The Republic of Greater Colombia (Span: Republica de Gran Colombia), known as Colombia, is a major South American power that, since its emergence in the late 1880s as the continent's dominant power, has contended with the United States and archenemy Brazil for regional supremacy and influence, and in recent years, global influence. Its capital is at Bogota, the principal language is Spanish, and 95% of the country is Roman Catholic. Alongside the French, Chinese, Japanese and Americans, Colombia is one of the Big Five global superpowers.
Independence from Spain and Bolivarian Rule
Competition with Mexico and United States
Emergence as Regional Power and Pacific War
Ruiz Era, Democratic Reform and Regional Strife
Having withdrawn from the bloody Pacific War with heavy losses in 1928, Colombia needed a sense of internal stability. The Congress had churned through several majority coalitions and had ousted a President in its first vote of no-confidence. Sensing that his popularity was quickly dissolving and that his "Poor Man's Party" was falling apart, populist President Samuel Uribe announced that he would resign in 1930 and step down as leader of the Reform Party.
The Reform Party had dominated Colombian politics since the turn of the century, but this was a clear hard alignment nationally away from Reform. The Republican Party was a generally center-right party with strong appeal in coastal states and in Bogota herself - the Christian Democrats were their clear rival, as a hard-right party. The hard-left Social Party was similar to Reform, only more radical.
Thus, when in 1930 Uribe stepped down and new Reform leader Julian Salvador took power, there was a clear power vacuum. Salvador was considered a worthless stopgap President; Colombians were looking for a new strongman similar to the legendary Bolivar, or the Iglesias of recent memory.
The general election was agreed upon by different party leaders to be held in August of 1931. Salvador would stoically lead the doomed Reform into the election, while Felipe Barracas would lead the favored Republicans. The Christian Democrats nominated the obscure Rafael Homa, who was an indigenous Andean, and the Socialists nomited Humberto Ruiz, a popular former Reform Party heavyweight who jumped ship in the late 1920's, while sensing the impending doom of his party.
The Social Party won a surprising victory over the Republicans due to their appeal to Reform's former coalition of poor agricultural workers in the countryside and the city's industrial laborers. Ruiz soon became the lightning-rod President the Socialists envisioned him to be; between 1931 and 1946, when he finally retired, Ruiz was an effective and calculated leader.
Ruiz's approach to foreign policy was partially the reason for his great success and for the emergence of the Social Party as a major political force in Colombia. His American contemporary was Herbert Hoover, whose National Party was far more right-oriented than the leftist regime in Colombia. However, the two men formed a tenuous friendship during the six years they overlapped in office. When Robert Taft came to power in the late 1930's in the United States, he signed off on an extremely favorable trade arrangement with Colombia that included a provision giving Colombia shared partnership over the Panama Canal in Colombia's Panama province.
Ruiz recognized that other South American nations were beginning to modernize and emerge from the shadow of their long-dominant northern neighbor - most notably among these, Brazil and Argentina. Argentina's Juan Peron and Brazil's military regime were quickly working to build up their armies and economies to finally square off in the long-awaited showdown between the continent's established power and the newly powerful nations. Ruiz worked as hard as possible to keep the rapidly escalating military environment in South America stable, and signed off on a major treaty with Peru that ensured mutual defense.
The 1940's were marked with major democratic reforms - Ruiz began to create a more fair and equal voting system in rural provinces, and made several radical amendments to the Constitution to make it harder for members of Congress and other major bureaucratic bodies to be influenced by companies. Corruption saw a major decrease and the justice system was overhauled starting in 1945, a project continued by Ruiz's successor, Hector Sanchez.
The Sanchez era was brief and uneventful - in 1949, tired of nearly twenty years of Socialist control and without the charismatic Ruiz around any more (Ruiz having died suddenly in 1948), the Christian Democrats took power in a surprising landslide, taking advantage of the more open election format the Socialists themselves had built, in a twist of political irony.
The Christian Democrats were a surprisingly successful builder of Colombian commerce, although the internal economy suffered through the 1950's as the national government focused on foreign investments and enterprises. American companies began to dominate, especially in the manufacturing sector, using the trade agreements signed under Ruiz to their benefit. The Christian Democrat leader from 1949 to 1956, Tomas Bondejas, was considered a "close, personal friend" of the United States President, Prescott Bush. In Colombia, however, the populace saw Bondejas as a puppet of American business interests, and in the 1955 local elections, the Christian Democrats suffered devastating losses. Bondejas announced he would step down as Party leader after the general elections, held in 1956. The Christian Democrats narrowly survived the onslaught of the Republicans and Socialists, and Oscar Montero took over as a more moderate, internally-focused leader.
It was thus in the late 1950's and early 60's that Colombia "reclaimed" much of its own national infrastructure, earning it a deep-seated unpopularity in the United States. President Richard Van Dyke said in 1967 that his primary goal was to remove Diego Ortegas, Montero's successor, from power by any means necessary.
This announcement came immediately before the Argentine-Brazilian War of 1967-1970. The Brazilian victory resulted in a massive and sudden power shift in South America - the very powerful and dangerous Brazil had emerged as a major Atlantic naval power, dominated commerce with southern Africa and even all the way to India, and considered Colombia its blood enemy. With the Republican Party suffering from weak local elections, the 1972 general election took on newfound importance for the Socialists, and to counter the growing power of Brazil headed by General Hugo Savala, Miguel Teguis was elected in Colombia over the weak Ortegas, who was doing little to counter the Brazilians.
