     Universities Field Staff. Fieldstaff Reports. South America
     Series, No. 25.) Hanover, New Hampshire: AUFS, 1982.

Santamaría Salamanca, Ricardo, and Gabriel Silva Luján. Proceso
     Político en Colombia: Del Frente Nacional a la Apertura
     Democrática. Bogotá: Fondo Editorial CEREC, 1984.

Thoumi, Francisco E. "Some Implications of the Growth of the
     Underground Economy in Colombia," Journal of Interamerican
     Studies and World Affairs, 29, No. 2, Summer 1987, 35-53.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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