Colombia Table of Contents
For much of the nation's history, Colombians focused more consistently on domestic issues and political personalities than on world affairs. In the nineteenth century, Colombia limited its involvement in foreign affairs to sporadic border disputes with immediate neighbors (Venezuela, Panama, Peru, and Brazil). Colombia and Venezuela began disputing boundaries after the breakup of Gran Colombia (Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador) in 1830 (see Gran Colombia , ch. 1). This territorial issue continued to cause friction between the two nations into the twentieth century. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the secession of Panama from Colombia in 1903 was a major source of friction in Colombia-United States relations (see Relations with the United States , this ch.). Colombia's boundary with Peru was settled initially in 1922, but problems developed again in 1932 when Peru seized an area around Leticia in the Amazon Basin that both nations claimed (see The Development of the Modern Armed Forces , ch. 5). A League of Nations commission resolved the conflict in 1934, however, by suggesting a resolution that returned the disputed area to Colombia. Brazil and Colombia reached agreement on a border dispute in 1928.
Colombia broadened its foreign policy after World War II, becoming active among the Latin American states and small powers in general. It was an important participant in the 1945 San Francisco Conference creating the United Nations (UN) and was a leading opponent of the big-power veto in the Security Council. Colombia argued successfully for a primary role for regional organizations, whose recognition was secured under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Colombia also played an important role in creating the Organization of American States (OAS) in Bogotá in 1948. Former Colombian president Lleras Camargo was the OAS's first secretary general (1948-54).
Nevertheless, even in the post-World War II era, Colombia continued to view foreign policy within a limited context. Whenever Colombia initiated international actions, they were usually meant to complement more important national goals and were seen as extensions of domestic policy. After World War II, Colombia's foreign policy emphasized economic relations and support for collective security through the OAS and the UN. Accordingly, Colombia pursued only limited objectives in bilateral international security and global politics, usually preferring multilateral diplomatic approaches. Colombia's approach to security issues has been characterized by a willingness to settle disputes peacefully through recourse to international law and regional and international security organizations.
Data as of December 1988