Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia (Spanish: República de Colombia) is a country on the northwestern edge of the South American continent.
In September 1983, Colombia was in the middle of a negotiation process and a fragile truce between the government and the up to 19-year old guerrilla groups. Distrust by the military and the Muerte A Secuestradores (MAS: Death To Kidnappers) drug-sponsored paramilitaries were leading the way to a Dirty War.
Colombia had some levels of industrialization and was beginning to export manufactured goods; however, most of the economy was still based on the first sector. Exports included mining products (nickel, emeralds, platinum, some oil and coal, mainly from the newly opened coal mines in Cerrejon, world's largest open coal mines) and crops, mainly coffee, but also flowers, banana and other fruits.
The illegal drug-based economy was growing. Colombia was one of the top producers of marijuana, though declining as Mexico and Hawaii were increasing their production and new varieties of hemp were acclimatized for the Continental USA. Hemp was being replaced by coca, however. Colombian entrepreneurs had been trading Peruvian and Bolivian coca and processing it into cocaine to sell it in the first world, chiefly the USA.
Colombia's main markets were in the First World: The USA and Europe. Manufactured goods where also bought by Venezuela using their oil-dollars, and by other neighboring countries. However Colombia usually bought more from their trading partners than selling to them.
But suddenly ...
The first world had practically disappeared! So had the Warsaw Pact countries! Nobody was now buying Colombian goods, or selling manufactured goods to Colombia! The US State Department was no longer supporting the Colombian military to contain the communist threat, nor were Cuba and Moscow supporting the communist guerrillas. Survivors over there have far greater concerns than to wage a proxy war in the corner of South America.
Awe and awakening
25 September, 1983. 3:00 PM The news cables begun transmitting the first alarms in the USA, the USSR and their NATO and Warsaw allies. Not much, at the beginning: people should go to shelters before the ICBMs begun hitting their targets. Then, all news agencies became silent, and amateur radio frequencies became full of static.
There was confusion in Colombia. It seems that the World's Second Worst Scenario had happened: the total annihilation of the Super Powers. At least it was not the World's really Worst Scenario: the annihilation of mankind. Not yet at least. But news agencies are not transmitting anything, not even to the ambassadors or attachés. Radio-electric statics was also beginning to hinder national communications. The first confirmation came from radio amateurs. Over-the-noise Morse code transmissions from yet unaffected cities were confirming the bad news. The nuclear holocaust had happened.
President Betancur called his ministers and top military officials. The first concern was to keep public order, and the second was to secure communications lines with the world, whatever were left, and internally. Third: to project the consequences to the country. Fourth: a very hearted plight to the military not to break the truce and to avoid any provocation by the guerrillas, while information was being gathered.
An estado de sitio (temporary suspension of some constitutional provisions, to allow presidential decrees a status of law without being first approved by Congress) was decreed, and the President asked national television networks and radio stations to transmit a speech. The government was in charge, an estado de sitio was issued, people should try to go on with their normal lives, and the government was making any effort to get information on Colombians overseas.
Of course, for the most part, people were not willing to go on with their normal lives. Anyone with a short-wave transistor radio was trying to get any news out of the static. On Monday the 26th, only a few, mostly still unaware people, went to their jobs or schools.
Radiation from the initial blasts began to settle down, allowing better communications. Radio amateurs were still the main source of information, as well as short-wave radio stations from unhit cities. Of course, they did not have the whole picture, and their main concern was that of incoming fallout and the virtual impossibility to escape.
Fallout will affect Colombia as well. Trade winds from Europe (or probably anything else, such a massive energy detonated in the atmosphere would render climate models quite random for a while) would bring radioactive clouds. Probably not in the next few days, but definitively in the next weeks, and it would last for... years. So we could be expecting an increase of cancer, mutations, and radiation induced diseases. But radiation was not the only issue. Some climate changes would be predicted, a probable nuclear winter, which would not freeze Colombia but would lower the seas and affect fishing, but the main concern is the economy.
Most Colombian commercial partners would not be buying for a while. A lot of Colombian funds were saved in international banks and on US Treasure Bonds. Colombian's main partner outside the strike zone, Venezuela, heavily relied upon selling oil to the USA. Most Colombian Pesos are being backed by hard currency reserves, and hard currency had meant, only days earlier: Dollars, Pounds, Marks. But none of these could now be counted as hard currency! However, since there were still some reserves in gold backing the Pesos, Probably Colombia was not in any worse shape than other countries.
