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In the Congress of Cucuta, in 1821, Simón Bolívar was elected President and Francisco de Paula Santander became Vice-president.
Bolivar did not function as president for too long, as one of the goals in the Congress was to free Venezuela and Quito, claimed by the Congress as part of the former Viceroyalty of New Granada and now the Republic of Colombia.
The southern campaign
Bolivar decided to take a leading role in the southern campaign and went South to Quito to liberate it.
After the battle of Pichincha, freeing Quito, Guayuaquil proclaimed her independence. Both Bolívar and San Martín, who had just freed Lima, rushed to Guayaquil to ensure if this important port should be part of Colombia or Peru.
In a meeting held in Guayaquil (the POD for this timeline), an agreement was reached to liberate Peru and to ensure some kind of union. San Martín was given a mission to consolidate the South (Chile and Rio de La Plata) into this union, and Bolivar would be in charge of the Liberation Peru.
However, after a first battle in Junín, tensions in Colombia required Bolivar to delegate Sucre to finish the job, and Bolivar came back to Santafé.
Tensions in Colombia
In 1824, the divisions between New-Granadians and Venezuelans were getting out of hand. Particularly there was a tension between Vice-President Francisco de Paula Santander, and the Commander of the Armies of Venezuela José Antonio Páez.
The leadership in Quito was also angried with Santander's desition to include the North Sierra (Popayán), as part of the department of New Granada, given some historical claims that the North Sierra was once part of the Hearing of Quito.
After his come back from Peru, President Bolívar called for a new congress to deal with all those differences and this congress took place in the city of Santa Marta. The Congress of Santa Marta of 1826 was decisive to preserve the union.
The dream of a united Hispanic-America
After the Congress of Santa Marta, Bolivar attended the The Congress of Panama of 1826.
Representatives of most of the new republics in Hispanic America, as well as from the United States, gathered and discussed on several ways to promote a union between the different nations.
The most concrete result of that congress, was an alliance between Mexico and Colombia to free the Hispanic Caribbean. Which concretized itself in the Colombian-Mexican Caribbean Adventure of 1828.
The dream is over
The Caribbean campaign was a disaster, and that same year Peru took armed possession of some territories in the South over which Peru had historical claims: Guayaquil, Puno and Maynas. The Peruvian-Colombian War of 1828 was the first of four different conflicts between Peru and Colombia.
After the settlement, Colombia lost Puno and Maynas but preserved Guayaquil.
These two events convinced Bolívar to relinquish his dream on a united Hispanic-America, and to concentrate in the union of Colombia.
Keeping United the Republic
Differences between New Granada and Venezuela were deep, and while the Congress of Santa Marta had given a framework to deal with them, there were much work to do yet.
Bolivar envisioned three main difficulties: the poor communications, a not too good permanent army, and a small sense of Colombian identity.
While developing Colombianness was very hard to deal with, and probably required a couple of generations, Bolívar, Santander and Urdaneta decided to attack the other two points, in a way that could ease a union.
All regional militias and armies were to become one regular army with a unified command under Páez. This army should be trained to deal with local insurrections and with any attack by a foreign army.
A Navy was crucial, for both the Caribbean and the Pacific. A plan to modernize the navy was implemented.
Finally, a program for constructing and modernizing the road network was designed, and roads should be designed to connect all regional centers together, rather than communicate them to a metropole in Europe.