Triago immediately began funding a guerrilla faction operating out of northern Brazil called the republicanos, who fiercely opposed the Savala regime. As Brazil's power grew, both France and the United States took notice; the US considered Brazil a major threat to their dominance of the Western Hemisphere, and promised traditional ally Colombia aid. Brazil saw that the US-Colombia alliance was building up for a massive offensive against Brazil already in 1976, and made sure to make close friends with the French Empire.
With a pro-war President in place following Adam Eisler's election in the US in 1976, Colombia began to escalate the conflict in Brazil, and by 1978, it had erupted into a full-scale war, with the American forces on their side. Despite initial success, Teguis retired suddenly in 1978 due to health complications, and the ineffective Carlos Triago took over for him. Shortly thereafter, Eisler was assassinated, leaving Neill Wallace, the new US President, focusing on the sudden domestic upheaval. As a result, the fighting soon bogged down in both Colombia and Brazil as the casualties mounted, and Savala's steady stream of supplies from France continued well into the 1980's.
1980's and Modern Power
In 1983, the Colombian Congress voted Triago out of power and elected Rafael Gusto Villana as its new President in the second vote of no-confidence in Colombian history. Villana, a member of the conservative Republican Party, immediately escalated Colombia's efforts in the Brazilian War, sensing that the American effort was dwindling as internal issues in the United States created difficulty for President Shannon to continue to wage war in South America. Villana reorganized the stagnant Colombian military effort and poured billions of pesaros into an escalation of combat in the Amazon Basin.
With the withdrawal of American forces in 1984, the only remaining help for the Republicanos in Brazil was Villana's government, which in 1985 successfully tested its first nuclear device at a remote location in the Pacific. That same year, the Colombian army's full-scale invasion of Brazil resulted in the capture of not only Manaus but control of the entire Amazon Basin. With American forces withdrawn, French interest in the largely regional conflict dwindled and with the continued Colombian presence and support, the Republicanos toppled the Savala regime on February 3rd, 1987, after thirteen years of civil war.
The public sentiment in Colombia was incredible. The Americans had admitted defeat after six bloody years of war and left Colombia to clean up their mess in Brazil, and in return the Colombian army had toppled the regime the US had fought so hard and in such futility to destroy. Colombia slowly began to realize that they didn't need America anymore, and when American business interests came flooding towards a friendlier Brazil, Villana stood up and denied the forays. South America would answer to Colombia first, and America second.
This massive power shift in the late 1980's contributed to the American economy's crash in the early 1990's and the beginning of Colombia's "Coming Out Party". Villana retired in 1990 and Felipe Ramon Hernandez was elected his successor. Hernandez worked closely with American business interests - especially once John Burwin was elected President - to modernize the Colombian economy. In the 1990's, Colombia became one of the world's leading manufacturers, exporters, and banking hubs. Barranquilla grew into one of the world's fastest-growing and most vibrant financial centers. Caracas, Quito, Panama and Cartagena came onto the map as new sites for business ventures, and Colombia's canal control finally became useful as the foreign companies that had owned the canal rights for so many decades finally left in 1997.
Hernandez himself stepped down in 2001, and Jose Amara succeeded him. He oversaw the 2002 Bogota Summer Olympics, which were marred by the attempted murder of members of the Alaskan national soccer team and numerous other financial and security debacles, including the labor riot that nearly compromised the closing ceremony. With the botched Olympics overshadowing the rest of the Amara presidency, he was ousted in the 2004 general election which brought the Social Party to power, albeit with a very thin margin. The centrist Carlos Arenas was made President, and his personal distaste for the current Leno presidency in the United States has caused him to form a closer bond with the East Asian bloc as the millenium's first decade draws to a close.
As per Colombian law, a new general election is scheduled for June 2010, on an unspecified date - Arenas is believed to be fighting for his life against Cristo Zapata, known popularly as "Zeta," who is the leader of the resurgent Christian Democrats.
Colombia enjoys its role as one of the world's preeminent exporters of material goods - almost 25% of all imported goods worldwide find their origin in Colombia. This has resulted in an extremely wealthy upper class in Colombia as well as a growing middle class. In 2005, Colombian software giant Informatico announced the release of the first-ever computer operating system designed by Spanish-speaking engineers with Spanish-speaking users in mind; while it is visually and operationally similar to Windstream's Millennium and Vortex systems, it is still a significant achievement.
Colombia is still a largely rural nation; almost 65% of the population lives in the countryside. Still, it is home to an ever-growing urban environment, and the city of Cartagena is rapidly becoming one of the Western hemisphere's prime vacation centers due to its safety, beaches and vibrant nightlife - college students from the United States and across South America have made Cartagena one of the prime resort destinations.
On that same note, Colombia's major industrial ports in Cali, Barranquilla and Caracas have fostered enormous growth in the Colombian shipping and naval industry; today, Colombia has the world's third-largest navy, behind the United States and France. Colombia also is a major fuel exporter - its rich Caribbean resources are the lifeblood of the country's booming economy, and current President Carlos Arenas signed a blockbuster trade agreement with Argentina in 2007 agreeing to extremely generous oil import rights and for Argentine oil companies to drill in Colombian territory.
Medellin, Bogota, Quito and Jacinto are major economic centers as well, especially Bogota, the capital, although the general trend in Colombian population migration has been towards the coasts in recent years, due to the lucrative tourism industry and growing shipping market. One of the world's largest cruise ship companies, Destiny Cruises, has its international headquarters located in Quito, despite being founded by Americans. Today, it is run largely by Colombians. Colombian car manufacturers also hold weight in the competitive modern global economy; as the American auto industry is losing its worldwide dominance, Colombian companies Boli, Feres and Vias are gaining ground in the international market to compete with French, Japanese and Chinese automakers.