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Colombia: The Command Structure
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Organization of the Armed Forces > Operational Command, Deployment, and Equipment


According to the Constitution, the president of the republic serves as commander in chief of the country's military and police forces. The president appoints the armed forces' highest ranking officer (by tradition an army general) to serve as head of the Ministry of National Defense. During the 1980s, the minister of national defense held both administrative and operational authority over the three armed services and the National Police. As authorized by the minister of national defense, military operations were excuted under the mandate of the General Command of the Military Forces. In 1988 General Oscar Botero Restrepo served as commander general of the military forces (see fig. 10).

Reflecting the armed forces' professed tradition of political neutrality, the head of the Ministry of National Defense, unlike other cabinet ministers, did not represent a political party. In 1986 President Barco appointed General Samudio as minister of national defense. The selection of Samudio, who previously had served as the commander general of the military forces and, before that, as commander of the National Army, provoked a minor crisis within the armed forces. Several higher-ranking officers were passed over for the post, and most were consequently obliged to retire from active duty. All but one of these officers, General Manuel Jaime Guerrero Paz, were retired. In November 1988, Guerrero Paz, the commander general of the military forces, replaced Samudio as minister of national defense.

The executive branch created the National Security Council, also known as the Superior Council of National Defense, in the early 1980s to oversee defense policies. The council tended to further institutionalize access for the military by including the commander general of the military forces in national security decision making to some degree. Although it had a nonliberative role in policy making, the council gave the armed forces an important voice in areas of specific concern to them, such as the military budget, or matters of internal security or foreign policy, such as the border conflict with Venezuela and relations with Cuba.

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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Section 158 of 188


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