However, it seams that the most immediate concern is the fate of hundreds of thousands of Colombians living overseas, mainly in New York and Miami.
Meanwhile in the front
If the Colombian government was lost, the guerrilla leaders were even more so, particularly because they distrusted the national media as propaganda from the oligarchy and its government. But they could not get any confirmation from their traditional channels, either.
The Warsaw Pact was gone, apparently.
Soon they managed to establish some communication from Cuba. Spared from a massive attack due to its lack of nukes, Cuba was still hit, but their main concern was the incoming fallout. Miami, with their military bases were wiped down. So the last thing Cuba was interested in was in keep support to guerrillas in South America.
The different guerrilla groups have different interests, and different perspectives. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were trying to negotiate with the government from a position of strength, and keeping the combination of all forms of struggle, by deploying a new and legal political party called the Patriotic Union (UP). Members of the UP, however, had been targeted by the dirty war, causing further distrust to the government. But the FARC, with a mentality of a possible very long war, was discovering a new means of fundraising: kidnapping. Actually the FARC was never really financed by the USSR or by Cuba, so they had little concern about the extinction of the Warsaw Pact, given also the annihilation of NATO and The Empire.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) was the main guerrilla group that were not in conversations with the government, and their structure had been targeted by both the dirty war and even fellow guerrillas, mainly the FARC.
More hopeful for a peace negotiation were the April 19 Movement (M-19), one of the younger guerrilla organizations, and more urban oriented than the other groups. The M-19 was mourning their leader Jaime Bateman, who died in an airplane crash a few months before, while trying to keep this secret from the government.
The People Army of Liberation (EPL) was also in negotiations.
Some guerrilla leaders (and a few military) realized that continuing the civil war was suicidal, but there was nothing suggesting they would lose the war. Even if they were cut off from aid from Cuba and the USSR, the government was also cut off from any support by the USA ... and the government, they thought, was relying more upon US aid than they from Cuban and Soviet support. This was particularly true for the FARC.
While they did not break the ceasefire, the guerrillas attempted to capitalize the civil unrest that resulted from the economic situation, promoting marches and strikes,and distributing propaganda among the working classes. Soon the FARC realized that the Patriotic Union legal party was being more effective in reaching the people than the arms.
Congressman Escobar and Minister Lara
Congressman Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was a little worried. He felt trapped by the political mafia personified by the new Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, and his political chief Senator Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento. Senator Galan and Minister Lara represented a new way to do politics, but for Congressman Escobar they were just some other politicians, some that was not in his payroll.
That Friday, a judge in Medellín had issued an arrest warrant against Escobar for the murdered of two secret police detectives. That warrant meant little as, being a congressman, Escobar had immunity, but the Minister kept pressing, and sooner or later the immunity could be dropped by his fellow Congressmen or by the Supreme Court.
But this Sunday, the world had changed quite dramatically. Pablo Escobar had not realized at the beginning what was the real impact of Doomsday. He could perceive something. The main market of his goods had been severely hit by tons of nuclear bombs, and that should not be good for business.
On Tuesday, when sessions opened again in the Congress, Escobar was a little more worried. It was evident that Minister Lara, Senator Galán, and his fellow Congressmen had more important things to worry about than chasing him. But it was precisely those more important things that also worried Escobar.
Pablo Escobar was new money. Very much and very *hot* new money. Escobar had made a career by making tons of money by being the key controller of one of the most lucrative business in the world: to smuggle illegal drugs. Escobar bought raw materials from Peruvians and Bolivians, transformed coca paste into cocaine and then transported it to the USA, where it would sell for much more money in the streets that the raw material he bought from Peruvians and Bolivians. Very much and very hot new money. Hot money was the term used by Lara to refer to drug smuggling money.
But money was not enough. Escobar wanted to be a respectable man, and he attempted to buy his way up into respectability and so he became a congressman. Some people had begun to respect him, but some did not, beginning by Luis Carlos Galán, and Galán's piece in the Betancur government Minister Rodrigo Lara.
