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Section 2 of 3

Colombia

The Independence Movement

Leaders in the various localities that had formed criollo councils = sought to=20 unite the colony of New Granada. From the beginning of their attempts, = however,=20 conflict emerged over the form the new government should take. The = provincial=20 councils did not want the centralist, authoritarian type of government = advocated=20 by the Bogot=E1 council, preferring a federal type of government more in = keeping=20 with the liberal principles of the Enlightenment and the example of the = North=20 American revolution. This represented the first ideological split = between groups=20 of leading criollos. Federalists rallied behind Camilo Torres; = Centralists=20 rallied behind Antonio Nari=F1o. To avoid a civil war between the two = factions,=20 the provincial councils sent representatives to Bogot=E1 in 1811 to = draft a=20 constitution for the territory. In November 1811, a congress was = installed, and=20 the provinces formed the United Provinces of New Granada. The federal = union=20 consisted of autonomous provinces joined only in common interest; the = national=20 army was subordinate to Bogot=E1.=20

Starting in 1812, individual provinces began declaring absolute = independence=20 from Spain. That year, Sim=F3n Bol=EDvar Palacio, considered the = liberator of=20 South America, tried for the first time to gain independence for New = Granada.=20 The absence of united support from the various provinces, however, = frustrated=20 him. Bol=EDvar left New Granada in 1815 and went to Jamaica. The = continuing=20 tension between federalist and centralist forces led to a conflict that = left New=20 Granada weak and vulnerable to Spain's attempts to reconquer the = provinces.=20

At the time of Bol=EDvar's departure, the independence cause in New = Granada was=20 desperate. Ferdinand VII had been restored to the Spanish throne, and = Napoleon's=20 forces had withdrawn from Spain. A pacification expedition led by Pablo = Morillo=20 on behalf of the king proceeded from present-day Venezuela to Bogot=E1, = and those=20 who laid down their arms and reaffirmed their loyalty to the Spanish = crown were=20 pardoned. Morillo also granted freedom to slaves who helped in the = reconquest of=20 the colonies. Because of dissension between the upper class and the = masses and=20 inept military leadership, Cartagena fell to the royalists by the end of = 1815.=20

In early 1816, Morillo moved to reconquer New Granada and changed his = tactics=20 from pardons to terror; Bogot=E1 fell within a few months. Morillo = repressed=20 antiroyalists (including executing leaders such as Torres) and installed = the=20 Tribunal of Purification, responsible for exiles and prisoners, and the = Board of=20 Confiscations. The Ecclesiastical Tribunal, in charge of government = relations=20 with the church, imposed military law on priests who were implicated in = the=20 subversion. The Spanish reconquest installed a military regime that = ruled with=20 violent repression. Rising discontent contributed to a greater = radicalization of=20 the independence movement, spreading to sectors of the society, such as = the=20 lower classes and slaves, that had not supported the previous attempt at = independence. Thus the ground was laid for Bol=EDvar's return and = ultimate=20 triumph.=20

At the end of 1816, Bol=EDvar returned to New Granada, convinced that = the war=20 for independence was winnable only with the support of the masses. In = the=20 earlier attempt at independence, large segments of the population had = been lured=20 to the royalist side by promises such as repartition of land and = abolition of=20 slavery. When the masses saw that the promises were unfulfilled, = however, they=20 changed their allegiance from Spain to the independence movement.=20

Two significant military encounters led to the movement's success. = After=20 having won a number of victories in a drive from the present-day = Venezuelan=20 coast to present-day eastern Colombia via the R=EDo Orinoco, Bol=EDvar = gave=20 Francisco de Paula Santander the mission of liberating the Casanare = region,=20 where he defeated royalist forces in April 1819. After the decisive = defeat of=20 royalist forces at the Battle of Boyac=E1 in August 1819, independence = forces=20 entered Bogot=E1 without resistance.=20

The merchants and landowners who fought against Spain now held = political,=20 economic, and social control over the new country that encompompassed=20 present-day Venezuelan, Colombia, and Panana. The first economic reforms = that=20 they passed consolidated their position by liberalizing trade, thereby = allowing=20 merchandise from Britain (New Granada's major trading partner after = Spain) freer=20 entry into the area. As a result, the artisan class and the emerging=20 manufactguring sector, who previously had held only slight economic and=20 political power, now lost stature.=20

Data as of December 1988


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