government The 1991 constitution, with 397 articles, and one of the longest in the world, provides for an elected president and vice president; a bicameral congress consisting of a senate (102 seats), elected nationally, and a house of representatives (161 seats), elected on a regional, department basis. Although it does not have a fully federal system, Colombia is divided into 32 departments and one capital district, enjoying considerable autonomy, with governors appointed by the president and locally elected legislatures.
Until it was conquered by Spain in the 16th century, the area was inhabited by the Chibcha Indians. From 1538 Colombia formed part of a colony known as New Granada, comprising Colombia, Panama, and most of Venezuela. In 1819 the area included Ecuador and became independent as Gran Colombia, a state set up by Sim n Bol var.
The founding president of Colombia, General Francisco de Paula Santander, imposed strong central control over the disparate regions of the new state. Regional rebellions, such as the revolt of the supremos (1839-42), were put down by later rulers. In 1886, President Rafael N* ez imposed a centralist and authoritarian constitution on the nation.
La Violencia In 1948 the left-wing mayor of Bogot was assassinated, and there followed a decade of near civil war, La Violencia , during which it is thought that over 250,000 people died. Left-wing guerrilla activity continued. In 1957, in an effort to halt the violence, the Conservative and Liberal parties formed a National Front, alternating the presidency between them. They were challenged 1970 by the National Popular Alliance (ANAPO), with a special appeal to the working classes, but the Conservative-Liberal coalition continued, and when in 1978 the Liberals won majorities in both chambers of congress and the presidency, they kept the National Front accord.
antidrug campaign In 1982 the Liberals kept their majorities in congress, but Dr Belisario Betancur won the presidency for the Conservatives. He sought a truce with the left-wing guerrillas by granting them an amnesty and freeing political prisoners. When the minister of justice, who had been using harsh measures to curb drug dealing, was assassinated in 1984, Betancur reacted by strengthening his antidrug campaign.
In the 1986 elections Liberal Virgilio Barco Vargas won the presidency by a record margin. Three months after taking office, he announced the end of the National Front accord, despite a provision in the constitution by which the opposition party could participate in government if it so wished. President Vargas declared a new campaign against cocaine traffickers following the assassination in Aug of Luis Carlos Galan, the leading candidate for the 1990 presidential elections. A bombing campaign was undertaken by the cartels in retaliation for confiscation of property and extradition to the US of leading cartel members, but the Colombian security forces scored a major victory Dec 1989 with the killing in a shoot-out of drug lord Jos Rodriguez Gacha.
new constitution Assembly elections were held Dec 1990, giving the Liberal Party a five-seat lead over the April 19th movement (M-19). Under President Cesar Gaviria Trujillo a new constitution was adopted July 1991 which included a clause prohibiting the extradition of Colombians for trial in other countries. As a result, several leading drug traffickers surrendered or were arrested 1991, including the head of the Medellin cocaine cartel, Pablo Escobar. In congressional elections held Oct 1991, the Liberal Party retained its control of the senate. Escobar escaped from prison July 1992, leading President Gaviria to declare a state of emergency. Escobar was shot while trying to evade arrest Dec 1993.
Columbia is a country in South America, bounded N by the Caribbean Sea, W by the Pacific Ocean, NW corner by Panama, E and NE by Venezuela, SE by Brazil, and SW by Peru and Ecuador. From 1538 Colombia formed part of a colony known as New Granada, comprising Colombia, Panama, and most of Venezuela. In 1819 the area included Ecuador and became independent as Gran Colombia, a state set up by Sim n Bol var.