Now the source of Escobar's money was lost. People predicted that Dollars would cost nothing. Well, that was not a prediction: was a present reality. Escobar would not be the only broken entrepreneur, but in his situation, he was one facing some of the highest falls. Escobar still had Pesos. A lot of pesos. But that money could be lost if no other means of income was found.
Rodrigo Lara himself, was not stopped. As Minister of Justice, he was one of the few people in the Cabinet who was not urgently needed to deal with the Nuclear Crisis, so he could concentrate on Pablo and other sources of hot money.
In November, the fellow congressmen voted that Escobar's immunity should be suppressed and Pablo Escobar was imprisoned facing originally two murder charges.
1984 begun with mixed feelings of hope and deception. Many companies had collapsed, imports and exports had stagnated, and while a few entrepreneurs were attempting to find opportunities in the new situation, most people had seen severely reduced their incomes.
Stress, fallout, lack of medical supplies and other problems, had increased several diseases and brought health problems. Health problems that were incremented by some increased immigration, mainly from Mexico, Cuba, the United States and other Caribbean countries, including several people severely affected by radiation. Colombia was not facing starvation, though, transportation infrastructure was still intact, and Colombia already produced most of its own food. However much of the agriculture was oriented for exportation, chiefly coffee, bananas, and flowers. While a few plantation owners and their workers managed to diversify, most of them were facing serious problems on getting fair prices for their products.
People was angry, and the guerrillas were capitalizing upon that anger. Inflation was rising. The government was urged to act. And so the government did, with some shock measures aimed to stop inflation, further increasing takeovers of basic supplies, while, on the other hand, people in the country were trying to sell their goods at any cost. The worst of this situation happened from March to July.
During this time, the guerrillas had been organizing people in several regions without needing to resort to arms, at the same time that the government had armored the cities to both prevent civil unrest from the shock measures, and the increased activity by the guerrillas. Conversation links continued to be open, between the guerrillas and the government.
Both the constitutional army and the guerrillas were severely affected from the situation. The government and its army lacked the support of the USA, and while they had superior numbers and armament, they were more dependent on oil and heavy weaponry which were becoming scarce. The guerrillas now lacked aids from the USSR and Cuba, but they were better suited to survive with less. Additionally the anger in the population could be and was used for their cause. It seemed that the negotiations were doomed.
In the midterm elections, in March, Patriotic Union party, the party founded by FARC as result of the earlier peace conversations, managed to get majorities in several municipalities, and an important 11% of the National Congress.
In July 4, 1984, President Belisario Betancut Cuartas from Colombia and Jaime Lusinchi from Venezuela signed a cooperation and commercial treaty in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela. The agreement basically began as a formalization of barter between Colombia's agricultural and some industrial products and Venezuela's oil, refined in Aruba.
Effects begun to be seen quickly in Colombia. Now agricultural and manufactured goods in Colombia had a better outlet, while oil reactivated transportation and manufacturing. As the economy began to move, takeovers began releasing their stocks. The worst of the crisis seemed to be over.
And the people was happier.
And the Army could fuel again their trucks and fly their airplanes.
Both the government and the guerrillas understood that the war was suicidal, but nobody wanted to surrender either: nobody was defeated yet. In September, 1984, president Betancur met FARC leader Jacobo Arenas in Casa Verde, the headquarters of FARC. After over 36 hours of conversations; with and important deal of the conversations held in private, the president announced that peace was just crossing the corner.
Government representatives announced first the leaders of M-19 and EPL to check if they agreed before coming public, and after their observations, on September 25, in the first anniversary of Doomsday, the announce was made:
- The truce would continue, without surrender any weapon.
- Terror organizations such as MAS, should be dismantled/prosecuted by the government.
- A National Constitutional Assembly would be called, with 60% of the seats elected by popular vote from any legal party (including Patriotic Union), and 40% chosen by the guerrilla organizations with proportional representation.
- When the new constitution were proclaimed and approved by referendum, FARC, M-19, and EPL would not longer be militias.
Elections for the Constitutional Assembly would take place on November 11, the Assembly would session from December 10 to February 15, 1985, and the referendum would take place on March 10.
Many people criticized the agreement. First, the Constitution of 1886 had not allowed this procedure. Second, that was next to the government actually surrendering. Third, peace was subject to the referendum, which means that people would not actually vote for the proposed Constitution or constitutional amendment, but on the threat that the guerrillas would continue to wage war.
