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Country Study of Colombia

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Colombia
The Independence Movement

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.
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Colombia
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 (see Gran Colombia , ch. 1). 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 (see Consolidation of Political Divisions , ch. 1).
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Colombia
Historical Background

Unlike the militaries of several Latin American countries, the Colombian military did not significantly affect national developments during the nineteenth century. During the war for independence from Spain that began in 1810--the period from which most Latin American armies, including Colombia's, trace their official traditions--patriots from the territory that is now Colombia played a subordinate role to that of leaders from other parts of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. Many of the Colombian patriots' key military leaders, with the important exception of General Francisco de Paula Santander, were killed during the initial phase of the independence struggle that ended in 1816; their troops, which consisted mainly of poor, uneducated peasants, gradually came under the command of forces led by the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar Palacio. Indeed, in 1819 Bolívar became the first president of Gran Colombia (see The Independence Movement , ch. 1).
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Country Study of Bolivia

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Bolivia
INTRODUCTION

After becoming an independent republic in 1825 under the presidency of its liberator and namesake, Simón Bolívar Palacio, Bolivia proved difficult to govern and hold together; its heterogeneous, illiterate population lacked any sense of national self-identity or patriotism. Regional rivalries that antedated independence remained rife. Because the Indians remained culturally and physically isolated and illiterate, most of them probably were unaware that they lived in a country called Bolivia until well into the twentieth century. The distinctive heritage of architecture, painting, and sculpture left by the Spaniards was of little use to the Indian masses, whose daily life was a struggle to survive. Furthermore, Bolivia was 2.2 million square kilometers, or more than twice its present size. During its first 110 years, the nation lost approximately half of its territory in wars and controversial bilateral deals. The most traumatic loss resulted from the War of the Pacific (1879-83), in which Chile seized Bolivia's seacoast and rich nitrate fields in the Atacama Desert.
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Bolivia
INTRODUCTION

A number of exceptional leaders also have governed from the Palacio Quemado, or Burnt Palace (the unofficial name given the rebuilt Palace of Government after it was burned by a mob in 1875). In 1983 the La Paz newspaper Última Hor polled thirty-nine prominent Bolivians in various professions on which seven presidents they considered "most significant." The final list (in chronological order) consisted mostly of historical figures: General Antonio José de Sucre Alcalá (1825-28), General Andrés de Santa Cruz y Calahumana (1829-39), Belzú, Melgarejo (who received a record fifteen negative votes, as well as two positive ones), Aniceto Arce Ruíz (1888-92), Ismael Montes Gamboa (1904-09 and 1913-17), and Víctor Paz Estenssoro (1952-56, 1960-64, and 1985- 89). Those garnering the most favorable votes were Santa Cruz and Paz Estenssoro (thirty-three and thirty-two, respectively). The next highest-rated president, Belzú, curiously garnered twenty- one favorable ballots and no negative ones, despite having ruled Bolivia with a reign of terror.
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Bolivia
Construction of Bolivia: Bolívar, Sucre, and Santa Cruz

By 1817 Upper Peru was relatively quiet and under the control of Lima. After 1820 the Conservative Party criollos supported General Pedro Antonio de Olañeta, a Charcas native, who refused to accept the measures by the Spanish Cortes (legislature) to conciliate the colonies after the Liberal Party revolution in Spain. Olañeta, convinced that these measures threatened royal authority, refused to join the royalist forces or the rebel armies under the command of Simón Bolívar Palacio and Antonio José de Sucre Alcalá. Olañeta did not relinquish his command even after the Peruvian royalists included him and his forces in the capitulation agreement following their defeat in the Battle of Ayacucho in 1824, the final battle of the wars of independence in Latin America. Olañeta continued a quixotic war until Sucre's forces defeated his forces, and he was killed by his own men on April 1, 1825, in a battle that effectively ended Spanish rule in Upper Peru.
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Bolivia
Rural Society

The reforms in the 1950s brought extensive changes to Aymara and Quechua communities. Agrarian reform and universal suffrage meant more than simply transferring land titles, eliminating onerous work obligations, or conferring voting rights. Many of these reforms had already been reiterated in every legal and constitutional change since the time of Simón Bolívar Palacio, who began the postindependence era with decrees calling for distribution of land to landless Indians, equality for all, and the end of compulsory labor. The changes of the 1950s fundamentally altered Indians' relationship to the larger society. Political and economic links to town, city, and nation no longer remained the exclusive monopoly of mestizos and whites. Increasingly, Indians themselves served as their own intermediaries and power brokers (see Ethnic Groups , this ch.).
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Bolivia
CONSTITUTIONAL BACKGROUND

On November 26, 1826, the Bolivarian constitution, written in Lima by the liberator Simón Bolívar Palacio, replaced the original document and instituted a fourfold separation of powers among a lifetime presidency, an independent judiciary, a tricameral congress, and an electoral body. The tricameral congress comprised the Senate and the Chamber of Tribunes, whose members had fixed terms, as well as a Chamber of Censors, whose members served for life. Theoretically, the Senate was responsible for codifying laws and reorienting church and court officials, the Chamber of Tribunes possessed general legislative powers, and the Chamber of Censors had oversight powers that included impeachment of members of the executive. In reality, the legislature's key functions were to name the president and to approve a list of successors submitted by the president. One of the long-lasting effects of the Bolivarian constitution was the establishment of an executive-based system. The Bolivarian constitution reflected the Spanish tradition of bureaucratic patrimonialism in which power rested in the executive branch. Historians have argued retrospectively that Bolívar's constitution suited the nation's political structure better than the liberal constitutions that followed.
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