How did Colombia become an independent country?

About the country of Colombia



The Republic of Colombia (República de Colombia) is the fourth largest country in South America and is located in the north of the continent. Around 48 million people live in an area three times the size of Germany. Around 8.4 million of them live in the capital Bogotá, which is 2640 m above sea level. NN is relatively central in the middle of the country. Colombia borders Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela.

The former Spanish colony has been independent from Spain since 1810. Independence is celebrated on July 20th, the national holiday. The inhabitants of Colombia are as diverse as the history and the country itself. Descendants of European immigrants and African slaves, indigenous groups and mestizos make up the multifaceted Colombian society. The official language of Colombia is Spanish; there are also at least 65 recognized indigenous languages. The diversity of Colombia is not only felt at the linguistic level. The various cultural influences are also reflected in music, dance and art. More information about the role of art in Colombia can be found in the article by our sponsored Zaida.


Colombia is a presidential democracy. Since the election in 2018, the current head of state and government has been the right-wing conservative Iván Duque Márquez, who belongs to the “Centro Democrático” party. More on his domestic political measures can be found at the end of the section “Armed Conflict and Peace Treaty”.

Human rights

Although the situation has improved significantly in recent years, there are still many problems that seem to be worsening at the moment. Despite the peace treaty that has entered into force, Colombia has not yet found peace. Paramilitary groups, some guerrillas and other criminal gangs continue to threaten the civilian population. Colombia is the country with the highest number of internally displaced persons in the world. There are many unexplained missing persons.

Human rights activists, as well as activists who campaign for environmental and nature protection, against large companies, trade unionists, etc., live dangerously. They are often threatened, not infrequently even killed. 172 activists murdered last year (2018); By May 2019 alone, at least 51 activists were murdered this year (El Espectador). The situation was already problematic under the Santos government; however, with the change of government, violence against social activists also increased.

The state often reacts violently to protests, e.g. by students or by indigenous, Afro-Colombian and agricultural communities. More information on freedom of the press in Colombia can be found in the article by our sponsored Natalia. She also wrote an article about the situation of women in Colombia, which is still difficult.


The landscape of Colombia is very varied. Due to the large differences in altitude caused by the Andes and the associated differences in temperature and precipitation, the country includes tropical, subtropical and temperate climates. Rainforests (belonging to the Amazon rainforest or Orinocia), cloud forests, mountain forests, savannas and desert-like areas as well as high mountains have formed. In addition, Colombia borders in the north on the Atlantic or the Caribbean Sea and in the west on the Pacific. The total coastline is more than 3000 km. In general, Colombia can be divided into five major areas: The Andes, the Caribbean lowlands, the Pacific lowlands and the Amazon / Orinocia. The natural diversity leads to a very high level of biodiversity. The number of species of flora and fauna in Colombia is the second largest in the world. More information on the biodiversity of Colombia and the threat to it can be found in the article by our sponsored Gloria Isabel.


About 80% of the population belong to the Roman Catholic Church, the remaining 20% ​​are divided among other, mainly Christian evangelical groups. About 1% of the population belongs to indigenous religions.


The country's infrastructure is also very unevenly developed due to the large forest and swamp areas and large differences in altitude. The economic and cultural center of the country is primarily the capital Bogotá, but other large cities such as Barranquilla, Cali, Medellín and Cartagena de Indias are also important hubs. There are major differences between the development of infrastructure in rural and urban regions.

Colombia's economy is mainly dominated by agricultural and industrial products. For example, Colombia exports coffee, cut flowers and bananas. Other important economic sectors are tourism and services, as well as the extraction of raw materials (including crude oil, hard coal), which are also exported. Our sponsored Nathaly reports in her report on the open pit mine in Colombia which social-ecological problems this brings with it.

Overall, the gross domestic product per capita (GDP) in 2017 was 6,301.59 US dollars (World Bank). The Human Development Index is calculated by the United Nations as an indicator of prosperity and has a value between 0 and 1. The HDI of Colombia in 2017 was 0.747, which puts the country in 90th place among the countries examined (Human Development Reports). The GINI coefficient can also be used to measure the distribution of wealth among the population. With a value of 49.70 (2017), it unfortunately reveals a very large unequal distribution of income (Knoema) for Colombia, which leads to corresponding differences in prosperity between population groups within cities, but also between rural and urban areas.

Armed conflict and peace treaty

The big difference between rich and poor is, as in many former colonies, historical heritage. 52% of all private land in Colombia is owned by a percentage of all landowners (kolko - Menschenrechte für Columbia e.V.). In particular, this unequal distribution of land led to the founding of the FARC ("Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia" / Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in the 1960s, which pursued the Marxist ideal that aimed to close the gap between rich and poor, the social End injustice and redistribute land ownership more fairly. The basically not bad ideas, however, tried to implement them with violence, through displacement and expropriation. The civilian population in particular suffered from this, especially in rural regions. The actual goals quickly faded into the background. For the most part, they financed themselves through drug trafficking.