Despite those concerns, on November 11, while most people were pending on the National Pageant Contest, the Constitutional Assembly was elected. From 135 seats elected, the Liberal Party got 69, the Conservative Party got 53, the Patriotic Union 11, and the Metapolitical Unitary Movement 2. The FARC took 44 seats, M-19 had 23, EPL 18, and Quintín Lame 5; for a total of 225 seats.
Some people suggested that, at least, the new constitution should be approved one year later, so that the Núñez Constitution would be allowed to complete 100 years.
But the plan was set, and on February 15, the president of the Constitutional Assembly, Liberal Alberto Santofimio Botero, with Conservative Misael Pastrana Arango at his right and FARC's Antonio Morantes alias Jacobo Arenas at his left, proclaimed that a New Constitution was issued, and that the people would approve it the second Sunday of March.
Almost 36% of the people voted that 10th March, and 83% of them voted yes, 9% voted no, and 8% either voted blank or their boll was nullified for any mistake. The Political Constitution of 1985 was approved, and as promised, the FARC, the M-19, the EPL and the ELN dissidence Quintín Lame, declare that they were not longer people's militias but now they were legitimate parties of the new regime.
Now, there was a process of transition. the Congress and the President should serve until their period was over in 1986. During this period, old institutions would be replaced by the new ones, including the integration of the former guerrilla militias into the constitutional army (and the removal of army elements that were specially trained as anti-insurgency).
The new constitution provided that:
- Territories should be promoted to departments.
- Governors and mayors would be elected by the people.
- Trials should be oral.
- Human rights would be a state priority.
- Central Bank should be independent from the executive but accountable to the congress.
- Police should be separated from the military.
- Strong regulation on commerce and banking. Government regulatory institutions should be apart from government enterprises, and competition would be allowed - and many other clauses.
- to be added, main events in 1986
In 1986, President Belisario Betancur, in his last part of his presidential term, Colombia sent military scouts to explore the remains of what once was thePanama Canal Zone. The scouting results were much better than what most Colombian politicians expected. Apparently, even though the locks were badly damaged do to the guerrilla fighting close to the remains of the Panama Canal, the Canal itself was untouched, and the radiation was dissipating.
In early August, Betancur's term ended, and he was replaced in a landslide election for Liberal Party candidate Virgilio Barco. Barco's policies were similar to those of Betancur; he tried to continue improving the Colombian economy and establish a new Latin American block in order to replace the collapsed blocks and improve the South American position. Barco as well continued with Betancur's plans for Panama, as the re-establishment of a Panama Canal under at least partial Colombian economy could make a sea connection for both coasts in Colombia, and help boost the Colombian economy.
1988 was a very successful year for Colombia. Throughout the entire year, Colombia's economy boosted due to the continued economical activities with Venezuela. Colombia also continued its plans on Panama during the year. In the year's summer, Colombia helped the Kuna and Panama refugee leaders establish the Darién Regional Authority.
Colombia officially annexed the formerly Costa Rican territory of Isla del Coco. Colombia had occupied the island in 1992, before which it had been a haven for pirates ever since the collapse of the Costa Rican government. Takeover by Colombia reduced the piracy threat in the Pacific and brought stable government to at least one very tiny, uninhabited piece of Costa Rica. Isla del Coco was added to Cauca Department, which already included the Pacific island of Malpelo.
Colombia, together with other South American countries, formed the South American Confederation (SAC).
An estimated 81% of the Colombian population is Roman Catholic. Roman Catholicism was until 1985 the main religion on Colombia. The number of Roman Catholics has declined ever since Doomsday, thanks to immigration from North America and Eurasia, and the rapidly-growing non-religious community. However, Roman Catholicism is still by far the largest religion in Colombia.
The next largest religion in Colombia is Protestantism. The Protestant community in Colombia accounts for 13.5% of the Colombian population. The main Protestant denominations are the Adventist community and the Iglesia Evangélica Luterana (Lutheran Evangelist Church).
2.3% of the Colombian population is Jewish, and 2% non-religious. The remaining 3.5% of the population is mostly composed of Muslims and Jews, centered around the Lebanese community in Guajira and several small communities throughout important cities in the Pacific coast.