Foreign policy and defense
Colombia is a nation in South America. Its capital city is Bogota. Foreign policy in Colombia has largely been guided by the broad cooperation with the United States, which has long provided the country with both financial and military support. The close relations with Washington have occasionally led to conflicts with neighboring countries. Relations with Venezuela are currently broken.
Colombia’s close relations with the United States were strengthened under President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), who agreed well with colleague George W Bush and supported the US-led war against Iraq. During the first decade of the 2000s, the United States contributed over $ 7 billion to Plan Colombia, which was primarily to fight drug trafficking but largely focused on fighting left-wing guerrillas (see Modern History).
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Colombia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Uribe’s successor Juan Manuel Santos changed foreign policy by replacing ideology with pragmatism and problem solving. He also focused more on South America and somewhat less on the United States. Santos placed great importance on improving Colombia’s reputation internationally through extensive travel around the world. But above all, the neighbor relations improved.
Since Santos 2018 is succeeded by Iván Duque, who belongs to Uribe’s Conservative Party, Colombia once again emerges primarily as America’s faithful allies. The already strained relations with Venezuela’s left government have been frozen.
Diplomatic relations between Colombia and Venezuela have been broken and resumed several times since the turn of the millennium. Now they are down since Colombia in February 2019, like some 50 other countries in the world, recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader instead of President Nicolás Maduro accused of electoral fraud. The crisis in Venezuela has also triggered the largest refugee crisis in Latin America in modern times, and Colombia has received more Venezuelans than any other country (see also Population and Languages).
Disbelief was very high already between Uribe and Venezuela’s former President Hugo Chávez (1999-2013). Uribe claimed that Venezuela supported the Colombian left-wing guerrilla Farc, and Chávez looked with unabated eyes on the US-Colombia military cooperation. A severe crisis arose in 2008, when Colombia bombed a guerrilla camp in Ecuador and killed Farcrebeller. Both Ecuador and Venezuela responded to the border violation and Venezuela brought troops to the border area. A Latin American summit averted the crisis. A new crisis occurred in 2009, when it was discovered that weapons that Venezuela bought from Sweden ended up with Farc.
The two countries have accused each other of the regional cooperation organization OAS and the UN of murders, kidnappings, espionage and a number of incidents along the border.
From 2014, relations deteriorated again as Venezuela took measures to try to stop the smuggling of state-subsidized goods across the border into Colombia. A serious crisis occurred in the summer of 2015 when the border was closed in a couple of places and Colombians residing on the Venezuelan side border were forced away. The countries temporarily called their respective ambassadors (see also Calendar).
In February 2019, a tense situation arose again at the border between Colombia and Venezuela (see Venezuela Calendar) and relations between the countries were thus broken again.
Relations between Colombia and Ecuador were poor after Colombia’s attack on Farc Camp in 2008, but have since improved gradually.
With Nicaragua, Colombia has disputed a number of islands in the Caribbean. The International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) ruled in a 2007 statement that the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina belong to Colombia. In a new opinion in 2012, it was decided that a number of small islands in the area are Colombian, but at the same time, the border was drawn so that Nicaragua got a much larger territorial area at Colombia’s expense. This meant lost fishing water and the area could also be rich in oil and gas. President Santos responded to the verdict by announcing that Colombia no longer recognizes the ICJ’s jurisdiction. In 2013, Santos explained that the court’s decision cannot be applied, since international borders can only be established through bilateral agreements. Nicaragua made a new notification to the court to get the boundaries set, and said that bilateral negotiations were not relevant. Colombia called home its ambassador from Nicaragua.
Colombia also has a disputed free trade agreement with the EU. However, EU financial support for Colombia goes almost entirely to social purposes. About 20 UN agencies operate in Colombia. Sweden’s aid is mainly for the development of democracy, human rights and peace promotion and humanitarian measures.
Colombia joined the OECD in 2018 as the third country in Latin America. The other two are Mexico and Chile.
Since the late 1990s, Colombia’s armed forces have been modernized and trained with the help of the United States. The military service applies to young men and lasts for 12-24 months.
Through the war against the left guerrillas, the Colombian military gained combat experience, while at the same time committing abuse. In recent years, the army has tried to improve its reputation, which is marred by corruption and serious violations of human rights but also incompetence.
The Ministry of Defense is also responsible for the police.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 223 100 men (2017)
The air Force: 13 650 men (2017)
The fleet: 56 400 Men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 3.1 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 11.0 percent (2017)