The government responded with counter-violence. The armed conflict between the guerrillas and the state lasted for more than 50 years. It was tightened again with the right-wing conservative President Álvaro Uribe Vélez. From his harsh and violent crackdown on the guerrillas, paramilitary groups developed that wanted to act independently against the FARC, but also received support from official sources. However, they hardly differed from the guerrillas in terms of their actions and their violence and still cause immense damage to the civilian population of Colombia. The result: more civilians dead, more displaced people. Colombia now has around 7.7 million internally displaced persons.

After several unsuccessful attempts to conclude a peace treaty, the government under Juan Manuel Santos managed to conclude a peace treaty with the FARC in 2016. Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize for this. At the time of the negotiations, the FARC were militarily weakened; The right-wing liberal government primarily pursued the interest of opening up the economy to the international market, so it was also striving to stabilize the situation.

Despite this success, the Colombian people initially voted against the peace treaty for various reasons in a referendum. Overall, the turnout was very low. In the run-up to the right wing ex-President Uribe propaganda against the treaty, which, in his opinion, would let the FARC get off too lightly. His point of view was particularly represented by the urban population, while those directly affected by the conflict, i.e. primarily the rural population, largely voted in favor of the treaty. The treaty was also criticized by left-wing political groups, on the one hand because the victims of the conflict did not have a say in the peace negotiations, and on the other hand, the Santos government was accused of failing to implement the treaty and its promises. The contract was revised and came into force a little later.

Internationally, the treaty is highly regarded: on the one hand, it targets a number of important causes of the conflict, such as the unequal distribution of land ("reforma rural"), the barely possible political participation and drug trafficking ("Programa de Sustitución de Cultivos Ilícitos") ), on the other hand, the focus is on the victims of the conflict. The “integral system for truth, justice, compensation and guarantees of non-repetition” (“Sistema integral de Verdad, Justicia, Reparación y No Repetición”), which deals with the search for the disappeared and the finding of the truth, is particularly important , as well as a special jurisdiction. Shorter sentences for the perpetrators should be possible in exchange for establishing the truth. However, the court cannot investigate civilians and state officials involved in the conflict. The FARC surrendered their weapons and in return was recognized as a political party. You should also receive help with reintegration.

However, the implementation of the peace treaty by the government is slow. Promised help for the reintegration of the FARC often fails to materialize, some members return to illegality due to a lack of prospects; “reforma rural”, i.e. the distribution and recognition of land, as well as the expansion of the infrastructure, are also making slow progress. The same applies to the fight against drug trafficking. The area of ​​coca cultivation has even increased again. Coca substitution programs stipulated in the peace treaty that guarantee farmers financial support in growing legal agricultural products - in order to counteract the financial incentive of coca cultivation - do not work. There is often no support. Colombia does not seem to be prepared for the so-called “postconflicto”. There is a lack of funds and staff. The power vacuum created by the withdrawal of the FARC in many rural areas should have been filled by the government, but is instead still beyond the control of the government. Paramilitary groups and criminal gangs now rule there and continue to threaten and displace the population. They also carry on drug trafficking. There can be no question of peace here.

Under the new, right-wing government under Iván Duque, Colombia is moving further away from real peace. Duque broke off the peace negotiations with the guerrilla group ELN ("Ejército de Liberación Nacional"). He also has a restrictive drug policy that penalizes the small consumer at the end of the chain, but does not address the main problem. In his “ruta futura” plan presented in December 2018, he also plans to promote the destruction of coca fields by spraying glyphosate. Duque is bound by the peace treaty with the FARC, but he has plenty of leeway to change it, which he is already trying to do. Our sponsored Natalia wrote an article about the dangers for special jurisdiction by Duque as part of her journalism studies.


Federal Foreign Office: Country information Colombia:

Human Development Report:,

Knoema database:ösungen

Federal Agency for Political Education:

FU Berlin:

Fact Sheet Colombia:

Working group Switzerland Colombia: geht-es-dem-frieden/

Fundación Paz y Reconciliación:

Oficina del alto Comisionado para la Paz:

The Latin America magazine:

CINEP / PPP & CERAC: (Quintoinforme deverificación de la implementación delAcuerdoFinal de Paz en Colombia para los Verificadores Internacionales Felipe González y José Mujica (AF 6.3.2)) -Informe-Secretara-Tcnica.pdf

Tu ventana abierta a América (CSPP):

Arte Documentation: The War After (

Arte Documentation: Finding Peace (

Spanish-language documentation: "Nos están matando", el grito de los líderes sociales en Colombia (

Verdad abierta:



Amnesty International:

El Espectador:, / noticias / nacional / onu-lanza-alerta-por-aumento-lideres-sociales-asesinados-en-colombia-articulo-859926

Contagio Radio:

Documental: SANGRE Y TIERRA - Resistencia Indígena del Norte del Cauca ( fbclid = IwAR2T8Zu1BS0MrEr5MVkRf4aZ4eitcftdu6aVdZWAWQ1laVKEwTb5L3hnJAo)