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Colombia: Foreign Military Influence
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Background and Traditions of the Armed Forces > Geopolitical Interests


The first major foreign influence on the development of the modern Colombian military came with the arrival of the first of three Chilean training missions in the early 1900s. Chilean officers were instrumental in the early efforts to build a professional and modern military institution in Colombia.

During the early twentieth century, European countries also contributed to the development of the Colombian armed forces. In the early 1920s, a French mission provided advice and technical training that led to the creation of the Colombian Air Force. A Swiss training mission, contracted by the Colombian government in 1924, remained in the country until 1933. A mission from Germany, present from 1929 until 1934, assisted in the development of the navy. A British naval mission also participated in the Colombian training program between 1936 and 1938 and had a lasting influence not only on the Colombian navy's official traditions but also on their insignia. Following the departure of the British, the first United States Navy mission was established.

By the end of World War II, the United States had established itself as the principal foreign influence on the Colombian armed forces. The strong United States influence continued in the 1960s, when attention turned from the issue of hemispheric defense to concern for the maintenance of internal security in the face of a communist menace. During the next two decades, thousands of Colombian soldiers received training at United States military schools, participating in courses that ranged from counterinsurgency tactics to such topics as international law and security or resource management issues. Throughout the 1980s, Colombia participated in annual joint maneuvers with the United States Navy and United States Air Force along the coast of South America.

United States military doctrine and tactics remained the dominant foreign influence in the 1980s. At the same time, however, the armed forces' early exposure to Prussian-style professionalism and to the influence of other nations also was evident. By the late 1980s, the Colombian armed forces had in its equipment inventory a substantial amount of matériel from several European countries -- among them France and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) -- as well as from Argentina and Brazil. The United States continued to supply by far the greatest amounts of equipment, however, much of it on preferential terms. Bilateral military relations remained excellent in the late 1980s as new efforts were begun to improve the Colombian armed forces' capabilities in the area of narcotics control and interdiction.

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

Colombia Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 149 of 188


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