Colombia History in 1990’s

By | December 15, 2021

Since the end of 1992 Colombia has again plunged into a spiral of generalized violence. Drug traffickers with their private armies and their militias, left-wing guerrilla groups, some of which have been active for over thirty years, but with ideological connotations by now faded and often even willing to fight in the pay of drug traffickers, an army that carries out the its repressive task with brutal methods and hundreds of far-right paramilitary groups, with evident links to the armed forces, are the architects of this violence. The main victims, in addition to politicians, judges, journalists and policemen not willing to be bribed by drug traffickers, are the residents of rural areas, mostly Indians, accused of providing help now to the guerrillas now to the traffickers, and for this persecuted by some and from others, as well as from the army and paramilitary formations. The dramatic consequence of this situation is the very high number of ‘internal refugees’ (as well as900. 000 in mid- 1997), forced to abandon their homes to escape a violence in the face of which the discredited institutions of the state seem powerless, from which entire regions of the country in fact escape their control. For Colombia 2001, please check

The Constitution promulgated in July 1991 and the holding of new legislative elections were not sufficient to promote greater participation of citizens in public life, nor to renew political personnel: still characterized by a low turnout, the consultations of October 1991 confirmed the majority liberal in both chambers and downsized the representation of the former M- 19 guerrillas, who only a few months earlier, on the occasion of the election of the Constituent Assembly (December 1990), had seemed capable of breaking the traditional duopoly of the liberal and conservative.

The opposition of the armed forces and the activities of right-wing paramilitary formations contributed to the failure of the negotiations initiated by the government of President Colombia Gaviria Trujillo with the main guerrilla organizations still active and with the representatives of the major drug ‘cartels’; therefore in November 1992 the bomb attacks resumed on a large scale, the work of both the guerrillas and the drug traffickers. The executive reacted by significantly increasing security costs and seemed on the verge of inflicting a decisive blow to the drug trade, and in particular to the Medellín organization, after the killing of its leader, P. Escobar, in December 1993. From the same month and until February 1994,moreover, against the traffickers of Cali, US troops were deployed in the Cauca valley, alongside the Colombian army, officially engaged in a humanitarian mission for the construction of roads, schools and health facilities.

The hard line of the government was rewarded by the electorate in the legislative consultations of March 1994, which confirmed the liberals in power, whose candidate E. Samper Pizano was elected to the presidency of the Republic in the following June. Despite the arrest of the leaders of the Cali cartel in the summer of 1995, the credibility of the administration led by the new president was severely questioned by the accusations, made against Samper himself, of having financed his electoral campaign with generous contributions precisely from part of the Cali traffickers. The result was a marked deterioration in relations with the United States; the latter in March 1996they excluded Colombia from the list of countries that, in their opinion, had made progress in the fight against drug trafficking, automatically preventing Bogotá from receiving much of the US aid and making it more difficult for it to access important international funding. Relations with Washington remained difficult even after the acquittal of the president, approved by a parliamentary commission and confirmed by the Chamber of Deputies in June 1996. From the end of August of the same year the government had to face a massive offensive by guerrillas belonging to the Fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and to the Ejército de liberación nacional (ELN), unleashed coinciding with the outbreak in numerous southern departments of violent protests by peasants dedicated to the cultivation of coca, against the continuation of government programs to eradicate the crop (programs that were suspended in March 1997). New difficulties were created for the Samper government by the protests against the emergency economic measures adopted by decree in January 1997to contain the increase in public spending, while the intransigence of the armed forces proved futile in the first half of the year for the executive’s attempts to re-establish a dialogue with the left-wing guerrillas. To this end, and to reconnect with the United States government which had made the granting of new military aid to Colombia conditional on greater respect for human rights, in July 1997 Samper replaced some senior officers in the armed forces and police. Relations with Washington further improved after December of the same year, when a constitutional amendment was promulgated that reintroduced the possibility (excluded by the 1991 Constitution) to extradite Colombian citizens for crimes they committed abroad,1998 Bogotá was able to begin to partially benefit from US funding for the fight against drug trafficking. Unlike the administrative elections of October 1997 and the legislative elections of March 1998, characterized by low popular participation, marred by new offensives by the left-wing guerrillas and which ended with the confirmation of the liberals as the main political force, the presidential consultations of May-June 1998 recorded a new attitude of the FARC and ELN, which refrained from any armed action, saw for the first time in a few decades the percentage of voters exceed the threshold of 50%, but above all they determined the defeat of Horacio Serpa Uribe, liberal candidate, by A. Pastrana Arango, candidate of the Partido social conservador.

In July 1998, a month before his official inauguration, Pastrana Arango personally met the leader of the FARC in the Colombian forest; at the same time, thanks to the mediation of the German Church, talks were held in Germany between representatives of Colombian civil society and the ELN. Despite these signs of readiness to start negotiations to pacify the country, in August 1998 the guerrillas did not refrain from the usual display of military strength exhibited at each change of government, unleashing a series of coordinated attacks in at least 17 departments. In the following months, and in the spring of 1999, peace negotiations were repeatedly initiated and interrupted with both the FARC and the ELN, whose total strength amounted to 15,000 men.

Colombia History in 1990's