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Colombia: Background and Traditions of the Armed Forces
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Background and Traditions of the Armed Forces > 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.

Data as of December 1988

Last Updated: December 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Colombia was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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