Foreign policy and defense
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
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).
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
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
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
FACTS - DEFENSE
223 100 men (2017)
The air Force
13 650 men (2017)
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)