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Colombia Through Time Bolívar was the first president, and Santander served as vice president. The fledgling country experienced several turbulent decades, during which territory was expanded and then lost. Ultimately, in 1830, it collapsed entirely, and Venezuela, Ecuador, and New Granada emerged from the debris as independent states. By 1863, New Granada changed its name to the United States of Colombia, and 23 years later, in 1886, it adopted its current name, the Republic of ­Colombia. The Republic of ­Colombia During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Colombia held free elections and developed a tradition of civilian democratic government. Even so, the country was sharply divided between liberals (who followed the philosophy of Santander) and conservatives (who were influenced by Bolívar). Civilian rule was interrupted on three occasions by military ­takeover— ­in 1830, 1854, and 1953 to 1957. The country also experienced two bloody civil wars, sparked by the bitter rivalry between the Liberal and Conservative parties. The first, called “War of a Thousand Days,” lasted from 1899 to 1902. An estimated 120,000 people died in this conflict, which left much of the country in ruin. A ­half-­century later, from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, an even more bitter conflict occurred. During La Violencia (The Violence), as many as 300,000 people died, and once again, much of the country’s infrastructure and economy were ­destroyed. Since its creation in 1810, Panama had been a Colombian province. By the dawn of the twentieth century, however, the United States formalized plans to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. The U.S. government was deeply concerned that the Colombian government lacked stability. Leaders were worried that conflict in that country could jeopardize this vital project, which would create the ­ long-­sought-­after water link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In 1903, Panama



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